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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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moving abroad checklist

Moving Abroad Checklist — 10 Things to Consider before Moving Overseas

Every year tens of millions of people move across the world to call a new country home. They do so for a whole variety of reasons — for work, a lower cost of living, or a better quality of life. Whatever their reasons for emigrating packing up your life in one country and moving to another is a major undertaking.

Trust me — I speak from experience! In March 2015 my wife and I packed up our life in London, England and moved over 5,000 miles to San Francisco, California. You can read a little background to our story on the About page.

The key lesson I have learned from my experience? To move abroad successfully you must plan ahead. Every year embassies and consulates report having to help out their citizens because they’ve found themselves in financial hardship or run into legal troubles.

Your exact checklist will vary depending on where you are moving to and your specific circumstances. My wife and I have been quite fortunate: we didn’t own a home in the UK, we do not have children, and our parents are still spritely young things. However, if you’ve got assets or care obligations for example, your move may be more complicated.

Most moves will, however, require thinking about similar issues. What, then, were the 10 major areas on my moving abroad checklist?

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