News, humour and information for Brits worldwide!

British Expat Newsletter: May 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.

The World Cup’s nearly upon us (less than a fortnight to go, as this newsletter goes out) and football lovers everywhere will be eagerly gearing up for a month spent in front of the telly, while football haters will be desperately trying to find some way of getting away from it all. But one journalist fears that an unlikely England win could result in the break-up of the United Kingdom. Is he right, we wonder?

For many expats, the move overseas was only ever intended to be temporary—which means that at some stage it’s time to return to the UK. No matter how carefully you plan the logistics, it’s bound to be a stressful time, and all the more so if you’re moving as a family. Removal Services Scotland have produced a great guide to help ease the transition where kids are involved.

On the other hand, some expats are forced to return home unexpectedly by a change in their circumstances. Whatever the reason, having to leave behind the expat lifestyle can be traumatic. It’s even more painful if you’ve failed to make any kind of contingency plan. Kay explores the surprising cost of repatriation.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, whatever the British press may be saying about expats feeling the pinch. Jamie Waddell interviews a British expat and author happily based in Andalusia who’s bemused by reports of Brits fleeing Spain.

If you do happen to be in the process of packing up and returning to the UK, then you’ve probably already started learning the language—Estatoranto. How do property listings manage to take such basic information and garble it beyond all recognition?

Our latest featured Pic of the Week is of the Parish Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Sliema in Malta, one of several popular destinations for British expats on the Maltese islands.

And our Quick Quiz this time round is about some of the weirder printer’s terms and symbols you might see from time to time. Any idea what this ¶ is called?

Editorial: Getting the message across

Written communication sometimes seems to be dying a slow death.

No doubt this is a sentiment echoed down the centuries by each generation in turn, as its successor generation (or the one below). The cave-dwellers who painted the walls in Altamira probably had a gaggle of older cave-dwellers staring disapprovingly over their shoulders, tut-tutting at the careless scribbles that seemed to pass for a proper bison those days.

All the same, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that as the pace of technological change increases, communication’s evolving in lock-step with it. Many youngsters have moved on from txt spk and now communicate with images rather than words. It’s been commonplace for quite some time to see responses to text and chat messages that consist just of an emoticon (or ‘smiley’), and the practice is creeping on to forums too.

Obviously it depends to some extent on what you’re trying to communicate. Immediate and fleeting emotional responses to a text message don’t require a Proustian multi-volume epic novel or a Shakespeare sonnet to convey them adequately. On the other hand, don’t expect your washing-machine manual to be image-only any time soon.

(There again, IKEA’s assembly instructions seem to manage perfectly well to get their message across without words. For all the jokes about rickety assembly, it’s good solid stuff in our experience.)

The problem is, with so much information around it’s hard for people to cope with it all in the time available. So the authors of messages face the challenge of trying to convey as much of their meaning as possible in as short a time as they can.

This isn’t a new challenge, of course, and efforts to compress information have been going on for centuries—arguably since the Chinese evolved their system of characters. More recently, in 1922 the Reader’s Digest started its monthly summary of articles from other monthly magazines and condensed versions of books, both fiction and non-fiction. It proved hugely popular, even if better educated people may look down their noses at it. (Dave once received a copy of a UK heavyweight tabloid’s weekly digest edition. His boss had written the acerbic comment on it: ‘Designed for people with short attention spans.’)

Inevitably, the drive to produce more rapidly digestible content has been accompanied by a shift to more picture-based information. Take road signs, for instance. Our older readers may remember the British black-and-white road signs used prior to the 1960s, usually topped with a red disc or triangle and generally with warnings or instructions in words. The modern signs are much more rapidly assimilated. A picture may not paint a thousand words, but a pictogram can certainly do the trick for half-a-dozen.

It’s happening on the Web too, of course. Remember the early websites of 15 years ago or more? There wasn’t a great deal in the way of eye-candy on them—they were almost without exception heavily text-based. They had to be, in the days when a connection speed of 56 kbps was the maximum for most of us. Now that broadband is the norm and many of us are looking at superfast or even ultrafast broadband, sites that don’t have at least a few decent pictures to break up the text seem dry and dusty.

So while content is still king on the web, it seems it’s the digital artist, not the writer, who now wears the crown.

Are you an avid reader? Or do you like your information provided in graphics or via photo-reportage? 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…

We Brits may think we’re fond of chips, but you have to go across the North Sea to find a museum dedicated to them! The Frietmuseum in Bruges is dedicated to the history, culture and cuisine surrounding the doughty chipped potato. There’s even a gallery of chip-related paintings!
Frietmuseum Brugge

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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