Tag Archives: security

Top 10 Concerns of Expats #4 – Defining Moves Version

8. Standard of Living

“Few people willingly move abroad to accept a lower standard of living – there are exceptions of course such as those who volunteer to help in nations affected by wars or dire economic circumstances.  The majority of us move abroad expecting to find or achieve a better or equal standard of living to what we previously enjoyed – but everything from the cost of living to the availability and quality of infrastructure can impact this.”  (Shelter Offshore)

Concerns of Relocating Expats - Standard Of Living

What most of the studies don’t show is that we have a mental idea of what our new life will be life that doesn’t just revolve around granite kitchen countertops and a pool. I for one had a mental image of expat life in Kenya as a cross between Out of Africa and Gone with the Wind, with martinis, perfectly pressed linen clothing and a serene demeanor featuring heavily. I would finally have the time to write a book, master yoga and cook gourmet meals. Hours spent on the phone trying to get my electricity / phone / internet reconnected (an oft repeated task that had no relationship to whether I had paid the bill in person, by mail or at a bank) and days spent sobbing with loneliness did not ever appear in my fantasy life. So when we talk about standard of living, the corporate assumption is that all we are expecting is physical comforts like modern housing, air-conditioning and household help, and while we need to be aware of the cost and availability of the ‘home comforts’ that we consider essential, they are not the route to expat happiness. What we also should know is that more time can be spent managing staff than the work itself would take, that the cost of air-conditioning is not just in electricity, but also in time spent locating a repairman and then waiting at home when he doesn’t appear for the fifth time, and your elegant clothing makes you stick out like a sore thumb in the local markets..

Try to articulate your anticipated life before you go, and then compare it to the average lifestyle of the local and expat population to see whether you are really being realistic. Most physical comforts can be achieved with a little planning and effort, but you may find that once you are there, they no longer have the same appeal. Thinking of your standard of living in a holistic way allows you to sort the needs from the wants, and will give you a far better chance of contentment long term.

9. Bureaucracy / Corruption

“No matter where in the world you live you will always face bureaucracy – and by its very nature bureaucracy is usually mind numbingly ridiculous – but as an expat it’s so much worse because it is foreign bureaucracy so it is even more unintelligible, nonsensical, impossible to understand and yet imperative.”  (Shelter Offshore)

I like to think of bureaucracy as a hoop that has to be jumped through. The difficulty is in defining where exactly the hoop is, and how high we have to jump to get through it. And while I think of corruption as someone with the power to move the hoop to make getting through easier or harder, I also happen to know that there are plenty of ‘jobsworth’ civil servants and who may not be corrupt, but are just as unhelpful.

Getting frustrated with it is universal and understandable, but doesn’t change the fact that it exits, and you still need to get though it. If you have a corporate relocation package, your company may have already hired a professional to guide you though and expedite the process. As an individual, your local and expat network will prove invaluable, because everyone will have already have jumped through those hoops and can give you advice. And as a final note – try not to get angry. I have yet to hear of a situation where it helped, but by contrast, I have many, many personal experiences where staying calm, smiling and asking very, very nicely for help has smoothed the way for everything from getting school places to US visa appointments.

10. Raising Children

I’m pretty sure that concerns about raising children are not exclusive to expats – quite the opposite, in fact.  For where we are wondering if exposing our children to multiple vaccines, repeated school moves and language barriers will warp them for life, our less transient counterparts are worrying about their child’s gluten allergy, lack of global awareness, and Spanish grades. It comes with the parenting territory, and unfortunately, we have no way of knowing how we are doing until they hit teenage years and are only too willing to list our shortcomings..  There are a number of strategies for relocating expat children and Third Culture Kids but my Four Basic Rules are:

1. Keep them informed, but not overwhelmed. Tell them early, include them in discussions about family life, and give them a say in matters that affect them.

2. Move at the end of a vacation, not at the start. It gives them time to say goodbye, and less time spent without friends to play with.

3. Fill the void. Assume that for the first month or so, you will need to keep them occupied with family activities, and keep them in contact with friends from their old location via text, email or Skype.

4. Expect issues. Everyone is under stress during a transition, so try to be patient, allow for a some acting out, and get help if you need to.


Teen Social Networking Infographic

It’s no longer just putting pen to paper – like many expat and TCK kids, mine rely on social networking sites to keep in contact with friends around the world. But while we keep track of them in the real world, Zonealarm’s infographic outlines just why we should be doing the same in the online one.
Other Resources:

Too Much Information – The Top 5 ways we make identity theft easier..

It’s not just expats that manage most of their life online – increasingly, we are doing everything from paying bills to car registration via the world wide web. And while we all lock up our houses and cars and warn our children not to talk to strangers, we are far more trusting with the personal details we share electronically. So we have put together a list of the commonest ways we make identity theft far too easy, and security pointers that you may be missing.

1. Facebook. Oh boy. We enter our names, addresses, telephone numbers, birthdays, and then, just to make sure we really can be identified easily, we add photos. And then we tell everyone we are going on holiday, and how long we are going to be away.. It is now commonly used by employers to get an informal picture of who you are out of work, so be aware of not only what you are posting, but also what appears on your wall from friends. Once you have entered information onto your Facebook profile, it can be shared, both with Facebook ‘partners and via your friends. This means that even if you have chosen to keep your relationship with friends private, if they are not similarly inclined, that information is still publicly available. ”Tagging’ of you in photos etc, also allows anyone (known to you or not) viewing that post to see your profile and any information that is ‘public’.

What to do. Take five minutes to browse through your page, and click on the globe icon next to the various information boxes. If the information is public, you are giving everyone access to your personal details, any unflattering photos of you from 7th grade that your ex-boyfriend has posted, and photos of your children.. Need I say more? It’s also worth browsing through from another computer, to get a birds eye of view of what can be seen. Bottom line – share responsibly, and pick your friends wisely. Check out this article on Learnvest.com for a great step by step guide.

Cellphones/Smartphones/iPads etc. If you take a look at the home screen of my iPhone, you will conveniently have access to the login pages for my bank accounts, my contacts (so that if you don’t know my mother’s maiden name, you can just text her and ask for a reminder), my Facebook and Twitter profile, and my home address and telephone number if you were in any doubt which house to burgle. And if you really wanted to add insult to injury, you could take pictures of your naked backside with the built in phone, and post them my Facebook page or send them to everyone I know.. Scary, huh? Increasingly, smart phones are used as computers, but we don’t treat them with the same amount of care, and regularly leave them sitting on tables in cafes and poking out of pockets. We want them within reach at all times, without for a moment thinking that others can reach them too..

What to do. Take care of your phone. Bear in mind that you carry half your life around in it, and think about what damage might be done if it fell into the wrong hands. Use a pass code – they can be broken, but at least you slow the process down. And while you’re at it, chose a decent one (there’s a link below for guidance, if you are struggling) and change it regularly, and then test it on your kids – my kids are able to work out all my passwords with alarming ease, whereas I have to threaten violence to get access to their iPads. Don’t use the ‘remember me’ feature (see below) for any internet applications that you use – it not only helpfully tells the criminal classes where you bank/shop/work – it gets them halfway into your account. And finally, agree with your partner that any texts for sensitive information should either be confirmed by a call or with a special code before that information is shared..

Internet browsing / Chat rooms. We have a horrible habit of using the same usernames and passwords for secure sites and social sites without thinking, making it really, really easy for hackers to access even secure accounts.

What to do. All the banking security in the world can’t protect you from your own stupidity, so follow the golden rule of not mixing business with pleasure, and use different login names, passwords and preferably email addresses for the different parts of your life.

Autofill. Ever started typing your email address, and lo and behold, the whole address magically appears? Or started buying a book from Amazon, and your billing and shipping address is automatically entered one you type the first letters? That’s the incredible convenience of autofill, which also make it equally useful for anyone using the computer after you to know all those juicy details. With your name and address, it’s not so important, but on some sites, credit card details have also been known to be appear.. Not so good.

What to do. Use a password to protect your home computers, so that if it does get lost or stolen, you at least buy a little time before the new use starts buying up Ebay. Try to avoid using public computers for online purchases, but if you can’t avoid it, use a secure third party payment site like Paypal, which keeps your credit card details secure. If you are using a site that allows autofill to remember your credit card details, notify them immediately.

Round Robin emails. You know how it works – a hilarious email comes in that you can’t resist sharing, and so add all your nearest and dearest to the list, and away it goes. And within 24 hours, your email address and that of great aunt Nellie, your hairdresser and your cousin that works for the government is winging it’s way to inboxes throughout the globe. And then you discover that it had a virus attached, and you sent to to everyone’s work email. Or that a friend of a friend of a friend works for a porn website, and now you and all your email contact list have been added as subscribers.

What to do. Have a ‘trash’ email on one of the independent email providers (Google, Yahoo and Hotmail all have free email accounts)  that you use for signing up to email lists and give out freely to people. Keep a separate private one for financial, medical and personal information, and if you are likely to be receiving highly sensitive information, don’t sync it to every device you own. Don’t send out emails to a string of addresses when the content is designed for mass forwarding – address individually, and selectively.. And don’t use work email addresses. Please.


Facebook Data Use Policy –  http://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/your-info-on-fb#controlprofile

Paypal – http://paypal.com

iPhone Security – http://www.apple.com/iphone/business/docs/iPhone_Security.pdf

LifeHacker – How I’d hack your weak password – http://lifehacker.com/5505400/how-id-hack-your-weak-passwords


Airport Security

You’ve got to love airport security. It’s like a mad “It’s a Knockout” game, with constantly changing rules, and the consequences of getting it wrong ranging from dehydration to poor hygiene to intimate relations with a rubber glove.

You’ll be pleased to know that we made it through unscathed in our latest outing, which at least shows that you can indeed teach old dogs new tricks. It is the first time we have ever made it through en famille without having something searched – thankfully never yet the type requiring a private room, but pretty much everything else. I have a fondness for Frye Campus boots, which have an interior metal insert which sets every metal detector and security officer on high alert, the Other Half looks like an unshaven escaped criminal, the Wiggy One insists on packing a jumble of electronic items, chargers and batteries that always trigger multiple passes through the X ray machine, and the Feisty One is a traditionalist and just packs scissors and jumbo tubes of toothpaste.

Our worst every outing was on the way back from a somewhat fraught vacation to Tiwi Beach, near Mombasa in Kenya. We journeyed down by train, which is a whole other story in itself, but which was not subject to security checks or baggage restrictions. The return journey, however, was by air, and in the space of one flight we racked up one callback to checked luggage to remove the batteries from a radio that had switched itself on, five separate passes through the security checkpoint, and a search of the bag which revealed shells from the beach (illegal to remove if you are an adult, but if you are a blue-eyed five year old, you get indulgent smiles and a blind eye from the customs officers, oblivious to your mother’s horrified expression behind you), two pairs of nail scissors, a penknife, a set of fierce looking metal gardening tools (brought as sand toys, in case you were wondering) and a large bottle of sunscreen. If you didn’t already realise that I am a firm believer in children packing for themselves, you know now, but sometimes such a cavalier parenting approach does turn around and bite you on the bum.

I am still at a loss to explain the contents of a fellow passenger’s hand luggage on my last flight to New York, though. There was a considerable delay while the baggage of the elderly Asian couple in front of me was searched, and I can only think that they either spoke a language that wasn’t one of the many translations of security protocols peppered around the airport, or they haven’t travelled by air in the last twenty years. In a bizarre twist on the time honored tradition of always bringing a packed lunch, the entire line of shoeless, belt less and bottle less passengers behind them in San Francisco airport watched bewildered as three cans of Campbell’s condensed Scotch Broth emerged from a duffel bag…

Good to know it’s not just me.