Skip to main content
London

Remembering the 7/7 London Bombings

On July 7, 2005, four sick-minded terrorists tried to break the spirit of London. They failed.

Exactly 10 years ago today, on 7 July 2005, four young men committed mass murder on the transport network of my former home city, London.

At around 8.30 am — the busiest time on London’s widely used tube network — the four men, wearing backpacks stuffed with explosive hydrogen peroxide, exited King’s Cross station and split up. Three headed towards the underground while one boarded a double-decker bus.

Exactly 19 minutes later, at 8.49 am, they set off a series of deadly explosions on the Circle Line, the Piccadilly Line, and on the number 30 bus.

Fifty-two innocent individuals, people simply travelling to work that morning, lost their lives. Their names — David Foulkes (22), Gamze Gunerol (24), Shahara Islam (20), Rachell Chung For Yuen (27), Monika Suchocka (23) and 47 others — reflect London’s staggering diversity.

(more…)

A guide to independence day in the USA

Independence Day Explained for Non-Americans — A Quick Guide

What is Independence Day in the United States of America All About?

Many non-Americans are pretty familiar with the country’s Independence Day holiday: it’s about patriotism, independence from Great Britain, and defeating an invading army of enormous slimy aliens (that actually happened, right?).

Of the United States’ 10 public holidays, the Fourth of July stands out as easily the most well known to non-Americans around the world and probably the most significant for Americans themselves.

As I’ve written before, I think it’s an important part of an expat’s experience in their adopted country to try to understand and to mark important public holidays in their host country. With that in mind, what is Independence Day all about, and how should a non-American mark it? Here’s Independence Day explained.

(more…)

Why are British and American English different?

Why to Succeed in the USA You Must First Learn to Speak “American”

When doing business in today’s globalized world, all of the expert advice suggests learning to speak a little of your host’s language. If you’re British (or have learned British English) then you might think you have a head start in the USA. In fact, the differences between British and American English are substantial.

The approaching Fourth of July holiday (or should that be July Fourth?) is a reminder that American and British English share a common ancestry. Yet, despite the modern day United States having it’s roots in British colonialism, the two main branches of the English language have diverged quite markedly over the past 250 years.

Having a firm knowledge of the differences and deploying American English correctly is, as I am discovering as a British expat living and working in San Francisco, crucial to business success in the United States.

What, then, are the key differences, how should you handle them and why are British and American English so different?

(more…)

Eight hours in San Francisco's mission district

Eight Hours in San Francisco’s Mission District

Guide / Things to Do in San Francisco’s Mission District

Concerned by gentrification in San Francisco’s downtown Mission District, the city’s government debated an emergency 45-day moratorium on new construction earlier this month. The reason? To give breathing space to decide how to rescue this historic Latino enclave from being engulfed by latte-sipping, tech-working hipsters.

There’s nothing unique about the Mission — from Brooklyn to Brixton gentrification debates are being waged across the world. There is also nothing new about it; the New York Times was writing about “new people, people who have money… moving in [and] altering life for everyone” way back in 1999.

(more…)

How many expats are there worldwide?

How Many Expats Are There Worldwide?

Are More People On The Move Than Ever Before?

Twenty-five years ago, there were more than 154 million international migrants who – for one reason or another – packed up their homes in their native countries and moved to become expatriates in another part of the world.

Now that figure stands at over 232 million (3.2% of the world’s total population) – the highest number of international migrants ever recorded by the UN’s surveys.

(more…)

What is the friendliest country for expats?

The World’s Friendliest Countries for Expats

Which Countries Rank Highest for Social Life, Making Friends and Feeling Welcome?

Living overseas doesn’t have to mean loneliness, homesickness and being made to feel unwelcome by the locals. At least that’s true if you’re living in Russia (yes, you read that right), Bahrain or Mexico.

These are the three friendliest countries for expats, where they can most easily make friends, integrate into the community, enjoy an active social life and be made to feel welcome at work, according to the most recent HSBC Expat Explorer Survey.

(more…)

Books new expats must read

Five Books New Expats Must Read (plus some recommendations from the Twittersphere)

What Are the Best Books for New Expats to Read?

There are numerous “how to” guide books for expats out there. They detail the finer points of moving overseas, from arranging international shipping to getting your taxes in order. While these texts have their moments — mostly explaining the minutiae of the endless visa forms an expat must complete — they don’t provide much practical assistance  and inspiration to expats in their new lives.

Here, then, are my top five books new expats must read.

(more…)

Guide to tipping in the USA

A Guide to Tipping in the United States: When to Give and How Much

America’s Tipping Culture Explained

America’s tipping culture is out of control.

Every time you eat in a restaurant, every time you buy a drink at a bar, every time you grab a coffee, get a haircut, ride a taxi, buy groceries… someone expects to be tipped.

It means that, almost entirely irrespective of quality, you must assume that all services are going to cost at least 15%, 20% and sometimes even more than the ticket price.

It is the obligatory nature of tipping in the United States that non-Americans, and particularly Europeans, find so hard to comprehend. Sure, my waiter took 20 minutes to take my order, forgot the water I asked for, gave me lukewarm food and dropped a knife into my lap when clearing my plate — but I still have to pay them extra? WHAT?

(more…)

Expat voting rights

Can I Vote While I’m Living Abroad?

Overseas Voting Rights Under the Spotlight

The recent announcement that the British government will act to extend overseas voting rights to all citizens (though not in time for expat  Britons to vote in the planned EU membership referendum), irrespective of how long they have been living outside of the UK has put expat voting rights under the spotlight.

At present British citizens can vote from overseas in General and European elections, so long as they have not lived outside of the UK for more than 15 years. The “15 year rule” has generated quite a bit of controversy because, with an estimated 5.6 million British citizens living overseas, it causes a substantial number of people to be disenfranchised.

The European Commission has gone so far as saying that Britain is “punishing” its expatriates for leaving the country by denying them the right to vote. “The right to vote is one of the fundamental rights of citizenship. It is part of the very fabric of democracy,” said Vivian Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, in a statement made in 2014.

However, far from being an anachronism, Britain’s expatriate voting rules are actually among the most relaxed in the world. The vast majority of the world’s migrants and expats are unable to continue to have a say in how their countries are run and many of those expats who do have voting rights find that they are subject to stricter recent residency conditions than imposed by the UK.

(more…)

Buy british groceries online

Where to Buy British Food and Groceries Online

What can you do if you’re craving British food in America?

With an estimated 5.5 million British citizens living abroad and more than 300,000 people joining them every year it is hardly surprising that demand for British food and groceries overseas is booming.

Of course, part of the joy of living in another country is the opportunity to experience a new and exciting food culture. I am very fortunate that my current home, California, has some of the best cuisine in the United States – influenced by waves of immigration from Latin America, Japan, China, South East Asia and Eastern Europe.

To walk down the main shopping street in my district in the west of San Francisco is to pass through, within the space of around a mile, microcosms of Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Russia, Poland and Mexico. I could eat pho for breakfast, sushi for lunch and have burritos for dinner every day if I wished.

But, sometimes I crave certain British foods and groceries: proper tea, Jaffa cakes, HP sauce, baked beans, a warm British ale! These things are much harder to find even here in San Francisco and, if you’re currently further afield, probably almost impossible to come across.

So, where are the best places to buy your favorite British food and groceries online?

(more…)