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British Expat Newsletter: April 2014

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.

If you’re a creative type, you’ve maybe considered selling your creations online, but been daunted by the technological hurdles, like setting up an eCommerce website and a secure shopping cart. Fortunately, you don’t need all that stuff if you use a digital goods service—just upload the files and give people the links to them, and the DGS will collect the money for you. Kay’s new report, Selling Digital Products the Simple Way, explains how.

Jamie Waddell has been keeping tabs on financial matters again this month. First, there was welcome news in the Budget (how often can you say that?!) about increased powers for HM Revenue & Customs to tackle the shady so-called “pension liberators”, the people who claim to be able to convert your company pension scheme into a QROPS for no penalty. Trouble is, there almost always is a hefty penalty—and the “QROPS” turns out not to be a QROPS at all.

Another proposed increase in HMRC’s powers may be less welcome—the news that Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne wants to shift the burden of proof in tax evasion cases involving undeclared offshore assets, and to make a new criminal offence with an unlimited financial penalty and a prison sentence.

It’s not all money, though. Expat blogger Janine Clements was interviewed recently about her experiences of relocating and raising a family in Singapore. You can read her perspectives on expat life in our Expat Interviews section.

Our Quick Quiz this time round is about barbers! You can answer our five questions as soon as you get this newsletter if you like. Or you may prefer to keep it as “something for the weekend”. Up to you!

And our latest featured Pic of the Week is an eerie scene from Kwun Tong Promenade in Kowloon, just across the water from the old Kai Tak runway.

Editorial: A little bit off the top

Here’s a question for our male readers. Do you like going to the barber’s?

It seems to be an experience that arouses wildly varying emotional responses among men. Dave endures it rather than enjoys it—he prefers going to the dentist, which at least has the merit of some kind of health benefit. Sitting in the barber’s chair while someone messes around with your head for half an eternity is little short of torture. Or so he says.

Others seem to regard it as some sort of ritualistic treat. The Saturday morning experience of newspapers and fag smoke (until they banned smoking in the workplace), the quiet snippety-snip of the scissors and the purr of the clippers, the murmured small talk… it sounds almost like some sort of religious retreat, doesn’t it?

We saw an article in one of our local papers a few months back about a couple of Dutch barbers, Leen and Bertus, who seemed very big on creating a kind of mystique about the barber shop. (They were quite definitely barbers and not hairdressers, by the way. One sported a Victorian villain-type moustache; the other wore a very full but immaculately trimmed beard.) It seems they’ve never allowed any women at all—even their own family members—into their shop in Rotterdam (apart from the ones pictured in Playboy). One woman journalist who went to interview them was turned away at the door.

Of course, you don’t get the same barber experiences everywhere you go. It seems unlikely that barber shops in strongly Catholic countries would display condoms for sale, for instance.

And in South Asia and South East Asia there often isn’t even a shop! The barber simply sets up underneath a convenient tree. Traditionally, for preference it’s almost always a banyan tree, which gives plenty of shade from the tropical or sub-tropical sun.

The other thing that seems to be the norm in Asia is the massage that accompanies the haircut. While you might expect a little bit of a scalp massage as part of having your hair washed in a hairdresser’s salon, barbers often offer to massage your scalp after your haircut even without the hairwash. Sometimes they don’t even offer, they just go ahead and do it. And the neck and shoulders too.

On the other side of the world, US barber shops are the spiritual home of the barbershop quartet. The original barbershop singers were generally black Americans who would sing together while waiting for their haircut, but the style was taken up by white minstrel singers. Since then the barbershop style has spread further afield, to Britain and Ireland as well as to Australia and New Zealand—and, for some reason, Scandinavia too. (Even women do it these days. What would Bertus and Leen say?)

So far we’ve only looked at haircuts. Having a shave is something something altogether different and, by all accounts, a little bit special. At least, it is if the barber knows his business. Dave reckons the best shave he’s ever had was at the Holiday Inn in Bangalore, and was done with a proper cut-throat razor. (The worst was in a Bangkok beauty salon, by a trainee, with a Bic. Grazes everywhere, and he still had to give himself a proper shave afterwards.)

Even so, going to a barber’s to get a shave is now a comparatively rare experience. It’s easy to shave with a safety razor, and even easier with an electric one—and much quicker and more convenient than going to a barber. So perhaps it’s not surprising that barbers’ saloons are much rarer than hairdressers’ salons these days.

If you’re a man, do you prefer the manly atmosphere of the barber’s to a metrosexual hairdressers? Or do you prefer to have your hair styled rather than trimmed? Or would you rather have it all shaved off and spare yourself the misery? And if you’re a woman, how do you feel about the sudden influx of men into hairdressing salons? Would you rather keep things separate, or is unisex OK with you? Why not let us know on the forum? We’d love to hear your tale!

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…

Do you find there are certain things about a book that really put you off it? Whether it’s a stylistic cliché, a quirk of location or one factual inaccuracy too many? Journalist Moira Redmond recently came up with her own list of pet peeves for The Guardian recently. Her list is fair enough—though we wouldn’t agree with all of them—but it sparked a torrent of comments from readers which is well worth a read itself!
Literary pet peeves: the best of the worst author blunders

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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