Just about every country I know of has an English language newspaper or two.
Some of these are English versions of the local heavyweight nationals. Sometimes the translations are not quite what they should be, but generally they’re fairly traditional and readable.
They do give a fascinating triangulation when compared to your ‘regular’ normal English language paper. So if you’re a life-long reader of the “Daily Broadside” and still get it once overseas, it’s worth also getting an English language version of your local papers to see how different the coverage is.
The “Broadside” may not talk much about your local issues such as the council elections in Rotterdam or the Feta cheese industry, but comparing the two papers on international stories can sometimes offer an incredible insight into how countries see things so differently. It’s not unusual to read coverage of the same international incident and struggle to actually recognise it as the same event based on the views expressed in the two different papers! You can sometimes find your perspectives and views are challenged in terms of what you think you knew.
Still, I digress because here I’m more interested in highlighting the other type of English language newspapers – those aimed at the expat.
There’s not much nicer than sitting down at a café and browsing through these. At first glance they can appear trivial or even soporific due to some less than eye-catching headlines such as the exciting front-page ‘New Form J454-LF-27 now available’ I saw recently (OK, I forget the exact number of the form but I’m sure you get the drift). Hardly the sort of lead guaranteed to get queues forming in the newsagents.
They can equally sometimes be unintentionally hilarious such as one I saw a while back with the headline “Cows Lead Parade” which, yes you’re ahead of me I suspect on this one, was accompanied by a photo of four matronly women carrying a banner – the cows referred to of course were some prize beasts that had led a local agricultural parade.
The point is though not to mock these publications because for the most part they are very well written and put together. They are often worth their weight in gold and can be a mine of useful local information. Why is this?
Many local language ‘local papers’ can be VERY parochial and not massively informative. They are inevitably full of photos of the local handball team, in-depth sentence-by-sentence coverage of the local council debate as to whether the town hall gates should be painted green or black and long lists of diary events such as the dates for the chess club meetings over the following 6 months.
All those things interest local people, but what these papers often lack are usually the ‘key tips’, explanations and information that expat residents desperately need. The locals may not need to find a local plumber in the paper because they know, as their parents knew, that it is Mr XYZ a couple of kilometres away and he covers all plumbing in this area. Why does he need to advertise given we already know who and where he is?
This is where English language ‘local’ expat papers come into their own – and many are also linked to expat websites.
As they’re often run by expats and targeted at expats, they don’t make the mistake of assuming that the reader already knows how things work. They have numerous useful articles and advertisements about where to find people or services and how things work locally.
It’s not unusual to find very important information in them relating to business and life in general – information you may well have otherwise missed because it happened to only be displayed in the 3rd office on the first floor of your local town hall instead of the normal 4th office on the second floor.
The range of associations and commercial items in them can also be staggering and it is not just the local expat community who use it. Many local enterprises are also waking up to the fact that there are a lot of foreigners living locally who may not know their company exists and they are quickly learning that the slightly more dynamic nature of these local English language papers can yield them results – so they’re advertising away and making offers also.
So, the next time you see one of these papers, try spending a few coins and buy it. Don’t be put off by the sometimes bizarre headlines – give it a read. You may be pleasantly surprised.