5 ways expats can stay mentally healthy during quarantine

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

As countries across the globe continue the battle against Covid-19, a ‘second curve’ is threatening millions of people – the consequences of the pandemic on our mental health. For expats, feeling isolated and lonely are often very common emotions. These feelings are likely to intensify by the travel restrictions that are preventing us from returning home.

It is vital expats look after their mental wellbeing while social distancing in order to stay focused and healthy. Here are some ways for expats to address their mental health whilst isolating in their homes.

1. Establish a routine

The first step is to establish a daily routine that you can realistically stick to. Its easy to get into the habit of waking up late, not getting properly dressed, as well as eating and sleeping at irregular times. Having an active daytime routine, and sleeping regularly at night, has been proven to improve overall mood and cognitive functioning. A good night’s sleep has also been shown to decrease the risk of developing depression and other mental health disorders.

If you’re an expat working from home, try to maintain normality by waking up at the same time and sticking to a regular schedule throughout the day. Not only will this help your productivity levels, but it will also help you to maintain a work-life balance. It is also extremely important to set aside time every day to go outside for some fresh air.  This will help with mental health but will also positively affect your productivity and creativity.

2. Pick up a new hobby

If you’re in need of a distraction to fill the hours outside of work, picking up a new hobby can be a great solution. This may not apply to those working remotely and looking after children and their remote learning. However, this could be really great for those with extra time after working hours.

Some hobbies to adopt might be trying out yoga for the first time or using online videos to learn the basics of a new language. If you enjoy reading, set up a virtual book club with your family and friends, helping you to stay connected with your loved ones simultaneously. Other calming hobbies include meditating, sewing, reading, gardening, journaling, baking, and much more.

3. Avoid the news

Many expats will feel the need to keep up with developments both within their host country as well as back home. However, the bleak news cycle can be very damaging to our mental health.

If you’re reading or watching the news regularly throughout the day, try cutting this down. Maybe instead of a constant flow of news limit it to once in the morning or evening for under 15 minutes. This will be more than enough time to see if there have been any important changes you need to be made aware of without falling into a spiral of reading or watching too much negative news. For those who enjoy catching up on global developments, try searching online for positive news stories instead to help boost your mood.

4. Stay in touch

Under normal circumstances, expat life presents its own challenges of visiting family. Availability and the cost of travel have always been obstacles for expats.  However, with many expats across the globe still not being able to travel, the possibility of visiting family and friends can still seem like a distant reality.

With research showing that 9 in 10 expats often feel isolated, it is important now more than ever to reach out for human contact. Whether by video calling a family member, texting a friend, or catching up with a colleague, there are many ways to integrate communication with others throughout your day. In fact, with evidence regularly telling us that loneliness can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on both our physical and mental health, reaching out to others should become a part of your daily routine.

If you’re a busy expat, trying to set aside times throughout the week for catching up with family and friends, can seem daunting. Persist. It is important to keep the lines of communication open. Keep dates and times in your calendar for when you are due to call different family members and friends back home.

If you’re an expat in a country such as the UK where lockdown rules are being eased slightly, you may now even be allowed to meet up with a select number of individuals in an outdoor space, or even visit another person’s household. If possible, use this opportunity to catch up with some colleagues or friends while keeping your distance and wearing a mask. The last thing we want is carelessness to keep social distancing in place for even longer.

5. Accept help

If you’re struggling with your mental health during this time, it’s important to understand this is entirely normal. Undergoing such drastic changes to our daily lives is likely to have negatively affected many individuals so it is important to reach out and accept help. Being isolated abroad may have encouraged many expats to keep in touch more regularly with family and friends back home, but for many taking the first step can be difficult.

Speaking to a medical professional about any concerns you may have about your mental health is still a viable option available despite being locked down at home. Especially during these uncertain times, consider using virtual health care services, some of which can be easily accessed if you have a global healthcare plan in place. Virtual health care services allow you to discuss your physical and mental health worries from the safety of your home. This will ensure you get the help you need while maintaining social distancing.

Reaching out to a healthcare professional or trusted confidant is the best way to address any issues you might be facing. These strange and uncertain times are likely to be challenging for the vast majority of us. Supporting each other throughout this pandemic by providing mental and moral support will be vital.

 

Celebrating Halloween in London as an Expat

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

Back in 2010 my husband and I left the concrete jungle of New York City to move to Sydney, Australia and test it out for a few years.

It was a great experience filled with so much. But it also gave us the opportunity to learn about a new culture and celebrate new holidays.  We always loved Australia Day and playing 2 Up. On the flip side, it was equally as exciting being able to share our own holidays and traditions with Aussie locals that might not be familiar with those of our own. I remember hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner where the majority of our guests were NOT from America. And it was a hit! I mean, how can you not love stuffing your face with tons of delicious food while enjoying time spent with friends?

As Halloween quickly approaches, you may be wondering where in London can I take my kids trick or treating? Keeping in mind that this is not a local holiday celebrated by all. In fact, the British hate Halloween apparently. A survey done way back in 2006 found that over half of British homeowners turn off their lights and pretend not to be home on Halloween. Yet another reason the United States is happy to be free from British rule. smiley

Here are a few tricks and treats to celebrating Halloween as an expat in London. 

Read more…

Activities Expat Life

The Expats Guide to Building Credit in Germany

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

Having a good credit score is very important to your finances. You may not realize it now but it affects many things in your life: Your credit score can determine whether a landlord will rent to you or not; it can affect your ability to get a mobile phone or a mortgage on a house; it can even prevent a bank from loaning you money to buy everyday things (which means no credit cards since those are basically loans). So what do you do as an expat in a new country with no credit?

Our guide below will help outline the steps needed to establish yourself in Germany as an expat so you can begin building credit (and test your pronunciation abilities because German government terminology is not known for its brevity).

Let’s start with a brief education of the German credit system as it can be confusing for many.

The Schufa

Germany’s sophisticated credit system is called the SCHUFA (shorthand for Schutzgemeinschaft für Allgemeine Kreditsicherung).  As a resident of Germany, this system immediately begins collecting data on your financial history in order to calculate a score. This score will then stay with you for the duration of your residency in Germany.

The Schufa is based on a 100-point scale and gets “dinged” when you are delinquent on payments.  Beyond that, exactly how this score is calculated continues to be a mystery. We do know that scores around 90 are considered positive and should not negatively impact you with lenders.

Every resident is entitled to one free copy of their report per year. Should you need to request an additional copy the Meineschufa website is a great resource to check out.
Meineschufa- Schufa

Building credit in a new country takes time. So be diligent about paying bills in full on time.
Read more…

Expat Life as a Millennial LGBTQ

Michael Boateng @GoodMigrations

Hi, my name is Michael Kwadjo (Qweh-joe) Kyei Boateng. I am a first-generation Ghanaian immigrant who feels like an expat of the world.

I was born in New York (shout out to the Bronx!) and raised by my mother. She would send me to live with family around the world while she worked a full-time job as a live-in nurse.

I’ve had the privilege of living in Ghana, England, the Netherlands, Brazil, Australia, and the United States. As an openly Queer African American who rose up from a low-income childhood, I have had several different experiences on how my identity relates to different countries, cities, and communities. Each place I’ve lived abroad has helped teach me something about my own identity and how I can find peace and support to thrive and just be.

I’ve enjoyed learning about all the amazing LGBTQ leaders such as Marsha P. Johnson, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, and more that have opened new frontiers for our community. In honor of Pride Month, I want to reflect on my expat experiences and share a bit so that my fellow LGBTQ community members can find new places around the world to explore and uncover the love and joy of being LGTBQ.

(*Disclaimer, the experiences and insights I plan to share are based on places I’ve lived or visited abroad. I still have a lot to learn about being Queer and the many intricate and intimate forms in which it shows itself. Also, to keep things simple: “Queer”, a term which has several roots and connotations, is how I identify currently. I use Queer predominately as a verb – for me, it means to radically disrupt systems and preconceived notions of gender, sex, and identity. I know, I know, a bit wordy, but truly the term is loaded. If you want to know more, I recommend reading, Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker or A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski.)

The purpose of this guide is to help future LGBTQ members find cities around the world where they can enjoy living and be themselves. Okay, let’s get started! Read more…

Expat Life Guest Posts

Are You Financially Ready to Move to Singapore

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

Singapore has been rated as the best place in the world for expats, but Malaysia isn’t far behind. 55% of expats live in a home they consider nicer than before they moved to Malaysia and 61% find it’s easy to make friends.

Before you make the leap, you need to make sure you are financially ready. Depending on where you currently live, you may be looking forward to lower living costs in either Singapore or Malaysia. Getting your finances in order and understanding all the costs should be your priorities prior to take off.
Singapore Skyline

Living Costs: Malaysia

Despite being a modernized country with plenty of luxuries, Malaysia offers relatively low living costs compared to Europe, Australasia, and North America. It is estimated that a single person could live comfortably in Kuala Lumpur for $470 USD a monthFor that amount you will have a comfortable room in a modern, furnished apartment, you will eat well, and you’ll still have money left over for entertainment and travel.

For additional context, a mid-priced meal for two will cost around $17, while a cheap meal out could come to just $5 per person. Shopping in the local supermarkets and cooking from home makes life affordable for most people on an average American wage. As long as you have enough for several months’ worth of rent and living costs, then you should be all set to make the move.  Read more…

Expat Life

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