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British Expat Newsletter: August 2013

Hello, and welcome to those of you who have recently signed up.

In this issue

This month

Here’s our news about the latest additions to the BE website.

There’s nothing more British than the good old fry-up in the morning. Or is there? Jamie Waddell has unearthed some interesting number-crunching which suggests that even in Britain, more than half of the typical “English” breakfast is likely to be sourced from overseas!

Currency exchange is a topic that regularly crops up among expats – often with grumbles about rate changes at just the wrong time, which can make differences of hundreds or even thousands of pounds if it’s a really big transaction like a house purchase. OzForex, with whom we’re affiliated, have a whole suite of tools to help you judge the right moment to buy or sell, and we’ve written about them.

Meanwhile, we’ve been off on our travels and have come back with another hotel review. This time it’s the Aloft Hotel, which bills itself as “Thailand’s hippest hotspot” and, fittingly, is in what we bill as Bangkok’s happeningest soi – Sukhumvit Soi 11.

Our Pic of the, um, Week is of the beautiful village of Manarola on Italy’s Ligurian coast – popular with tourists on account of the lack of cars. You can only get there by train, boat or on foot!

And our latest Quick Quiz invites you to find out what you really know about one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks: the Tower of London.

Editorial: Reverse culture shock

Those of you with longish memories will remember that we’ve touched on the subject of reverse culture shock in previous newsletters – notably in July 2005, when we went back to London for one month and ended up having to stay for nearly six.

It brought home to us that, while moving overseas can be a major upheaval in coming to terms with a new culture, it can be just as much of one when returning “home”. It was a bit unsettling back in the 1990s when we visited the UK from Bangladesh and the supermarket cashiers seized our cheques off us before we’d even filled them in – they had computers to do that for us, it turned out. (These days, if we tried to write a cheque they’d patiently explain to us that the cheque guarantee card system stopped in 2011.)

In a sense we were lucky in that we were our own masters and were travelling on our own initiative. We didn’t have to worry about readjusting to office culture in the home country, which can be a real problem.

Overseas postings are regarded as a plum job in many organisations. If you’re good enough to secure one, then it’s reasonably likely that you’ll gain extra responsibility. It’s not always possible for Head Office to send someone with the ideal qualifications for a specific task, so it often makes economic sense for them to entrust the task to someone on the ground whose experience is “good enough”. The added responsibility usually translates into higher local status, and at least a higher personal sense of empowerment and self-fulfilment if not self-esteem.

All that changes when you return to the parent organisation. You’re no longer “our bod on the spot” in a challenging environment, fighting the company’s corner and coping with any crisis that crops up – you’re just one of many human resources, being told that “there is no I in team”. Not only that, but you may find it hard to find shared experiences – if your colleagues don’t actually resent the fact that you’ve been abroad when they haven’t, they’re unlikely to relate to your alien perspective on the job or on life in general.

(We’ve come across this more widely in the form of “When I was in Rangoon…” syndrome. Some people sensibly advise that your response to the “What was it like there?” question should try to sum up the experience in three minutes – that’s where listeners are likely to start switching off.)

More unsettlingly, perhaps, is the discovery that there are whole gaps in your cultural experience. A whole swathe of television series may have come and gone while you were away – and although services like YouTube may help you maintain the links to some extent, they can’t substitute for the “Did you see such-and-such last night?” conversations in the office. The same with popular music – most of the last ten years of the UK charts have passed Dave and me by. (Which on the other hand may not be such a great loss.)

It all goes to prove that you can never go back to somewhere you’ve left. Things change, and people do too. If you think about it, you’ve probably changed even more while you’ve been away than the people you left behind.

Have you had to deal with reverse culture shock? If you have any advice on coping strategies, why not share it on our discussion forum?

Write for British Expat

Would you like to write for British Expat? Sorry, we don’t pay for articles but if you have a website we’ll link to it in the author’s blurb below any of your articles we publish. We use all sorts of content as long as it’s useful and/or interesting to our readership.

Besides articles, we also publish quick trivia quizzes – five questions about any subject. So, if you’d like to write for us but don’t feel like producing a literary masterpiece, then why not try writing a quickie quiz about your city, country, or even your hobby? Please use our contact form to get in touch.

British Expat Amazon Shopping

Amazon don’t just do books, you know. We’ve teamed up with them to bring you the ultimate in online shopping – from a micro SD card to a garden shed! A great way to do your shopping online, especially if the shops aren’t up to much in your part of the world.
BE Amazon Shop: UK & EU | BE Amazon Shop: non-EU

And now for something completely different…

The British have a reputation for betting on just about anything you care to name. Here’s a set of ten wacky bets that you can be sure of winning. Great fun!
YouTube: 10 Amazing Bets You Will Always Win

So there’s a round-up of all that’s been going on. Come on over and see for yourself! Don’t forget…
Visit the BE website and join in with our lively community!

Till next time…

Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat – the definitive home for British expats

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