A while ago, Expatclic launched a survey to find out the best ideas we have discovered in our various host countries. Here are the surprising results.
The country that ranked first in terms of good ideas abroad is Finland, followed by Switzerland and the United States.
The range of good ideas abroad that impressed our members is really wide. We have broken it into categories, because it is also interesting to realize what aspects matter the most:
Free education for all in Finland is definitely appreciated, especially the fact that anyone entering a public library has a 3D printer at their disposal, free to use.
Finland starts taking care of their citizens right from birth: every family who has a new-born baby receives a free maternity package, which contains baby clothes and care products (we discovered that the box can then be folded into a fantastic cardboard cradle, safe and reusable).
Switzerland is appreciated for the way it handles multilingualism. A strong focus is put on teaching languages, and people speak three or four languages: the Swiss focus a lot of energy on this right from school.
Socializing is really important, and Spain was praised for the lovely custom of organizing a street party every year: each neighbour brings something to eat, and people have dinner and enjoy the night together.
Caring about the environment also scored highly, and those living in the States pointed out that you get 10¢ back when you bring your own grocery bag to do your shopping. It’s called reusable bag credit.
Of course practical ideas, those simple ones that make our lives easy at every latitude, were stressed and voted in the survey as very good ideas abroad.
Finland ranked first here too, with a designated room in each block of flats where you can leave things that you don’t use and that might come handy to someone else. An idea that Switzerland also implemented: every neighbourhood has an “exchange box” where you can drop stuff you no longer use: everyone is invited to take them, at no cost of course.
Back to Finland, every house or building has a shoe brush at the entrance, so you won’t mess the floor with muddy/dirty shoes.
Other good ideas abroad include hotel mirrors with a steam-free middle, so you can see yourself properly (Japan), a “recharging station” for iPhones and tablets at the airport (Indonesia, but certainly in many other places), having everything delivered to your home – not only online purchase, even from real stores, in few hours – (China), a door-to-door electrical and electronic appliance repair service (South Africa), employees filling up your bags in supermarkets – and in some cases (pregnancy, for instance) even carrying them up to your car (USA) and “smart” traffic lights in Lima, Peru, that let you know how many seconds you have to cross the street.
But what outscores every other idea, according to the participants in our survey, is the intelligent way modern technology is used. The highest number of good ideas abroad is linked to this. For instance, in Finland (again!) and Switzerland, each public transport vehicle is connected to an IT system: through your app you will know exactly when it will arrive at your stop. In Finland, moreover, there is almost no use of cash, everything is paid for by card or online. Also in China you don’t need your wallet or credit cards any more: every payment, purchase, booking, rental is done by phone.
Our participants must see paying as a terribly tiring activity, because they praised Norway for allowing users to buy bus cards via mobile phone. Actually most payments there can be done via mobile app, even to beggars (no kidding!).
In Indonesia you can pay all of your service bills at the ATM, while in Kenya there is a service called Mpesa through which you can deposit/withdraw cash, and send/receive money through your phone number.
In France (but not exclusively) you can pay road tolls with a credit card rather than needing cash. The dreaded cash, though, becomes useful in India, where any online shopping can be paid in cash on delivery!
In UK new technology allows you to chat with your NHS doctor. And talking about health, how about this great idea from the USA: in some hospitals when you have surgery they track patients (through a bracelet connected to a screen in the waiting room) wherever they are to let the family members know if they are into the pre-op room, having surgery, waking up etc.
Some orthodontists have video games (like Pac-Man) in the waiting room and TVs on the ceiling of the dentist’s surgery to make the kids look up and stay focused with their mouth open wide.
Moving around is very important all over the world. So our participants stressed a number of good ideas abroad that make all sorts of transport, not only public, public, more enjoyable.
Besides the already mentioned app that tells you exactly at what time your bus will arrive, there are places, like Switzerland and Japan, where buses lower to pavement level at the stop making it easier for the elderly, the disabled and persons with a pram to get in.
In Switzerland, however, special care is reserved for bicycles: metal rails are placed wherever you find stairs so that bikers can wheel their bike up and down. And when they arrive at their destination? No problem, there are lots of covered parking places for bikes to conveniently protect them.
But what do you do if you are on a bus and need to read the address noted in your phone and your battery is flat? If you are in Norway, no problem! All buses are equipped with USB drives to recharge your appliances.
The funniest ideas abroad
This might not be very useful, but it certainly shows that attention to the public goes beyond the expected: in Finland, when you use a toilet in the airport, a lovely concert of bird chirping will cover possible embarrassing sounds!
Last but not least, Singapore has “pets’ school buses”. Now, our member in Singapore could not find out exactly what the purpose of these buses is (she took a picture, though, a bit blurred but we think it’s interesting to have a glimpse), but she gathers they are used to transport the lovely furry creatures to school. Of course, the Montessori method is highly appreciated!
Do not hesitate to send us the good ideas you find in your host countries! It would be wonderful to enrich this list.
The Expatclic Team
Main photo ©ClaudiaLandini