Problematic Pastimes: What Works in Paris May Not in Pedang

What do you say to your drone-flying, vaping international assignment candidate with a pet ferret?

Sometimes more than language gets lost in translation. Expats and their spouses and children may find that they’re going to have to leave behind more than their social circle, as what works in Paris or Peoria may not work in Padang, and vice versa. Below are just a few of the many examples of perhaps ill-considered pastimes that expats and global mobility specialists are running into.


This probably won’t be too shocking to anyone, but drones are a great example of an issue that wasn’t on anybody’s radar even five years ago.

As you can imagine, every country has its own laws governing recreational drone use, and some nations have heavy restrictions or forbid them, while others are quite lenient. There is a fairly comprehensive list of links at, with information on countries’ laws governing recreational drone use.

Radio Transmitting Devices 

If your expat likes using walkie-talkies, you should know those aren’t allowed into the U.K. And while walkie-talkies may not be all that popular with people over six, there are other hobbies that involve radio transmitting devices. For instance, model planes and remote-controlled cars use radio frequencies, so inquiries should be made before shipping to ensure they would be allowed in. If you have an expat who operates an amateur (“ham”) radio station, they’re probably already familiar with The National Association for Amateur Radio (ARRL). The association’s website,, has extensive information on visiting other countries and operating a ham radio from there.

Electronic Cigarettes

If your expat has quit smoking to vape—well, they’re out of luck in some countries. For instance, e-cigarettes were banned in 2015 in Singapore. Any person found with e-cigarettes may be fined up to $10,000, or they could wind up in jail for as long as six months.


Many expats do bring the furry members of their family with them when they move abroad, but government restrictions often make it hard. Some dogs, even if they can chew their way through the red tape, would be better off staying at home.  Climate and average temperatures are important considerations, and here’s another: if the possibility of a crisis would lead to evacuation, the expat would likely have to make alternate travel plans for the pet (apart from service dogs), according to the U.S. State Department. And you’ll want to remind any expat who is thinking of taking a more unusual type of pet, such as a ferret—to another country, it may involve a lot of paperwork and having the pet quarantined by the government for weeks or months. Fortunately, there are companies within the global mobility industry that specialize in the transfer of pets.

Playing Cards for Money

You probably can take a deck of cards to any country without a problem, but what you do with them there might get you into trouble. Be careful if you’re playing for money, as in a few countries, games of chance aren’t allowed.  

Posting on Social Media

Spending time on social media is certainly a pastime for many people around the world. It has also, without a doubt, made being an expat easier, making home seem not quite as far away. But even with social media, expats should get to know the country they’re relocating to and be aware that there may be laws governing what you can post.

For more information on additional problematic pastimes, and a few real-world examples of consequences, read the full article.

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