Monday, July 1, 2013

Curating expat thoughts

I’m still feeling rough despite the time off: sleepless, alternately discouraged or worried.  Rather than fret in print, though, I’ll share a few links that absorbed my 4:30 am reading.

The dark side of expat life.  ELink

expat-stages-2_0002The NYT offers a perceptive blog post that likely resonates with every expat.  It starts by noting that “home” might be where your apartment, your work or your belongings are.  It’s true that I’ve become less rooted to a sense of where I am,  and more to who I am.

That is a subject for a whole other blog post, but has to include my personal capabilities and ambitions, the balance struck among life’s activities and events, and my important relationships with a tight circle of very close people.

But such transience has a dark side: getting stuck in limbo, neither here nor there.  True: I’ve felt it.  A loosening of family connections, never meeting my son’s (ex-)wife, friendships maintained through Facebook and Skype instead of dinners and drinks.  That nagging worry about becoming that expat with the long white hair at the end of the bar.

Therein lies the expat’s problem: there’s nothing back home for me now. Home is not “back home.”  My life is here.

Base camp -It’s both an exciting and hard reality that every expat faces.  Where is “home”; how do you define it?  How do you maintain important and core relationships?  How much a part of “home” can you become if you aren’t native?  How much a part of “home” can you be if you’re never there?

And, perhaps most of all, how long is too long?

UK Wealth Managers turn Americans away.  ELink

Wealth mgmtIt seems that measures to address excesses of the financial collapse have now swept up expats as well.  The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act requires banks to disclose the identity and activity of every American with more than $50K in their account.  While the point is to prevent tax evasion, in reality it blocks banking services.

I’d found that no Dutch or UK bank or brokerage would want to take an investment account from an American citizen.  Now it seems to be extending towards everyday banking as well?

Saskia HollemanSaskia Holleman, a 25-year-old actress who appeared nude in a famous Dutch political campaign poster in 1971 has died.  The PSP party saw it’s representation halved from 4 seats to 2, regardless, but the poster remains a legend.

Making friends (Cameron edition) ELink

CameronThe UK has proposed a Security Bond, ensuring that everyone who comes into the country will eventually depart.  Visitors from nine foreign countries, including India, will need to deposit £3000 on entry.

India in  particular, takes this as a personal slap and is planning reciprocity for UK visitors. 

How about a “Collective Pension Plan”?  ELink

Nest EggOnce upon a time, companies banked funds for their employees retirement.   “Defined Benefit” plans have now been replaced by “Defined contribution” ones, where each worker bears the burden of funding and managing money for their retirement.

Enter a new Dutch idea: Collective Pensions.  Individual retirement accounts are bundled together to create large funds pool risks and share costs.

It’s had mixed success so far (admittedly during devastating market downturn),  with loss of individual control and diminished overall returns as the major drawbacks.  But they may provide an attractive Mutual-Fund chubbiness and professionalism that brings these schemes to US / UK workers soon.

Zevende HemelFinally, it’s rumored that In de Zevende Hemel,  a local brothel around the corner from my apartment, is now offering 18% discounts through Groupon.   They have a Facebook page (with 2 Likes): can a Kickstarter campaign be far behind?

I’ve never visited (any) place like that, and they’ve always been good (quiet) neighbors.  Still, I suppose that a business has to brand and market, and that means the occasional discount to get people to try a sample?

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