14Nov

Successful out-of-country childbirth

Giving birth in a different country requires plenty of preparation. Expats living abroad with their families need to ensure that there is a system is in place for a safe delivery to avoid unexpected expenses and inconveniences during such an intense period.

You can read more about the expense side of childbirth in our blog Expecting a Baby in Hong Kong.

The one plan to rule them all

“The best offence is a good defence” is the key to avoid as many of possible worst case scenarios. At this point, your answer to medical emergencies should always be preparedness.

The most crucial first step is to have a birth plan drafted out at the start of your pregnancy. This includes:

  • Getting to know your hospital of choice ahead of time
  • Familiarizing yourself with your new doctor
  • Knowing what you are looking for is a hospital

Hong Kong has one of the best healthcare systems in Asia and finding a hospital that suits your needs is relatively easy for many expats. Public and private hospitals provide excellent services so it’s usually a matter of preference and expense when it’s time to decide.

Choose your obstetrician wisely. If you have health insurance that covers pregnancy and childbirth, double check to see if they cover the hospital that you’ve chosen. Check the hospital’s proximity to your home and find alternative routes for different traffic conditions.

Common Complications

We do what we can to make sure the child is in good health during pregnancy. However, there is always the possibility of complications. Common issues to prepare for include:

  • Umbilical cord issues
  • Perineal lacerations
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate
  • Amniotic cavity problems
  • Failure to progress

C-section birth may be required during these situations and making sure you’re financially covered for this major operation is also a crucial part of the birth plan. Check with your expat health insurance provider if they cover this emergency expense.

On new territory

Pregnancy and childbirth make one of the most intimate and unforgettable experiences of life. The logistics leading up to them could be just as complicated as it is memorable, but it’s all worth it in the end.

We help expats find the best health insurance that covers maternity in Hong Kong. Get in touch with us for inquiries.

7Nov

Traveling for Food: Exploring food allergies

What draws you to travel?

What blossomed in the East started to find its way into the global palate. Expats from Europe and the US have made gastronomic trips to Asia to further understand the culture of each different country, from the bowls of spicy noodles to the more exotic street and hawker stalls.

However, there is a limit to knowing the world through cuisines. Embedded within us is a limiting agent in the form of allergies to remind us that our body can only handle so much.

Allergies are our body’s unique way of telling us what is compatible and what is not to our system. The reactions extend to the basic choices we make such as “tasty” or “not”.

By law, the FDA has listed eight categories as designated food allergens (Milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans).

The categories seem easy on first glance until you realize that food allergies vary individually. Recent researches highlight the stark contrast with allergens through regions, such as in the West versus the East. This is vital information for travellers.

Here are a few common food allergies to help backpackers, expats, and casual travellers be more cautious while they explore Asia through food.

food allergies while travelling - Village Insurance Direct Hong Kong

Shellfish

According to a paper written in 2013, shellfish tops the list in food allergens in Asians, particularly in children, mainly due to its availability and demand in the region. A 2014 study from the Singapore Medical Journal, also reinforces the idea. While a lot of Asian cuisines is built on shellfish, a large chunk of the population remains highly allergic to it.

Peanuts

Peanuts remain as the top allergen in America and in some parts of Europe. The total number of cases in Asia is relatively low, but in some areas like in Singapore, the statistics prove otherwise. A good 15 years ago, peanut allergies had lower cases and aren’t considered a top allergen, until recently. This is a testament to the changing diets Asians have had through the years.

Wheat

Rice is the staple carbohydrate of every Asian. But to have wheat included in the list makes you want to feel bad for craving for bread as much as the next guy. Japan and South Korea, two countries famous for revolutionary modern takes on bread, suffer from prevalent cases of wheat allergy. They also rake in high numbers of anaphylaxis cases from this specific allergen.

Travel as much as you like, and eat as much as you like. Food allergies exist to make you aware of your limits, but not to scare you to crawl back to your comfort zones. Be bold and stick NOT with what you’re always comfortable with, but with what you’re COMPATIBLE with.

Serious allergic reaction to food can cause some people to be hospitalized. To be more secure during your travel, make sure you find a travel insurance that covers emergency hospitalization in the country you’re travelling.

We find the best travel insurance for expats living in Hong Kong.

18Oct

How cancer burns through everything including your savings

Cancer takes more than lives. It also goes after a hefty amount of your savings.

In just a span of two years, half of all US cancer patients breeze through their funds, accentuating a total of $92,000 in twelve months.

This is all detailed in a new study called “Death or Debt? National Estimates of Financial Toxicity in Persons with Newly-Diagnosed Cancer” which was published this month. According to its findings, these heavy costs are mostly of risk to be shouldered by the elderly and those without insurance, among others.

Killer expenses

In the US, cancer comes second to heart disease as the undisputed title-holder of the most notorious killer.

But unlike heart disease which has a pool of research and funds dedicated to it, the cost of cancer treatment, for any country is financially unfathomable. Annually, 1.6 million new Americans are diagnosed with cancer. From this, 600,000 barely finish treatment and die.

The healthcare system credits to spending $87.8 billion yearly for patients. Specifically, unfinished treatments resulting in death leads to a $130 billion cost.

A huge portion of treatment expenditure still falls on the patient. The American Cancer Society along with the Cancer Action Network reports that as of four years ago, findings revealed that patients still shouldered a total of $4 billion on their end just for seeking cancer treatment.

Crunching beyond the numbers

The core of the study took 9.5 million patients and 16 years to see completion (1998-2014).

Setting aside the statistics, the medical study delineates the kinks that needed to be worked out when it comes to medical budget and productivity.

The journal is an updated study from the same set of authors from five years ago and is published in the American Journal of Medicine. Initially, in the study’s first findings, it revealed that cancer, specifically, breast cancer, accounts for 33 million sick days among the US working citizens annually.

The update to the study echoes a more heartbreaking revelation: half of the cancer-afflicted patients within their study have started and been easily sunk into bankruptcy due to treatment expenses.

This brings a new reality to the table: that the economy pulls a really tensioned string even to cancer patients who struggle with the cost of treatment.

When toxicity seeps to your finances

A big danger lies in the fact that the risk for financial toxicity goes greater with cancer treatment. After years of fluctuation in the economy, one would think that the financial burden on the patients would’ve lessened but has so far remained consistent.

Grant Skrepnek, one of the paper’s writers believes the results were “shocking,” seeing as to how figures have reached higher levels, which he has seen in his 20 years in cancer research.

Despite the advent of immunotherapy, which is pegged as a vital tool for the possible elimination of cancer, Skrepnek believes that it also has downsides, such as its ability to hamper predictions for cancer trends.

Jennifer Singleterry believes otherwise and sees a bigger threat in short-term healthcare plans.

Singleterry, a senior policy analyst from the American Cancer Society is concerned with the coverage of these health care plans, which have a limited coverage and “caps” – which hurts finances as it doesn’t include cancer treatment.

She adds that dependency to these short-term plans will only be harmful to those afflicted will illness, who will be left with even higher insurance premiums.

What this ultimately reveals is another layer of fear added to cancer: first the diagnosis, and now the financial horrors.

Village Insurance Direct helps expats in Hong Kong find critical illness insurance. Contact us for inquiries.

 

5Oct

Is C-section the way to go?

In this day and age, Hong Kong stands strong in offering a lot more than tourist attractions and sparkling history. On par with many first-class countries, it prides itself with an excellent healthcare system. For both its residents and expats alike, it has become the place of choice for maternity and childbirth, owing to the structure in its services.

The Hong Kong health system, like many others, is categorized into two: the public and private sectors.

Being a Hong Kong resident with an “identity card” provides you with numerous benefits, including full utilization of their public health system.

Some say that it gets trickier and more complicated when it comes to foreigners, but there’s always no reason to feel lost and left out. Local or not, there’s nothing a good preparation can’t solve.

Adjusting to a childbirth in a foreign country is the first step. As mothers near their delivery, the next logical step is to figure out whether a C-section or classic delivery setup is the way to go.

Crunching the hard digits

In general, the World Health Organization suggests a 10-15% rate in C-section deliveries vis-à-vis a country’s healthcare status.  Since last year, numbers of C-section deliveries have been steadily increasing around the world. Currently, the Dominican Republic holds the top spot with 56.4%. According to this October 2018 research, Hong Kong currently has a Caesarian birth rate of 35%. It stands toe-to-toe with other countries like Turkey and Brazil, who each report rates of over 45%.

The good versus the bad

It is the expectant mother’s choice as to how she wants to have her baby delivered. However, in some cases, it is the doctor’s call whether to perform the surgery or not, particularly when the necessity arises in the situation.

C section deliveries are beneficial for mothers who are unable to bear the stress of the labor process. It is also recommended if more than one baby will be delivered. The procedure helps minimize the risk of having the baby contract a disease from passing through the vaginal area.

However, it also offers a balanced number of downsides. Mothers who opted for the surgical process tend to stay longer in the hospital for recuperation. There is an increased risk of pain or infection following the surgery and soreness is almost guaranteed. Staggering levels of blood loss may also provide low levels of Hemoglobin.

The rates

As an invasive procedure, C-section deliveries generally cost way more than vaginal births. Rates within Hong Kong vary with different hospitals, ranging from standard HK$ 17,000 to pricey lengths such as HK$ 141, 000 for high-tier private hospitals. As of June 2018, for example, the fee for a C-section surgery in St. Paul’s Hospital in Causeway Bay starts at HK$ 18,000 versus their fee for a vaginal birth which starts at HK$ 15, 000.

Ultimately, the choice rests upon the mother’s shoulders. There may be slight differences between private or public hospital settings but one thing remains the same: This is Hong Kong, and both options carry a high standard when it comes to medical care.

Village Insurance Direct provides expats in Hong Kong with health insurance that covers maternity expenses. Contact us for more information.

30Sep

Expat Guide: Everyday Hong Kong

The thing about Hong Kong is that it never catches a wink of sleep. Like New York City, it feels alive 24/7: a bustling zone of commerce in the morning and an alluring city of lights at night.

Cradling a population of 7.5 million people, it is home to some of the world’s luxe suites and soaring skyscrapers. With an identity aligned with finance, it is a common sight to see many professional expatriates treading about among the city’s vast urban landscape.

According to a report from NBC last June, Hong Kong ranks first in the list of the five most expensive cities for expats, knocking off Luanda from the top spot. However, numbers still show that despite the rising prices of property, tourists and professionals still flock the island metropolis.

Familiar faces in the neighborhood

Despite being known to be a bit further from the main island, West Kowloon is a suburb famous for its growing number of expats in recent years. It is home to a number of suitable amenities including modern housing complexes and shopping centers. It is also the location of Kowloon Tong, a known affluent district in the area.

For both single travelers and couples, the “Mid-Levels” is another popular spot. Unlike West Kowloon, it is in close proximity with Hong Kong’s nightlife areas such as Soho, which makes it ideal for those who constantly seek relaxation and casual fun.

Similar to relaxing sunsets which can be viewed from Kowloon Tong, the Mid-Levels proud itself with a scenic view of the Victoria Harbor.

The area is also suited for families who have moved to Hong Kong to study. Several educational institutions are conveniently situated in the area like the Ying Wa Girls’ School and King’s College.

Useful Basic Phrases

Appropriate cultural know-how is also important while staying in Hong Kong. Communication and values are two of the most important facets of culture. When it comes to linguistics, it is a handy skill to learn Cantonese to aid one’s English as it is spoken by a vast majority of its residents. Try to learn some basic phrases such as “néih hóu” (hello), “dòjeh” or “ng-goi” (thank you) to supplement your daily conversations with the locals.

Whether in business or in personal life, Hong Kong insulars and Chinese people value the custom of “mianzi” or face. This Chinese concept rests on the idea that people should be mindful of their actions and words, so as not to embarrass themselves and others and “lose face” through shame.

Maintenance of interpersonal relationships is crucial, particularly when it comes to work or business. Once a matter is settled upon by two people, it is necessary to cultivate socials. This is reflected by their concept of “guanxi” or connections. New settlers in Hong Kong start with no “guanxi” and are given the task of expand their network of people quickly.

Hong Kong’s charming variety should be enough to cater to the different priorities of every islander or tourist. With its and busy streets and global mark, it is sure to maintain its spot as a city for expats.

INSURANCE NEEDS FOR EXPATS

Whether you’re starting a business in Hong Kong or working as an employee or moving here with your entire family, Village Insurance Direct can help you find insurance cover for your needs. We help find full coverage insurance for expats living in the city. Get in touch with us today.

27Sep

Traveling to Iran: A Quick Guide

What about a change of pace for your next holiday? Maybe it’s time to swap the crowded cities for historical grounds and the sunny beaches for pristine architecture.

Why not let Iran be your next destination?

Don’t let erroneous media portrayal fool you: Iran is a breathtaking country and a refreshing experience that flows beautifully on its own. The beautiful landscapes are one thing, but it’s the people’s warmth that really gets you. Among Middle Eastern countries, Iran is considered one of the safest nations to visit. Backpackers and casual travelers themselves have recommended touring Iran, nullifying negativity surrounding it as mostly outdated and inane. Touring Iran is gradually becoming more of an addition to every traveler’s bucket list.

When in Iran, teach yourself a life hack and go straight for the unexplored gems. For the common traveler, the biggest challenge isn’t necessarily to visit the place but to enjoy it before the sudden rush of other tourists.

The clouds of Filband

In the heart of the Mazandaran Province, for example, lies a scenic “Neverland” in the form of Filband. What awaits is an unparalleled beauty of cotton-like clouds and lush forests that almost makes you feel dancing among the mountains.

Shiraz

Just a little close to the very popular destination Persepolis is Shiraz, the city of gardens and poets. One of its best-known grandeurs is its wine (although reserved for religious practices), that matches perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere that the surreal place offers.

Qal’eh Dokhtar

In Fars is a notable historical beauty called the Qal’eh Dokhtar. “The Maiden Castle” was made in honor of the Goddess Anahita, who represents fertility and wisdom. The structure overlooks the Kavar-Firuzabad Road and features a great variety of architecture: including age-old windows and stairways. It has stood for some 1,800 years and is always a pleasure to visit while in the country.

CULTURAL KNOW-HOW

What sets Iran apart from other countries is its people’s sense of hospitality, which at times, even extends to the good of your safety. Apart from such trait, the locals are always ready to assist you and even look out for you. In fact, the country is known for being one of the safest spots for female travelers, mainly due to its policies on gender segregation.

In return, as responsible travelers, it is apt to show respect by abiding with their conventions. For example, for both men and women, tattoos must be kept covered by clothing. In Islam, tattoos are considered forbidden by tradition. Women must also wear loose-fitting clothing and don a headscarf in public. While all these rules could come off as a shock for most travelers, treat it as part of the experience. All ready? Now it’s to plan that vacation. Just to be sure, don’t forget the cherry on top and also invest in a travel insurance for your next holiday. Your mapped-out trip won’t be complete without the benefit of being worry-free when you’re far from home.

GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

For a more carefree travel, make sure you get travel insurance. Village Insurance Direct helps expats find insurance that can protect you from losses due to flight cancellations, lost of luggage, robberies, as well as possible health-related concerns. Get in touch with us today.

14Aug

A Beginner’s Guide to First-time Travel

There’s always the thrill of everyone’s first travel. It can be intimidating but it is an experience worth trying.

Like clockwork on the paperwork

Get the must-haves out of the way first. Before day dreaming about your destination and itinerary the first thing to pay attention to are the required travel documents.

International travel depending on the country requires tourist visas as well as passports with expiry dates no shorter than 6 months from your day of departure. Check these details to avoid the any issues with immigration.

Securing your flight dates should be much simpler these days compared to the past decade. There are numerous of mobile apps to make selection and purchase of flights quick and easy plus there are features that show cheap flights for budget-travellers.

Prepare up to three government-issued IDs as well as medical certificates for pregnant women and for travellers who need to take larger volumes of medicine such as insulin for diabetics. Baggage security will need to see these documents during luggage check-ins.

Finally, get travel insurance that covers all your destinations. For some countries, Visas can only be granted if the traveler has the required travel insurance amount coverage.

Smart tip: Email a copy of all your documents to yourself in case you lose any of them.

What’s in your bag?

Pack smart and check for prohibited items (e.g. Don’t bring gum to Singapore). Mind the weight of your luggage and if you plan on purchasing a good amount of souvenirs and goods you may want to bring an extra bag or purchase one before returning.

Some ways to maximize storage in your bag are:

  • Vacuum sealing
  • Removing boxed items from their packaging (if possible)
  • Roll clothes tightly instead of piling them flat
  • Choose one versatile outerwear instead of bringing three

A good time to be thrifty and a good time to indulge

It’s impossible to do away with horror stories of tourists who run out of money while on vacation. The danger even heightens for first-time travelers and solo backpackers. One should never make the mistake of a limited and exact budget for the itinerary. It is possible to set a specific amount on less important items like gifts and souvenirs, but never for the essentials like food and lodging. The best way to do this is to always overestimate expenses for everything. It would certainly be better to have financial excess by the end of the trip, but never a deficit.

Call your bank to make sure there won’t be issues with ATM withdrawals or credit card use.

Travel insurance works wonders

The irony in insurance is that people buy them in hopes that they won’t ever need them. Some people say that getting insurance is a waste of money but in reality the losses are higher for people who travel without one. Should anything happen to you like loss of luggage or medical emergencies, you’ll have peace of mind that you will be cared for and compensated.

Be one with the destination

Taste the local cuisine. Engage with the locals. While there is nothing wrong with going to tourist spots, ask a trusted local for a better recommendation. Be wary of tourist traps and enjoy the moment without thinking about posting it immediately on social media. Travel for the experience and not just for the photos.