Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

It’s vacation time: let’s close up!

Whilst we all love our vacation time, we all assume that places that thrive on tourist business will be open during the holidays.

That’s not always the case in France where many attractions are closed today because it’s Labour Day (May 1st). Although many people will be eating out today, a number of restaurants choose this time of year to close thus losing considerable business of course.

Even when they’re not on holiday many restaurants stick to the 12 to 2pm lunchtime and we know of one local touristy village which gets tour buses every day from 9am to 7pm yet the restaurant only serves food from 12 to 1.30pm.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

You’ve moved abroad and need a bank. Which one should you choose?

It’s obviously impossible to name a single bank which you can choose simply because no single bank operates in every country of the world.

There are some general pointers as to how to go about choosing your bank though.

One school of thought is that you should choose the local bank with the most branches in the area which you’re moving to. That’s a reasonable approach in that for most countries there’s a charge to use ATMs that aren’t owned by your own bank so it may save you on ATM withdrawal fees. However, be wary of local banks that don’t operate internationally on a widespread basis or that don’t attract many foreign customers as you can come unstuck very easily through not having local banking practices explained to you. This even applies in many cases where banks operate English speaking branches: they might well speak English but often banking terms don’t translate well.

The other school of thought is that you should choose a bank based in your own country but with branches in your new country. This can work well in that the banking staff should be more familiar with the banking practices that you’re used to and sometimes offer good deals on money transfers to/from your home country. So, for example, if you’re American then the best choice is usually Citibank as that operates as a local bank in many countries yet retains an American feel in every location in which it operates and offers good deals on transfers between Citibank accounts in other countries. However, if you’re British, you might think that HSBC would be the way to go yet because it bills itself as “the world’s local bank” it tends to follow local banking practices more than British ones although it does offer transfers to your HSBC accounts in other countries.

Don’t forget that you don’t need to choose a single bank. One combination that works very well is a local bank with low charges and lots of branches combined with an international bank to handle your global transfers.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Isn’t it strange how American vacations apply worldwide these days?

As it’s the third Monday in January today, it’s Martin Luther Day.

Well, more or less, as America is, as we all know, a country that’s built from a whole bunch of separate countries (ie states) and therefore it doesn’t have a standard name in all 50 states and indeed wasn’t a holiday in them all until 2000.

Although it doesn’t really mean anything outside America, it does have a knock-on effect worldwide in that various Internet outfits close down since they’re based in America. In fact, we didn’t even know that it was a holiday ’til we started wondering why there were so few sponsored posts available today.

Not that we’re complaining as it would appear a lot of folk doing sponsored posts have also taken the day off so we’ve picked up several juicy ones whilst they’ve been away.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

How the French price their houses

Whilst it’s easy enough to come up with a price for a house in a town where there are a lot of similar houses around and a regular turnover, it’s an entirely different matter in rural France.

For a start, once you get into the countryside, houses aren’t all the same. Even two similar looking cottages won’t come with the same price attached because they’ll be in different locations with different views and so on. And, of course, they’ll not be the same inside either nor will they have been equally well maintained. Finally, there just isn’t the regularity of turnover of housing in the French countryside as you get in a typical town in the UK.

So how do the French price their houses? Well, first off they look around at the various estate agent brochures that seem to be in every place you could possibily find them. The French don’t have a single estate agent selling a property usually so there are even more brochures than you might expect.

They look for vaguely similar houses to what they have to sell and take a view on whether their’s is worth more or less than the price being asked. What they don’t do usually is to ask the estate agent what the price should be and therefore the prices listed aren’t necessarily realistic. In fact, most are actually conversions from some relatively arbitrary figure in French francs with the estate agent commission being added on (hence the slightly peculiar sums that you sometimes see being asked).

So, don’t take the price in the estate agents brochure as gospel. It’s usually not based on any firm idea of what the house should be worth so you may well be able to negotiate either the price or what’s included in the price.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Where do they get all the money?

One thing that’s very noticeable in Valencia is that everywhere you see employment vacancy signs which implies quite a strong local economy.

As in other places in Spain there’s building work going on just about everywhere but it doesn’t seem so intrusive as it does in some cities (notably Madrid) with many quiet areas around the city. There’s more of a laid-back feel about the city too: everyone is certainly going somewhere yet they’re not going at the hectic pace you often see in Barcelona.

With the building work, there’s certainly money to be made in property speculation of course and the apartment we rented was owned by a relatively young Spaniard.

And the banks? It seemed like almost wall to wall banks in most of the central area of the city. Both more branches and a much wider variety of banks that I’ve seen anywhere outside London. They’re all competing for business too with many offers available on loans, credit cards and so on.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.