How to navigate Japan as an expat


With a small but growing UK expat population, Japan’s low crime rate, great hospitality, incredible technology, and wealth of career opportunities in language teaching, technology and international business, makes the East Asian island an increasingly attractive destination for Western expatriates.

Facing such a unique culture, how can foreigners effectively navigate expat life on this incredible island country?

Budget carefully

Japan is renowned for being an expensive place to live, especially Tokyo and Osaka. Maintaining your standard of living in Japan requires a large budget.

Housing and utilities are unavoidably expensive, but you could significantly lower your expenses by living outside the main cities. Shopping at local supermarkets, rather than paying a premium for western delicacies, can also keep costs down.

Learn the language

Much of Japan, especially the larger cities, is fluent in English, but learning basic written and verbal Japanese will help you navigate daily life, especially at work, and attempts to speak it will be appreciated by the locals.

Learn the customs

As a unique culture, adopting Japanese customs can be tricky for expats. Here’s a few of the basics:

  • Learn to bow properly, keeping your back straight and arms at your sides
  • When entering someone’s home, remove your shoes
  • Don’t tip! This is seen as an insult
  • Try learning to use chopsticks; some restaurants don’t offer an alternative

Listen to the robots!

Instructional technology abounds in Japan, and it can be easy to get caught out. Android-esque robots direct traffic in major cities, many sushi restaurants are entirely automated, and your own apartment might advise you if you’re using too much electricity!

Be punctual

Punctuality is incredibly important to the Japanese. Make sure you’re on time for any appointments, and move quickly to get on trains and lifts, as the doors shut rather quickly!

Get ready to for close encounters

Something you’ll notice very quickly in Japan: People. Are. Everywhere! You’ll often find yourself with little personal space on public transport, in shops, restaurants, and even walking down the street.

Leave plenty of time to travel and pay attention to your surroundings. Another aspect of the punctuality culture is that all these swathes of people are typically in a great rush, so you need your whits about you to stay upright when travelling on foot.

Be prepared for a warm welcome

Forget British reserve; most locals are incredibly friendly. Shop clerks will normally welcome you to the store, and you may soon find yourself invited to colleagues’ homes. Both are a great chance to practice your bowing technique and Japanese lingo.

With partner offices in Tokyo and Kobe, Pickfords has relocated hundreds of expats to the bustling island of Japan. Click here find out more, or request a quote online.

Improve your office environment: 12 top tips


It’s easy to become absorbed in our work without much thought to the environment around us. But it is our very surroundings that can sometimes be detrimental to our office productivity and wellbeing.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. If you work in a corporate office, there are many changes you can make to cultivate a fruitful and friendly work environment:

1. Hang some artwork: keep it simple with some branded materials, or get a bit zany with some motivational posters or your favourite Picasso print!

2. Brighten up the place with some flowers and other plant life (just don’t forget to water them!)

3. Lighten up the place with extra lamps or light boxes. Choose daylight bulbs or specialist light therapy boxes for bright, near-natural light that’s easy on the eyes.

4. Clear your desk and your mind by decluttering and ditching printed paperwork. Recycle anything you already have in soft copy. Make this a daily habit to keep you distraction-free while you work.

5. Employ subtle scents to improve your mood. If candles or incense will cause conflict in the office, use essential oils to keep you calm and productive throughout the day.

6. Purge the office cupboards and filing cabinets: if you discover anything you don’t need, get rid. If there are items you only require once a year or less, archive them.

7. Improve air quality with air filters, open windows and indoor plants.

8. Sort out those messy cables.

9. Get ergonomic: prevent RSI and joint pain by purchasing wrist and foot rests, laptop stands, ergonomic keyboards and anything else that keeps you comfortable at your desk.

10. Update your furniture for your comfort and safety. Your old desks and chairs can be environmentally recycled.

11. Eliminate your junk drawer: you know the one. That place you put all the stuff you think you need, but in reality never use. Clear your junk drawer and don’t let anything back in that you don’t use regularly.

12. Help keep office illness to a minimum by dusting your desktop and IT peripheries regularly. If possible, do this last thing on a Friday, unless you want the whole office sneezing!

Moving office or simply in need of a declutter? Pickfords Business Solutions offers a wide range of services for modern organisations, including porterage and churn, IT relocation, furniture recycling and storage. Call us on 0845 130 6559, email or enquire online for more information.

Moving with children: a family checklist


Parents know that trying to organise anything with your children can be a challenging experience. Moving home will probably be one of you kids’ biggest life changes in their early years, so it’s important to get organised and help smooth the transition for them.

While your professional removal company do all the packing and heavy lifting for you, how can you prepare your children for the big move? Here are our top tips for moving and settling in with kids:

  • Pack a moving day rucksack with snacks and entertainment to keep them occupied throughout the move.
  • Allow your children to feel settled in by helping them set up their room first.
  • Let your children pick paint colours and new bedding for their room, to help them get excited about their personal space in your new home.
  • To minimise the stress of acclimatising to their new environment, try to keep to the same time schedule (e.g. for meals and bedtime) to help them adjust quickly.
  • Help your kids to find new playmates in the area by introducing them to the neighbours and signing them up to after-school clubs.
  • If possible, pay visits to your childrens’ new school to help them get acclimatised to their new environment before term starts.
  • Get involved in parent clubs, either online or locally to your new home, to discover the best kids activities in your new neighbourhood.
  • And of course, don’t forget to childproof your new home!

Ready to move? Pickfords covers every postcode in the UK and move families overseas every day. Visit our Moving Advice Centre for more helpful hints and tips, request a call back or get a quote from our website.

Moving to Hong Kong: what you need to know

GUANGZHOU, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 13: (CHINA OUT) A customer buys lanterns at a store to prepare for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival on September 13, 2005 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China. The Mid-Autumn Festival is for family reunion and will fall on September 18,  the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

Holding a powerful role in the global economy, Hong Kong is a thriving business hub with many financial institutions, international businesses and factories running their headquarters out of the territory.

Expats moving to Hong Kong are greeted with a strong Eastern culture, but with clear Western influences. Hong Kong is said to be ‘where east meets west’; the two cultures have grown to exist alongside each other.

So what is required to emigrate to the financial and cultural hub of Hong Kong, and what can expats expect once they get there?

Entry requirements

Hong Kong is part of the People’s Republic of China, though as a Special Administrative Region, it has its own immigration controls. It is possible to visit and stay in Hong Kong for up to six months without a visa, but after that you are required to apply for one.

While Hong Kong is part of the People’s Republic of China, you are not allowed to travel to mainland China without a Chinese visa.


Hong Kong has a population of over 7.18 million and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with a population density of 6,300 people per square kilometre. Hong Kong also has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, with 1.11 births per woman of child-bearing age. It is estimated that by 2033, 26.8% of the population will be aged 65 or over.

The vast majority of Hong Kong residents are of ethnic Chinese origin, making up over 93.6% of the population. Approximately 50% of the population belong to an organised religion, with Buddhists and Taoists being the two largest groups, followed by Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.


Because Hong Kong was initially established as a colony of the British Empire, English is still one of the official languages, as well as Chinese. Due to the territory’s multiculturalism however, there are a variety of other languages commonly spoken, including Cantonese, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.


Situated just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate, with four distinguishable seasons. Spring is usually warm and humid, while summers are hot and rainy. Autumns are quite sunny and pleasant, and winters are relatively dry and cool. Hong Kong is sometimes subjected to typhoons in summertime, which can lead to flooding and landslides. Shops and banks will be closed when a level 8 typhoon warning is given.

Quality of life

While overall wealth has increased, recent years have seen the quality of life drop in Hong Kong, partly down to increasingly unaffordable property prices. The latest quality of life index, compiled by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, found that housing affordability was at its lowest point in a decade, despite an improved unemployment rate and increase in wages.


It is important to note that there is no NHS equivalent in Hong Kong; no healthcare is provided free of charge. It is vital that you get medical insurance arranged if you plan to move to Hong Kong, otherwise, should you fall ill or injure yourself, you could be hit with very high medical bills.


Hong Kong law is based mainly on UK law. Residents can receive on-the-spot fines for littering and spitting, and a zero-tolerance system is in place for those travelling without a ticket on the Mass Transit Railway. All Hong Kong residents are required to carry a valid Hong Kong ID card with them at all times, and can face prosecution if stopped by the police without one.

With a key partner office in the heart of Wan Chai,  Pickfords relocates hundreds of expats to Hong Kong every year. To find out how we can help you fulfill your expat dream, visit our website or call 0800 019 8557.


How do I prevent damp? Three simple steps


Whether you live in a modern property or more traditional housing, any home can be at risk of damp. If your home has excess moisture, mould can begin to appear, which not only affects the look of your property, but can cause damage or risk the health of you and your family.

Any number of factors can cause dampness in your home, including condensation, rising ground water and structural problems. While it is possible to deal with dampness and mould after they have appeared, prevention is far easier, and cheaper.

By following these three simple steps, you can stop excess moisture entering your home, thereby preventing dampness and mould.

Reduce the amount of moisture you produce

Avoid drying clothes in the house without opening a lot of windows. Ideally, use a tumble drier or hang your garments outside.

Cover pans while cooking and use the extractor fan, and only boil as much water as you need in your kettle, or use a teapot for large batches.

Keep your home well ventilated 

Ventilating your home is the easiest way to ensure excess moisture in the air can easily escape. In the warmer months, keep windows open throughout the home at least partially, to allow good airflow throughout the building.

Invest in a dehumidifier

Originally seen as a bit of a luxury, dehumidifiers have  come down in price in recent years, making them more accessible to the average home owner. These devices are particularly useful if your property has rooms that don’t get a lot of natural light or ventilation.

Looking for more advice on managing your new home? Visit our Home Moving Advice Centre for hints and tips for settling in.


Rio customs strike affecting clearance

Cristo_Redentor_Rio_de_Janeiro_2 - Copy

Brazilian customs strikes are expected to impact goods clearance until the conclusion of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Customs clearance and delivery of household goods services will be affected within the city and ports of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s remaining 26 states, including primary business centre Sao Paula, will not be affected.

Customs at the Rio airport and sea port are undergoing a partial strike over a wage dispute, currently working just two days per week. Customers emigrating to the capital can expect delayed customs clearance until well beyond the official end of the Olympics on Sunday 21 August.

Road traffic within Rio is also seeing significant challenges as athletes, delegations and country dignitaries arrive ahead of the Games. For security reasons, some road closures will not be announced in advance.

If you have concerns about customs clearance and emigration into Rio de Janerio, please contact your Move Manager or call 0800 019 8557.

Win a WHIZZPOPPING BFG soft toy! [competition now closed]

Win one of three WHIZZPOPPING BFG Soft Toys!

To celebrate the release of director Steven Spielberg’s THE BFG, in UK cinemas July 22, Pickfords, the official removals partner of The BFG Dream Jar Trail, is offering children the chance to win one of three WHIZZPOPPING BFG soft toys!

Encourage your child to draw their favourite dream and write their name in The BFG’s empty Dream Jar, take a photo of them with the drawing and post it as a Facebook Status on or Tweet it to @Pickfords before 31 August 2016.


We’ ll announce the winning entries via Facebook and Twitter on 13 September 2016. The winners will be contacted via direct message so we can post your prize!

To find out more about The BFG Dream Jar Trail and the new film, visit

© 2016 Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC