British Expat Newsletter:
30 March 2005

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Living off the beaten track
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Joke and quotation

This week

Last week’s newsletter was about living in tourist resorts. This week I’m going to talk about living far off the beaten tourist track.

Many BE readers live in unusual places. A quick glance at our webstats shows that the site has been visited from 197 countries. The only European country left unrepresented on our stats is the Vatican. (If any of you have the ear of a Cardinal, perhaps you could have a word…?)

Some countries, particularly Spain, seem to have large expat communities. It’s as if people want to re-create Britain – complete with fish ‘n’ chip shops, sports bars showing Premiership football, ready access to the UK press and TV (more about this later) but with warmer weather. But that’s not the only way of doing Spain. Most of you will already have read Graeme Porte’s wonderfully funny series about his experiences of teaching English – and struggling to make sense of his Spanish neighbours – in Granada. If you haven’t, you’re missing out! Likewise, although many Brits have spent time in Germany with the Services – whether in them or as dependents – you get a different picture of the country if you go to live there independently and can’t just do all your shopping in the NAAFI.

Without all the support systems, it can be a far harder and lonelier existence at first, and some people are tempted to give up early on. As we saw last week, language is a big barrier to integration. Unsurprisingly, emigrants to English-speaking countries seem far more able to merge into the broader population without feeling the need to congregate in some kind of expat community. Many of the people seeking advice on our In-Country Experts forum are based in Canada, or are in the process of moving there. They’re largely moving to find a better quality of living, though (and I find this hard to grasp) the climate is also an attraction for many. They quickly become proud of their new home. Australia doesn’t appear to have expat communities either. When a would-be immigrant asked about potential demand for setting up a British-style restaurant in Sydney, there was thought to be very little demand for it.

It’s harder when you’re off the beaten track and don’t share a common language. Perhaps that’s the reason why familiar food items become so coveted. Things like Marmite, Cheddar cheese and HP Sauce take on an almost totemic importance. Dave reckons that while in Germany he became almost obsessive about the Germans’ inability to make decent tea (I don’t know why, though – he always spoils his by putting milk and sugar in it). And while I was working in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province in the late 1980s, I was eternally grateful to the American Club there as the only source in a 120-mile radius for bacon sarnies.

But people who try to maintain the home comforts in that way are certainly missing out on a whole range of new experiences and the chance to enjoy some unsuspected delights. Let’s face it, much of the food available in the UK is pre-packaged, processed stuff prepared with very little love and care. Having French farmers’ markets available (as some lucky people in the south-east of England have) would certainly reduce my desire for British supermarkets. I’ve only been to France a couple of times on holiday, but it seems to me that the quality of food is so much higher there. (Of course, the French have some great supermarkets too. We’ve got one just down the road from us here. It beats the local Tesco on most counts.)

Apart from food, what is it that people miss most? British TV, I think, judging by the number of questions we get about satellite TV. We used to be avid followers of Coronation Street, but haven’t seen an episode since we left the UK nearly four years ago. Summary updates on the Internet aren’t really a substitute, and getting friends to tape stuff and send it to you is a pricey business. Still, at least for those of you in Europe it remains an option – and there are people like our pal Martin Pickering of Satcure who can help you get your fix.
Satellite TV in Europe

All in all, though, people who throw themselves wholeheartedly into the culture of their host country seem to get a lot out of the experience. After all, there are few more pitiful sights than the kind of people who spend all their time overseas huddled in their homes or their local expat dive, refusing to eat that local muck or take in any of the local culture, only to return to the UK and bore everyone stiff with stories of “When I was in Rangoon…”

Virtual Snacks

Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan is not exactly a tourist destination. But even if you were planning to fly there on holiday, you can rule out Erbil Airways for starters! Read about one man’s quest to become airborne using tea-chests and a bus steering wheel…
Erbil Airways

I just found out that Dave Allen died a couple of weeks back (OK, so I must’ve been living on a different planet). Some of you may think I’m stretching the point too much to include his obituary here just because he too was an expat. Tough.
Guardian: Dave Allen’s obituary

You think Dave Allen was funny? Here’s an interesting article about analysing a country according to its humour. Flatrock is an interesting Kiwi site – if you’re planning to move there, they’ve got a useful immigration section too.
Flatrock: You Think That’s Funny

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • charlie dimmock mother (6)
  • you and me baby ain t nothing but mammals (5)
  • lingerie magazine (5)
  • half bus half train half tube built for advertisement london (3)
  • life gets tedious don it (3)
  • grow potatoes in a dustbin (3)
  • man in bed (3)
  • buy loch ness water (3)

(Sorry, a slightly reduced selection this week. Sadly we only get to see the top 1,000 search terms, so towards the end of the month there are about 11,000 – the rarer ones, which are probably the more interesting ones – that we don’t see.)

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

British Expat Magazine


Anti-Matters of the Heart

“I hope I stand for antibigotry, anti-Semitism, antiracism. This is what drives me.”
George H. W. Bush (1924-), in 1988

“Unfairly but truthfully, our party has been tagged as being against things. Anti-immigrant, for example. And we’re not a party of anti-immigrants. Quite the opposite. We’re a party that welcomes people.”
George W. Bush (1946-), in July 2000


A Willing Ambassador

A secretary for a foreign embassy was entertaining a wealthy foreign ambassador during lunch at a very expensive restaurant in the West End of London.

The ambassador was so enthralled by the beauty and presence of this secretary that he asked her to marry him. The secretary was startled, but remembered that her boss had told her never to insult foreign dignitaries, so she decided to let him down gently.

“I’ll only marry you under three conditions,” she smiled.

“Anything, anything!” said the ambassador.

“First, you must buy me a 18-karat gold engagement ring with a 72-carat diamond, along with a 28-inch studded matching necklace.”

Without hesitation, the ambassador picked up his mobile phone, called his personal assistant, told him the instructions, and said, “Yes, yes, I buy, I buy!”

The secretary realised that her first condition had been too easy, so she thought of a more ambitious demand.

“Second, I want you to build me a mansion in 50 acres of land in the richest part of the Thames Valley, along with a 40-acre summer home in the sweetest vineyards of Tuscany.”

The ambassador picked up his phone, called his personal broker in New York, then called another broker in France, and after his quick conversation, he said, “Yes, yes, I build, I build!”

The secretary was very startled, and knew she must think of a final request that would be impossible to live up to.

“Finally,” she said. “I’ll only marry you if you have a 10-inch penis.”

Sadness fell across the ambassador’s face, and he cupped his head in his hands. After weeping in his native language for a few minutes, the ambassador slowly lifted his head and said, “Ok, ok, I cut, I cut!”

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