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British Expat Newsletter: January 2014

Hello, welcome to those of you who have recently signed up, and a Happy New Year! In line with BE tradition, we’ve skipped the end of December newsletter to avoid cluttering your inboxes with yet more end-of-year stuff.

In this issue

This month

Here’s our news about the latest additions to the BE website.

As the more alert among you (or the more frequent visitors) will have spotted, we’ve given the site a bit of a facelift – after all, it’s over three years since the last one! We hope you like the new look. If there’s anything that looks weird or doesn’t work, please let us know – we’ll fix it as soon as we can. Thanks!

What else have we been up to? Well, we’ve got another new book out! You’ll probably be aware that some big football-related event or other is happening in Brazil in June and July. Dave reckons there’s more to Brazil than just football, the Amazon, samba and coffee, and has written a new book: The Facts Lab Book of Brazil, packed with 101 amazing facts about Brazil and the Brazilians. And yes, you will find football in there – but a lot of other stuff you may not have known too. Have a look!

If you’d like to get the flavour of The Facts Lab Book of Brazil, why not try this month’s Quick Quiz? We’ve devised five questions about Brazil, based on some of the facts included in the book. See how many you can get right!

Our Kiva Lending Team celebrated its fifth anniversary this month. Between us we’ve made 175 loans across 38 countries, with a total value of $6,625. If you’d like to find out more about micro-credit, and join our Kiva team, you can find out more in our post about it in the Editors’ Blog.

While there are hardy perennial popular expat destinations, there are also flavours of the month, er, year. Jamie Waddell argues that 2014 has its own particular favourites – find out his three picks.

And our latest Pic of the Week is by perennial British Expat contributor David Stanley. This time we’re featuring a slightly unusual sunset view of Paris – the Grande Arche at La Défense.

Editorial: Flying the flag

In our last newsletter we wrote about the debate over Scottish independence. Public opinion elsewhere in the UK has been largely apathetic, but there’s one issue that has ignited the passions of at least a few British nationalists: flags.

For the Scots, it’s easy enough on the face of things – they’ll fly the Saltire. (It’ll be interesting to see what the Queen does, assuming that Scotland keeps the monarchy as the SNP currently plan – whether she’ll keep the current Scottish version of the Royal Arms, or revert to the Red Beastie by itself.)

But what about the continuing (or “remaining”, or even “rump”) UK? The Union Flag is an iconic design – one that was described in Dave’s The Observer’s Book of Flags (1975 edition) as “at once original, harmonious and striking”. Remove the Scottish components – the white half-saltire and the blue field – and it looks a bit bare: two red crosses on a white field.

The Union flag “works” largely because it follows heraldic rules of “tincture” (a fancy word for colour). Under those rules, the colours yellow and white aren’t considered to be colours, but metals – gold (“or”) and silver (“argent”) respectively. And there are only five “colours”: red (“gules”), blue (“azure”), green (“vert”), black (“sable”) and purple (“purpure”).

A colour mustn’t be placed on top of another colour, nor a metal on a metal; there has to be an edging (fimbriation) of a metal between colours, as you can see around the Crosses of St George and St Patrick on the Union flag. The Pope’s use of silver and gold for the Vatican are an exception, perhaps allowed because of his holiness. (Or indeed His Holiness.)

Anyway, back to the discussion of what the new flag for the new, diminished UK should be. The BBC invited people to submit their own ideas.

Quite a few suggested that the flag be altered in some way to reflect Wales’s presence in the Union – something that was omitted back in 1536 when Henry VIII ordered that Wales should simply be incorporated into England. Two common suggestions were that the departing blue of Scotland should be replaced with the green from the Welsh flag, or that a dragon should be superimposed on the middle of the flag.

Britain’s racial diversity was another common theme. If you’ve got a long memory, you may remember that we mentioned the reFLAG “Union Black” campaign in a newsletter over ten years ago, which suggested adding black edging to the St  George’s Cross and replacing a large chunk of the St Andrew’s Cross with black too. Similar ideas came to the fore in the responses to the BBC’s invitation.

Most of the rest were tongue-in-cheek variations on the theme of bits of the UK breaking away from England, the pound sinking beneath the waves and so on.

All just a bit of fun, of course. But people can get very touchy about flags – after all, they’re potent symbols of national identity.

That’s why there are often elaborate rules surrounding the etiquette of flags. In international contexts, this is understandable – you wouldn’t want to cause a diplomatic rift or even a war by accidentally insulting the symbol of another country’s sovereignty.

A whole intricate game of oneupmanship has been conducted at the “truce village” of Panmunjom between the two Koreas, where each side flies its national flag on its own side of the Joint Security Area. At one stage in the initial peace negotiations between the Korean People’s Army and the United Nations Command, the table top flags representing each side grew in size to the point where they were too big to fit in the room!

It’s usual for governments to have strict rules for the use of official flags by state bodies, including armed forces. But some countries also prescribe them for the use of flags by their private citizens.

Many protect national flags against desecration, which may be a criminal offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment. A few countries ban the desecration of both their own flags and those of other nations; Denmark and Japan actually ban the desecration of foreign flags but not their own. In the US and Canada, on the other hand, flag desecration enjoys constitutional protection as freedom of expression.

Others are to prevent unintentional offence. For instance, some countries forbid the flying of flags during the hours of darkness. Many will not allow flags to touch the ground, much less allow them to be incorporated into floor designs (trampling again). On the other hand, “vailing” a flag, or ceremonially lowering it so that it is draped on the ground, is a mark of respect, eg for the Sovereign or for the dead. The Saudi flag, which bears the shahada (Muslim declaration of faith), may not be flown at half-mast as to do so would put man above god.

And of course marketing is dangerous ground – especially in cases like the Saudi flag where religious symbols are involved. Displaying national flags on match balls at the World Cup, as happened in 2002, was probably not one of the organisers’ better ideas. That’s why some countries’ flag laws ban the use of the national flag in advertising or as logos. India used to go even further – until 2001, private citizens weren’t allowed to fly the flag at all!

Do you fly the flag proudly as a British expat – and if so, are there any local rules you have to observe? Or do you not go in for all that patriotic flim-flam? why not let us know 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…

Here’s a version of “Greensleeves” played on a funky new electronic instrument called the Otamatone… by the Japanese engineers who invented it. Alas, my love, they did it wrong. Otamatone: The most irritating instrument of all time?

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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