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British Expat Newsletter: January 2011

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In this issue

This month

There’s a touch of romance in the air in this month’s newsletter, with an editorial about Valentine’s Day to go with our new Quick Quiz about the festival celebrating love and lovers.

But it’s also Chinese New Year, with celebrations that run on for fifteen days from 3-17 February, both in China and across the Chinese diaspora. Gigi Ivanna has taken a look at how they celebrate it in Malaysia.

By coincidence, Malaysia is where our latest Pic of the Week comes from; more specifically, Penang.

Editorial: Valentine’s Day

Most of you will have realised that it’s getting close to Valentine’s Day – the celebration of love held every year on 14 February, when by tradition people send an anonymous card to someone they fancy in the hope of gaining their affections.

But it wasn’t always like that. Back in the late 1600s, for instance, it wasn’t anonymous. Samuel Pepys mentions his Valentine several times in his diary – apparently a different woman friend each year, whom he gets to kiss as of right whenever they happen to meet. Meanwhile his wife has a male Valentine of her own. It seems that an equal number of male and female friends would gather together and draw lots to decide who gets paired off with whom.

Of course, these days the people with the most reasons to celebrate are the chocolatiers, florists, jewellers and greeting card sellers, for whom Valentine’s Day is big business. The same goes for restaurateurs; Valentine’s Day ranks with Mother’s Day and Christmas Day as one of the three days in the year when any half-decent restaurant can expect to be fully booked.

That’s the case in the UK, at least. But Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean the same to all people all over the world. Indeed, in some countries it’s either banned altogether or else frowned on by religious hardliners (notably Islamic conservatives) or political ones (eg Indian left-wingers).

But even where it’s celebrated, the meaning changes. In the USA, it’s celebrated in school classes, with quite young children encouraged to make and send Valentines to their fellow pupils or their favourite teacher. Many Latin Americans celebrate it as a day of friendship as well as a day for lovers. And in South Korea it’s one of a sequence of days: on 14 February women give chocolate to men, on 14 March (“White Day”) men give non-chocolate sweets to women, and on 14 April (“Black Day”) those who weren’t given anything on either of the other two days go to a Chinese restaurant and eat black noodles to mourn their continuing single existence.

Meanwhile the Chinese will be celebrating their New Year – the Year of the Rabbit – from 3-17 February.

Are there any special Valentine’s Day traditions in your part of the world? And if there are, how are they standing up against the onslaught of homogenised commercialism?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please post on our forum discussion.

Our sister site for foodies,, now has its own forum at where you can discuss everything to do with food and drink – a subject dear to many expats’ hearts. Why not join in the fun?

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.

We’ve started doing some 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

Bizarre searches

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

  • google
  • homepage
  • british men in bed
  • malta is very very ugly
  • you don t have to be mad to work here
  • swastika armbands
  • sell gold
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  • register number 03302535

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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