Friday, 20 May 2011

Expat excellence featuring Miller Weddings and Helen Smith

It seems we have all had Weddings on the mind with the recent Royal Wedding hysteria so we thought post the royal one it was probably time to blog about planning a Wedding abroad. This week we have the wonderful insights of Miller Weddings and the real life experiences of expat Helen Smith to bring you the plus points and pitfalls of planning a wedding overseas. ...

The plus points and pitfalls of planning a Wedding Abroad


Photography by Rudy and MartaSince starting up Miller Weddings I have noticed an increased popularity in destination weddings. I think this is mainly because of the restrictions on where you can actually get married within the UK - jetting off to an Italian chapel or Grecian beach is much more appealing than a dreary registry office. Right now, the ‘Any Campaign’ is petitioning to make anytime anywhere weddings legal within the UK, just like in the US and many other countries.

However, despite most people’s initial reaction, often a wedding abroad can cost less due to a minimised guest list and guests tend to pay for their own flights and accommodation. Ceremonies will also often cost less too, especially as they can run up to £500 odd for a church wedding here in the UK.

As for planning, a lot of resorts for destination weddings will take care of everything; from flowers and cakes to photographers and cars. Plus, with the advent of Skype a consultation can be done from anywhere. The downside to this is that your day may not include all the unique details that you wanted but really, most brides would swap ‘details’ in a heartbeat to have a spectacular location for the most memorable day of their life. Making their unique venue, their very special detail!

When looking at having a wedding abroad, brides often choose a place that is easy for everyone to get to. Possibly somewhere that may not require a full week’s worth of holiday, and then narrow it down to where they can legally get married. One of my brides is marrying in Spain this year and has had to take this into consideration. If you’re not resident there for a certain period of time first, you can only have a legally recognised marriage within a Catholic church. For any other Spanish wedding, you need to be married in the UK first and hold your blessing in Spain at a later date.

A wedding license is the same no matter where you are getting married. You still need to apply to your local registrar and obtain a certification of no impediment to show that you are free to marry. You’d then bring this with you to the country in which you are marrying. It is also important to ensure that the country you are marrying in is legally recognised in the UK too. Although a wedding abroad is not registered there, your deposit, marriage certificate with your local registry office and your marriage will be listed in the UK.

Most brides would benefit from hiring a wedding planner in their chosen destination. Not only do they speak the language, but they also have local knowledge and will be able to select the right churches and venues for you. It is easier for your planner to liaise directly with all the suppliers on site, rather than for you to do it through email or over the phone and encounter countless problems with geographical or language barriers.

A wedding abroad needn't cost more than one within your own country. It just requires a bit more organisation and persistence. The end result however, will be a unique experience - not only to the bride and groom but to all of the guests. Just make sure your passport is in date and start looking!

When Helen Smith, a Brit in Oz, found herself engaged her first thoughts were of home. Here she tells us of her wedding planning on the other side of the world!
Planning a wedding abroad can be an exciting prospect. The promise of a tropical island or a rain-free day, are huge selling points but do couples fully anticipate how extra much time and effort it can actually take?

It wasn’t quite the fine weather that drew me in, but being a Brit living in Sydney, Australia, the first sign of an engagement ring and I was almost immediately thinking about where, when and how I might be able to get married back at home. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the first – and in hindsight, the biggest – decision we were about to make, was to name the date. We gave ourselves 18 months and as our engagement progressed, boy did we come to realise that we needed it!

First things first – guests. Australia to England is a long and expensive flight. We had to consider who would come and whether we could ask people to folk out for the trip. Again, timing proved to be key, and almost as soon as we were engaged we spoke to friends and family down under to let them know our plans, giving them plenty of time to consider their options. The UK-based folk could wait!

Unlike many other destination weddings, an 11 hour time difference between the UK and Australia meant that almost all communication with vendors was done via email. Rarely did we hear back within a day which meant that we were constantly on hold and awaiting a response before we could progress other areas.

If I could give some advice from my own experience of planning a wedding overseas, first up it would be to give yourself plenty of time. Carefully plan the size of the wedding, what’s required of vendors and what you think the timeframe will be, and then add a contingency. Make sure that you also book enough time off work to arrive at the wedding destination plenty of time before the big day. This will allow you to meet with vendors or even make any last arrangements without feeling overwhelmed. Secondly, make sure that you are 100 per cent across any visa requirements – you might find that you need to be in the country a certain number of days/weeks before the wedding date (as I found). Remember that that’s where legality comes in to play so if nothing else, that’s what you need to get right.

Back on UK soil and with only three weeks to go until the wedding day, there are still several bits and pieces that are only now being arranged. That said, I’m confident (*holds breath) that with some precision planning and a few little helpers, things will all fall in to place...and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Expat Explorer returns again in 2011

Today marks the official launch of HSBC Bank International’s 2011 Expat Explorer Survey. Now in its 4th year Expat Explorer is the largest global survey for expats, where expats worldwide can have the chance to share what it’s really like living and working overseas.

We have seen a steady increase of respondents to the survey over the years and last year was no exception with over 4,100 expats taking part from 100 countries across the globe. However even though the numbers are increasing we want to make sure that this year we get even more respondents to ensure that more countries make it into the 2011 Survey.

With the launch of our new online Expat Explorer tool earlier this year we are excited to update it with the latest data from the 2011 Survey. That’s why we are asking you to share the survey with your friends, family and colleagues to help us capture as many expat insights as possible.

Some of the key insights from last year’s survey included learning how expats had adapted their lifestyles to the changing economic climate. Many expats thought their economy had declined over the previous year, so we’re interested to see the changes expats have experienced since then.

Other key findings from the 2010 research included:

Emerging economies remain on top for expat finances
Wealth gap continues to widen between the East and Mainland Europe with Russia home to wealthiest expats, followed by the Middle East
BRIC countries emerging as expat hotspots
Thailand, Canada and Bahrain were the top three locations for improved expat lifestyle
Expat children live a better life away from home with Belgium ranking as the best place to raise expat children

The 2011 survey will continue to delve into the issues close to expats’ hearts and discover how their lifestyle, economic outlook and experience of raising a family abroad has changed following their move to a new country.

So if you’re an expat and want to find out how your country ranks, how your fellow expats are coping or even where your next trip might take you, make sure your voice is heard and get involved today by filling in the Expat Explorer 2011 survey at http://www1.gfk-wi.com/wix/p123914242.aspx?WT.mc_id=EPC331 .

Monday, 9 May 2011

Top Tips for Repatriation

Last year we featured a blog post about preparing yourself for the culture shock of repatriation and how to face the challenges of returning home after a prolonged period abroad.


We regularly feature tips on Expat Explorer for a successful expat assignment and speak to many expats who are still enjoying their lives away from home but what about those who choose to come back and as it the place they remembered?





Our Expat Experience report found that a third of all expats who live away for more than 10 years have not been home for more than two years. For those who have ‘gone native’ the home they return to can feel as strange as the foreign land they once travelled to!


To add to our tips from last year we came across these top tips for a stress free repatriation:


1) Acknowledge that things WILL have changed. Regardless of how long you have been away there’s a strong chance that things will be very different when you return. It is important to remember that your experiences abroad will have changed you and time away from your friends and family may have impacted your relationships.


2) Make sure there’s money in the bank. International relocation is expensive and you will need to ensure that you have enough money to fully fund your move back home. Depending upon your circumstances you may need money to cover living expenses while you find a new job, you may need to rent somewhere on a temporary basis while looking for somewhere new to live or you may need to fund the purchase of a new home. Be aware that, if you did not keep a bank account open in your home country while you lived overseas you may not be entitled to any credit (including a mortgage) on your return. Before you make plans to return, make a list of all the expenses you will face, research your financial limitations and ensure that you have a big enough budget to tide you over during the settling in period. If not, it may be prudent to remain in your host country until you do.


3) Understand your rights with regards to access to medical services. You will need to understand what health care you will be entitled to once you return home and will need to establish if there will be a requirement for medical insurance. Depending upon what country you are from public healthcare may be available. However, do not assume that you will be entitled to it. In many countries the right to public care is foregone after you have lived continually outside of the country for a set period of time. Fully research medical and dental entitlements and, if necessary, arrange appropriate private healthcare.


4) Be conscious of your children’s emotions. In the same way that you needed to prepare your children for a move overseas you will also need to get them ready for coming back home. They will have had a wide range of experiences that will set them apart from their friends and classmates and you need to be on guard for any negative emotions or experiences that this may engender. Communicate regularly with their school in order to verify how they are settling back into the education system and ensure that they get all the support needed.


5) Remain positive. In many cases returning home may not be your preference but you may be doing so because your contract has come to an end or your host country is no longer able to offer you a suitable standard of living. In situations like these it can be very difficult to remain positive and you may dread the thought of returning to your old life. For your own wellbeing it is crucial that you embrace the move and accept that it is happening. Think of all the family, friends, activities and unique elements of your home country that you have missed and try and focus on these as opposed to concentrating on what you are leaving behind in your host country.
If you have a story of repatriation to tell or further advice to give please share your thoughts on our blog or get in touch if you’d like to guest blog for us....

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