Expat Failure — And Three Essential Things to Help Prevent It

Failure is a pretty harsh word. Obviously, nobody likes talking about their own life in terms of failure — although nobody succeeds at everything they try. Even expats can fail, though you might be wondering what this means.

Strictly speaking, the expression “expat failure“ is used in the HR and global mobility industry, as well as in management studies. It refers to expatriates in a narrower sense of the word: highly qualified and highly paid specialists and executives sent on a foreign assignment by their employer.

What’s Expat Failure Anyway, and Why Is It So Expensive?

For foreign assignees, expat failure describes several negative outcomes from what seemed like a great career option: they move back before their assignment is officially over; they underperform in their new position, or they struggle with repatriation after completing their assignment. Sometimes, they are let go or quit themselves after they return.

As foreign assignees are often corporate employees who easily earn more than 100,000 or 200,000 USD a year, the literal costs of failure for the company are often huge. If an expatriate moves with a spouse and two children, receiving considerable financial support from their employer, and then returns prematurely after one year, this could cost the company an estimated 400,000 USD. And the original business goals haven’t even been reached!

The Psychological and Emotional Burden of Expat Failure

Other expats — those who aren’t corporate assignees with a fast-track career and generous remuneration — might not identify with this kind of expatriate failure at first. But it can affect them too: They may return home sooner rather than later. They, too, may struggle in their new job abroad or even quit. They might not like how they feel if or when they do go home, as though their life had gone off the rails.

Although the average expat won’t accrue costs of nearly half a million bucks if their international move doesn’t go according to plan, they have to dig into their own pockets for shipping their belongings, plane tickets, etc. In addition to the financial burden, failure takes an emotional and psychological toll.

That’s what “failed“ assignees and other expats have in common — a feeling of wasted time, lower productivity, a pervasive lack of motivation, and the emotional re-entry shock they may experience after heading home. That’s also why both assignees and everyone else should ask the right questions before they leave!

Preparing for what might await you can help to prevent it.

The Right Soft Skills for Expats-to-Be

The hardest question is the first to consider: are you the right person for the job? You don’t just need the proper hard skills, like management experience for the assignee, professional know-how for the self-made career expat, or language skills for everyone interested in moving abroad. It’s the soft skills too. Without openness to change, independent thinking, and self-reliance, you won’t get far.

But it’s cultural flexibility or agility that matters most: to recognize the best strategy for acting in situations where the outcome depends heavily on cultural context. Should you simply adapt to the context of your new country’s culture? Is it better to stress your own cultural background in this particular situation? Had you rather strive for compromise?

If you can figure out how to react, you’ll smooth out lots of difficulties in your professional and private life.

A Family That Has Your Back

The next question isn’t about you, your personality, or your abilities, but about the people you love best. Is your family onboard?

If they are lukewarm about your plans, it might be time for a long, honest conversation — or for second thoughts. Especially in corporate assignments, it’s an unfortunate truth that the traveling spouse or the kids can make or break an assignment.

While family members also benefit from financial perks, they often suffer from uprooting their lives. Older children lose a familiar environment, their circle of friends, and their budding sense of adult identity, threatening to turn into morose teenagers sulking even more than the average adolescent.

More importantly, the spouse may have to give up her own career and social life for the assignee’s sake. (Yes, it’s also an unfortunate truth that most traveling spouses are women.) This might create isolation, frustration, and resentment. In the worst-case scenario, the result isn’t just a failed assignment, but also a failed marriage.

Even if you are not the typical assignee, make sure that your nearest and dearest have your back. Is your boyfriend or girlfriend okay with the two of you moving abroad together? Or do you think your bond is strong enough to lead an international long-distance relationship for a couple of years?

Will moving abroad affect your decision to have (more) kids, and does this matter strongly to either of you? Are you the only (potential) caretaker of aged parents?

In short: What will happen to your family ties once you move? Of course, everything might go off without a hitch. But you need to be at least prepared for some folks being less than enthusiastic about your relocation.

A Supportive Work Environment

The third and final question is, of course, what kind of support you will receive at work. If your company’s branch office or your new employer abroad is well prepared for your arrival, they will create an environment where you are allowed to ask questions and request help. A personal mentor or sponsor would be ideal, particularly to discuss cultural as well as corporate topics .

If your company doesn’t provide such a mentorship program for new employees and assignees, try being proactive and finding a mentor yourself. In case of a corporate assignment or a foreign company headhunting you, an in-depth discussion with HR could help to convince the uppermost echelons of management.

A smaller company, where you have applied on your own, will probably be more reluctant. Perhaps they don’t have any relevant experience or HR just doesn’t have the resources right now. Then you could still ask a friendly new colleague to aid you in getting your bearings. However, if your new employer reacts with hostility to the very suggestion, this could be a first warning sign.

Have you ever experienced “expat failure” — especially on a foreign assignment? What would you recommend to other expats to prevent it? Share your story with us!

(Image credit: iStock)

Celebrate Your Expat Friendships This July

On 30 July, we celebrate International Day of Friendship, a day to “promote and defend a shared spirit of human solidarity that takes many forms — the simplest of which is friendship”, according to the United Nations. Friendships help to confront crises and challenges, and no matter if these challenges are small and nagging, or big and seemingly insurmountable, friends are there to offer their help and support along the way.

For expats, having a great circle of friends is particularly important to get through the challenges and upheavals which are common in an expat life. When your family and your home country are far away, other expats and global minds can offer a safety net and even become your family abroad.

This month, we celebrate these friendships, new and old, with you. Whether you’re heading to a party with a new friend, or attend a picnic with a global mind you have known for years, our events and activities are the perfect opportunity to keep these friendships alive. However, above all, they are also a great place to meet new people and start new friendships abroad.

Dancing on Rooftops

What better way is there to celebrate friendship than to overcome weekly challenges together. One such challenge is the Sunday night blues. InterNations New York tackled this problem head on with a Sunday Rooftop Rendezvous. On Sunday, 9 July, InterNations members and their friends gathered on a lovely rooftop to enjoy the view and make new connections.

On Friday, 23 June, it was time for beach and fun in Bonn. Our members met at Strandbar, located directly at the Rhine, for a summery get-together. They celebrated their expat friendships over a welcome drink.

On the same day, members in Wiesbaden-Mainz practiced their dancing skills at a Summer Dance Event. Cantina, allegedly the coziest place in Wiesbaden, opened its doors for us to enjoy a fun-filled evening together, complete with dancing lessons in Salsa and Merengue.

Coffee Breaks and Icelandic Sweaters

Have you ever bonded with someone over food? Trying new dishes or sharing recipes from your home country are perfect ways to grow closer together. The Hague Speak Italian Group attended an international food fair together on Saturday, 1 July. The Haagse Wereld Hapjes is a great place to try something new and learn more about the culinary background of your new friends.

While parties are a great way to get out and meet people, many prefer a more relaxed setting. The Stockholm Coffee Break Group, for instance, is made for chatting and sharing stories in comfy coffee shops. On Saturday, 8 July, the group met up for Saturday Morning Fika at an Italian gelateria. Given the rising temperatures, swapping cinnamon rolls for ice cream and sorbets is not a bad idea.

Birthdays are a time to spend with friends, but many of us do not celebrate due to busy schedules. The London Picnic or Afternoon Tea Group gave everyone a reason to celebrate, be it their birthday or not. Group members met on Sunday, 9 July, for a picnic at Regents Park to open some presents and enjoy a few drinks together.

Bonding over local customs which you haven’t quite gotten the hang of yet is a fantastic way to start off a new friendship. On Wednesday, 12 July, our members in Reykjavik had the opportunity to experience an Icelandic tradition with their expat friends: Lopapeysa, or Icelandic sweater, festival. Our members donned their favorite Icelandic sweaters and, with a wonderful view of the old town from Petersen Suite’s rooftop, enjoyed and evening of traditional Icelandic fun.

 International or local, old or new — we want to know how you celebrate your friendships. Tell us more about how you spend time with your friends in the comments.

 

Image credits: InterNations

The Greatest Reasons to Love Life Abroad

Why do you love expat life? Is it because the world has become your office? Because every day is an adventure? Or because you enjoy discovering new things about our planet and its people?

From 19 June to 3 July, we asked our members on Twitter to let us know why they like living abroad so much. The answers cited above are just a few of the heartfelt and creative responses we received. It was very hard for us to choose the winner of a 100 EUR hotel voucher among the entries, but we would now like to share our favorite reason and what the winner has to say about living abroad.

In fact, we found it so difficult to make our final decision that we are featuring the runner-up as well: both contestants have summed up beautifully what appeals to them about expat life, and they have more words of wisdom for their fellow expatriates in store.

Expat Life: The Chance to Reinvent Yourself

“I love expat life,” our final favorite Apple says, “because I get to reinvent myself over and over, adapting to new countries and cultures every time.”

Apple’s self-described “nomadic existence” began when she was merely four weeks old. Born to an Australian mother and a British father, she spent her childhood in Nigeria, the UK, Australia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea.

After attending a secretarial college in England, she succumbed to her wanderlust again, covering almost every continent with her husband: before (more or less) settling in Houston and the US Virgin Islands, she used to live in Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, Scotland, and Equatorial Guinea. Her two children were born in Thailand and the Netherlands, respectively.

Modern family life probably doesn’t get any more global than that! And with the constant change of place, a process of personal reinvention was almost guaranteed: Apple has worked as a vendor of Scuba diving equipment, an editor for a charity organization, and the Honorary Consul for the UK.

“Always make the most of your opportunities,” she recommends. “We must be willing to step out of our prescribed boundaries and be prepared to grasp unexpected chances.”

Sometimes expats can be a bit too quick to compare and complain, Apple thinks. “It’s far better to embrace the new country, although there will be some things we do not like. Do your homework and be well informed, but don’t be arrogant. An open mind and the willingness to listen can lead to wonderful experiences.

Expat Life: The Chance to Overcome Your Fears

It’s the love of new experiences that Apple and her fellow contest Caterina have in common: “I love expat life,” Caterina states, “because it makes me love the unknown and dream of feeling like home anywhere in the world.”

Although Italian-Venezuelan Caterina has dual citizenship as well, her upbringing wasn’t a “nomadic” one: born and raised in Venezuela, she always loved traveling, though. So, when she turned 18, she left her home country behind and spent two years in Italy, England, and Scotland. Scotland is also the place she now calls home after living there for the past seven years, and not even the changeable weather can faze her.

For Caterina, moving abroad was more about adjustment than reinvention. “When I first moved abroad, I was full of fears,” she remembers, “determined to do it, but also really anxious and doubtful.” Many expats and expats-to-be may recognize that initial nervousness, and Caterina is a great example of why you shouldn’t let such feelings stop you.

“As I experienced what it was actually like to live in Italy, a land far away from home, I realized how adaptable I was and how welcoming other cultures could be. Expat life can make you forget all about your fears. Just learn to love the unknown!

Though Caterina’s initial experiences with expat life were quite different from Apple’s, her words of advice to other expats aren’t.

“I honestly think technology has removed much of the fear associated with going to unfamiliar destinations. Make use of the wonders of the Internet, so you won’t feel too lost. If you get the basics covered, you can simply enjoy your adventure…

… while discovering your very own reasons to love expat life!

Thanks again to everyone to everyone who participated in the contest on our Twitter profile and shared their reasons via #ILoveExpatLifeBecause, and a special thank you to Apple and Caterina for giving us an in-depth interview. Congratulations to Apple on the hotel voucher for her next mini-vacation!

(Image credit: 1) InterNations 2) Apple Gidley 3) Caterina Bassano 4) iStockphoto)

InterNations Joins the XING Family

Our InterNations members and blog readers in Germany may have already heard yesterday’s big news: InterNations is now part of the XING family! In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, XING is the leading business networking platform.

As we celebrate ten years of making expat life a great experience, this partnership also helps us look ahead to the next ten years and beyond. With this change of ownership and increased resources, we want to reach more global minds and create an even better experience for our members!

Though the owners have changed, our team, mission, and community will remain the same. We’ll continue to be our members’ companion throughout their adventures abroad, but will draw upon XING’s experience to improve and expand what we offer, so stay posted!

Expat Life for Introverts: The Best Way to Thrive Abroad

First things first: When we’re talking introverts, we are not talking about shy, awkward, or antisocial people. Some introverts are shy and deeply dislike such situations as speaking before a large audience or being the life of the party, but by no means all.

Most introverts have perfectly fine social skills — even great ones. A few may have simply lacked the opportunity to develop them since they have always tended to avoid too much social interaction.

This preference to withdraw into themselves is not a sign that introverts suffer from anti-social tendencies and don’t like other people. An introvert is simply a person who often finds being around other people exhausting rather than stimulating and who values their alone time highly.

Are All Expats Extroverts?

What’s the definition of introvert got to go with expat life? Actually, quite a lot. Living abroad — especially the moving process and settling in period — is like an overdose of social overstimulation.

You have to introduce yourself to new neighbors, meet new colleagues, and rebuild your business and personal network from scratch. To get the move done, you also have to interact with complete strangers all the time.

Moreover, quite a few introverts appreciate a sense of structure or are happy to describe themselves as a bit of a homebody. Becoming an expat, however, means embracing upheaval and venturing out into the world.

Therefore, it’s easy to imagine all expatriates as classic extroverts — spontaneous, action-oriented, and outgoing: in short, the type of person who’ll keep a whole crowd entertained with their jokes and travel anecdotes at the nearest pub on a Friday night.

Are introverts thus doomed to “fail” at life abroad? Of course not. Some things might even come more naturally to them. For example, since they are frequently very focused on their tasks and don’t take decision-making lightly, they probably consider planning and organizing an international relocation an intriguing challenge.

But what about the rest?

Don’t Forget about Enough Me Time

Above all else, introvert expats should make sure to set aside enough me time for regularly recharging their batteries. This applies particularly to those moving to a culture where group-oriented interaction is highly valued or to one where there is a different concept of personal space: even standing or sitting too far away from another person might be interpreted as aloof or rude.

Obviously, you can’t try to change your host country’s culture — that would be like fighting windmills anyway. Introverts have to grit their teeth and bear it until they become a little more used to an unfamiliar environment.

This makes it necessary to look for even more occasions than usual to unwind on their own: exploring a residential neighborhood in your new city or going for a quiet walk in a local park will do the trick just well as staying at home with your yoga mat or movie collection.

Go for Structured Activities in Small Groups

As said above, introverts do most emphatically not dislike other people. They just prefer certain forms of socializing to others. If you look for structured activities in small groups (or with only one other person) that have a fixed end date, you will find it easier to build new professional and private networks.

At work, get to know your new colleagues on a one-on-one basis or in a smaller setting. Perhaps you could schedule several individual business lunches, so you won’t be overwhelmed by interacting with a large, new-to-you group at your first team event.

A workshop or seminar from your field of expertise is also another suitable way of networking within or outside the company. It caters to introverts’ powers of observation and concentration. Huge meet-and-greet mixers or speed networking are no-goes, though: too many people, too much superficial small talk. That’s not the kind of setting to make introverts feel comfortable or let them shine.

Similarly, it helps to find a smaller group of people that organizes activities around a shared hobby. While this might not immediately lead to the deep, meaningful conversations introverts love best, at least you’ll soon get to have in-depth conversations about your favorite interests. Just leave the somewhat tiresome small-talk phase behind!

Let Your True Strengths Shine

Last but not least, play to your strengths: introverts are usually good listeners, as well as loyal employees, reliable co-workers and business contacts, and steadfast friends. Since it takes them lots of energy to cultivate interpersonal relationships, they tend to focus on those they consider “worth it”, valuing quality over quantity.

There’s a distinct advantage to this trait in expat life: international colleagues may quit; friendships within the expat community can sometimes be fleeting. While it’s easy to overlook the quiet, withdrawn, or absent-minded introvert at first, in the ever-changing expat world, they may end up becoming a highly appreciated steadying presence.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Cheap or Costly Destinations? The 2017 Mercer Cost of Living Survey

The Ten Most Expensive Expat Towns Worldwide

In the top 10 of the 23rd Mercer Cost of Living survey, there’s hardly anything new under the sun. Eight out of ten cities were also featured among last year’s ten most expensive expatriate destinations worldwide.

Rather unsurprisingly, the highest living expenses for expat executives are due in Luanda, the capital of resource-rich Angola. The country is still suffering from the lack of proper infrastructure after a protracted civil war (1975–2002) and needs to import most of its consumer goods.

Luanda is followed by the “usual suspects”: Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Singapore, Seoul, Geneva, Shanghai, New York City, and Bern. Basically, it’s Swiss cities and East Asian metropolises all over again. Even Seoul and NYC, the only destinations not to appear in the 2016 top 10, were listed among the 15 costliest cities last year.

No matter whether you are longing for a view of Lake Zurich and the Alps, of brightly lit Tokyo Tower at dusk, or the Manhattan skyline — you’ll have to dig deep into your pockets. But what about those expats who aren’t among Mercer’s target audience of high-ranking (and highly paid) corporate assignees from the US?

We’ve tried to find cheap(ish) alternatives to some of Mercer’s most popular and most expensive expat destinations.

Europe: False vs Genuine Alternatives

At first glance, fans of hygge (Danish-style coziness), fika (Swedish coffee-breaks), and friluftsliv (Norway’s outdoor life) might have good reason to rejoice: all three (in)famously expensive capitals have dropped between 4 and 22 ranks in the Mercer listing.

However, Copenhagen (#28) is still ahead of London (#30) when it comes to cost of living. Even Stockholm (#106) is not the promising alternative it might seem. The Swedish capital is going through a horrible housing shortage, with the BBC reporting that the average waiting time for a rent-controlled apartment is nine years.

So might Germany — with Munich now ranking 98th and Berlin coming on 120th place out of 209 — be a good alternative to the Scandinavian (non-)alternative? The German answer would be a resounding Jein (yes and no).

The drop of German cities in the Mercer Cost of Living survey points out one of the study’s biggest weaknesses: its reliance on the US dollar to make global prices comparable. Therefore, the Mercer results are subject to currency fluctuations — like the weakening of the Euro vs. the US dollar.

As every resident of Munich or Berlin may attest, grumbling about rising expenses (especially rents) is a favorite small talk topic. If you want a genuinely less costly alternative, you’ll have to move further down the ranks — to Nuremberg (#168), for example.

While the second-largest city in Bavaria has an above-average unemployment rate, partly owing to closures in manufacturing and consumer goods, Nuremberg’s service sector is booming in fields like market research, new media, or trade fairs. Also, let’s not forget about Germany’s most famous Christmas market and the original Lebkuchen (gingerbread)!

The US: Hipsters or Southerners?

Obviously, there’s one country immune to the survey’s currency fluctuations: the US itself. Its major cities span a wide range of rankings on the 2017 Mercer listing: from expensive NYC (#9) to Dallas (#62) to Portland, Oregon (#115) and Winston Salem, North Carolina (#140). For an affordable expat life in the US, it seems you have to really like hipster clichés (see the TV show Portlandia) or the humid subtropical climate of NC’s Piedmont Triad region.

However, it is Portland’s claim to fame for craft beers and gourmet food trucks, art galleries and avid cyclists, that has led to a loss in charm as well as affordability. ‘Gentrification’ instead of ‘coffee culture’ is the new buzzword. If you’d like to move there, you’d better move fast. With the influx of those who can’t afford San Francisco or Seattle anymore, local prices are rising. And rising…

If you are willing to trade in vegan cupcakes for Krispy Kreme (TM) donuts, you might want to consider the less costly Winston Salem (where the HQ of said coffeehouse chain is located). Traditionally associated with textiles and tobacco, the city is trying to focus more on future growth sectors, like high-tech and nano technology, bio-tech and medical technology. Speaking of the medical field: Jobs in healthcare and social assistance account for nearly three out of ten employees in town.

Oh, and Winston Salem is also nicknamed “City of the Arts”, boasting its own arts conservatory and gallery district. Take that, Portland.

From Cambodia to Colombia: For Entrepreneurs — and Retirees

If you are more the globetrotting type, you might find the destinations discussed so far a bit bland. Further down the list from Portland, you’ll find various (relatively) affordable destinations, from Cambodia to Colombia.

On 115th place, Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, ties with the hipster capital of Oregon. Described by the BBC as having “room for dizzying growth”, the city has profited from Cambodia’s slow transition from an impoverished developing economy to lower middle-income status.

Phnom Penh doesn’t only attract diplomatic, IGO, and NGO staff nowadays, but also investors and entrepreneurs looking for their latest venture. A sneak peek of the hitherto unpublished Expat Insider 2017 results reveals: our respondents tend to agree with Mercer, and Cambodia in general does really well for cost of living.

Colombia is well known for attracting more and more North American retirees: CNN Money chose Medellin as one of its ten best places to retired abroad in 2017. Its capital Bogotá lands on 153th place out of 209 locations in this year’s Mercer Cost of Living list.

However, crime remains a major problem: kidnappings and fights between armed groups are still a risk in the countryside; in major cities, property crime is frequent, and there are some neighborhoods where you’d rather not go alone or after dark.

If you are very safety-conscious, Colombia might not be the place for you. If you can live with adjusting your lifestyle to some risks, you’ll meet some of the friendliest people in the whole world!

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Midsummer Magic: The Best Music Festivals for Your Summer Vacation

World Music Day (La Fête de la Musique), a free “Make Music Day” type of festival celebrated especially in France’s streets on Midsummer Day every year, has inspired us to look for the biggest and loudest, the most renowned and most sophisticated summer festivals around the globe.

No matter if you prefer classical or early music, pop and rock or jazz — perhaps this post helps inspire some spontaneous folks to change their vacation schedule for the next few months and enjoy what is magic beyond all else: music.

For Traditionalists: The Salzburg Summer Festival

If you adore classical composers, particularly Mozart, there’s no way around attending the world’s most important festival for classical music at least once in your lifetime. Hosted annually by the picturesque Austrian city in July and August, it offers a variety of events from opera to concerts to stage plays.

Traditionally, the festival has often focused on operas by Mozart, Salzburg’s most famous son, as well as Richard Strauss. Though Mozart is still featured prominently in the matinée concerts and the obligatory performance of his Great Mass in C Minor, the festival organizers have apparently discovered their love of Baroque: in 2017, all of Claudio Monteverdi’s surviving operas will take center stage.

You prefer the spoken word to the most harmonious tune? The open-air performance of Everyman, a 20th-century take on medieval mystery and morality plays, might be worth watching. Although the allegory of the rich and selfish man saved by faith and mercy has a simple, almost naïve plot, the monumental backdrop of Salzburg Cathedral will send a shiver down the spine of even the most cynical theatergoer.

For History of Music Nerds: York Early Music Festival

If you think that the Salzburg Summer Festival should always highlight Monteverdi rather than Mozart, you might want to head to York from 7 July to 15 July. This English arts festival avoids such new-fangled composers as Beethoven or Brahms, let alone Ravel or Rachmaninoff. Instead, the venues all across town — including the glorious York Minster with its ornate stained glass windows — are mainly devoted to music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

This year, the festival program for the 40th anniversary includes a wide selection of period pieces, from Bach concerts to madrigals for viol and lute, from sacred choral arrangements from 15th-century Italy to worldly music from Baroque Venice.

I must admit that I’d personally have a very, very hard time to distinguish between Palestrina and Poulenc, but there’s one concert I’d dearly like to attend: in honor of the festival’s 40th birthday, they will be performing Thomas Tallis’ “Spem in Alium”, a polyphonic piece for 40 (!) different voice. Even a more or less tone-deaf person like me has almost been moved to tears by its harmonies.

For the Young and Young at Heart: Lollapalooza

I’ve noticed recently that I must be getting on in years: “glamping” (the upscale version of tent-living) sounds more attractive to me than camping. No longer do I long for the days when my parents finally allowed me to go off with friends to a festival and spend an entire weekend sunburned, dehydrated, hyperactive, sleep-deprived, mud-stained, and with ringing ears.

Wait — this sounds exactly like your idea of fun? Then you’ve got no time to lose! The famous Lollapalooza Festival has by now expanded from its original Chicago location to five different countries around the world. While the 2017 spring/autumn tours in the Southern Hemisphere — Argentina, Brazil, and Chile — are already a thing of the past, the summer concerts in Paris (22–23 July) and the US (3–6 August) still lie ahead.

You probably can’t make it and suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) on the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Lana del Rey, Muse or Tegan and Sara? Then September is your last chance. Berlin’s main acts — The Foo Fighters and Mumford & Sons — might even lure me to the stage in Hoppegarden. Provided the area has some space for comfy “glamping” vans.

For Jazz Fans: The Festival International de Montréal

If you can afford to head off to Canada on very short notice, lovers of all things jazz should make sure to touch down in Montréal next week. From 28 June to 8 July, the capital of Québec will host its tribute to this highly versatile genre for the 38th time.

Good news for those who have splurged on a plane ticket: plenty of the 600-odd concerts are free, giving lesser-known artists the chance to perform for the large festival audience. The wide range of acts isn’t only pretty numerous, but also highly diverse in style: a tribute to Miles Davis by a veteran trumpeter; a wild electro swing group; retro-Latin-classic-pop-jazz orchestra Pink Martini; fun jazz lessons for the younger audience members, or the “flamenco meets salsa meets Arab influences meets reggae meets Western pop” world music sounds of the Gipsy Kings…

All those music fans who are also movie buffs will appreciate the chance of watching recent hit musical La La Land accompanied by a live symphony orchestra or attending a sneak preview of Django, a biopic of legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. And let’s not forget that Montréal’s vibrant nightlife is just as much the stuff of legend as the stars of 100 years of jazz history.

Save the Date! Secret Solstice Festival

Despite its name, the 2017 edition of the Secret Solstice Festival was over even before Midsummer Day. But if you are longing to experience international as well as Icelandic rock and pop acts in the glare of the midnight sun, you should be looking forward to a trip to Iceland next June.

Where else could you listen to the big stars in Valhall (one of the larger stages) and go to an after-party in Hel(l) (the venue for some post-festival fun)? Góða skemmtun!

(Image credits: iStockphoto)

InterNations in June — Summer Days and Ramadan

June is all about sharing great food and quality time with other expats and global minds. Our members in the Northern Hemisphere love to spend their time in the sun enjoying the long summer days. As temperatures are rising in some of our communities, expats are heading outside for picnics, barbecues, and beach parties.

In our Muslim communities, Ramadan plays an important role this month. Those who fast often struggle to explain the Holy Month to other non-Muslim expats and locals in their host countries. Others who live in a predominately Muslim country but don’t fast themselves may have a hard time to adjust to the changed situation.

However, above all, Ramadan is about peace and unity and what better way is there to bring people together than to share a meal with your InterNations community?

Let’s Go Outside

The InterNations community in Prague hosted a fantastic barbecue on Friday, 9 June 2017. Aside from the delicious food that all guests got to enjoy on the terrace of Napa Bar, everyone had the chance to participate in a raffle to win two tickets to Rock for People, the Czech Republic’s biggest music festival.

InterNations Copenhagen partied like they do on Miami Vice. Their beach party on Saturday, 17 June 2017, was the perfect opportunity to dress up. Attendees could take impromptu lessons from a dance instructor, enjoy delicious street food, and just spend a great day outside.

Not ready to be done with barbecues and summer picnics in the park? Fortunately, we have quite a few amazing events coming up.

The Malmö Meet and Chat Group is celebrating Midsummer in Sweden on Friday, 23 June 2017. One of the biggest celebrations throughout the year, midsummer is best observed in the city’s Folketspark, one of the oldest park’s in the world. Why don’t you wear some flowers in your hair and join the crowd?

Com Fest is a unique festival in Columbus and perfect to interact with global minds and the locals. On Friday, 23 June 2017, the InterNations community will visit this local festival to enjoy the live music and local food, and to learn more about their new home abroad.

The Raleigh Community will get together on Saturday, 8 July 2017, to observe a very American tradition: the Independence Day potluck barbecue. Expats and global minds will meet at a local lake to cool off, enjoy some water activities, and share their favorite food. Partners and kids are welcome to join the fun.

Ramadan Mubarak — Iftar and Suhoor with InterNations

On Friday, 2 June 2017, InterNations Abu Dhabi met for a delightful Iftar dinner at Horizon Restaurant. Over a free welcome drink and delicious food, expats and global minds got to enjoy a relaxed evening together.

Our community in Dhaka hosted a rather luxurious Ramadan celebration on Thursday, 8 June 2017. Expats got together at Four Points by Sheraton, which is well known for its nice ambiance and excellent food; the perfect spot for an Iftar dinner with your favorite global minds.

The Dubai Socialize without Alcohol Group used the occasion to invite their members to a Suhoor Event. For the fifth year in a row, the group celebrated at Dubai’s popular Music Hall. For Ramadan, this venue is transformed into a Majlis-style setting to celebrate the spirit, the festivities, and the traditions of this month with great food and live music.

The Ajman Local Group enjoyed a Ramadan Iftar Buffet Dinner and Cruise on Wednesday, 14 June 2017. Starting from Ajman Marina, the ship sailed to the Mangrove at Al Zorah and back, offering an impressive buffet and a great setting for spending this time together.

A truly multicultural Iftar was just the right activity for the Doha Mystery Cheap Eats Group. Members met on Wednesday, 14 June 2017, at Copacabana Restaurant for a Brazilian Churrascaria. Between Ramadan sweets and Brazilian meat dishes, the group had a fantastic Iftar dinner.

 

Are you attending an Iftar this month, or are you meeting your fellow global minds at a barbecue by the beach? Tell us in the comments.

Image credits: InterNations

InterNations Insider Tips: Marvel at Beautiful Muscat

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck shares his experiences in Oman, where he explored the capital city Muscat during a community visit.

The Grand Mosque: An Architectural Masterpiece

With fewer very tall high-rise buildings dotting the capital’s skyline than in, for example, the neighboring UAE, some other striking landmarks will inevitably stand out. The remarkable Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of them.

No wonder: While the Ladies’ Prayer Hall “only” has the capacity to hold 750 worshippers, the main musalla can accommodate up to 6,500 people.

Not only does the main hall contain a gigantic Persian prayer rug, but it also features the world’s largest chandelier. Fun fact: The latter is actually “made in Germany”, by a company based in the small town of Stockdorf near Munich — less than a 30-minute drive from the InterNations head office!

I was happy to visit the mosque in the early morning — non-Muslim visitors are allowed to enter every day (except for Friday) from 8:00 to 11:00, and the site would definitely be more crowded later on. Naturally, you are expected to dress appropriately and conservatively. For both men and women, this means long pants and covered shoulders, and women are required to cover their hair as well.

The mosque is a stunning site, with colourful patterns that run through the whole building. You can walk the grounds and gardens that stretch around it to admire the architecture from all sides.

Muttrah Souk: Be Prepared to Bargain

Thanks to Oman’s proximity to the sea and its trading routes, Muttrah Souk — one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world — is a beautiful symbol of the country’s past. It’s probably the most famous attraction to visit in the country, due to the array of goods they have to offer.

It’s an interesting mixture of an authentic Omani souk and a bit of a touristy market for cruise ship passengers, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you have time to browse all the souvenirs booths and local shops. The combined smell of incense burners and spices made this visit quite memorable.

Like in many souks, always make sure you’re prepared to haggle! As many shop owners increase the price for the never-ending stream of cruise tourists, you can always try for a lower price. I found that the store owners weren’t particularly pushy and were usually prepared to go down in price.

If you’re looking to taste the history of the country and have a sweet tooth, too, try some Omani halwa. This is a traditional Omani dessert made in different flavours. I got to taste the halwa with honey, and it was delicious!

Bait Al Zubair Museum: Oman’s Past

If you want to dig deeper into the rich history of Oman, make sure to visit the Bait Al Zubair Museum. It’s well within the city limits, situated in the older parts of Muscat, and you can find out all about where famous Omani traditions come from.

The collection displays Omani culture both from the past and the present, spanning entire centuries and millennia. Each building showcases a different part of the country’s cultural history, such as its famous silver and gold jewellery, historical weapons (especially the khanjar, the hand-crafted ceremonial dagger), period dress, and household items.

The artefacts allow tourists to understand more about the Omani lifestyle, but the living history of Muscat also gets its due in temporary exhibitions by local artists. My personal favorite, though? The Maritime Gallery, a tribute to Oman’s seafaring roots, which will make you feel a bit like Sinbad the Sailor.

They also exhibit the first European map of Muscat, which was very impressive to see. I found it particularly interesting to learn that the map Terrae Oman was produced by an 18-century geographer by walking (!) the distances of the vast country and recording his paces.

Pebbled Beaches: Escaping the City

Even if your stay in the capital is rather short, you might find some time to wander on the beaches along the coast of Muscat. On my way to visit the wadi — between Sur and Muscat — I stumbled upon a beautiful pebbled beach.

The beach is spread over a few kilometres, so finding a spot for a rest is no trouble, though there’s not a lot of shelter from the sun. The water is very clear, and I’d even been told I might have a chance of to see turtles hatching their eggs. Unfortunately, that did not happen, but I immensely enjoyed the serenity after a busy day in the city.

A friendly local told me that if you have more time, you should definitely check out other beaches in Oman. If you want to escape the rush of Muscat, you can drive further south, where you’ll find immense sand dunes and flocks of flamingos. It’s not that well known among tourists, so it won’t probably be packed with people.

Snorkeling is supposed to be amazing in the pristine waters! You can rent a four-wheel drive and enjoy the rough coastlines with stunning views of sea.

Wadis: An Off-Road Adventure

The Arabic word for valley is wadi, and Oman’s wadis are very popular sites to visit outside of Muscat. The particular one that I visited was Wadi Shab, in a small town called Tiwi. With its turquoise pools and waterfalls, it was simply a must-see on my bucket list.

The valley itself is only accessible by boat, so you either need to book a boat trip in advance or shill out 1 OMR for one of the local guides to help you cross the river. After the short boat ride, you have to hike for approximately 3km, but with the stunning views and the relatively easy accessible road it was just perfect.

The hike along the wadi was beautiful, and if you want to — and bring along some swimwear and beach sandals — you can even end it with a swim in a cave. I was happy to be there in spring, as the temperature was still comfortable: it can go up to 40 degrees in summer!

Although my stay was short, I would definitely describe it as “short but sweet”, like Omani halwa! I feel like I got to experience Omani culture to the fullest, and really enjoyed the beautiful scenery that surrounds the capital.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Founder’s Diary: Muscat

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck returns to the Persian Gulf for a brief stint in Oman, attending an official event in our Muscat Community.

After I’d had the opportunity to explore both Bahrain and Qatar last year, it was back to “1001 Nights” for me this spring. In the capital city of Oman, one of the most important trading hubs between East and West since times immemorial, there’s now a flourishing InterNations Community with about 15,000 members.

Two of the Muscat Ambassadors — Rebecca, a New Zealand tour guide, and Fazlul, an events manager from Bangladesh — had invited me to the official event at The Lazy Lizard, the lush open-air restaurant and poolside bar of the Radisson Blue Hotel downtown.

A New Pre-Event Format: The Community Team Talk

Before the actual event started, we’d organized a Community Team Talk for our InterNations Volunteers (coming soon: a more in-depth report on this new format), and I was very impressed by the relaxed, familial atmosphere in the Muscat Community.

It’s our nearly 30 volunteers — three InterNations Ambassadors and 26 Group Consuls — who help to make expat life in Muscat a great experience. About half of them took some time out of their busy schedules to attend this session on a Wednesday night.

There was even a little treat for them in store: when I tried to invite them for a round of drinks to thank them for their commitment, the waiters made a bit of an exception for us and bent the rules about not serving alcohol in hotel meeting rooms. Cheers!

The introduction round gave me lots of insights into our active community life in Oman. For example, we currently have about two dozen InterNations Groups in Muscat, from “Life’s a Beach” and “The Great Outdoors” to the Desi Vibes Group to business networking meet-ups.

I hope I could provide them with some valuable insights into daily life and work at the InterNations head office in return: not only did I tell them about the founding and the company history, but it was particularly important to me to share our vision for the future — to be every expat’s best friend — and to ask them for their own suggestions and ideas.

Unsurprisingly, the volunteers were mostly interested in any and all features we are working on right now to make organizational matters easier for them: the brand-new guest list app, our feedback tool for events and activities, and the newly opened InterNations Volunteer Groups.

A Heart-Felt Thank You to Honor Our Volunteers

In addition to keeping them up to date about the development and growth of InterNations, I especially wanted to say a heart-felt “thank you” for the tremendous energy and creativity they put into hosting all these great activities: every one of them is a new chance for our members in Muscat to meet in person, to get to know each other, and to share their hobbies and interests with other expats and global minds.

For a few especially active volunteers, we’d prepared an “honorary diploma” to recognize their commitment to the InterNations Muscat Community. However, our impromptu award ceremony was cut a bit short since the event had just started and the rush outside to the pool bar began.

On that warm spring night, the weather was just perfect: temperatures were high enough to celebrate outside in the evening, but hadn’t become as unbearably hot as in the summer months.

The InterNations Muscat Event

The Muscat Community Team had set up a great entrance to the event, with an administration desk, a tablet check-in counter, and a Hollywood-style photo wall, which looked very professional.

After Fazlul had introduced me to the friendly crowd of around 200 guests, I seized the opportunity to say a few words of welcome and to thank our volunteers once again for everything they do for the Muscat Community.

Afterwards, it was time to enjoy the party and to talk to as many of our members as I could. The most memorable story of the evening was the definitely one I heard from Julie, a South African expat, who met her husband Andrew from the UK at one of our events and who told me how they eventually got married.

On the following day, I got my first glimpse of Muscat’s sights: Rebecca was so kind as to drive me around on a guided tour of the city. It was amazing to get this offer from an expert who does this for a living — thanks again for the wonderful opportunity, Rebecca!

You can find more information on worthwhile sights in and outside of Muscat in my InterNations Insider Tips for Oman.

(Image credit: Fazlul Karim & Malte Zeeck)