British Expat Newsletter: March 2012

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In this issue

This month

On a recent visit to Bangkok we paid a visit to one of our favourite watering holes in its shiny new premises – the Pickled Liver, now in Sukhumvit’s Soi 7/1. You can find a review of it in our Thailand pages.

We also took the chance to interview the Pickled Liver’s owner, Nick Wetzel from Sheffield, and find out more about his interesting story. Nick also passed on some sound advice for anyone thinking of opening a bar in Thailand – it’s not as easy as it looks!

About a quarter of the way around the world to the west, our series about the trials and tribulations of moving to Malta has had an update. Talmaone (who also posts on our Malta forum under the username Malkity) has been on the islands for over a year now, and has written in with some reflections on her first twelve months there. Mostly good news, we’re pleased to see.

In our latest Quick Quiz we’ve got five books in search of an author – can you supply the names for us? Have a go!

And we’ve a new Pic of the Week, featuring a colourful flamenco dancer strutting her stuff under the spotlight.

Editorial: All in the jeans

How many of you have never owned a pair of jeans, I wonder? Not many, I expect.

The story of jeans is fairly well known. They were the creation of a German Jewish immigrant to the US, Loeb (later Levi) Strauss, who joined the “Forty-Nine” Californian gold rush in the early 1850s. He designed and made “waist overalls” – as opposed to “bib overalls”, or dungarees – out of a tough-wearing yet flexible blue serge perfected by the weavers of Nimes in France (hence the name “de Nimes”, or denim) and sold them to the prospecters, thereby making more money than most of his customers ever did. The insertion of copper rivets at key weak points in the design (the brainchild of one Jacob Davis, who shared his idea with Strauss in order to obtain a patent) reinforced them and made them even more long-lasting.

Culturally, jeans remained the preserve of workers for about a century. Indeed, Levi Strauss & Co. continued to refer to them as waist overalls until 1960. They were popularised as a symbol of teen rebellion after being worn by James Dean in his last film, Rebel Without a Cause. Since then, of course, they’ve become more widely acceptable as casual wear.

They also became part of the “Coca-Colaisation” of culture, as young people all over the world looked to the US as the centre of what was cool. This even extended to the USSR, ideological arch-enemy of the American Way during the Cold War, where jeans could be valuable barter goods for visiting Westerners. The US won that particular cultural battle outright by the end of the 1970s, when first Hungary and then other Soviet bloc countries sought Levi Strauss’s and other companies’ expertise in producing jeans for their own domestic market. The East Germans had already tried making their own without outside help, but found few willing buyers either at home or among their socialist neighbours.

This bit of jeans snobbery is familiar enough in the West too. Not so long ago it was a common complaint among parents that their children were insisting that they had to have a particular brand of trainer if they weren’t to be the laughing stock of their classmates. Go back to the Seventies or Eighties, and the same phenomenon could be observed with jeans (if not at schools which retained uniforms, which is one thing to be said in favour of them).

Even today, some people get defensive if they’re caught wearing a brand of jeans other than Levi’s. Lee and Wrangler just don’t cut it. As for Lee Cooper, don’t even go there.

The flip side of this brand awareness is that because they’re so widely accepted as part of international culture – dominated by the West and particular the US as it currently is – they’re not at all acceptable to those who reject alien values.

Twenty-odd years ago when I was working with Afghan refugees, there was one young lad who was very proud of his jeans. Then suddenly he stopped wearing them. When I asked him why, it turned out that his friends had warned him that his jeans were attracting unfavourable attention from the Afghan community’s leaders. Rather than risk unspecified but unpleasant consequences, he put his jeans away and returned to tribal dress.

How about you? Do you follow the strictures of the fashion police or conservative conventions? Do you tread a middle path? Or do you plough your own independent furrow? Why not let us know on our discussion forum?

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British Expat Amazon Shopping

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BE Amazon Shop: UK & EU | BE Amazon Shop: non-EU

And now for something completely different…

There’s lots of interesting stuff on the BusinessBalls website. We particularly liked this guide to money slang terms and their origins – see how many you recognise!
BusinessBalls: Money slang terms and their origins

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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