British Expat Newsletter: September 2014

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In this issue

This month

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

In some ways September has been very similar to August. We’ve had more interest from UK TV show producers asking for expats to share their experiences:

And cleaning company Move Out Mates have contributed an explanation of why it’s good to have a rented home professionally cleaned between tenancies—for the outgoing tenant it can make the difference between keeping and losing the deposit, and for the landlord it saves having to spend hours of doing sometimes rather gruesome cleaning work ready for the next tenant.

The big news of the month is that I finished my magnum opus—an 11-chapter tome all about how to buy a website. The Buyer’s Quest is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store now and gives a comprehensive overview of the buying process from start to finish, with a mythical quest woven as a recurring theme through the book. It’s a must-read if you’re thinking of setting up in online business and are considering buying a website for that purpose.

Even our latest Pic of the, erm, Week has echoes of last month’s: it’s another famous canal, but instead of being in the ‘Venice of the North’, it’s in Venice itself: the Grand Canal as seen from the Rialto Bridge.

Our latest Quick Quiz, on the other hand, is definitely connected with the month’s biggest event: the Scottish independence referendum. Scotland’s history is a rich mix, at turns filled with blood and guts on the one hand, and on the other yielding a rich and fertile profusion of cultural and intellectual outpourings. Find out how much you know about the country that nearly gave the UK a second land frontier. (We don’t count the Channel Tunnel.)

Editorial: Living without clutter

One of the things about moving country is that it can really make you focus on the important things in life.

When Dave and I moved back to the UK in July, there was no question of us taking all our belongings with us. Quite apart from anything else, we had no plans of moving out permanently from our home in the tropics. Far from it: we’re intending to head back there whenever we get the chance to escape the dreary British winter. So why should we go to the bother of taking everything with us when we’d only have to drag it all back again?

But there were other practical considerations. One of them was the sheer cost of shipping. Even with sea freight, we were told it would cost us well over £2,000 to ship a relatively modest consignment of 4.35 cubic metres. An air freight shipment of 100 kg would have set us back £1,500!

The other was the size of property we could reasonably expect to be moving into. Rents in the London area being what they are, we’d have looked a pair of right Charlies pitching up in front of an affordable UK home with the entire contents of our Asian household in tow. Especially since the landlord of the particular affordable home we’d chosen had decided to reserve use of the loft to himself. (Grr.)

So there’s something to be said for being ready and able to downsize from time to time. In our case we took the opportunity to throw out a lot of junk before moving out, made some pretty ruthless decisions on what we would be able to live without and what would be most cost-effective to buy on arrival rather than schlepping it halfway round the world, and paid for one excess bag on the plane—which was just £120 for 23 kg with BA, or just over £5 per kilo, a lot less scary than the £15 per kilo we’d been quoted by the freight company!

Now that we’re in the UK, though, we’re finding that although in some ways the house we’re in is uncomfortably small, in others it’s still too big for us—we haven’t yet got the furniture to make use of all the rooms. So we tend to spend most of our time treading on each other’s toes (literally, in Dave’s case. He’s such a klutz) in the rooms we have managed to furnish.

Our next-door neighbours have an interesting take on all this: they say that they prefer to spend their money on experiences rather than possessions. This hasn’t stopped them from making a really nice job of furnishing their own home (which is almost a mirror image of ours, give or take a knocked-through wall here and there), but I know what they mean.

There are plenty of advocates of the minimalist lifestyle. By this I don’t mean the people who claim (rather recklessly in my view) that you can fly to a warm country and set up an online business with just your passport and a laptop. Life ain’t that simple. What you can do is make as much use of the communal facilities around you as you can, enabling you to cut back on your own personal resources as far as possible.

Students become accustomed to using free facilities provided on campus. Some in the US have even gone to the extent of setting up home in a VW Kombi-Wagen rather than finding more permanent accommodation off campus. And some ex-students have been known to continue taking advantage of the free facilities for quite some time after they either graduated or dropped out. One university lecturer has developed the whole thing to the point where it’s become an environmental science and anthropological research experiment, as you’ll see below.

Perhaps the best known case of this sort of minimalist living is on the premises of Google, where several workers have taken to living out of their cars. Apparently Google’s fabled on-site amenities and other employee perks are so good that they’re able to do it quite happily—although the sleeping pods got the thumbs down as being too noisy.

Are you a slave to your creature comforts? Do you carry your world with you, right round the world? Or do you pride yourself on your ability to grit your teeth and endure Spartan conditions in the interest of mobility? Why not tell us about your preferred style of living on the 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 NOT completely different…

This part of the newsletter’s normally a complete departure from the rest of the subject matter, but this time round it’s quite closely related to the editorial. It’s a completely different way of living, though!

Dr Jeff Wilson, Environmental Science Professor and Dean at Huston-Tillotson University in Texas, has managed to set up home in a 33 sq ft (3.1 m²) dumpster, where he’s been living since February 2014. From his early beginnings with little more than a cardboard box to keep off the elements, he’s reached the point where he’s installing such mod cons as a washing machine, fridge and shower (most of it under a gazebo-like construction on what he calls the “back lawn”). And apparently he gets out and about and meets people much more these days, too. Have a look!

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!

British Expat—the definitive home for British expats

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