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British Expat Newsletter: May 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.

We’ve spent a fair part of the month travelling – and when we haven’t been travelling, we’ve been dealing with utility crises. Dave’s blogged about our latest tales of woe – an electrical problem which could have been disastrous but wasn’t, and an Internet problem which needn’t have dragged on but did.

Travel writer David Stanley has kindly provided our latest Pic of the Week, which is from Tehran – the Azadi Tower, originally built to commemorate Persian kings but now a symbol of Iranian freedom, both for the regime and for its opponents.

And the month’s Quick Quiz is all about May – people, places, popular culture that all have something to do with May/may.

Editorial: Open for business?

One of the most noticeable transitions expats have to come to terms with when they settle in their new home country is the change in working and business hours.

It’s something that happens within the UK to a lesser extent. No doubt all of us while growing up remember when most or all of the shops used to close at lunchtime on one midweek day, usually Wednesday. And for those who moved from one market town to another, it may have come as a surprise to find that “market day” was, say, Tuesday rather than Thursday.

Perhaps more inconvenient is the change in licensing hours as you move around the home countries. We once found ourselves in Oban on a wet Sunday evening, with no prospect of a drink to cheer us up until the following day. The shops were open, but the off-licences and pubs were shut – exactly the reverse of the situation in England.

All the same, working hours were and are generally pretty similar across the UK – starting at about eight or nine in the morning and carrying on until about five in the evening. It can be quite a shock to the system to move elsewhere and adjust to a new routine.

North Europeans generally start their day quite a bit earlier than we slug-a-bed Britons. It’s nothing particularly unusual in Germany, for instance, for businesses to start work between seven and half-past and to finish at four in the afternoon. The school day typically starts at eight o’clock or even earlier, and finishes by lunchtime – something that increases German society’s pressure on mothers to stay at home and look after the kids.

On the other hand, anyone who’s been on a shopping holiday to Bangkok may have been flummoxed to find that the shops don’t open until ten in the morning. In tourist resorts like Pattaya, it can be even later – we know of someone who went to a local shoe shop after the usual local opening hour of eleven o’clock(!), only to find it still closed. But they do stay open correspondingly later too.

The siesta can be a frustrating institution for those not used to it. On our visit to Gozo in 2010 it was a revelation to find that the two corner shops just up the road from where we were staying remained resolutely shut between three and six in the afternoon, reopening for just an hour or so in the evening – though the main supermarket in Victoria was open from eight to eight every day.

From the sound of it, the siesta seems to create a situation very much like the “split shifts” that are the bane of restaurant workers everywhere. You have to go to work twice a day, and there’s not enough time in between to do anything very worthwhile. Perhaps the French solution of a lunch break of two hours (or more) is the answer.

Tropical hours seem to be popular where that’s an option. OK, you have to start work early – some variants make the starting time as early as four in the morning! – and work through without a formal meal break. But after that, the rest of the day is yours, although you may not be tempted to do very much in the blazing afternoon heat. Dave worked from 0730 to 1430 in Bangladesh and thought it was great.

Still, not a patch on self-employment and working at the times that suit you.

How easy did you find it to make the adjustment to your host country’s pattern of business hours? Why not tell us on our discussion forum?

WWWordsmith: Forging a living from online writing

Writing is a great portable career, especially in these days of global connections – whether you’re doing paid writing for someone else, or self-publishing on websites or through eBooks. BE editor Kay McMahon and freelance writer Theo Koukouvitis have plenty of experience of both. So if you’ve ever considered writing for a living, or even for a bit of side income, here’s a great guide on how to get started. After all, we’ve all got at least one book in us, haven’t we?
ErgoGuides: WWWordsmith

Cancer Research UK

Many thanks to all who supported Dave’s old University pal Anthony Mason in the Bupa Great Manchester Run last Sunday – the team raised over £7,300 for Cancer Research UK, smashing their £5,000 target! If you missed our earlier appeal, there’s still time to donate via JustGiving.
JustGiving: Anthony Mason

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…

If you’ve ever watched Dragons’ Den, you’ll know that the Dragons are very big on giving new products a reality check – do they solve a real problem in a sensible way? Here’s a site full of granted US patents whose inventors clearly didn’t bother with that pettifogging step. We particularly liked the Butt Cleavage Pants.
TotallyAbsurd.com

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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