Six-Hour Work Day: It Works!

Dammit Sweden. You’re in the news again, sounding like some utopian, heaven on Earth.

Haga Street

The city of Gothenburg, Sweden, hometown to family friends Annika, Ingvar and their two exceptional children, did an experiment. All employers in Gothenburg moved from an 8-hour to a 6-hour workday.  The results? Overwhelmingly positive.

The proposal for a 6-hour day was not a popular idea at first in Sweden. The idea was proposed over a year ago, and criticized hard from opposing political parties. Originally, it was be a national experiment, but I guess that was too great a risk to the economy. The powers-that-be accepted Gothenburg to be a local trial.

Adopting a 6-hour work day wasn’t a recent thing for all of Gothenburg. A Service Centre for Toyota (in Gothenburg) moved to the 6-hour shift more than a decade ago. And the switch is permanent since both workers and management are very happy with the change.

The Managing Director of the Toyota service centre, Martin Banck, reports that “Staff feel better, there is low turnover and it is easier to recruit new people.” And, as for the ‘bottom line,’ profits are up 25%. Yeah, that’s about as positive a testimony you can get.

How do workers feel about it? Well, everyone interviewed comments on the lack of traffic, higher energy while at work, more time with family. Sounds positive all around. I’m guessing Sweden will soon reconsider adopting a shorter work day on the national level and with a better attitude.

I almost wrote up a few paragraphs about why the 8-hour day is so common, but I won’t. History and industrialization aside, the facts today are clear: technology allows us to be more productive in less time. Many of us don’t even need to collect in one work building; we can perform our duties from home.

Have I ever been to Gothenburg? Yes, but very quickly, only passed through. An adventurous buddy and I did a crazy weekend drive from Prague, Czech Republic to Oslo, Norway and back. We did it under four days. (Remember the 80’s movie Cannonball Run? Yup.). So, I “saw” Gothenburg and from what I remember of the blur, it was beautiful. And with work hours like this, I’d be tempted to move there.

If you want more news about it, here’s a Guardian article.

Mind you, adopting a 6-hour work day does NOT mean more work days. It’s simply a 30-hour work week, instead of the 40-hour week we’re all accustomed to. How many of you feel you could do the same amount of work in 6 hours, instead of there for 8?

Don’t live to work. Instead, work so that you may live. The shorter that work time can be, the more life you have.

In Europe, Commute Time EQUALS Work Time

How Is Your Commute?

(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Does your boss count your morning and evening commute as work time?

Does your boss even care about your morning and evening commute?

If you live and work in Europe, your boss does care. And the time counts as work.

It started from a recent court decision, where a judge ruled in favour of the worker’s rights, according to the long-established Working Conditions Directive. In the case in question, the worker demanded his first and last appointments of the day count as work time because they were far from his home. Now, I believe if this were in America, the boss (& court) would still be laughing. But in Europe, the worker has definitive rights. Strong rights and those rights are well-enforced, thanks to the Working Time Directive.

What’s the Working Time Directive?


The Working Time Directive is a set of guaranteed rights for EU workers. The Directive sets the rules for acceptable working conditions within the European Union. And, compared to other western nations, those working time rules strongly favour the European employee, not the employer.

Here are some points, straight from the Directive:

  • a limit to weekly working hours, which must not exceed 48 hours on average, including any overtime
  • a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24
  • a rest break during working hours if the worker is on duty for longer than 6 hours
  • a minimum weekly rest period of 24 uninterrupted hours for each 7-day period, in addition to the 11 hours’ daily rest
  • paid annual leave of at least 4 weeks per year
  • extra protection for night work, e.g.
    • average working hours must not exceed 8 hours per 24-hour period,
    • night workers must not perform heavy or dangerous work for longer than 8 hours in any 24-hour period,
    • night workers have the right to free health assessments and, under certain circumstances, to transfer to day work.

How do those compare to your working time conditions, vacation time and rights? Yeah, I thought so. Maybe it’s time you moved to Europe.

Imagine your commute if in Europe…

bike commute

I remember well during my career years spent in Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic, where my 4-weeks of vacation allowed my family a lot of holidays throughout Europe. Far cheaper airfare and easy border crossing (nonexistent for Schengen nations) were the frosting on the cake.

Yes, getting a job in Europe is difficult. Very difficult if you lack a university education, strong experience and a determination to get there.
But it can be done. If you want my help, contact me.

How (Not) to be a Sovereign Citizen

Actually, this is a 2-part post. The first part is how (not) to be a “sovereign citizen.” In other words, how to avoid becoming an asshole.

Second part is how to write me an e-mail.

A few days ago, I got an e-mail from a person who many would call a “sovereign citizen.” I’ll explain that in a bit.

Look, I get enough normal e-mails asking for help, and I respond as quickly I can. And then I get the occasional e-mail from people who are clearly fucked in the head. To those, I might not respond at all.

One special e-mail was from a sovereign citizen. She made some pretty bold claims about her demands and needs, with absolute disregard for what needs to be done.

If you’re not familiar with the term “sovereign citizen,” it’s a person who believes they are like a nation of one. They are sovereign from any law. The laws of society do not apply to them. In short, they are self-serving, anti-government idiots. The worst part is, over the past few years, this is becoming a growing ‘thing’ at about 100,000 people strong!

But Jeff, you say things against the US government – does that make you a sovereign citizen??”  Ah, no. I recognize the laws and authority of the government, wherever I might be. Sovereign citizens do not.

Let’s talk only in the US, where the sovereign citizen movement is most popular. Sovereign citizens does not recognize laws, period. City, state, federal – no law applies to them. Nor do they recognize US currency. Want to get a sovereign citizen angry? Talk about taxation. Sovereign citizens overwhelmingly do not believe in being taxed. BUT, when you challenge them, the first thing they do is demand financial payment (yes, in US currency) for their broken rights (upheld by a law).

When is a sovereign citizen happy? When it serves them. Like being caught speeding, having to sit in a court, when avoiding taxes, pushing drugs, hiring a hit man to kill a judge.

When is a sovereign citizen upset? When they’re needing emergency response, like an ambulance, fire truck or police. Or needing to rely on the law for their own protection or, God forbid, an actual education.

Funny thing about the sovereign citizen movement… you don’t hear them brag about avoiding insurance when a logging truck slams into their car. You don’t hear them claim sovereignty when the company accidentally dumps waste on their land. These sovereign citizens see no need for law enforcement, except when laws enforce protection. Then they sing a different tune.

So, sovereign citizens like being “sovereign” when breaking the law, but they cry crocodile tears when needing the law.

This video shows one batshit crazy “Jenna.” It’s a voice recording of her 911 call. As you find out, the police are in a car chase with her. She demands from the 911 operator she be paid ($300,000??) to agree to stop for the police, as this is a “false declaration of an emergency.” (I told you they’re batshit crazy.)

That raises another issue: the legal language you hear from them. For a self-described non-law abiding group, they sure do throw around a lot of legalese. Whenever challenged by authority, they’ll defend their sovereignty with terms and phrases that, supposedly come from legal precedents. Or at least their favourite website. See the irony?

In another video, the guy literally says “I don’t know what law book you’re reading man, but it doesn’t apply to me.” About 45 seconds later, he gets deservedly tazed.

Generally, a sovereign citizen is a grown-up version of an entitled brat. So, how do you avoid being that entitled brat? Recognize that laws serve you, to protect you, to help you. A law is not a precursor to payment.

Filling out the proper paperwork to get what you want or strive for. Don’t be someone who claims “I am not a ‘person,’ I’m a man!” (No buddy, you’re not.)

How to write me an e-mail? Now, for the second part, the easy part. If you want help in trying to become an expat, just write me: jeff (at)

But don’t come off sounding like an entitled brat.  :)  Understand there are definite steps to follow.  That’s where I help.

Volunteering Opportunities in South Africa

Many of us have moments in our lives where we seek a real change. For some of us this can be a change in location. For others it can mean switching careers. And then for the select few it can be a bit of both!

The hardest obstacle to making such as a dramatic change in your life can be knowing where to begin. But by volunteering, you can receive assistance and advice in settling in a new location. And the skills that you’ll learn will also set you in good stead for future employment opportunities in the given locale.

If you’re looking to leave behind the grey skies of the UK and head somewhere a little more exotic, then South Africa could be a great option.

Not only is the country rich in a beautiful and varied landscape, but it’s enjoying a real boom in its economy and could herald some fantastic new opportunities for you.

GVI in South Africa

Image Source: Wikipedia
Image Source: Wikipedia

The GVI operates a range of excellent conservation and community development programmes in South Africa. They have a dedicated team of staff who will find a project best suited to your capabilities and needs. And through their alignment with reputed charities such as WWF, Save The Children and the Red Cross, you’ll know that your work is creating a real change for good.

Such programmes can take place in a variety of areas. From specializing in a Wildlife Conservation Internship out in the dramatic bushveld, to helping run a healthcare workshop programme in Cape Town, you’ll quickly be immersed in this fascinating country and will learn the attributes of the distinctive culture in no time.

Despite years of suffering under Apartheid, South Africa is now really opening up. It boasts a highly thriving mobile industry that is keen to adapt to the brave new technological future. And entertainment options in South Africa are rapidly expanding too. Whereas gambling used to be limited to horse racing, there is now a wealth of casino resorts and online slot machines that offer a range of highly entertaining games that can offer some welcome distraction while you’re on downtime from work.


Image Source: Wikipedia
Image Source: Wikipedia

The Voluntary Service Overseas is another highly regarded institution that offers a trustworthy and reliable voluntary service in South Africa.

One of the main focuses of this group is the devastating impact that HIV and AIDS have had on many South African communities.

The volunteering efforts help to see action being taken in the caring of South Africa’s 2.1 million children who have been orphaned by AIDS, as well as helping with activities that promote safe sex and enable people to receive specialised treatment.

The Expat Curve – Cool Video

Check out this video: The Expat Curve

Besides the US (birth country) I’ve lived in 3 countries for years at a time. Those waves of culture shock, honeymoon, etc came at different times, each place.
I don’t know if it’s me getting used to being abroad (better adaptation) or if different locales affected me differently. Is the timing ever predictable?

Let me know what you think about this.

I Heard You. You Need Step-by-Step

After dozens of consultation calls, I see the pattern. It’s clear…

You Want Step-by-Step

Often I give what I call “big picture advice.” That means what people ought to do next, and why. For me, it’s the “why” that’s really important. It’s the reason, from my experience, it’s just why. But, many people don’t want why; they just want to know what to do. Okay, fine.

Okay, I Am Writing Step-by-Step. It’s Coming

I’m writing the step-by-step you’re asking for:

  • how to get over what’s stopping you (debt, job position, relationship)
  • how to write your resume (& CV)
  • how to apply for residency (a few different ways)
  • how to find the good job openings (how it worked for several clients, plus myself)
  • how to apply for the job
  • how to move abroad
I'm Writing a Full "A-to-Z" Plan
I’m Writing a Full “A-to-Z” Plan

You Also Need Tailored To You

Everybody’s unique. That’s why I offer consultation calls. However, not everyone can afford $120 or more for the consultation.

I figured out how this can work. It works for each person (even you), but won’t cost even half as much.

So I Offer Custom Help as an Extra

Everyone’s situation is a bit different. And yet, the majority of questions are similar.

Still, there are always a few questions that really just need a personal touch. That’s why I’m offering support, after you’ve read the Step-by-Step Guide.

Early Bird Sign-Up. Save 50%

Very easy: fill in your first name and e-mail address.

You’ll get a confirmation e-mail. Click the link in to confirm. Then you’re on the early bird list. What do you get in return?  As the first readers, I’ll offer it to you for half off, because I’m hoping you’ll give me feedback (You’re my guinea pigs.)

We respect your email privacy

Five Things to Take on a Trip (and Four to Leave)

Our 2nd post from Kathryn S., a recent Fulbright Scholar and ExpatYourself’s contributing author now living in Hamburg, Germany:

I spent two months backpacking in Europe in 2011 — January and February, which I can safely say is not for the faint of heart. Moving overseas is an entirely different experience, but here is a list that I think would serve you well, no matter how long your trip lasts.

Fulbright Scholar Packing Tips
Packing can be the most stressful part of it all.

To Take: A watch. I bought mine back in 2011 for about $50. It has the time, day of the month, an alarm and glows in the dark. I don’t usually wear a watch, but travel is unpredictable and your phone may be dead or inconceivably still telling time from another continent. (Mine was doing this for two days.) Plus, if you’re running down cobblestones with a thirty-pound pack to try to catch a train, it’s not usually convenient to pull something from your pocket.

To Leave: Sixty pairs of wool socks. It’s cold in winter. I really really don’t like the cold. So between my own fear of freezing and gifts from family, I’ve acquired an entire plastic tote’s worth of socks. Seriously, an entire tote. Thing is, most shoes don’t have enough room for thick socks. Do you know what else doesn’t? The two suitcases you’re allowed on an international flight. Just because you’ve acquired loads of a useful item doesn’t mean you will really need all of it.

To Take: Crochet hooks. It may not be crochet hooks for you, but don’t leave all your hobbies and interests behind. I didn’t bring any yarn or half-finished projects, but the hooks themselves take up very little space, allow me to continue with a hobby and make me feel better about leaving all those socks behind, because if I get really cold, I’ll be able to make a pair, right? (No, I won’t. My skills are limited to slightly lumpy rectangles.)

To Leave: The electronic translator. A well-meaning friend or relative probably gifted this to you. Let me verify your initial impression — you won’t use it. Ever. They’re too slow to use for conversation and too limited for writing. Chuck it in the Goodwill pile and good riddance.

To Take: A nice water bottle. Mine cost $9 at Walmart, is insulated and has a screw-on tea diffuser, as I’m a big tea drinker. It’s easy to forget to stay hydrated when you’re sitting in an airport, and dehydration will make the jet lag that much worse. A fancy new water bottle feels like a treat every time you fill it up and will also prove a valuable asset while walking around foreign cities.

To Leave: The old tablet. This applies to any electronics you haven’t used in the last month. They may have sentimental value, but if there’s a layer of dust on it already, let it gather dust in storage or a tech-inclined friend’s closet. Don’t waste your valuable space and weight restrictions on a doorstop.

To Take: A neck pillow. I didn’t know if I’d use it, but I did know that I’d spend fifteen hours on an airplane and that I’m not taking a full-sized pillow. I ended up strapping it to the top of my carry-on, anyway, so it didn’t really take up any room.

To Leave: Your ego. The first time I came to Europe, I was offended anytime someone could tell I was a foreigner. Now I get a lot of compliments, not only because my language is much better, but because my attitude has improved. You are a guest in a new country. Ask for advice. Ask for directions. Ask for language help. You’ll learn how much the locals have to offer (a lot!) and you’ll lose a lot of the stress.

To Take: A gift (of food). No matter where you’re staying your first few days, you probably won’t be totally alone. I brought my hostess apple butter and red pepper jelly and I feel that made a really good first impression. If you’re in a hostel, you can share with your roommates and make new friends. If you really do end up alone, you can drown your sorrow in food from home. No matter your situation, you win! (Unless the item breaks in your luggage. Wrap it well and seal it in plastic.)

I started this list while I was packing and have updated it since my arrival. Feel free to comment if there’s anything you’d like to add to it. If you’re currently suffering the stress of packing for an international trip, just know that when you arrive, no matter what you’ve forgotten (like tea and athletic shorts, for me), you will be so unbelievably happy to have arrived that these little won’t matter.

Fulbright Scholar Packing Tips
See? You can be *this* happy.

Following a Fulbright Scholar: Intro

Hello all! Jeff here. I’m totally excited to introduce you to Kathryn. Kathryn, a brand new Fulbright scholar, is volunteering to write for Expat Yourself. She boards for Hamburg, Germany tomorrow. Somehow, she will make time to share with you all her whole journey and offer her perspective as a lone traveler and Fulbrighter.

Kathryn reached out to me 2 weeks ago with this line: “I’m a twenty-two year old Fulbrighter headed to Germany, hopefully indefinitely. I board my plane from Oklahoma to Hamburg in two weeks.” WOW!

Without further delay, here is Kathryn:

I asked Jeff if I could contribute to this blog because I feel that the ‘voice’ of young single expats isn’t heard much — and then spent a week and a half discovering exactly why that was. It’s three in the morning two days before I leave and this is the first moment of peace I’ve felt in weeks. Even still, a part of my brain is still cataloguing items to pack and unpack, services I still need to cancel (car insurance, Easy Pass account, etc.) and friends I haven’t said goodbye to.

I graduated from university in May with a job offer to teach English in Hamburg for one year. I had toyed with the idea of approaching this as a permanent move, but finally decided mid-June that I would like to (as they say) expat myself.

For me, the deciding factors were:

  1. I don’t have much close family. The most common question I’ve heard in these past few months is, “What do your parents think about you leaving?” While not a requirement for all expats, my loose family ties definitely made it easier to move overseas alone. I visited my sister on the other side of the country in July and I’ve agreed to visit every few years. Many young people don’t have the means to pop back for visits every year, so it’s important that family and friends have realistic expectations.
  2. There are available jobs in my field in my new location. While I’m not certified as an ESL teacher, I have enough experience that if my current position isn’t renewed for a second year, I should be able to land on my feet.
  3. I have support/I speak the local language. Both my employer and the online community of ESL teachers are generous with resources and advice. If I have to figure things out on my own, though, my German’s good enough to complete job applications.
  4. There are opportunities for advancement and self-improvement in my new location. While in Hamburg, I plan to become certified as an ESL instructor. It’s not a golden ticket, but it will make me a better candidate in a competitive job market. This is also not something I could do if I stayed at home. The closest program of the type I want is eight hours away — but in Hamburg, there’s one twenty minutes from my flat.
  5. I have a back-up plan. If everything goes sideways and I end up broke and unemployed at the end of my contract, my employer is paying for me to return next summer. I’d like nothing more than to flourish in Germany, but I’d like nothing less than to be a German hobo.

When giving up the safety nets that comes from years in one location, family, citizenship, language fluency — these practical things matter. Obviously this list ignores the most pressing reason, which is that I want to. At the end of the day, I would probably still go if some of these items were missing, but I don’t think I would be able to feel comfortable and calm, even at three in the morning two days before my flight.


Fulbrighter to Hamburg




Where Can Americans Visit With No Visa?

What’s a Visa?

I’m not talking about the plastic card in your wallet, used for faking like you’ve got money. Americans are GREAT with those! No, I’m talking about the little slip of paper or stamp that comes after a little paperwork, a fee and a follow-up visit to your local embassy or airport. And that’s just tourist visas, not a business one. In short, a hassle.

Why Getting a Visa Sucks

If you think getting a tourist visa is a hassle, you’re not alone. It takes paperwork, spending money ($30-$300) and maybe even a visit to a nearby embassy or consulate. In other words, it’s easier to book a flight around the world, than to arrange permission to walk off the plane. But if you’re American, well, lucky for you! Americans, with their US passports, can visit pretty much every country on the planet, visa-free. Out of nearly 200 countries, Americans can visit 172 of them without a visa. Yes, you can stay up to 90 days in almost every country, without any hassle. Just book your flight and Go.

Do I Need a Visa to Visit that Country?

Continue reading Where Can Americans Visit With No Visa?

Going For Citizenship in Canada: Counting the Days

Today is June 21st, 2014

It was 2 years ago I got the letter. Two years ago, CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) said I was awarded Permanent Residency in Canada. The letter was dated June 11th and I received it on the 21st – exactly 2 years ago today. That’s kinda cool to me. :)

Two Years – My Last Qualification

To apply for citizenship, I have to be a permanent resident of Canada for (at least) two years before. My final interview was June 27th, 2012. I had the interview about a week after my letter came June 21st, 2012. Note: if you want to learn all about the PR final interview, read here. That post is at 300 comments and growing!

So, here I am in June 2014, meeting that 2-year requirement. (Yea!)

The 2-year thing is just one condition. What other requirements are there?

Here are all of them to be eligible for citizenship:

  • You lived in Canada for 3 out of the last 4 years. (1095 days) Check!
  • You’re able to communicate well in either English, French or both. Check! (just English for me.)
  • Know about Canada – be able to pass a citizenship test. I’m a fast learner, so… Check!
  • Lastly, be a permanent resident for at least 2 years before applying. Check!

What does all this mean for me? Well, it means I will be….

Applying For Canadian Citizenship – Yea!

Okay, to be totally safe, I’ll probably wait a month or so before applying. The reason is I haven’t spent 1095 continuous days in Canada. Over the past 3 years, I’ve visited the US for a few weeks and Prague for a week. So, I’ll wait until mid-July to apply.

If you need to be sure, CIC offers a calculator here. But be aware you have to (first register and) log in to get the “results.”

If you don’ t want to go through registering with the CIC, you can do it yourself.

Here is how the math works:

1. Figure out when you arrived in Canada.

2. What day did you get Canadian Permanent Residence status?

3. What day do you want to fill in the application for Canadian citizenship?

Count It Up

[(How many days between #1 & #2) / 2] + [How many days between #2 & #3]

If that number is 1095 or more, then you can apply for citizenship.  (1095 = 3 years worth of days)

Ah, but what if you had some vacation time, outside the country? Excellent question — and here’s my answer to that….

How to Vacation Out of Canada – And Apply For Citizenship Faster

Have you wanted to vacation out of Canada, but you’re afraid that every day you’re outside Canada, that’s another day longer you can’t apply for citizenship?

Not really. It actually depends on when you vacation.

Let’s look again at the number facts

Fact #1: You need 3 years worth of days (1095 exactly) of physical presence in Canada.

Fact #2: Each day you lived in Canada before you became a permanent resident counts as half a day.

Fact #3: Each day you lived in Canada after you became a permanent resident counts as a whole day.

Let’s look at 2 examples, using “Alice” and “Bob” again to find out when is the best time to take an extended vacations outside Canada.

Vacation Example #1:

Alice is a Permanent Resident and has been for nearly 2 years. She is planning a 3-month trip back to India. Soon after her return, Alice plans to apply for citizenship.

Vacation Example #2:

Bob is a landed immigrant, but not yet a Permanent Resident. He submitted his PR application a few months ago and noticed online that processing just started. With all his free time, Bob is considering a 3-month visit to family in the Philippines. He expects to get back long before a letter arrives that his PR application was approved.

Who’s Vacation Counts Most Against Citizenship?

If you’re paying attention, you know the answer already. Yup, Alice. Her 3-months away means she must wait another 3 months longer before she can apply for citizenship.

But Bob’s 3-month vacation will only take away 1.5 months from his citizenship application date. Because Bob took vacation before he got his Permanent Resident status, his days in Canada count as only half-days. And thus, his vacation days out of the country only forfeit away half the time.

Sure, it’s “glass is half-full” versus “half-empty” thinking, but in terms of “opportunity lost” the logic is sound.

Something I thought you should be aware of, in case you’re planning around your PR interview date.