British Expat Newsletter: June 2011

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In this issue

This month

Last month we apologised for a lack of content, and blamed it on the fact that we were spending a lot of time on the move. Well, we still seem to be spending a lot of time moving around – but at least we’re getting some new content ideas too.

We spent the first few days of the month in Siem Reap, in Cambodia, where we were privileged to be able to visit two excellent community projects run with the support of one of the city’s most prestigious hotels, the Hôtel de la Paix. It was really good to see a successful business putting something into the community, and we’ve written about it for the site.

We also got rained on quite heavily in Siem Reap’s Pub Street! Dave grabbed the opportunity to use his “new” camera (Kay’s old one). Kay deemed it good enough to be a Pic of the Week, showing that you don’t necessarily need cutting-edge technology to take an interesting photograph.

And we’ve added another Quick Quiz – on India this time.

Editorial: If you want something done properly…

How do you feel about DIY?

For four interminably long years in the late Nineties and early Noughties we were forced to live in the UK. Since we’d only just bought the house we lived in at that time, it won’t come as any surprise to you that we soon set up in a second home – B&Q. We seemed to spend almost as much time there as we did at home.

This, of course, was in the days before the massive EU expansion in 2004, so cheap Polish plumbers didn’t exist. Or rather they did, they just weren’t allowed to work in the UK at that time. The same applied to decorators, joiners, electricians – any trade you care to think of, in fact.

Having blown most of our savings on a house, and being confronted with the realities of a smaller salary and higher outgoings – so nice to come “home”, isn’t it? – by default we did most of our DIY ourselves.

(We actually made more work for ourselves than we strictly needed to. The previous owner had fairly recently installed a fitted kitchen, including an infra-red hob and a fan-assisted electric oven. We ripped it all out – it was unbearably twee and designed for people who didn’t cook.)

Then in 2001 we moved overseas again. Our accommodation was employer-provided and maintained, so it seemed reasonable to suppose that we wouldn’t need any tools ourselves, right?

Wrong. When we first arrived we were put into a transit flat on the compound – an ageing property due for renovation. Only a few days after moving in we had to ask for some trivial repair to be made. To our amazement, the guy who turned up – one of a crew of workmen employed full-time to maintain the estate – asked if he could borrow a screwdriver as he didn’t have one himself!

A few years further down the track, and we’re now in South East Asia, in our own place. Technically, you need a work permit here to do anything that requires physical effort. (I wonder if anyone’s told the tourists it’s illegal for them to breathe, eat and drink?)

In practice, of course, things are a bit more flexible than that. But even so, it’s still very tempting to sit back, relax, and let a local tradesman (or indeed tradeswoman – we’ve seen a few) do all those little niggling jobs around the house. After all, the cost of labour is trifling, and they’ve got the tools, so why not?

…Erm, because they don’t always understand exactly what it is that you want. Our current house was an empty shell when we bought it, so we had dreams of a perfect home. It didn’t quite work out that way.

One odd-job guy brought a young lad along to help him put our new door handles on. But they didn’t seem to understand very well what they were doing, even with diagrams to help them. The best bit was where the young lad went behind the storeroom door to test the handle before it was properly attached, and pulled the door shut despite our warnings – upon which the handle and the spindle came off in his hand, trapping him inside! (Luckily we had another identical handle and spindle and were able to release him before too long.)

Rather worryingly, electrical installations seem to be a bit of a blind spot. Someone’s told us (too late, as it happens) that the measure of a good electrician round here is someone who doesn’t look bewildered when you ask them to install stair lights with switches at top and bottom. We have switches at the top and bottom of our stairs; they used to turn the bathroom hot water heater on and off, until the current got too much for them and they melted. To turn on our stair light, we have to go up the stairs (in the dark) to the bedroom – rather defeating the object of having a stair light at all.

Earthing is a concept that seems to have passed the local electricians by too. Most houses here only have two-pin sockets – because most households only have appliances (televisions, lighting etc) that are double-insulated. We, having several appliances that needed earthing, naturally wanted three-pin earthed sockets throughout. After several years of us getting electric jolts off things like the cooker and the stainless steel utility sink, Dave finally turned off the mains and opened up the consumer unit to find that, yes, the earth wires were connected to the earth block, but the block itself wasn’t earthed…

So we’re still finding some use for the DIY skills we acquired back in the UK. Perfect home? Dream on.

Have you been forced to put on your overalls and dig out your tools? We’d love to hear from you, so please post on our forum discussion.

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In addition to the gorgeous guest accommodation, there is also a spa and a business conference centre. Visit the Tanjung Rhu website today to find out more about this amazing retreat.
Visit the Tanjung Rhu Resort’s website

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.

We’ve started doing some 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

Bizarre searches

We’re not quite sure why, but the bizarre searches have been drying up over the months. Maybe there are fewer bizarre people around these days, or maybe the bizarre search terms have been pushed out by more sensible ones. Who knows?

Either way, we’re putting the bizarre searches into abeyance for now. So we need to fill this spot somehow. Should we resurrect the joke and quotation, perhaps? Or see if we can find another odd “Helpful hints” book like the one we found in our early days in Delhi?

If you’ve got any thoughts on what you’d like to see in this spot, why not let us know?

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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