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  • Writer's pictureMaximilian Sam

Moving Around The World

A few hints and tips on moving to another country, a trick to help you identify your brand, and some very happy children.

As you will probably know, I’m currently living in my 10th country around the world. It’s meant a lot of packing boxes and moving. I’d love to say I’m an expert, but there’s always something that will catch you out. Invariably, it’s the thing you least expected.

I’m not going to give a definitive list of what you need to prepare for, because it’s almost impossible to do so. I can give you a couple of contacts in various parts of the world who can help. Having someone to hold your hand as you settle in makes the world of difference, especially when unexpected events take over. I’m sure I’d still have a full head of hair if frustrations out of my control hadn’t made me rip so much of it out over the years.

One piece of advice is to get an offshore bank account. You will have a local bank account to pay bills etc, but an offshore account acts as a saving account and makes life much easier when you move on. It’s especially important when you’re in a low or zero tax country. You don’t want to be transferring money home and inadvertently paying tax on it. Take some advice from experts and make sure you’re maximising the benefits of working in the new country you now call home.

Packing up and moving country is always emotional. Humans aren’t good with change and a different culture miles away from your comfort zone is the biggest change you can put yourself through. Unforeseen events out of your control can make you regret your decision before you’ve even started.

The first time I moved to Saudi produced one such circumstance. I rocked up at Heathrow Airport to find huge queues outside the terminal building. The baggage handling computers had packed up. I had the foresight to put my suit in my hand luggage. It proved a stroke of genius and prevented me from turning up to the first day of my new job in jeans and a t-shirt. I made it onto the flight and was happy until I arrived at baggage reclaim in Riyadh. Annoyingly, my luggage was still at Heathrow. It was going to take a couple of days to arrive. The smiles and kindness of the staff at Riyadh airport made sure I took it in my stride, but it showed how we should always carry spare underwear in our hand luggage.

I thought I’d planned everything well. I even had a house to move into. I walked in with just my hand luggage and realised my mistake. There was furniture, but no bedding, kettle, or any of those other essentials we need. It was the only moment I’ve ever questioned my decision to move abroad. If you’re moving to a new country, most companies will put you in a hotel when you first arrive. It’s worth it, but if they don’t, make sure they leave a welcome pack of the essentials in your new home.

The one surprise you’ll have is the cost of arriving in a new country. It’s never cheap setting up home with the internet, mobile phone, and those other things we don’t seem able to cope without. You’ll also be buying essentials such as pots and pans until your worldly goods arrive from the shippers. I own more irons and ironing boards than is strictly healthy. The key is knowing about these things and negotiating with your new employer to pay for them.

Life can throw further curveballs at you. When I left Bahrain, I put all my worldly goods in storage, expecting to be moving to my new job imminently. Covid confused the issue and storage can be expensive. Little did I know that would be the least of my worries. I received a phone call. The storage facility had burned to the ground. I lost everything other than what is in my wardrobe. There was a lesson to be learned. We don’t need 90% of the clutter we accumulate through life. Take what matters to you when you move abroad, but leave the things you don’t need behind. It’s not only cheaper, but it’s also only “stuff” at the end of the day.

I wish I still had some of my paintings, my books, and my Lego model of Tower Bridge. The rest was just “stuff”. Very little of it was worth the money I’d paid to have it taken around the world over the years. Some things are irreplaceable, although I’m sure Jason Leonard and Lawrence Dallaglio would sign another England rugby shirt for me if I asked nicely.

I mentioned the internet, mobile phones, and the suchlike. This is where you realise you don’t have a support network in place. In some countries there are expat compounds and they’re the best place to live until you’ve found your feet. Every expat was new once and they always provide an instant support group to help you settle in. Where there aren’t compounds, it can be harder. Joining groups and social events is the key to success. The best advice I was ever given was to never say “no” to an invitation. It led to me being given an all-expenses paid trip to the UK to watch England vs Scotland at Twickenham and an invitation to the player’s dinner afterwards. Never say “no”, you don’t know where it can lead.

Every country is different. In the UAE or Qatar, you’ll need an alcohol licence if you want to buy from an off-licence for home consumption. They’re easy to get, but if you don’t know, it can be a little embarrassing not being able to stock your bar. You’ll need to find out if you require a local driving licence too. These are all things we don’t think about that can lead to us falling foul of local laws. Remember, not knowing is not a legal defence.

Local laws can change quickly. There’s an easy solution to this. Always make sure you are aware of the local newspaper in your own language. If you’re English, this is much easier as there always seems to be an English language local newspaper. It will give you a heads-up on everything you need to know. It’s also an easy way to find out about events and places you can go to meet new friends and settle into what will be a wonderful new life.

There are two pieces of advice I can happily give. Do your research before you go. There’ll still be things you miss, but you’ll have given yourself a fighting chance.

Secondly, never say “no” to an invitation. It will help you settle quickly and also bring you friends from walks of life you’d never have found if you hadn’t taken the plunge. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience with far more benefits than you can imagine. You never know, you might end up dancing on friend’s coffee tables, or becoming a DJ at the British Embassy. Strange things happen when you open the door and remember life is about discovery and having fun. You might even remember to go to work!

A Fun Test

I’ve been hosting a few training courses recently and attending some given by other people. It reminded me of one of the first things I do in a training course. You may want to revisit my blog on branding, as this little trick can make building a brand much easier.

All you need to do is list 10 facts about you or your company. There’s a catch. At least two have to be about something outside work or the key message. People prefer individuals and companies that are interesting. We’re all at our most interesting when doing things in our own time.

I have three brands.

The first is my author name of Maximilian Sam. The 10 facts are below. You’ll know some of them, such as the fact I’m an award-winning author, but others may be a surprise.

The second is the one I’m using on LinkedIn in my search for a new job. It is more work focussed, but also shows there’s more to me than just work. Everyone wants interesting people in their lives, so remember what makes you different and interesting.

Finally, I have done a personal one to remind me of some of the crazy times. The response from friends made me realise I could have done 100 facts about myself. The times and stories I’ve shared with friends are very special to me. The crazy antics even more so. It reminds me I’ve been lucky to share my life with so many amazing people. It also proves we all need some crazy in our lives.

As you can see, purely by creating a list, we now have a library of ideas to fit every scenario. If you're fortunate enough to be doing a media interview, then you've just created a crib sheet of topics you can talk about. Give it a try (I can send you a blank template if you contact me too). You'll be surprised at how much easier it becomes to create and build a story around a brand.

The Local Children

You’ll know turtles have been a central part of my summer. It’s brought a community together in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined.

The best part was seeing the children who’d helped presented with certificates by EKODUSD. They earned them. The final nest required a 20 foot trench digging to the sea. It took them over two hours, but they did an amazing job.

children holding their certificates
The children receiving their certificates

I was able to give them an added bonus. As a freelance journalist and PR specialist, I can smell a front-page story several miles away. A photo of the children and the story was always going to make the front-page of the local newspaper.

Front page of Voices newspaper with the story about the children receiving certficates
The children are a front page story (top right)

The children have been amazing. I’m incredibly proud of all of them. You can read the full story here.

We've also been celebrating the 18 month anniversary of Tweetables this month. A new interview with yours truly appeared. You can read it by clicking here.

I’m off to watch the Rugby World Cup Quarter-Finals. I’d make predictions, but each game is too tight to call. I will give some thoughts about the tournament as a whole when it’s over, but that’s for next time.


Maximilian Sam and The Stray Army

PS. Don’t forget, you can still buy my books, merchandise, or downloads from my website by clicking here.


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