Living the Life of an Expat

Living the Life of an Expat
According to a report issued by American Express Business Travel Services, predictions are that business travelers will be away from home in increasing numbers during 2006.   The trickle down theory includes leisure travelers. Many people, post 9-11, were nervous about security; now they feel more confident that governments and airport authorities have made vast improvements in screening measures. Not that anyone enjoys standing in line waiting to have carry-on baggage inspected. Or doing a partial strip act to get through the metal detector without bells blaring. But they’d rather do it than have a terrorist on the flight.   The Biggest Annoyance:  The thing that most irritates travelers is unforeseen delays. Flight cancellations cause havoc with vacation and business plans. Sophisticated sky warriors are on their Treo or Blackberry making alternate travel plans. If they must be at their destination, standing in line waiting to get to the front of the counter is a sure way to find there are no seats left on other flights. So if it’s essential you get from here to there – they may be required to take a circuitous route. What’s another country if you’re closing a deal?    Because an increasing number of people book their own flights via the Internet, many opt to avoid certain hubs (e.g., Chicago) during winter months.  For example, I book flights to Los Angeles via London and fly non-stop from the UK rather than Paris, (talk about being a slave to a mileage program). I would rather travel on a long haul flight rather than splitting the trip midway. But then I’m a lucky to be able to sleep on planes and do.   Over-booked Flights -Take the Money and a Later Plane.   For the vacationer, it may make sense to take a later flight. Frequently you’ll receive an upgrade plus some travel chits that can add up to a few hundred dollars. I know one backpacker who was able to accumulate enough coupons that he was able to take two trips. He was in no hurry and played the odds about when it would be the most advantageous to volunteer to relinquish his seat to someone with a confirmed reservation and take the money (redeemable only for air travel) and a later flight.      For Expats or Business Travelers:   Generally, they’re eager to get to their destination as quickly as possible. Do not pass go; don’t collect $10. Or for that matter, $100.   A Valid Anxiety:         Travelers and expats are concerned about what will happen if they become ill. Check on the coverage you currently have and if you’ll be reimbursed should you need medical assistance in another country. Ask your doctor if he has a colleague to recommend during your travels or where you’re moving. Chances are good that he or she will know someone excellent. If you have an ongoing medical condition, take your doctor’s report, and if you’re moving, take your x-rays and medical tests toshow your new intern.    Bonjour Paris suggests that travelers join the MedjetAssist program . This is in the event that someone needs to be transported home in a hospital jet. However, if you get sick in France, don’t freak. The American and British Embassies have a list of English speaking doctors. I was recently given a hint by a leading insurance broker: go to a specialist at the best teaching hospital in the area and make an appointment to see one of the heads of the department. Invariably, these doctors will and do speak English. As a part of their work, they attend many conferences and English is the lingua franca.   Yesterday, I accompanied a friend with a potentially serious medical problem to one of Paris’s leading teaching hospitals (meaning public).  Before the meeting with the “big big” doctor (we were early), we went to the cashier to pay for the visit.  It cost 23 Euros ($27). We were convinced we’d be seeing an intern. Within minutes of the scheduled appointment, his eminence entered the room accompanied by a younger man. I immediately asked if he spoke English and other than pronounced French accent, his English was impeccable. He spent 40 minutes discussing the case and set out another course of action before making the definitive decision as to whether or not surgery was indicated. And this is a surgeon who has a vested interest in cutting.   By the time all of the tests are finished (and we’re talking more than one – including a MRI or a CAT scan (to be determined by the chief radiologist.), the cumulative bill will be less than $250.  That’s nothing compared to the U.S. However, I’ve found a broker who issues insurance policies for expats throughout the world. I’m signing up since the deductible on my American insurance isn’t much less than the yearly premium that covers 90% of medical needs as well as dental work! I won’t have to wait (and wait) to be reimbursed and will be spared from interminable paper work. If you’re interested in knowing more, please write to [email protected].   A Last Concern:  Business people, tourists, and expats want their offices and/or families to know where they are. Telecommunications improve each year. There’s no excuse not to keep in touch. If you see someone tapping on a palm held machine, don’t assume they’re playing games. Dollars to doughnuts, they’re answering emails. So many people admit they can travel without feeling guilty (or without clients knowing they’re sitting in the office) thanks to a cell phone number. You just have to get into the habit of answering the phone, at any hour, sounding awake and lucid.   …..and such is progress.   (c) Karen Fawcett 
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