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British Expat Newsletter: October 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.

Earlier this year Graeme, one of our stalwart BE Forum Site Admins, went on holiday to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico—and found that while the resort hotel was relaxing, life was rather more fraught once he got beyond the perimeter fence. You can read about his experiences in our Mexico pages.

Settling in abroad is something of an art, but with experience it becomes a little bit more of a science. Jamie Waddell has gathered together 10 top tips from expats around the world to help you find your feet more quickly in your new home.

The first day at school is a big day for kids everywhere—and many countries have special traditions to make it an even more memorable experience for them. WhichOffshore have put together a cute animation showing some of them, narrated by schoolchildren.

Our latest Pic of the Week, taken by NaxxarNick, is of the Ġurdan lighthouse in north-western Gozo, the smaller of the two main Maltese islands and home to many of our members.

And our Quick Quiz this time round is about tunnels—there’s more to them than meets the eye!

Editorial: The value of time

How valuable is your time—to you and to others?

It’s no secret that different cultures around the world vary in their attitudes towards timekeeping and punctuality.

In North America, much of Northern Europe and Japan, appointments are made with the full expectation that they’ll be kept to the minute, or pretty damn close to it. Those who perennially turn up after the scheduled beginning of meetings, or who arrive late for appointments, tend to attract a reputation for being disorganised and scatty (to charitably disposed minds), or arrogant (to the less charitable). Either way, their career and social life may start to suffer.

Things elsewhere tend to be a little more easy-going. In part, this may be dictated by local circumstances. If you’ve ever tried to fight your way across a megacity in an emerging economy, like Bangkok or São Paulo, you’ll be well aware of the difficulty that trying to arrive on time for an appointment can present. The same journey might take 15 minutes or two hours, depending on time of day, day of the week and whichever bigwigs decide to take their motorcades across town, to say nothing of accidents and weather conditions.

Allow two hours for your journey, and you run the risk of having to kill silly amounts of time while you wait. Allow 15 minutes, and you may well end up killing the same silly amount of time in a traffic jam and missing your appointment into the bargain. With the amount of lost productivity involved, it’s no wonder that traffic management is such a high priority for so many city governments.

But sometimes it’s more of an attitudinal thing.

The Spanish word mañana (tomorrow) is famous as shorthand for procrastination. (Possibly almost as famous is the widespread joke, used of several languages worldwide, that [word] is very similar to mañana, but without the same sense of urgency.)

It seems to be pretty widespread among tradesmen, who’ll tell you that they’ll do something ‘next Tuesday’ but then don’t turn up. But it may be hard to pin down exactly why they haven’t turned up—whether it genuinely is because a part hasn’t been delivered from the big city (or abroad), or because something’s gone wrong and they don’t want to lose face by admitting they don’t know how to solve the problem, or because someone’s offered them money up-front to start work on another project…Grr.

In social matters there are different forces at play. For instance, it can be quite a shock to the system when first invited to a buffet dinner at a home in the South Asian sub-continent.

Say the dinner invitation’s for eight o’clock in the evening. You certainly won’t turn up early for a social function, in case your hosts are having a last-minute panic over the preparations—unless you’re actually hoping to add to their bother and confusion, of course. It’s possibly even more rude than turning up grossly late.

But if you turn up at, say, five or ten past eight you’re likely to spend at least the first half-an-hour in a more or less empty room—no-one else will have arrived so early. Things generally won’t start happening until at least nine.

By ten or so, everyone will probably have arrived. You may get to eat by about quarter-past ten. But don’t bank on coffee and after-dinner mints, because everyone else will be saying their goodbyes as soon as they’ve finished eating.

The reverse is also true. If you invite an Indian or Bangladeshi to your house at eight o’clock for a sit-down dinner at half-past, you may be startled to find him or her arrive at nine and leave as soon as the meal’s over, rather than moving into the living room for a coffee in the comfy chairs.

But that’s just a matter of convention, and you get used to the different way of doing things—and make allowances for those who aren’t yet used to them. On the other hand, when people repeatedly go against conventions that you know they must be familiar with, it’s then that it starts to grate and you get the sense that they feel their time’s more valuable than yours. (Also guilty of this are forum users who don’t bother to read the rules first and assume that moderators can clear up their mess afterwards.) No-one likes being taken for granted.

How do you deal with people who don’t keep appointments or keep you waiting around? Do you just shrug it off? Do you seethe quietly? Do you explain to them politely that they’ve missed their chance and will have to arrange another time?
Or do you have some more inventive tactic for dealing with them? If so, why not share it on our discussion 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 completely different…

US martial artist and actor Chuck Norris has built up something of a reputation on the Web for having superhuman powers of toughness, resourcefulness and all-round superiority. (No wonder there’s been speculation that he’s actually our Malta Forum Site Admin GozoMark in disguise.) Here’s a website with some of the more outrageous claims that have been made on his behalf.
Chuck Norris Facts

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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