EF’s latest English proficiency survey shows huge leaps forward in the standard of English in South East Asia, as well as in the so called ‘BRIC’ nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China). But what, if anything, does it mean for expats?
First off, newfound economic growth in countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia means the creation of more jobs for foreigners, while an improvement in levels of English can only create more opportunity, and will open up countries which have something of a reputation for cultural insularity. The increased ability to communicate merely serves to make expats’ transitions less daunting.
EF’s report focuses on how levels of English are intrinsically linked to attracting foreign investment and staking a nation’s claim in the international business landscape. Western firms are far more likely to set up in countries where cultural and linguistic boundaries have been broken down. This in turn could create jobs for foreigners looking to work in countries where finding a job to suit their skill sets had not previously been an easy task. For these potential expats then, the chance of riding on the coattails of these mini economic booms is an attractive prospect.
They might sound like just another fashionable acronym, but both the ‘BRIC’ and ‘VITM’ (Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico) country groupings serve a useful purpose, not just for mapping global economic trends, but for looking at all kinds of global development patterns.
A striking area of concordance with the upward economic trend in VITM countries is the dramatic strides these countries have made in English language proficiency over the past six years.
Turkey tops the rankings for most improved country, with Vietnam and Indonesia just a couple of places behind. Bucking the trend for the group, Mexico’s overall levels of English proficiency have slightly declined – something not likely to help its chances of attracting international talent in the longer term.
Turkey, Vietnam and Indonesia’s huge upturn in English proficiency (not to mention the more modest, though marked, improvements in Brazil, Russia, India and China) can only be good news for foreigners who are looking to move to new and exciting destinations.
Whether would-be expats see themselves as English teachers or investors, the connection between English proficiency and economic opportunity could be an important one for those willing and able to move abroad for work.
The second largest nation in the Caribbean, the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic is home to expats from all over the world. Sitting alongside its French-speaking neighbour Haiti, the country occupies the eastern portion of the island of Hispaniola.
Tourists may know it for its fine white beaches, turquoise waters and resort hotels, but for many foreigners the Dominican Republic is the place they call home. With them in mind, as well as those planning to migrate, Justlanded.com has now published its online guide for expats moving to the Dominican Republic.
An increasingly attractive option for foreigners, the Dominican Republic now has the largest economy in the Caribbean, as well as being the region’s most visited country – and for good reason. You can spend your free time lounging on tropical beaches by day, and dancing merengue while sipping local rum by night.
The Dominican Republic has a vibrant multicultural society and is a place of historical firsts – Columbus’ first landfall after leaving Europe was here, as well as being the site of his first colony. Santo Domingo, the sprawling island capital, was the New World’s first city and boasts a beautifully preserved Ciudad Colonial, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our new guide to moving to the Dominican Republic provides a detailed breakdown of everything you need to know, from visas & permits to healthcare; telephone & internet to travel & leisure. Starting your new life, learning Spanish and even meeting new people will be made easier using our Dominican Republic expat community forums.
And if you thought the Dominican Republic was the preserve of retirees looking to live out their days in the sun, then think again. Our expat jobs section will show you how to go about looking for work in the country, and our money section details all the information you need to open a local bank account.
The housing and rentals section is designed to help you find that ideal house or apartment, whether in the capital Santo Domingo , or elsewhere. Health, education and culture are all covered in detail, making your big move all the more simple.
Moving to a new country can be daunting, but if the Dominican Republic is your destination then our guide will help your transition go as smoothly as possible.
Sri Lanka’s economy is growing and attracting increasing numbers of foreigners. If you live there already you’ll know Sri Lanka can be an incredible destination for expats. For an island of 20 million people, it’s packed with things to do and deserves far more attention to detail than it’s given by most tourists. So what do you need to know?
Living in Colombo? Get out and explore!
What to say about Colombo? It may have all the amenities, but in terms of a cultural scene and places to relax, it’s limited.
Expats often find themselves spending all their free time in bars and swimming pools at upscale hotels. Sound good? It gets boring pretty fast. If spending your weekends seeing the same group of people at the same soulless hotels is your bag, then fine, but most of us will want a change. It’s not difficult either – two to three hours train ride will land you in the beautiful World Heritage site of Galle fort – a city within the old Dutch coastal fort on the south coast. Just ten minutes away from here is Unawatuna, a stunningly beautiful, if rowdy, beach with cheap, clean guesthouses and amazing restaurants.
Learning Sinhala or Tamil would be a huge advantage – if you could find someone to teach you…
Integrating into Sri Lankan society as an expat is a tough ask. Sri Lankan life is family oriented – people generally don’t go out and socialise much, even in Colombo. Often Sri Lankans can be shy and reticent towards foreigners.
The unfortunate fact is you’ll often be treated as a tourist and an outsider by locals who don’t know you – frustrating to say the least when you’ve chosen to make Sri Lanka your home.
Of course the key to breaking into Sri Lankan society might be learning the language, but this is difficult – and not because Sinhala is tough to learn. In fact, Sinhala is known for being one of the easier South Asian tongues to get to grips with (Tamil is notoriously more difficult).
The problem is, there are very few places to learn, and almost no private teachers who speak good English. Finding a local to practice with might prove even more taxing. Teaching yourself is probably going to be the best option.
It’s possible to escape the expat bubble, though you may have to try a little harder.
Forget the beaches, the hill country’s where you’ll find Sri Lanka’s true beauty
Okay, Ella might be twelve hours from Colombo (you can fly to London faster), but your first-class train ticket will be dirt cheap (around 270 rupees, that’s less than seven dollars!) and you will see some of Asia’s most beguiling scenery on the way.
You’ll pass through Kandy, catching a glimpse of one of Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist temples; wind through beautifully manicured tea plantations and end up with one of the best views on the island.
You’ll have gone from the searing equatorial heat of the coast, to the lush cool highlands with their untamed cloud forest and rolling mist. To top it all, here’s where you’ll find some of Sri Lanka’s tastiest home-cooking and see stunning endemic bird life in the garden of your guesthouse. Who need’s tropical beaches?
Get into the local cuisine, it’s diverse and delicious
When you get to Sri Lanka and ask what people eat, you’ll inevitably be told “rice and curry”. Big deal, you might say. But within this cheap and humble South Asian staple you will find a world of flavour unique to Sri Lanka – and don’t go thinking it’s all the same – Sinhalese and Tamil cooking have quite distinct culinary traditions, as you’re sure to find out.
Sri Lankan family life revolves around meals – so if you’re going to integrate, get on board with the local cuisine (and remember to always eat with your right hand).
The war is over, and Sri Lanka is very safe
Mention the words Sri Lanka to some people, and you’ll get a concerned look followed by a derisory comment about how dangerous a place it is to go. Forget it. The civil war finished in 2009, and even then, most areas of the country weren’t affected for expats.
It’s also safe to go up to Jaffna in the far north of the country where the worst of the fighting was, though be prepared to see a region still on its knees. The Tamil Tigers no longer exist and, though the government is still very repressive in some aspects (the country is ranked as having less press freedom than Iran), this is not something you will generally feel as a foreigner, bar the odd over-zealous official scrutinising your passport for a few minutes.
Check out the new Travel & Leisure section in our Sri Lanka guide.