Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Counting The Cost of Moving Abroad


So, you’re thinking about making the move abroad? It’s a thrilling prospect – but there are more than a few hoops to jump through before even considering setting foot on a plane. Most importantly, have you thought about the costs involved?

1. How will you exchange your currency?
When going on holiday, exchanging a few hundred pounds for spending money can often be done through your bank. But when moving abroad, you’ll probably have to exchange a lump sum, so it’s worth doing your homework and finding a foreign currency broker that can offer you a low rate, as this could save lots of money.

2. What about the cost of living?
A good way to figure this out is to visit the place where you would like to move to, and make notes on the general cost of everyday items like milk and sugar, as well as meals out and other activities you plan on enjoying.

However, for a broader picture, head to expat forums to find out more about the cost of utilities, rent, and so on. You should draw up a realistic budget plan using these figures to see if it’s affordable.

Key things to look out for in this budget are healthcare and education. In Nairobi, for instance, schooling can be expensive – as much as 25% of your wage if you have two or more children, explained in this helpful post. The majority are advised to take out private medical insurance.

3. What transport will you use?
Transport can be one of the biggest outgoings here in the UK and circumstances can be similar abroad. It’s worth finding out what the infrastructure is like for public transport in your destination of choice.

If you plan on driving, check whether it’s cheaper to buy a car once you move over, or have your existing car shipped across – for instance, purchasing a second hand car in Nairobi can be a huge expense since they are imported and heavily taxed, so can cost ten times the amount that they do in the UK. However, you do have a window of a few months after arrival to ship your own car into the country, duty free.

4. How will your pension be affected?
In the UK, your pension will rise every year. However, if you’re retired, it will depend on which country you’re moving to as to whether your pension increases each year, or stays at a frozen rate. There are lots of factors that could potentially be at play here, so contact the International Pension Centre for information on how you could be affected.

If you’re not retired yet, though, then you should still be able to pay into a UK pension scheme from abroad, should you wish to. In any case, it’s worth making plans for your retirement, whether you plan to remain living abroad or you decide to return to the UK. More advice is available in this post from the Pension Advisory Service.

And don’t forget…

4. Taxes
Lots to remember here – perhaps most importantly, tell the HMRC that you’re leaving the country. This will mean that you can avoid paying tax twice, in the UK and your new home, though there are exceptions – you may have to pay tax on properties you own in the UK, for example. Find out more here.

5. Pets
Will you take them with you? If so, arrange for the necessary vaccinations and immunisations in plenty of time, get them microchipped, and look into the best options for transporting them to your new home.

6. A fund for annual visits home
Chances are, you’ll want to visit the UK to see friends and family at some point but how frequently can depend on how far you’ll be moving, and of course your budget. Include the cost of trips home when planning your annual budget, as undoubtedly you will need to return home from time to time.

And how best to settle in once you get there? We’ve got some great tips on how to integrate into a new community in this blog post.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Weekly Veg Shop in Half an Hour

Saturday morning is often about hot footing it down to the Organic Farmer’s Market in the garden of Purdy Arms in Karen. The market itself has mushroomed and sells not just a huge range of veg but meat, local crafts, breads, cakes, teas, handmade soaps, clothes, kikoys etc.

I try to whip around in record time but end up browsing. My staple shopping list will be:
Broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, a butternut squash, spinach, potatoes (I love the tiny new potatoes), fresh eggs, carrots, a baguette, gouda, some Dutch stroopwafels (syrup biscuits).
And then the serious browsing begins. More often than not I veer wildly from my original list with some iced cinnamon buns, homemade ice cream, chilly pastes, spices and sauces, german sausage, pretzels, some walnut baklava, a pair of brass earrings, a horn bracelet, a basket, a beaded belt (the latter of which I convince myself are gifts for family members but I end up keeping these pretty things myself).

Remember: Bring lots of cash or arrive armed with MPesa. This kind of shopping is dangerous as you end up spending more than you planned! I am generally down to my last shillings when I leave. Thank goodness parking is free!

The vendor suggested drinking hibiscus tea with fresh ginger and lemon

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why the Pope is Dope

1.      The Argentinean Pope chose his Papal name after St Francis of Assisi, to show his commitment to the poor and love for peace. While in Nairobi, he will be visiting Kangemi slum. His philosophy on life is centred around simplicity and humility.

2.       Known as the ‘humble Pope’ he has chosen to eschew the normally lavish robes and jewels of the Papacy, preferring to wear the more humble robes of a priest, black lace-up shoes (traditionally the pope wears red shoes) and a silver rather than a gold ring. He lives in a Vatican guest house rather than the official Papal apartments. While in the US in September, he opted to ride around in a small black, Italian made Fiat car, rather than the better known ‘Popemobile’.

3.      A people’s Pope. In Nairobi, about 1.4 million people are expected to turn out for a Papal mass tomorrow. This will cause a problem for security. The central business district will be closed and around 10,000 police officers will be deployed.  “We are encouraging Kenyans to flock into the city in their numbers to cheer the pope and celebrate mass with him,” said a presidential spokesperson, Manoah Esipisu.

4. The previous Papal visit to Kenya was in 1995. Pope John Paul II visited 3 times during his Papacy. On this trip, Pope Francis will be in Kenya, Uganda and then the Central African Republic. Fox News lead the news story of this Papal visit with the headline; 'Pope Visits War-Torn Africa' which did not go down well in Kenya, spawning the hashtag #SomeoneTellFoxNews.

5.       In a recent survey, Kenyans were asked which issues they most wanted Pope Francis to address. Among the 777 Kenyans polled, 65 per cent would like the head of the Catholic Church to preach the message of peaceful co-existence among communities, while 24 per cent of Catholics and non-Catholics think the Pope should address corruption. Yesterday, President Kenyatta announced a major reshuffle in Government that saw him sack x5 cabinet secretaries for their connections with graft.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Masai Market Bargaining Tips


First of all, I have to confess that I am hopeless at bargaining. I will fall in love with something and then will accept the price far too willingly. Sometimes I feel that it is a little mean to hammer the price down too low – largely because the sellers far outnumber the buyers in these markets. However, I have been knocking around these markets for long enough to see how others do it and have picked up a few tips of my own.

1.       Think before you shop. What do you want to buy and how much have you got to spend. It’s amazing how a tight budget will help you hone those bargaining skills! It’s also a good idea to have some lower denomination notes and change with you. Waiting for change to be found amongst other market vendors can double the time of your transaction – however, don’t worry – your trader might disappear for 10 minutes but they fully intend to find you to give you the change owed. I have never experienced a ‘disappearing act’ in these cases.

2.       Walking around the market with all of those goods laid out on the ground can be overwhelming. Not only is it a technicolour feast for the eye, but every time you want to bend over and look at anything at all closely, you are hit with a hard sales spiel that is impossible to ignore. Don’t be bullied. Look at and pick up anything you like and don’t be afraid to put it right back down again. My cop out is the phrase; ‘Nitarudi baadai’ – ‘I’ll come back later’. My advice is have a good look around to ‘get your eye in’ before buying anything. Check out the opening price of a Tusker T-shirt with a few vendors, before opening your negotiation.

3.       Go low. Generally the vendor will give you an opening price. They use a few tricks, such as whispering to create the impression that their competitors should not hear or telling you that you are ‘opening their business for the day’, i.e. you are their first customer.  And that they are giving you the ‘local price’ not ‘tourist price’. All of this gives the impression that you are being taken into the vendor’s confidence.   In spite of the guilt you might feel – go in at less than half the opening price. I generally end up settling on a price somewhere just above half but people who bargain better than me can often wind up paying less than half.

4.       Don’t be afraid to walk away. Yes, go on! Walk away!! The vendors might convince you to come back straight away to ‘talk’ – however, others will let you go. Just remember, time is on your side. After what has presumably a fairly stressful few moments of heavy bargaining, go away and decide if you really do want the item or not. If the vendor is not concerned about you going, then you are probably pushing for too low a price.

5.       Show the money. When you and the vendor are quibbling over the last few hundred shillings, then pulling out a note or two can really seal the deal.  If you say, well I have 600 bob, and that’s all I have left, then hand over said notes, the feeling of that currency in the vendor’s hand is often enough for them to agree to your terms. (This is where I feel guilty and start fishing around for coins to make up an extra 50 bob). Remember that you might need to keep a couple of small notes for your parking fee!

6.       Are you happy? Are you comfortable with the price you paid? I know that other people are better at bargaining than me but at the end of the day, if I have paid a price that I was happy with and that was within my budget, then that is more important to me than screwing the vendor down to the last possible shilling. (By now you can tell that I am a hopeless business woman!). Also, save enough cash for a ‘recovery’ cappuccino and a cake later (or something stronger). It’s amazing how the noise and excitement of the market can make you come over all weak and funny.