Shipping AbroadThe following links will give you general country information.
> Canary Islands
> New Zealand
> South Africa
General Information on Australia
Australia is an independent Western democracy with a population of more than 17.6 million. It is one of the world's most urbanised countries, with about 70% of the population living in the 10 largest cities. Most of the population is concentrated along the eastern seaboard and the southeastern corner of the continent.
Australia's climate is mainly continental and ranges from tropical to temperate. Slightly more than half of Queensland, 40% of Western Australia and 80% of the northern territory are in the tropics. The remainder of the continent including all of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, are in the temperate zone.
Australia's climate is less subject to extremes than regions of comparable size in other parts of the world because of the moderating influences of the surrounding oceans. The mainly low altitude of the land does little to obstruct the atmospheric systems which control the climate.
Clear skies and low rainfall characterise much of the country's weather pattern. Extreme minimum temperatures are above those recorded in other continents, although extreme maximum tempera-tures are comparatively high.
Climatic discomfort, particularly from heat is a significant feature over most of Australia. Prolonged high temperatures and humidity around the northern coasts are recorded during the summer. For relatively short periods during the winter, low temperatures and cold winds over the interior and southern areas can be severe.
Decimal currency was introduced into Australia on 14 February 1966 and comprises coins of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and 1 and 2 dollars, with notes of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars.
Most major Credit Cards are widely accepted.
For serious emergency calls to Ambulance, Fire and Police - Dial 000.
All states provide free education in primary and secondary schools and attendance is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15 years. However, children usually begin schools between four and five years of age, attending pre-school or kindergarten. Schools running an English curriculum are listed in the Directory of the European Council of International Schools which is available from ECIS inc., 21 B Lavant Street, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 3EL. Tel: 01730 268244.
The electricity supply is 240/250 volts AC, 50Hz. Plug fittings are 3-pin flat (Australian pattern) and lamp fittings are of the bayonet type.
There are no special health precautions needed for Australia however, increasing concern has been expressed about the high incidence of skin cancer. The medical services in Australia are good, but public hospitals are suffering from over-loading and staffing difficulties, so that waiting lists are commonplace and can be long. It is estimated that some 70% of the population are now covered by private health insurance to some extent, enabling any type of treatment to be obtained rapidly, though it is expensive.
The Australian government's health programme Medicare is a universal scheme covering every Australian for necessary medical and hospital treatment and eye testing by optometrists. It is funded by a levy on taxable income. All permanent Australian residents and migrants are eligible to enroll in Medicare but even if they do, it is subject to certain conditions. Health insurance premiums are tax deductible and expatriates are advised to take out private medical insurance to cover their outward and return journeys and for their stay in Australia, first ensuring that the insurance company is accepted by the Australian authorities such as: BUPA 'Life Scheme' Tel: 01273 323563.
The Australian television system uses PAL colour, System B, so sets manufactured in the UK are generally not suitable for use. However over the last few years some UK television manufactures have been producing televisions incorporating both systems. Please refer to the manufacturers manual.
The minimum cost of a local call is 40c. Subscriber Trunk Dialing (STD) and International Direct Dialing (100) calls can be made on public pay phones. Check the telephone directory or local operator for charges. The cost of a 5 minute call from Sydney to Melbourne in business hours is $A2.1 0 using a public telephone.
Back to top
General Information on Canada
Canada occupies the northern part of the North American continent (excluding Alaska, Greenland and St Pierre and Miquelon islands, and is the second largest country in the world. There are approximately 27 million Canadians (will rise to 30 million later this year) with a little over four fifths of the population born in Canada. Persons of a British origin comprise about 40% of the population, with those of French origin making up around 27% (living mainly in Quebec).
Canada has two official languages namely French and English; nevertheless Canada is not a bilingual country and only 15% of the population speaks both languages.
The population is mainly Roman Catholic, followed by the United Church of Canada, Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist and Jewish. Almost all religious denominations are represented in the large cities.
Edmonton is Alberta's capital and largest city, and therefore has a heavy concentration of provincial and federal agencies as well as corporate offices. The local economy is dominated largely by petroleum, manufacturing and agriculture. There is a wide variety and price range of housing to be found with rental rates relatively inexpensive compared to other cities.
Recreation and tourism have replaced energy as the city's fastest growing industry, and an increasing number of businesses are setting up shop. Calgary has more recently become Canada's version of Silicon Valley, with a number of high-tech companies, and a strong food and beverage-processing base. Booming immigration to Western Canada contributed to a wide variety of both old and new neighborhoods in Calgary and the surrounding areas. Housing is plentiful and easy to find at a reasonable rate, but furnished houses and/or apartments are rarely available. However newcomers should experience no special problems when renting.
Montreal was, until recently, Canada's most populous and cosmopolitan city. It suffered during the separatism crisis of the 1970's with many companies moving their head office to Toronto at that time. Neighborhoods tend to be divided by language but accommodation at a reasonable rate is not too difficult to find.
The federal government is the major employer here, accounting for roughly 100,000 jobs in the area, followed by high technology, life sciences and biotechnology. The housing rental market is quite good with several complexes having been developed for the constant influx of temporary residents.
The city has been a centre of French Canadian culture dating back to the 17th century and still maintains the appearance of a provincial city in France. Today, government is the largest employer in the city.
Toronto is the business centre of the country. Bay Street is Toronto's Wall Street. It is the most ethnically diverse city in the Western Hemisphere, according to the United Nations. Metropolitan Toronto covers a vast area and includes an almost endless variety of housing options. Toronto is Canada's most expensive city and accommodation at a reasonable rate is difficult to find.
The city is surrounded on three sides by water and mountains. The city is a young one -just over 100 years old. The oldest sections of Vancouver are neighborhoods like Gastown and Chinatown. Housing can be hard to find, particularly furnished units.
Driving is on the right so that left-hand drive vehicles are the norm. Drink driving is a serious offence and impromptu roadblocks to check for intoxicated drivers are common.
Canada's climate varies. The coast of British Columbia has a moderate climate with mild, damp winters. The Prairie Provinces winters are generally long and cold with bitter wind. Summers are short, hot and dry. Precipitation is light. Ontario's winters are less severe than in the north because of the moderating influence of the Great Lakes. Summers are also longer in the South, but more humid as well. Quebec's winters are colder and longer and there is more snow. Spring is brief, and summer comes in with a rush of hot, humid weather. On the east coast, the climate is moderated by the sea, so that summers are not so hot and winters not so cold as in the centre of the country.
There are no currency restrictions for entry into Canada. The unit of currency is the Canadian dollar, written $ within the country and as C$ internationally.
The dollar is divided into 100 cents (c).
Denominations available are:
Notes: $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $1000
Coins 1c, 5c, 10c, 25c, 50c, $1
Each province regulates public education at elementary and secondary levels. Curricula and teacher qualifications vary although the standard of education is considered high. Private schools are numerous.
Health and Medical Care
No vaccinations are required or recommended for entry into Canada. Medical and dental care is of the highest quality and hospitals, clinics and pharmacies can be found throughout the country.
Cats and dogs imported into Canada must have a veterinarian's certificate of good health and proof of rabies inoculation within the previous 36 months. Up to two pet birds may be imported, if accompanied by their owner and certified to have been in the owner's possession and isolated from other birds for the preceding 90 days. Pet monkeys, mammals, fish and reptiles may enter without restriction.
The current of electricity is the same as in the US i.e. 110/11 5v 60Hz AC. All US appliances can be used with no conversion. Electric and gas appliances and services are widely available.
Canada operates on the NTSC system, unlike the UK, which is on PAL. This means that UK televisions will not pick up a signal. Videotapes will not play on Canadian video players. Multi system VCR players are available but it is wise to check with the destination agent before shipping.
Back to top
General Information on Canary Islands
The Canary Islands are situated off the northwest coast of Africa and consist of seven islands, which are divided into two provinces. Las Palmas comprises the islands of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is made up of Tenerife, La Palma, Gomera and Hierro. All the islands are of volcanic origin and the climate is subtropical. The landscape is varied, and includes mountain ranges, valleys, deserts, cliffs, craters and forests.
2828 sq miles.
231.0 per sq km.
Provincial capitals are Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Sport & Activities
The warm, clear sea is excellent for underwater fishing, diving, snorkelling and swimming. Facilities for water-skiing and windsurfing are also available from beaches There are numerous tennis courts (often owned by the hotel or attached to one's apartment), golf courses and riding stables. Spectator sports include jai-alai, the stick game (a sort of fencing with long poles), Canaries wrestling and the garrocha which is especially practised on the island of La Palma.
The climate in the northern islands of the Canaries is subtropical; the south of the islands tends to be hotter and drier, although rainfall is generally low throughout the islands.
Food & Drink
The cuisine of the Canaries offers many dishes based on fish, which are usually served with wrinkled potatoes and a special sauce called mojo picón. The traditional dishes are watercress soup and the popular sancocho canario, a fish salad with a hot sauce. Locally grown bananas, tomatoes, avocados and papayas also play an important part in the Canaries' cuisine. Corn meal, wheat flour, corn or barley, previously roasted, are eaten instead of bread with certain local dishes.
Local pastries include the excellent tirijalas, bienmesabes, frangollo, bizcochos lustrados, quesadillas, rapaduras y marquesotes, meat pies and 'nougats' of corn meal and molasses. In the main resorts, restaurants offer the full range of international cuisine, as well as local delicacies. Often restaurants cater for the tastes of particular nationalities.
Full range of wines, spirits and liqueurs from throughout the world. Spanish wines and spirits are particularly good value and spirits are slightly cheaper than in the UK. Local beers are pilsner-type lagers and, on the whole, rather weak. Local wines are also produced. Other drinks originating from the islands are rum, honey-rum and Malmsey wine.
Besides the excellent duty-free shopping there are numerous local items to tempt the visitor. Craftsmanship is represented mainly by skilled open-work and embroidery. Pottery, basket-work based on palm leaves, cane and reed and delicate woodcarvings are also popular. Tobacco produced here is excellent and world-famous. Cigars from the Canary Islands are outstanding in quality.
Back to top
General Information on Cyprus
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean with an area of 9.251 sq. kilometres. It has a maximum length of 240 km from east to west and a maximum width of 100 km from north to south.
It is situated at the northeastern end of the East Mediterranean basin at a distance of 237 miles north of Egypt, 66 miles west of Syria and 47 miles south of Turkey. The Greek mainland is some 500 miles to the west. The nearest Greek islands are Rhodes and Carpathos, 238 miles to the west.
Population 722,800 (1993)
84.1% Greek Cypriots including Maronites, Armenians and Latins
12.9% Turkish Cypriots
Cyprus enjoys an intense Mediterranean climate, with long dry summers from mid-May to mid-October and with mild winters from December to February, which are separated by short autumn and spring seasons. Summer is a season of high temperatures with cloudless skies, but the sea breeze creates a pleasant atmosphere in the coastal areas. Winters are mild with some rain and snow on Troodos mountains (usually starting before Christmas). In Cyprus there is abundant sunshine, even in December and January, there is an average of six hours of bright sunshine per day. The island enjoys almost constant sunshine throughout the year.
The climate in Cyprus is considered one of the healthiest in the world.
The currency of Cyprus is the Cyprus Pound (CP) and is divided into 100 cents (c).
Denominations available are:
Notes: 50c, C£1, C£5, C£1O, C£20
Coins: 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c
The Cyprus pound is not traded internationally; its only market maker is the Central Bank of Cyprus. The Central bank quotes daily the Cyprus Pound vis-à-vis the ECU (European Currency Unit) and four other currencies (including the US dollar).
Visitors in possession of any of the following intentional credit cards may contact the appropriate bank for the withdrawal of cash.
Bank of Cyprus Ltd, Cyprus Popular Bank Ltd. Hellenic Bank, Barclays Bank, Arab Bank and Lombard Natwest
DINERS CLUB, CARTE BLANCHE
Bank of Cyprus Ltd
Bank of Cyprus Ltd, Cyprus Popular Bank Ltd, National Bank of Greece and Hellenic Bank
Bank of Cyprus Ltd, Cyprus Popular Bank Ltd, National Bank of Greece and Hellenic Bank
Cyprus Popular Bank Ltd
National Bank of Greece
More than 11,000 shops, restaurants and hotels accept at least one of these credit cards. Usually the card symbol will be displayed in the shop window or at the reception.
Greek is the main language. English is spoken everywhere. French and German are also spoken.
Medical care needs in Cyprus are met through Government General Hospitals and Private Clinics
General hospitals and private clinics are mostly concentrated in urban areas, while health centres, sub centres and dispensaries function in the rural areas, providing a network to meet the medical needs of the whole population. All general hospitals as well as some private clinics have casualty departments for emergency cases.
Almost all brands of manufactured medicines are available in Cyprus. Local newspapers list pharmacies that are open during the weekends and holidays.
Cyprus is relatively free from epidemic diseases and even the common infectious diseases are rare.
Overall responsibility for education rests with the Ministry of Education and Culture. However, a small number of vocational and post secondary professional institutes come under the Ministries of Labour and Social Insurance, Agriculture and Health.
Education is provided through pre-primary and primary schooling, the latter starts at the age of 5 years and 6 months - secondary general and secondary technical/vocational schools, special schools, third level institutions and centres.
Public schools are largely state funded while private institutions raise their income mainly from tuition fees, small state subsidies and in some cases, from foreign aid given by overseas agencies and religious organisations.
The educational system is highly centralised with the appointments, transfers, promotions and disciplinary matter of teachers controlled by the state. School curricula and textbooks are prescribed by governmental agencies and schools at all levels are visited by the state inspectorate.
The electricity in Cyprus is 240 volts; 50Hz. Plugs are usually 5 amps or 3 amp, square pin in most buildings. More than one low current appliance may be operated for the same supply point, by using an adapter. The use of adapters for operating high current rating appliances is not recommended. Adapters can be purchased from electricians, supermarkets, grocery shops, etc., at approximately C£1.50.
Back to top
General Information on Greece
Greece, the Hellenic Republic, is in southern Europe and comprises the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula together with more than one thousand islands. The country covers a total area of 132,000 square kilometres, of which the islands account for nearly one-fifth.
Climate The climate is Mediterranean. Summers are very hot, sometimes temperatures can rise to 35C in Athens. Winters are generally temperate, although it is often very cold in the northern part of the country and temperatures can fall to freezing point in the late winter months. The capital of Greece is Athens which was formerly the ancient capital of Attica.
A valid driving licence, international driving permit, and certificate of insurance are required.
The unit of currency is the Drachma (Ore).
Denominations in circulation are:
notes: Dra 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000
coins: Dra 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100.
The 50 Drachma coin is replacing the note.
Most of the major credit cards are accepted by leading hotels and stores in Athens and other major centres.
Greek is the official language which is spoken by 97% of the population. There are two forms of modern Greek: Demotiki the language commonly spoken and taught in schools and Katherevoussa the formal language.
Since most street/road signs and directions are only in Greek, it is essential for expatriates to learn at least the symbols and sounds of the Greek alphabet. Some knowledge of Greek is greatly appreciated by the local population. French, English, and German are spoken and understood by many people in the major towns and cities.
Strict punctuality is not always observed in business although foreigners are expected to arrive on time. Prior appointments are not always necessary but it is courteous to telephone in advance. Visiting cards are essential. Business discussions often take place over lunch which can last several hours. Dress tends to be informal except in the banking sectors where suits and ties are always worn.
Greeks prefer face to-face meetings rather than telephone conversation and verbal is much preferred to written communication. They like to get to know the people they deal with since trust is very important; expect to be asked personal questions about family and finance. Kyrie (Mr) or Kyria (Mrs) can be used either with the first or the second name or on its own. Second names should always be used to begin with but first names are used very quickly after an acquaintance has been made.
Greece is a Christian country and most of the people are members of the Greek Orthodox Church. The constitution recognises complete religious freedom and there are small communities of Jews, Protestants and Roman Catholics. Muslims are the largest minority group, mainly of Turkish decent, who still speak Turkish as their mother tongue. They are no longer so actively discriminated against as in the past.
Social Customs, Business Practices and Modes Of Address
The Greeks are proud but friendly people. Whilst the pace of life in central Athens is similar to that in any other major capital city, elsewhere in the country life is taken in leisurely fashion; foreign visitors are welcomed by the local population although care should be taken with the degree of undress in Greek resorts: the older generation are conservative and religious. There is little discrimination against women who are well represented in politics and business. Handshaking is the normal form of greeting - a firm handshake is preferable, although men who know each other well will embrace. Note that the finger and thumb circle gesture is obscene in Greece. Waving can be interpreted as a gesture of aggression while a backward tilt of the head indicates 'no'.
Greek hospitality is very generous and it is considered impolite, or even insulting, to refuse an invitation. If invited to a Greek home it is usual to take flowers or a cake. Expatriates are advised to avoid discussion of local politics and of Greece's relations with its neighbours, including Cyprus, the former Yugoslavian province of Macedonia and particularly Turkey.
The domestic electrical supply is 220 volts AC 50 Hz. There are no standard electrical fittings and it is common to find both bayonet and screw type lamp sockets in the same room. Wall plug sockets are either 2 or 3 pin plugs with round, flat or square prongs. Modern hotels have universal electric shaver points.
in main towns and cities tap water is quite safe to drink. In rural areas water supplies can be contaminated so it is advisable to drink only bottled water. Athens often experiences shortages during the summer.
There is a gas supply in the country although many expatriates use electricity for cooking and heating water while central heating is often oil-fired.
Accommodation consists of flats, bungalows and villas. Their availability and costs depend upon location. The majority of accommodation is let unfurnished. Large furnished flats can cost double compared to the unfurnished equivalent. The smaller the flat, the smaller the differential between furnished and unfurnished. Most properties may be expected to be fully carpeted and curtained and have fully equipped kitchens. The quality of housing is variable. Rental agreements are usually for one or two years with the option to renew. Generally, landlords prefer company lets. Normally a month's deposit is expected for unfurnished and three months for furnished will be required. Rents are officially government controlled, but rent increases are usually more than the rate stated due to demand being greater than supply.
The government recently passed legislation that levies a 6% tax on rentals. This charge is usually split 50-50 between landlord and tenant.
Where the employer does not provide accommodation, expatriates are advised to find a local person who speaks your language to help you with the negotiations.
The local education system is unsuitable for the children of expatriates because of overcrowding and a lack of buildings which has led to a shift system. There are several international schools in Greece that are suitable for the children of expatriates but early registration is essential as most have waiting lists.
Throughout the country there are well organised and well equipped hospitals and clinics. Dial 106 in Greece to obtain the names and addresses of the hospitals on duty. There are some English speaking doctors and dentists in the main towns.
Citizens of other EC countries are entitled to National Health Service medical treatment as provided for Greek Citizens under domestic legislation. Before departure for Greece, expatriates must complete form CM1, which is obtainable from their local office of their Department of Health; they will then be issued with a certificate of entitlement to medical benefits, which they should take with them to Greece. This certificate is valid for 2 years. Expatriates should have adequate medical insurance cover as the welfare services are less well developed than in other community countries and they will generally require private treatment. Within the EC, private medical insurance contracted in one country is accepted by the authorities in the other community countries.
There are no special health precautions although all expatriates are strongly recommended to have tetanus vaccinations and to ensure that their protection against poliomyelitis is adequate.
Household pets may be taken into Greece. Cats and dogs require a health and rabies inoculation certificate issued by a veterinary authority in the country of origin stating that inoculations took place not more than 12 months and not less than 6 days prior to arrival.
Owners of cage birds must have a document stating that the bird comes from a region free from psittacosis. Generally, psittacoid birds (parrots etc.) are not allowed into the country. Health clearance is carried out at port of entry.
Back to top
General Information on Malaysia
The main part of Malaysia is located in South East Asia between Thailand and Singapore. Two states, known as East Malaysia, are located on the Island of Borneo. Malaysia came into existence on September 16, 1963 after the union of The Federated Malay States (or Malaya) which became independent from Britain in 1957, the island of Singapore, which had been given self government by Britain in 1958, and the two Borneo Territories, North Borneo or Sabah, and Sarawak which had been British Crown Colonies since 1946. On August 9, 1985 Singapore was expelled from the federation and became an independent state.
Temperatures range from 21-32 degrees Celsius (71-90 Fahrenheit), with cooler temperatures in the hill resorts. April, May and October are usually the wet months in the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. In Sabah and the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the north-east monsoon brings heavy rains from November to February.
People and Language
Malaysia has approximately 17 million people roughly divided into Malays 50%, Chinese 40%, Indians 8% and other tribes 2%. The official language is Malay though English is spoken widely and is the business language.
Though Islam is the official religion, there are large Buddhist, Christian and Hindu populations.
Pork and alcohol are forbidden to Muslims. Women are supposed to cover their heads but in Malaysia this is up to the individual whether or not they wish to do so. The most important festival is Hari Raya Puasa, at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. It is customary for non-Muslims to visit their Muslim friends on the first or the second day.
Strictly speaking, Buddhists should be vegetarian but this is largely disregarded. The majority of the Buddhist population is Chinese. Their main festival takes place during the lunar new year. It is customary for non-Chinese, non-Buddhist people to visit their Chinese friends at some point during the first two weeks of the New Year. They will usually inform you when the house is open.
The majority of Indians in Malaysia are Hindus. Beef is strictly forbidden and in some sects alcohol and cigarettes are also forbidden. The main Hindu festival is Divali, the Festival of Lights which commemorates the victory of light over dark. As with the Buddhist and the Muslims it is customary to visit your Hindu friends on Divali.
The Christian churches are well represented here. The members are usually either Chinese or Indian as it is against the law to convert a Muslim. The Christian people will hold their "open house" at Christmas.
In general, some of the basic rules of etiquette are:
Take off your shoes when entering a Malaysian home.
Malaysians in general do not hug and kiss in public.
Do not touch a person's head as for both the Malays and the Indians this is the seat of the soul.
Malaysians are not as "blunt as many westerners, so a bit of care in what you say and how you say it is called for.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government with a bicameral legislature. In a unique system of power sharing between the eight Sultanates, the kingship is rotated every 5 years after elections in the Ruler's Council.
Law, Order and Security
Malaysia has a large efficient police force. The population is quite law abiding and in general the crime rate is quite low. It is advisable, however; if you do not live in an apartment building with security, to keep gates and doors locked at all times. Houses come equipped with grills on the windows and increasingly with burglar alarms.
Your Status as a Foreign Resident
You will probably be overwhelmed by kindness as Malaysians are very proud of their country and very proud of their reputation for friendliness and hospitality. There is a fairly large expatriate community so finding someone 'from home' should not be a problem. You are subject to Malaysian law in all matters and you will be expected to respect the local customs and moral standards which are generally much more conservative than in the west.
Shops, especially in Kuala Lumpur, are very well stocked with both American and Australian brands of food, and all the major clothing and accessory designers have outlets either in the department stores or in their own boutiques.
Gun control laws in Malaysia are very strict. Mandatory death sentence if charged under the Internal Security Act. BB guns and air pistols are classified as guns.
Also, video tapes will be examined by the film censorship board and the penalties for attempting to import pornography are very high. it is best to check what you have before you pack it. (A separate list is required)
Upon arrival you will most probably be met at the airport by a representative of your firm who will take you to your hotel. The larger multinationals have transit housing which you will be moved into as soon as your shipment arrives. Companies that do not have transit housing will put you up in a hotel.
On arrival, the person employed will be given a temporary business pass and the spouse and children visit passes. These will generally be given for a period of three months to give you time to apply for your work permits. Spouses and children will be given a dependants permit. It is not permitted for spouses to work in Malaysia. It is best to leave visa applications to experienced agents as it is a very long complicated process. This can be arranged through your company lawyer.
As stated above, it is not permitted for dependants to work. As a dependant, you are only permitted to work in a Diplomatic Mission or with the United Nations.
Television and Radio Communications
There are three television stations which show a wide selection of American and British programmes with, occasionally, a few Australian ones. Censorship, however, is very strict, so some movies can be rather chopped up. There are two English language news broadcasts per day. On radio, broadcasts are at 1:30 pm and several times in the evening.
There is a national radio station which broadcasts in English daily from 6:00 am till 9:00 am and again from 1:00 pm till 2:00 pm and from 5.30 pm till midnight. Friday, Saturday and Sunday they broadcast from 6:00 am till midnight.
A license fee is levied on radios and television sets at a very nominal rate.
Choosing your home
There is a large variety of apartments on the market. Rents are among the lowest in the region. Finding a suitable house may take time as in the last few years many houses have been demolished to make way for apartment buildings. It is probably a good idea to enlist the help of your office in rental negotiations as some landlords may try and take advantage of your lack of knowledge of the local housing situation and the current rental rates.
There are several areas in Kuala Lumpur which are considered expat areas where a high standard of housing is available.
There are several high quality international schools in Kuala Lumpur including:
The International School of Kuala Lumpur
American curriculum. Approximately 1300 students. International Baccalaureate can be done.
Australian/British curriculum. Approximately 550 students. Twelve years old and under.
Australian/British curriculum. Up to GCSEs.
Japanese curriculum taught in Japanese. Approximately 1,000 students.
Elementary only. This is a very small school which offers individual attention.
French curriculum taught in French. Up to secondary. This is also a very small school.
Child Care and Special Education
There are a large number of kindergartens and day care centres but most parents send their children to the kindergartens attached to the various international schools. Household help is inexpensive in Malaysia so many people have a maid/baby-sitter in the home. In some positions the company will provide for this. Special education is a problem as facilities are limited.
Places of Worship
All major religions are officially represented in Malaysia and have their own places of worship. Malaysia practices freedom of religion but it is against the law to attempt to convert a Muslim to any other religion.
Cost of Living
Electrical appliances and computers can be more expensive in Malaysia due to heavy import duties. Malaysia uses 220V, so all European and Australian appliances can be used without transformers. For American appliances, you will need adapters.
Maids, gardeners and drivers are fairly inexpensive and are quite freely available.
Electricity and water charges are generally low.
Malaysia could be called 'The Land of Food' as Malaysians love to eat. Dining out is inexpensive and can be considered a national pastime. Kuala Lumpur offers everything from gourmet dining to eating at the local street stalls (definitely a must) for food from all over the world. There are a large number of very well stocked supermarkets and mini markets, which sell most of the better known American, British, Australian and European brands of processed foods.
All the major brands of European and Japanese cars are available in Malaysia although the prices are high due to taxation. There is a good quality local car on the market 'Proton Saga' which is much cheaper than the imported cars.
Taxi service is excellent and inexpensive; be sure the driver uses the meter. During rush hours, and at the time of shift changes, it can be a problem to get a cab. There are several reliable mini-cab services which can help you avoid this problem.
In Kuala Lumpur the bus service is very unreliable, hot and crowded. Not recommended.
Unique forms of transportation
in Kuala Lumpur, the trishaw has become a tourist attraction. In the smaller towns and Penang, they are still a much utilised means of transportation. You should be prepared for an exciting ride because most trishaw riders act as if they own the road.
Mass Rapid Transport System
At present there is no MRT anywhere in Malaysia. There is a proposal to build one in Kuala Lumpur and several designs are under consideration. There is no estimated date of completion.
Clubs and Associations
Business and Professional Organisations - the main business association in which multi-nationals would be involved would be the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There are also national business organisations such as the American Business Council, the Malaysian-Australian-New Zealand Business Council, and various others. There is a Federation of Employers and the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers which are very actively promoting Malaysian manufactured goods, both locally and abroad.
Professionals employed as doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, etc., all have their own representative and controlling bodies.
There is a very wide selection of clubs in Kuala Lumpur. For business entertaining, the most important clubs are The Banker's Club (open membership), and The Royal Selangor Club (also known as The Spotted Dog or The Dog). Membership is by proposal only. Many of the clubs also double as country clubs with extensive sports facilities.
Bukit Kiara Country Resort provide bowling, tennis, squash, badminton, swimming, and horseback riding. Plans for a golf course are on the drawing board.
Saujana Golf Club
Provides golfing (2 championship courses), swimming, tennis, squash. A very prestigious club (the King plays golf there) and also good for business entertaining.
Royal Selangor Golf Club
The oldest golf club in Kuala Lumpur. Offers golfing, swimming, tennis, badminton, squash. Also quite a prestigious club. Only corporate memberships are available and only on a yearly basis.
Kebab Drawl Esher
Basically a family club with a 9 hole golf course, swimming, squash, and tennis (indoor and outdoor).
There are a large number of golf and country clubs presently under construction with varying standards.
Community Service Organisations
Rotary International is very active with several chapters in Kuala Lumpur itself and most major towns. The Inner Wheel Club is somewhat smaller but also active in Kuala Lumpur.
Kiwanis is also quite active in the major towns; especially Kuala Lumpur.
The Freemasons have a lodge in Kuala Lumpur. Quite active, but not well known.
There are a large number of voluntary organisations (who need volunteers) which run homes for the elderly, day care for children with Down's Syndrome, day care for the mentally ill, shelters for abused/abandoned children, and shelters for battered women.
All the major national groups have womens clubs or a womens branch of the main club. They can be contacted through the respective Embassies. Some examples include:
The American Association which works very closely with the Embassy. They organise orientations, family outings, 'meet your neighbours' sessions for the various neighbourhoods, picnics etc. They also have a softball league and a Little League, several mah-jong and bridge groups
The British Women's Association has monthly coffee mornings. They also organise day trips, crafts classes, mahjong and bridge games
The Malaysian Australian-New Zealand Association offers monthly coffee mornings, monthly evening cocktails, monthly dinner outings for the women, occasional lunch outings. They have a friendly tennis league
The smaller groups organised by the French, Dutch, Germans, and Scandinavians have their own associations which organise activities for the women and the whole family.
Sports and Leisure Activities
Malaysians are sports lovers. The most popular sports are football (soccer for the Americans) and badminton. All the country clubs have extensive sports facilities. The American association also runs a softball league for adults.
Activities for Children
Mostly organised through the clubs or schools. The various national associations can also put you in touch with playgroups for the younger ones.
There are no permanent amusement parks but there are a lot of playgrounds and, usually, during trade fairs there is a small amusement park section.
Places of interest
Just outside Kuala Lumpur. The large, main cave houses several Hindu temples. 'The Dark Caves' just beside it are only open to tourists periodically.
Kuala Lumpur's oldest market which has been converted to a cultural market.
Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens
A large park where the National Museum is situated. There is also a Bird Park and an Orchid Garden which are well worth a visit.
Bukit Cahaya Agricultural Park
Outside Kuala Lumpur in Shah Alam. Shows the cultivation methods of 'paddy', and other products.
Jungle reserve in Pahang. There are organised jungle trails, where jungle animals can be observed. The reserve requires several days to fully view.
In Pahang, known as the Vegetable Garden of Malaysia. A great place to cool off. There are some Aboriginal settlements on the way up
Favourite weekend cool-off place, has a golf course, jungle walks, and a small zoo.
a short drive from Kuala Lumpur has Malaysia's one and only casino.
In Northern Perak near Taiping, an old British hill station. Cars have to be parked at the bottom of the hill and you will be taken up by Land Rover.
As stated earlier, eating in Malaysia is a national pastime. Apart from the local Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine there are a lot of Western, Middle Eastern, Thai, Korean and Japanese restaurants. A visit to the street stalls is a must for the adventurous.
Theatre and Music
There is a very active semi-professional theatre culture in Kuala Lumpur.
Companies to look for are:
The Actor's Studio
Run by Australian Joe Hasham (of Number 96 fame) and his Faridah Merican, a well known media personality. They tend to produce plays which address social issues. All productions are in English.
Five Arts Centre
roduces plays by Malaysian writers (in English). They also produce experimental dance productions and other Asian arts.
Best known for its founder Ramli Ibrahim. They produce mostly Indian classical dance productions but Ramli's modern dance productions though few, are well worth seeing.
Produces Malay dance dramas.
There are two very active amateur theatre groups:
The Philharmonic Society of Selangor
Produces at least one musical per year.
The Liberal Arts Society
Recently less active in production but they organise theatre workshops etc.
There is a symphony orchestra 'The Kuala Lumpur Symphony Orchestra' which performs rarely in public. Malaysia is a stopping off point for some of the smaller orchestras and ensembles. Publicity for all events is good.
Malaysia is also a stopping off point for pop stars when they tour Asia so the teens don't have to worry about being cut off from their idols.
There is a good selection of cinemas in Kuala Lumpur and most of the major Hollywood and British products make it here. Censorship is, however, very strict so some can be rather chopped up.
Travelling within the Region
Kuala Lumpur airport is serviced by all major airlines so travelling Is not problem. Schedules can be obtained from airline offices and travel agents.
Health Matters/Medical Facilities
Keeping Healthy - Malaysia has a very humid tropical climate so hygiene and skin care are very important. Prickly heat can be a problem, especially for babies. There are medicated powders on the market which can help relieve this. It should be remembered that because of the hot climate, you will perspire more and this fluid must be replaced. Some doctors recommend that you triple your normal consumption of water. It is advisable that you have Hepatitis B vaccinations.
In Kuala Lumpur and the bigger towns, the water can be drunk directly from tap but many people boil it just to be on the safe side. Bottled and mineral water is widely available.
Medical facilities are up to date in Malaysia. There are several excellent private hospitals in the Kuala Lumpur area and also in the bigger towns. A large percentage of the doctors, especially the specialists, have had training in the United Kingdom. Pre-natal care is of a high standard. Your obstetrician can put you in touch with exercise and pre-natal classes.
Hospital Admission Requirements
You will have to bring along your passport. You will also have to provide either a cash deposit (approximately M$1000.00) or a letter from your employer guaranteeing payment of all medical bills.
Blood Transfusion Service
Most hospitals have their own blood banks and there are active campaigns to collect blood from blood donors. In most cases, if you require a transfusion you will have to replace the blood. It is quite acceptable to approach friends and colleagues to donate blood during such an emergency.
Ambulance and Emergency Care
All hospitals run their own ambulance service. The Red Cross (Crescent in Malaysia) has an ambulance service to compliment this. The emergency number is 999.
Pharmacies and Medical Supplies
Doctors have their own dispensaries. However, if unusual drugs are required they will send you to the pharmacy. Pharmacies are plentiful and offer a wide range of health care and beauty products apart from prescription drugs.
Business and Legal Matters
The unit of currency is the Malaysian Ringgit.
Apart from the local banks, the major international banks are represented here. Foreign residents can open external accounts. To open a current account, all banks have varying minimum deposits and you may be required to provide a reference who already holds an account at the bank.It is easier to open an account with a bank that has a corresponding arrangement with your bank in your country of origin. Banking hours are from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Electronic Teller Machines are widely used all over the country.
As with banking, the major international insurance companies have representatives in Malaysia. It is best to check with your insurer at point of origin whether they have a representative here and whether your existing policies can be extended to cover you here.
is relatively low in Malaysia (35% in the highest income bracket) and you will only be taxed on your Malaysian earnings provided you do not bring your foreign earnings into the country. Malaysia has double taxation agreements with most of the major investing countries into Malaysia. Most international companies will have someone to assist you in tax matters.
Legally, you are subject to Malaysian law and most embassies will not attempt to intervene, except under exceptional circumstances. Malaysian law is largely based on British and Indian Common Law. The company you work for will have their own legal advisers who can also assist you with any queries you might have.
Back to top
General Information on Malta
The Maltese archipelago is situated in the middle of the Mediterranean, with the largest inhabited island, Malta, lying 93km (58 miles) south of Sicily and 290km (180 miles) from North Africa. Gozo and Comino are the only other inhabited islands. The landscape of all three is characterised by low hills with terraced fields. Malta has no mountains or rivers. Its coastline is indented with harbours, bays, creeks, sandy beaches and rocky coves. Gozo is connected to Malta by ferry and is more thickly vegetated, with many flat-topped hills and craggy cliffs. Comino, the smallest island, is connected to Malta and Gozo by ferry and is very sparsely populated.
316 sq km (122 sq miles).
378,518 (1998, excluding non-Maltese).
1198 per sq km.
Republic. Gained independence from the UK in 1964.
Head of State
President Guido de Marco since 1999.
Head of Government
Prime Minister Edward Fenech Adami since 1998.
Maltese (a Semitic language) and English are the official languages. Italian is also widely spoken.
GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
240 volts AC, 50Hz. UK-style 3-pin plug are in use.
IDD is available. Country code: 356. There are no area codes. Outgoing international code: 00. Public telephone booths are widely available.
GSM 900 and 1800 networks exist, with extensive coverage of land and sea. Network providers include Vodafone Malta (web site: http://www.vodafonemalta.com).
Maltacom PLC provides an international service through its offices and branches. Also available at hotels.
ISPs include Maltanet (web site: http://www.maltanet.net). There are a few cybercafés.
Can be sent from Maltacom PLC, St Georges Road, St Julian's.
Good postal services exist within the island.
Maltese dailies include L'Orizzont and In-Nazzjon Taghna. The daily English-language newspapers published on the island are The Times and The Malta Independent. The Malta Business Weekly, The Malta Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Times are also available.
Maltese Lira (Lm) = 100 cents = 1000 mils.
Notes are in denominations of Lm20, 10, 5 and 2.
Coins are in denominations of Lm1, and 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.
A number of gold and silver coins are also minted.
Money can be changed at banks, bureaux de change, some hotels, and larger shops and restaurants. Automated foreign exchange machines and cash dispensers are available at various locations on the islands.
MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Visa are accepted. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.
Exchanged in the normal authorised institutions.
The import of local currency is limited to Lm50. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited, subject to declaration. The export of local currency is limited to Lm25.
0830-1230 and 1430-1600 Monday to Thursday; 0830-1130 Friday and Saturday.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over nine months of age arriving from infected areas. If indicated on epidemiological grounds, infants under nine months of age are subject to isolation or surveillance if arriving from an infected area.
In opposition to WHO guidelines issued in 1973, a cholera vaccination certificate may be required from travellers arriving from infected areas.
Mains water is normally chlorinated and, whilst safe, may cause mild abdominal upsets. Bottled water is available and is advised for the first few weeks of the stay. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat.
There is a UK/Malta reciprocal health agreement. UK passport-holders staying less than 30 days will receive free emergency hospital treatment at a state-run hospital. The principal hospitals are St Luke's, Guardamangia in Malta and Gozo General Hospital in Gozo. Health insurance is nevertheless advised.
Sport & Activities
There are a number of scenic spots that are only accessible on foot, which makes walking - as well as cycling - one of the best ways to explore the islands.
Bathing is safe everywhere around the islands. Malta offers good conditions for scuba diving and snorkelling. The sea temperature never drops below 13°C (55 °F), even in a severe winter, which makes diving possible all-year-round. Diving equipment can be hired at favourable rates, making it unnecessary for divers to bring their own.
On the island of Malta, the best dive sites are located around the northern part, the many caves and steep drop-offs, such as Qawra Point and Cirkewwa, being a particular attraction; also on Malta, Wied Iz-Zurrieq is good for night dives.
On Gozo island, one of the most spectacular sites is Dwejra Point, which features a 35-metre (115-ft) tunnel. On the island of Comino, cold currents support large shoals of sardines and bogue at Irieqa Point, while the St Marija Caves offer interesting cave diving.
Rowing regattas are held frequently in the Grand Harbour during April and September. The Valletta Yacht Club is at Couvre Port, Manoel Island, in Marsamxetto Harbour (temporary members accepted).
Windsurfing has become very popular and many hotels and beach establishments offer equipment.
There is an 18-hole golf course at the Marsa Sports Club which also has facilities for tennis, squash, cricket, polo and horseracing. There is a 10-pin bowling centre at St George's Bay, St Julian's. For the more adventurous, there are opportunities for skydiving.
National water polo competitions are held during summer. Matches are played at the National Swimming Pool, Marsascala. A summer league takes place at various water-polo clubs.
Horseraces are held all Sunday afternoons at the Marsa National Racecourse from the end of October until mid-May.
Clay pigeon/Skeet shooting is a popular sport in Malta, with regular practice-sessions and competitions being held on Sunday mornings.
Football matches are played at the Ta'Qali and Marsa stadiums from September to June.
St Andrew's Divers Cove
St. Andrew's Divers Cove was established in 1989 and since then has built a reputation for friendly, professional service for divers and their families and friends. Diving in the clear, blue waters of Gozo with its exciting underwater scenery while staying in their popular apartments makes many clients regular visitors. All tourist services offered at competetive rates.
Food & Drink
There is a very good choice of restaurants and cafés from deluxe to fast food (hamburgers and fish & chips) including Chinese, fish and beachside tavernas and bars. Table service is normal, but many bars and cafés have table and/or counter service.
Local dishes include lampuki pie, bragoli and fenek (rabbit cooked in wine). Pork and fish dishes are recommended and vegetables are excellent.
The best Maltese fruits are oranges and grapes; also delicious are strawberries, melons, mulberries, tangerines, pomegranates and figs.
Maltese beer is excellent, and foreign beers are also available. There is a wide variety of good and inexpensive Maltese wine and foreign wines and spirits. Licensing hours of bars, restaurants and cafés are usually 0900-0100 and beyond, although alcohol can only be bought before 0100
There are several discotheques. Roulette, baccarat, black jack and boule can be played at the Dragonara' casino, St Julian's or at the Oracle Casino, Qawra. The Manoel Theatre is one of the oldest in Europe. Cinemas show mainly English and American films.
Special purchases include Malta weave, pottery, blown glass, ceramics, dolls, lace, copper and brass items. Malta is renowned for its gold and silver filigree work and handmade lace. Shopping hours: 0900-1300 and 1600-1900 Monday to Saturday.
The usual European courtesies are expected, but the visitor should also bear in mind the tremendous importance of Roman Catholicism; if visiting a church, for instance, modest dress covering the shoulders and legs will be expected. Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in some public buildings, including cinemas.
Tipping: 10-15% is expected in hotels and restaurants when not included in the bill. Taxi drivers are usually tipped 10% of the fare.
The agricultural sector is small, with potatoes the only major export commodity. Although Malta is an island, the fishing industry is also relatively insignificant. With few natural resources, governments have sought to develop the economy through tourism and export-dedicated manufacturing. Tourism now accounts for over a quarter of Malta's foreign exchange earnings.
The industrial sector includes textiles, footwear and clothing (the most important of the new industries), plastics, printing, electronic components and electrical equipment. The old naval dockyards used by the British have now converted to operate as a commercial shipyard.
Malta has developed close economic links with Libya, which has invested heavily in property and commerce on the island as well as supplying the bulk of the oil that meets the island's energy needs.
France has become the principal market for exports (18.5% of the total), followed by the USA, Germany, Singapore, the UK and Italy.
The main economic policy issue under debate in Malta is relations with the EU and the country's application for membership. The conservative Nationalist Party (PN) favours joining while the Maltese Labour Party is strongly opposed to membership. The destabilising effects of this split became apparent in the late 1990s: in 1996, following the election of the Malta Labour Party government in October, Malta's application for membership was suddenly withdrawn; but after the election of September 1998 and the victory of the PN, Malta re-applied.
English is widely spoken in business circles and, on the whole, Maltese business people have a conservative approach to business protocol. Punctuality is expected and appreciated and dress must be smart. The best months for business visits are October to May. Office hours: 0830-1245 and 1430-1730 Monday to Friday, 0830-1200 Saturday. Some smaller offices close 1300-1600, opening again later.
The following organisations can offer advice:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palazzo Parisio, Merchants Street, Valletta
tel: 242 191; fax: 237 822);
or Malta Chamber of Commerce, Exchange Buildings, Republic Street, Valletta VLT 05
tel: 233 873 or 247 233; fax: 245 223;
web site: http://www.chamber-commerce.org.mt
The Conference Division of the Malta Tourism Authority can loan a free promotional video to conference and incentive organisers and is happy to assist with all initial enquiries.
For further information, contact the Conference and Incentive Travel Division, 280 Republic Street, Valletta CMR 02
tel: 234 448; fax: 220 401;
web site: http://www.visitmalta.com/CIT
Warm most of the year. The hottest months are between July and September, but the heat is tempered by cooling sea breezes. Rain falls for very short periods, mainly in the cooler winter months.
Lightweight cotton and linen clothing are worn between March and September, although warmer clothes may occasionally be necessary in spring and autumn and on cooler evenings. A light raincoat is advisable for winter.
History and Government
Malta's situation in the central Mediterranean has made it an important strategic base since the earliest days of navigation. The first civilisation to leave any significant remains flourished in the 3rd millennium BC, building many megalithic temples; later the island was occupied by the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians and the Romans. Christianity arrived early, in about AD60, when St Paul was shipwrecked off the coast, and the religion rapidly established itself.
On the partition of the Roman Empire, Malta passed under the control of Constantinople. Arab attacks during the 8th and 9th centuries culminated in the surrender of the islands to the governor of Muslim Sicily in 870, but subsequently the Normans reconquered Sicily, and Malta passed back to Christian control in 1090.
The Norman rule of the 12th century witnessed a great expansion of trade and a flowering of the arts and sciences, reflecting the splendours of Sicily itself, but the death of the last Hautville king in 1194 ushered in a period of confusion. Prosperity alternated with internal chaos for the rest of the Middle Ages, as the island repeatedly became caught up in the great dynastic struggles of the Mediterranean.
The Hohenstaufer (mainly Frederick II), the Angevins, the Aragonnese, the Venetians, the Genoese, the Papacy, the kings of France and the Arabs - all, at various times, attempted to gain control of Malta. Political stability did not return until the 16th century, when Malta, together with Sicily, became part of the vast empire of Charles V, who in 1530, recognised the strategic value of the islands for Christendom, by granting them to the Knights of St John. For the next 250 years Malta was a bulwark against Turkish ambitions in Europe, notably in 1565 when, against overwhelming odds, the island was successfully defended. Napoleon briefly held Malta in the last three years of the 18th century, but a British-backed rebellion forced him to retreat and the British ruled for the next 181 years.
The most famous episode in Malta's recent history was the heroic defence of the island during World War II for which the nation was awarded the George Cross. In 1956 a referendum came down heavily in favour of full integration with Britain, a policy then backed by the governing Maltese Labour Party (MLP) under Dom Mintoff. Successive rounds of talks failed, and by 1961 independence was sought by both the major political parties, the other being the conservative Nationalist Party then led by Dr Borg Olivier. Independence was achieved in 1964, and Dr Borg Olivier became Prime Minister. Mintoff's MLP won the 1971 elections and began to pursue a policy of neutrality, reaching treaties with Libya, Italy and the then USSR, amongst other states. In 1979 the British military base was closed. In May 1987, 16 years of MLP rule came to an end and Dr Edward Fenech Adami of the Nationalist Party became Prime Minister.
Close contacts with Libya were maintained, and relationships with Western governments have improved. The centre-right government had followed the general European pattern of liberalising the economy. The nationalists improved on their previous performance at the election held in February 1992 and were returned with an increased majority. The major political issue of late has been Malta's application to join the European Union. Domestic opposition to the latter has been led by the MLP, which claims that EU agricultural policies will increase the cost of living, and also corrupt the Republic's traditional neutrality in its foreign policies. In September 1996, the Fenech-Adami Government, pursuing its mandate of full EU membership, called a general election. Despite the PN's record of economic achievement, the EU-indexed introduction of value added tax would seem to have been far more unpopular with the electorate than anyone realised.
This led to the narrow victory of the MLP at the polls and the appointment of a new Government was formed by the MLP's Dr Alfred Sant, who immediately announced that EU membership was no longer a future goal. Malta's association agreement with the EU (signed in 1970) was to be replaced by the establishment of a ?free trade zone' between Malta and the EU. Also scrapped was Malta's participation in the NATO ?Partnership for Peace' programme. In September 1998, however, a split within the ranks of the MLP finally came to a head, after two years in which Dr Sant consistently found himself at loggerheads with Mintoff, the respected and still-active powerbroker of the MLP. (Sant had already lost his finance minister in a row over the abolition of VAT.)
After a blow-up over the 1998 budget, Mintoff broke with his party and crossed the floor - thus depriving Sant of his one seat majority. At a snap general election in September 1998, the NP was narrowly returned to power and Fenech-Adami announced that EU membership was once again on the cards. Within months, Malta's suspended application was once again submitted to the EU: it may be a decade or more, however, before the island is admitted to full membership.
Malta's head of state is a largely ceremonial president, and executive power is held by the Cabinet, chosen from the unicameral legislature, the House of Representatives, and elected every five years.
Back to top
General Information on New Zealand
New Zealand is a South Pacific country located midway between the Equator and the South Pole and approximately 1,600 kilometres east of Australia. Its nearest neighbours to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga, all about the same distance away as Australia.
With a land area of 268,105 square kilometres, New Zealand is similar in size to Japan, Britain or Italy, and extends over a similar range of latitudes to California. There are two main islands, the North and South Islands, separated by Cook Strait, some 32 kilometres across its narrowest point. The country is 1,600 kilometres from the northern tip to the southern extremity, with no part more than 12 kilometres from the surrounding ocean.
Lying within the Southern Temperate Zone, New Zealand has an oceanic climate, without extremes of heat or cold, with January and February the warmest months and July the coldest. Most parts of the country enjoy ample sunshine and rainfall, although the weather is rather changeable. Seasons are the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere, with temperatures generally higher in the north of the country, which experiences sub-tropical warmth in summer. Winter brings extensive snow fall in the Southern Alps.
There are now over 3.4 million New Zealanders of all races, but predominantly of European and Polynesian origin. The Maori population is around 13% of the total, but intermarriage means that many New Zealanders have both Maori and European ancestors. Recent years have seen a movement of people from the smaller Pacific islands, and non-Maori Polynesians and Melanesians together account for about 5% of the population. More than 74% of the people live in the North Island and 85% of the people live in cities and towns along the coastal areas and lowland plains. Auckland, New Zealand's largest city has a population of 886,000 people.
English is the common language of business and everyday use, but Maori is an official language recognised in the courts and of increasing significance nationally.
Money and Banking
New Zealand operates a decimal system with 100 cents to one dollar ($1). There are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes and 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2 coins.
There are 15 registered banks which operate more than 1,500 customer service outlets and more than 1,250 automatic teller machines nationwide.
Customers are able to access their bank accounts directly while shopping via EFTPOS terminals (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale). There are at present, and the number is growing, 11,300 EFTPOS terminals at supermarkets, service stations, liquor markets and retail outlets.
More than 55,000 merchants accept major credit cards.
A pioneer in social welfare, New Zealand has a comprehensive social security scheme for the aged, disabled, sick and unemployed. An innovative accident compensation scheme provides compensation and rehabilitation for people injured by accident.
Comprehensive health services, mostly supported by the state, are available to New Zealanders. Public hospital treatment, pre-natal and maternity services, and many medicines are state subsidised, as is dental treatment for children. There is an expanding private health service industry.
Education is provided from primary school to university and is compulsory between the ages of six to sixteen. The majority of schools are supported by the state, and administered by School Boards of Trustees. Others are supported by churches or private interests.
There are seven universities and the larger towns and cities have technical institutes and community colleges to provide further tertiary education. A state correspondence school caters for children who cannot attend school in the normal way (for reason of isolation, illness or disability) and for others enrolled in continuing education courses.
Living standards in New Zealand are generally high, with a good standard of housing and a comprehensive social welfare scheme. Most households possess motor cars, colour television, refrigerators and washing machines.
New Zealanders have a strong and increasing involvement in a wide range of cultural activities throughout the country. The performing arts are well established, with professional and amateur companies active in music, drama and dance. New Zealand writing, painting, pottery and weaving have achieved growing international recognition in recent years. Film making has also become an important industry. The educational system strongly encourages music, drama and the visual arts at all levels.
Back to top
General Information on Singapore
Places at state schools are rarely available for children of expatriates because of overcrowding. Hence most expatriates send their children to one of the following schools (which are all co-ed and require a uniform)
International School (S) Pte Ltd
21 Preston Road, Singapore 109355
Tel: 475 4188
United World College of South East Asia
1207 Dover Road, Singapore 139654
Tel: 775 5344
8 Winchester Road, Alexandra Park, Singapore 117782
Tel: 273 9522
Chatsworth International School
795 Upper Seragoon Road, Singapore 534667
Tel: 382 7232
The electricity supply is 220-240 volts, 50 cycles AC for domestic use or 400 volts, or 50 cycles AC for industry. Plug fittings with 3 square pins and lamp fittings of the bayonet type are in general use. Most hotels have a transformer to reduce voltage to 100-120 volts, 60 cycles where necessary.
The national language is Malay, but English, Tamil and Chinese are also used with English being the main language for business.
Medical equipment and facilities in Singapore are among the finest in the world and there are many doctors, dentists and opticians, which are listed in the yellow pages. The costs of medical treatment in government outpatient clinics are not high, but most expatriates prefer to consult private doctors. It is advisable to ensure that you are covered by comprehensive medical insurance such as that available from BUPA, 'Life Scheme' Tel: 01273 323 563
To import a pet into Singapore you must obtain an import permit at least two weeks prior to arrival from:
City Veterinary Centre
25 Peck Seah Street, Singapore 079315
You must also have a health certificate dated not more than 7 days before entry of goods into Singapore and, a certificate signed by the captain of the aircraft carrying the animal stating it did not come into contact with any other animals and was flown directly from the airport. Pets being imported from the UK are not subject to quarantine but do need a valid vaccination certificate.
You will need to provide full details of the animals in advance in order to apply for the import licence.
There are regulations regarding personal appearance when entering the country (for example, men's long hair may be cut upon arrival).
The unit of currency is the Singapore dollar (5$) divided into 100 cents.
Currency in circulation is in the following denominations:
Notes: 1,2,5,10,20,50,100,500, 1,000 and 10,000 dollars
Coins: 1, 5,10, 20, 50 and S$1 coin
You will be able to buy and sell all major currencies, however; the exchange rates can vary. The best rates are usually with the money changers found in most shopping centres.
Singapore restricts entry on videos containing sex; nudity, gratuitous violence, drug abuse or which denigrate any race or religion or affects Singapore's national interest and are otherwise obscene or lewd. If you do want to take any videos that are banned, you will have to declare them and hand them over to the Customs Officer and obtain a receipt, the videos will be referred to the Board of Film Censors for censorship. After seven (7) working days, the videos can be collected from the Board of Film Censors. You will then pay the ownership, censorship and screening fees (if any). Fees are estimated to be s$6.00 an hour plus a registration fee of s$3.00 per tape.
Back to top
General Information on South Africa
Currency and Banks
R20, R10, and coins: R5, R2, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c, 1c. Cheques and credit cards are widely used and accepted. The banking system is highly sophisticated.
Weekdays from 9:00am to 3:30 pm and Saturday from 8:30am to 11:30am. Cash dispensing machines (ATMs) operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and sixteen and consists of primary and high schools. Most children attend government schools, which are state subsidised, but school fees are still paid. Approximately 6% of children attend private schools where fees are higher than government schools. A school uniform is compulsory at almost all schools. There are a wide variety of tertiary educational institutions in South Africa. Students pay fees for their university and other tertiary education facilities.
Electricity is available in almost all urban areas of South Africa and is supplied totally by Eskom. The electric current is AC SO cycles, principally 2201380 volts or 2301400 volts. Round three-pin and two-pin plugs are used. Generally, electrical appliances brought into South Africa from North America will need transformers. Products brought from the East generally have switches for conversion, whilst products from other countries may not need any conversion.
Foreign nationals intending to work in South Africa must obtain temporary work and residence permits. The applicant must have a job offer in South Africa. Employed persons with valid work permits need not renew their residence permits. The Department of Home Affairs issues work permits and administrates matters relating to residence. Due to a shortage of skilled labour and management personnel in South Africa, work permits are generally granted. Work permits are valid for six months and may be renewed regularly.
South Africa has both private and public hospitals. Public health services may be provided free of charge, depending on the individuals ability to pay. South Africa does not provide national medical insurance. Contributions to private medical aid programmes, which cover most medical expenses, are generally made by employers alone or in equal shares with employees. South Africa is renowned for its excellent medical training and highly skilled medical practitioners. There are approximately 570 hospitals in the country.
Household pets and other animals can only be brought into South Africa with a permit. Animals may be subject to quarantine at the owner's expense. The length of quarantine varies depending on the animals country of origin. There are three quarantine centres in South Africa based at the three international airports. Quarantine is for at least 30 days.
Flats and houses are widely available in the major centres and expatriates usually rent a detached house with garden and garage or other parking facilities. The majority of properties are let unfurnished. Utilities are never included in rental prices. In the case of flats, service charges are usually included in the rent as is garage space. Telephones can take anything from one day to four weeks to install. Leases are normally one year with the option to renew. Landlords prefer company lets.
Weights and Measures
The metric system is in use in South Africa
Back to top
General Information on Turkey
Turkey borders the Black Sea and Georgia and Armenia to the northeast, Iran to the east, Iraq to the southeast, Syria and the Mediterranean to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west and Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest.
Asia Minor (or Anatolia) accounts for 97% of the country and forms a long, wide peninsula 1650km (1025 miles) from east to west and 650km (400 miles) from north to south. Two east-west mountain ranges, the Black Sea Mountains in the north and the Taurus in the south, enclose the central Anatolian plateau, but converge in a vast mountainous region in the far east of the country.
It is here that the ancient Tigris and Euphrates rivers rise.
779,452 sq km (300,948 sq miles).
82.6 per sq km.
2, 937,524 (1997).
Republic since 1923.
Head of State
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer since 2000.
Head of Government
Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit since 1999.
Turkish. French, German and English are widely spoken in cities.
Muslim with a small Christian minority. Turkey is a secular state which guarantees complete freedom of worship to non-Muslims.
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
220 volts AC, 50Hz.
IDD is available. Country code: 90. Outgoing international code: 00. There is an extensive internal telephone network, but often an interpreter will be needed for more remote areas. To phone from PTT telephone booths, which are found in all areas, telephone cards and tokens are used. Local, inter-city and international calls can be made from all PTT offices.
GSM 900 band networks exist. Main network providers include Turkcell (web site: http://www.turkcell.com) and TELSIM Mobil Telekomuniksyon (web site: http://www.telsim.com.tr). Coverage is available in most urban areas.
All hotels and PTT offices have facilities.
Main ISPs include: EfesNet (web site: http://www.efes.net.tr). Internet cafes exist in main urban areas.
These may be sent from all post offices.
Airmail to Europe takes three days. Turkish post offices are recognisable by their yellow PTT signs. Major post offices open 0800-0000 Monday to Saturday and 0900-1900 Sunday. Small post offices have the same opening hours as government offices. It is also possible to use the 'Valuables Despatch Service' for valuable belongings or important documents.
The main newspapers are Hürriyet, Cumhuriyet, Sabah and Milliyet. English-language daily newspapers include The Turkish Daily News.
Turkish Lira (TL). Notes are in denominations of TL10,000,000, 5,000,000, 1,000,000, 500,000, 250,000 and 100,000. Coins are in denominations of TL100,000, 50,000, 25,000, 10,000 and 5000.
All exchange certificates and purchase receipts must be retained to prove that legally exchanged currency was used. Money and travellers cheques can be exchanged at all PTT branches. Many UK banks offer differing rates of exchange depending on denominations of Turkish currency being bought or sold. Check with banks for details and current rates.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.
Can be cashed immediately upon proof of identity. However, it may take several days to cash cheques from private accounts. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in Pounds Sterling.
There are no restrictions on the import of local or foreign currency, though visitors bringing in a large amount of foreign currency should obtain a written declaration from the Turkish authorities. No more than the equivalent of US$5000 in local currency may be exported. Foreign currency may be exported up to US$5000, but no more than the amount imported and declared.
0830-1200 and 1330-1700 Monday to Friday.
The Turkish health authorities have reported no cases of cholera in recent years. It is, however, wise to follow simple precautions when eating and drinking - see below.
Potential malaria risk (exclusively in the benign vivax form) exists from May to the end of October in the Çukorova/Amikova areas and in southeast Anatolia, Adana and Antalya (Side). There is no malaria risk in the main tourist areas in the west and southwest of the country.
Tap water is usually chlorinated in larger towns and cities, but should not be assumed to have been so treated: if used for drinking or making ice it should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. If a water source bears the words içilmez, it means that it is not for drinking; sources labelled içilir, içme suyu or içilebilir are safe to drink. Bottled spring water is widely available. Milk is pasteurised. Eat only well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot.
Rabies is present. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay.
Hepatitis A and B are present.
Turkey has a large health sector; one doctor and one hospital bed for, respectively, every 1700 and 470 inhabitants. A great number of Turkish doctors and dentists speak a foreign language, particularly at major hospitals. Private health insurance is recommended; ensure that it covers Asiatic as well as European.
Although most visits to Turkey are trouble-free, tourists travelling to the south-east of the country should exercise caution due to some lcoal unrest. Advice should be sought before travel to or through this region.
Turkish Airlines provides an important network of internal flights from Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana, Trabzan, Dalaman, and Antalya to all of the major Turkish cities. The airline (tel, UK office: (020) 7766 9300; fax: (020) 7976 1738) offers reductions of 60% on international flights (with the exception of Middle Eastern destinations) and 10% on domestic flights to holders of International Student Travel Conference (ISTC) cards.
Turkish Maritime Lines offer several coastal services with their Adriatic Line subsidiary, providing excellent opportunities for sightseeing; they also operate a car ferry between Mersin and Magosa. There are also services between Istanbul and Izmir, with overnight accommodation and ferry routes along Turkey's northern Black Sea coast. A frequent car ferry crosses the Dardenelles at Gallipoli, from Canakkale to Eceabat and Gelibolu to Lapseki. There are also frequent seabus services from Bostanci, Kadiköy, Kartal, Yalova and Büyükada Island to Yenikapi, Auça, Karaköy and Bakirköy.
Turkish Maritime Lines offers discounts of 15% on single and 25% on return passages for international routes and 50% for domestic routes to holders of ISTC cards.
Fares are comparatively low. Many trains of the Turkish Railways (TCDD) have sleeping cars, couchettes and restaurant cars, but there is no air-conditioned accommodation. Fares are more expensive for express and mail trains, even though express trains are relatively slow, and some routes are indirect. Steam engines, such as the Anatolia Express, which traverses eastern Turkey, are retained for tourist trains on some routes. Tickets can be purchased at TCDD offices at railway stations and TCDD-appointed agents. TCDD offer discounts of 20% to holders of ISTC cards. Children under 7 travel free; children aged 7-11 pay half fare. Discount fares are available for students (10% off), groups (30% off for groups of 24 or more), roundtrips (20% off) and sports teams (50% off for groups of five or more).
There is an extensive road maintenance and building programme; 1400km (900 miles) of motorway are under construction. Traffic drives on the right.
In case of an accident, contact the Turkish Touring and Automobile Club (Turkiye Turing ve Otomobil Kurumu)
Head Office, Sanayi Sitesi Yani Fort Levent, Istanbul
tel: (212) 282 8140; fax: (212) 282 8042
Many private companies provide frequent day and night services between all Turkish cities. Services are often faster than trains and competition between operators has led to lower fares. Tickets are sold at the bus or coach companies' branch offices either at stations or in town centres. One should shop around for the best prices. Coaches depart from the bus stations (otogar) in large towns and from the town centre in small towns.
Both chauffeur and self-drive cars are available in all large towns. All international companies are represented.
An International Driving Permit is required for visits of over three months. Green Card International Insurance, endorsed for Turkish territory in both Europe and Asia, and Turkish third-party insurance (obtainable from insurance agencies at frontier posts) are also required. Cars can be brought into Turkey for a maximum of 6 months in one year. On entering, an entry-exit form is filled out. For longer stays, it is necessary to apply to either the Ministry of Finance and Customs or the Turkish Touring and Automobile Club.
Turkey has a number of mountain ranges with peaks ranging from heights of 3250m (10,660ft) to the 5165m (16,945ft) of Mount Agri (Ararat), the highest mountain in Anatolia, which provide excellent climbing possibilities for both the novice and more expert climber. Permission is required from the Turkish Mountaineering Club.
Winter sports resorts in Turkey are generally located in forested mountains. Ski centres are often easily accessible by road or by Turkish Airlines domestic flights. Most resorts are in the north (near Ankara) and the western interior.
The Mediterranean coast, particularly Izmir, has very warm waters and watersports are widely available.
Klassis Golf & Country Club
A green paradise in Istanbul! 18 Hole PGA approved Championship Golf Course, 9 hole Academy Golf Course, putting green, driving range, golf lessons, pro-shop. 116 luxurious Hotels rooms, restaurants & bars, outdoor swimming pool, tennis, basketball & volleyball courts, and much much more.
Food & Drink
Turkish food combines culinary traditions of a pastoral people originating from Central Asia and the influences of the Mediterranean regions. Lamb is a basic meat featured on all menus, often as shish kebab (pieces of meat threaded on a skewer and grilled) or doner kebab (pieces of lamb packed tightly round a revolving spit). Fish and shellfish are very fresh and barbunya (red mullet) and kiliç baligi (swordfish) are delicious. Dolma (vine leaves stuffed with nuts and currants) and karniyarik (aubergine stuffed with minced meat) are other popular dishes. Guests are usually able to go into a kitchen and choose from the pots if they cannot understand the names of the dishes. There are also a wide range of Turkish sweets and pastries including the famous Turkish Delight (originally made from dates, honey, roses and jasmine bound by Arabic gum and designed to sweeten the breath after coffee). Table service is common.
Ayran (a refreshing yoghurt drink), tea, and strong black Turkish coffee are widely available. Turkey is a secular state and alcohol is permitted, although during Ramadan it is considered polite for the visitor to avoid drinking alcohol. Turkish beer, red and white wines are reasonable. The national drink is raki (anisette) which clouds when water is added, known as 'lion's milk'. Drinking raki is a ritual and is traditionally accompanied by a variety of meze (hors d'oeuvres).
There are nightclubs in most main centres, either Western or Oriental, with music and dancing. There are theatres with concerts in Izmir, Istanbul and Ankara and most towns have cinemas. Turkish baths (hamam) are popular.
Istanbul's Kapali Carsi Bazaar has jewellery, carpets and antiques for sale. Turkish handicrafts include a rich variety of textiles and embroideries, articles of copper, onyx and tile, mother-of-pearl, inlaid articles, leather and suede products, jewellery and, above all, carpets and kilims. Shopping hours: 0900-1300 and 1400-2000 Monday to Saturday (closed Sunday). Istanbul covered market: 0800-1900 Monday to Saturday.
The following festivals are held annually;
Camel Wrestling Festival, Selçuk
Ankara International Film Festival
1915 Sea Victory Celebration, Çanakkale
Traditional 'Mesir' Festival, Manisa
International Children's Day, Ankara
April - May
Ankara International Arts Festival
Efes International Festival of Culture & Tourism, Selçuk
International Nysa Culture & Art Festival, Sultanhisar
Yunus Emre Culture & Art Week, Eskisehir
Aksu Culture & Art Festival, Giresun
International Music and Folklore Festival, Silifke
International Yachting Festival, Marmaris
May - June
International Asia-Europe Biennial, Ankara
Bartin Strawberry Festival
International Tea Festival, Rize
International Offshore Races, Istanbul-Izmir
Foça Music, Folklore and Watersports Festival
Atatürk Culture Festival, Amasya
Kafkasör Culture & Art Festival, Artvin
International Kus Cenneti Culture & Tourism Festival, Bandirma
Çesme Sea and Music Festival
June - July
Istanbul International Art & Culture Festival
Traditional Kirkpinar Wrestling, Edirne
Ihlara Tourism and Art Week, Aksara
Erzurum International Congress
Tourism & Culture Festival, Iskenderun
International Folk Dance Festival, Samsun
Ceramic Festival, Kütahya
Nasreddin Hoca Festival, Aksehir
Hittite Festival, Çorum
Troy Festival, Çanakkale
Insuyu Festival, Burdur
Hacibektas Veli Commemoration Ceremony
Mengen Chefs Festival, Bohn
Izmir International Fair
Ertugrul Gazi Commemoration Ceremony, Sögüt
Seyh Edibâli'i Commemoration and Culture Festival, Bilecik
GAP Culture & Art Festival, Gaziantep
Javelin Games, Konya; Kemer Carnival
International Meerschaum (White Gold) Festival, Eskisehir
Sivas Congress Culture & Art Week
International Grape Harvest Festival, Ürgüp
International Fair, Mersin
Yagci Bedir Carpet Festival, Sindirgi Balikesir
September - October
International Plastic Arts Festival, Istanbul
International Akdeniz Song Contest, Antalya
Culture & Art Festival, Diyarbakir
Mersin Art & Culture Festival
Altin Portakal Film Festival
Ahi Brotherhood Cultural Week, Kirsehir
International Bodrum Cup
International Gullet Festival, Bozburun
International Yacht Race, Marmaris
International St Nicolas Symposium, Demre
Mevlana Commemoration Ceremony, Konya
Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting. Hospitality is very important and visitors should respect Islamic customs. Informal wear is acceptable, but beachwear should be confined to the beach or poolside. Smoking is widely acceptable but prohibited in cinemas, theatres, city buses and dolmuses (collective taxis).
A service charge is included in hotel and restaurant bills.
Turkey is self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs, including maize, sugar, wheat and barley. Cotton, tobacco, fruit, vegetables and nuts, are grown for both domestic consumption and export. A variety of livestock is reared. In mining, Turkey is an important producer of copper, chromium, borax and to a lesser extent, bauxite and coal.
Manufacturing has grown significantly during the last twenty years, with textiles, food-processing, oil refining, chemicals and the production of iron and steel emerging as the most important industries.
Tourism dominates the service sector after a phase of rapid expansion and serves as a key source of foreign exchange.
Recent economic performance has been poor, the legacy of a difficult period throughout the late 1990s: the economy contracted by 2% in the twelve months to mid-1999 while inflation is still very high at over 60%. In recent years, Turkish trade patterns have shifted from the Middle East in favour of Europe and the EU in particular. Germany (which employs several million Turkish immigrant workers), Italy, France, and the UK are now Turkey's principal trading partners; outside Europe, the USA and Saudi Arabia are also important.
Turkey's original 1987 application to join the EU has effectively stalled in the face of repeated objections from existing members on grounds of human rights.
The unresolved situation in Cyprus and the government's perennial disputes with Greece are a further hindrance. Although recent political developments in Turkey have produced a more favourable political environment, the Government still faces a considerable task in persuading the EU that it can reach the requisite standards in human rights. To the east, Turkey has built up significant economic links with the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
A formal suit or jacket and tie should always be worn for business. English is widely spoken in business circles, although an effort by the visitor to speak a little Turkish is appreciated. The majority of people in business value punctuality and visiting cards are widely used.
0830-1200 and 1330-1700 Monday to Friday. In the Aegean and Mediterranean regions of Turkey, government offices and many other establishments are closed during the afternoon in the summer months. The summer hours are fixed each year by the provincial governors.
The following organisation can offer advice:
Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Maritime Commerce and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (UCCET), Atatürk Bulvar 149, Bakanhliklar, 06640, Ankara
tel: (312) 417 7700; fax: (312) 418 3268
web site: http://www.tobb.org.tr
UKTAS, International Congress Centre Inc, Harbiye 80230, Istanbul
tel: (212) 296 3055; fax: (212) 296 3099
web site: http://www.icec.org
The Crowne Plaza Istanbul has a conference centre with facilities for up to 1000 people (tel: (212) 560 8110; fax; (212) 560 8155).
Temperatures in Ankara vary between -4C °(25ºF) and 30°C (86ºF). Marmara and the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have a typical Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. Light to medium weight clothing and rainwear is reccomended.
Originally inhabited by a variety of different peoples - Hittites, Urartians, Phyrgians and Lydians - Turkey, or Asia Minor as it was called during much of the pre-modern period, was for over 1000 years the heartland of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, with Constantinople as its capital. Founded by Constantine the Great in AD330, it survived the collapse of the Western Empire in the 5th century. It was the capital from which the brilliant and enigmatic Emperor Justinian (527-565) launched his ambitious projects to reunite the old Roman Empire, the western provinces of which had been occupied by Germanic people from northern Europe.
The Byzantine Empire, from the death of Justinian until its eventual fall in 1453, was engaged in a long retreat in the face of numerous enemies, mainly the forces of Islam. However, the Byzantines took advantage of the success of the First Crusade (1096-1100) whose armies re-took many Byzantine possessions in Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine although, as later events were to prove, the interests of the Byzantines and of the Christian Crusader states in Palestine were not always identical. The Byzantine state never fully recovered, and on many occasions during the next three centuries a final defeat was only prevented by the disunity of its enemies and, particularly, by the massive fortifications of the city of Constantinople.
The conquest of Constantinople in 1204 - the only time the fortifications were breached - was followed by one of the most savage and rapacious sacks of any city in the history of the world: the treasures of Byzantium were beyond count or value, and many priceless works of art were removed to Europe (mainly to Venice) during this time. The Byzantines set up a rival capital at Nicea until Constantinople was retaken in 1261, but by this time the empire had effectively lost control of most of its territories, and by the 14th century, Byzantine control of Asia Minor was little more than an empty theory.
From the 11th century onwards, the Asiatic area of Turkey known as Anatolia had also been affected by upheavals and conquests from the east. Successive invasions from Central Asia led to the Islamic Turkification of the region, the real power fast becoming the Ottomans', a name derived from their 14th-century leader Osman Gazi, who scored a decisive victory against the Byzantines at the Battle of Baphaeon in 1301. They steadily expanded their territorial control from Turkey itself, constructing the Ottoman Empire, which at its zenith in the mid-16th century (a period associated with the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent) covered south-east Europe, including the Balkans and Hungary; North Africa as far as Morocco; the Crimea and Georgia; the Levant; Syria; Iraq; and most of the Arabian peninsula.
The most famous conquest, from a symbolic and strategic point of view, was that of Constantinople itself in 1453; with its fall, the Roman Empire, in a strictly legalistic sense, finally came to an end. The territorial ambitions of the Ottomans regarding control of the Mediterranean and Central Europe brought the empire into conflict with the major European powers of the day, particularly the Habsburgs. The Venetians, and later the Russians, were almost constant enemies of the Ottomans during the late-17th and 18th centuries, during which time the empire sank into decline. Attempts were made by some rulers in the late 18th century to reform the empire, but to little effect.
The diplomatic history of Central Europe in the early modern period is highly complex, and the Ottoman Empire became increasingly a pawn and victim of the various power struggles. Its disintegration, and the forces of nationalism unleashed as a consequence, caused schisms and conflicts that linger to this day throughout southern Europe and the Middle East. The term ?the sick man of Europe' was applied to Turkey during this period. Turkish history can thereafter be characterised by a constant struggle between the forces of absolutism and reform. In 1914, the country became embroiled in World War I on the side of Germany. The following year saw one of the most ignominious episodes in Turkish history when over one million Armenians were driven into the desert and murdered by Turkish troops. Although it is fiercely denied by the Turkish authorities there is compelling evidence that this was an officially-sponsored and systematic policy of genocide. After the war, most of the Ottoman possessions came under British or French control with the support of the newly-formed League of Nations.
In Turkey itself, the Ottoman Dynasty was overthrown in 1923 by a revolutionary movement led by Mustafa Kemal - better known as Atatürk ('the father of the Turks') - who established a single-party republic with himself at the head. The period after the War of Independence saw sweeping social reforms and economic modernisation, including the abolition of the Islamic social infrastructure and the development of manufacturing industry. Atatürk's successor, Ismet Inönü, kept Turkey out of World War II (bar the last four months) and introduced multi-party politics.
The first elections were held in 1950. There have since been two prolonged periods of military rule, the second ending with elections in 1983, won by Turgut Özal and the Motherland Party. Martial law, however, remained in force in many provinces until 1987. Turkey had joined NATO in 1952 and, since the lifting of suspensions with the end of military rule, is once more a full and active member of the OECD and the Council of Europe, as well as being an associate member of the EU. Turkey has been pursuing full EU membership since the early 1980s with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Although it has its supporters, (Britain and Germany), it faces strong opposition from Greece, with whom relations have been historically poor.
The majority of the EU continues to harbour significant doubts about Turkey's suitability because of its poor human rights record, especially regarding its treatment of the Kurdish minority. (Kurdish policy is firmly in the hands of the military who take an unyieldingly hard line against any criticism. Kurdish MPs have been repeatedly jailed, as has one of the country's most famous writers, Yashar Kemal).
For these reasons, implementation of the customs union agreed between Turkey and the EU in 1973 was blocked, although negotiations have since resumed and Turkey appears to have passed over at least the initial hurdles en route to membership. A substantial improvement in human rights and a settlement of the Cyprus problem are essential precursors (see Cyprus section for further details)
Important as relations with Europe are, Turkish foreign policy has major interests elsewhere. Firstly, the collapse of the Soviet Union has given the country a key political and economic role in central Asia, where Turkey has historic cultural and linguistic links with several countries. Secondly, Turkey also has a key strategic position on the northern edge of the ever-turbulent Middle East; in particular, it has a shared border with Iraq, and has provided essential bases for the UN's enforcement of economic sanctions and the 'no fly' zone (see Iraq). Membership of NATO ensures that Turkey can be relied upon to adopt a pro-Western position on strategic issues. At the beginning of 1990, political tension in the region was heightened by the onset of the Armenian/Azeri conflict.
Turkey was the first country to recognise the independence of Azerbaijan and has provided consistent diplomatic support for the Azeris against Armenia. Turkey has also sought closer political and economic links with the Turkic republics of the former Soviet Union: several of these Central Asian states view Turkey, with its largely secular polity and mixed economy, as a suitable model to pursue in the course of their own development. In the latter part of 1990, Turkey became deeply involved in the Gulf crisis triggered by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
The Government accrued benefits in the form of financial assistance and a free hand in dealing with the PKK insurgency, however, its relative weakness at the time meant that it was politically impossible for it to send troops to join the multi-national force in Saudi Arabia. Six months after the end of the war, in October 1991, national elections were held in Turkey. Suleyman Demirel, leading the conservative True Path Party (DYP), formed a Government with several small parties, butt he election was notable for the emergence of the Islamic party, Refah (Welfare), as a major electoral force. In June 1993, Demirel then took over the presidency after the death of Turgut Özal. He was replaced by the former economy minister, Tansu Ciller, who became Turkey's first woman premier. Ciller led a minority government for the next two years. During this period the Islamic Welfare Party, known as Refah, made rapid and unprecedented political progress, winning several district and city mayoral elections and proving more administratively competent than its longer-established rivals.
The election of December 1995 which followed the collapse of the Ciller Government, assumed major international importance when Western Governments began to worry about an Islamic-inspired government taking power. Although Refah still secured the largest number of votes at 21%, it was far short of an overall majority. The shared conservative ideology of Ciller's True Path and Mesut Yilmaz's Motherland parties should have allowed the formation of a coalition, was undermined by the intense personal animosity between Ciller and Yilmaz who repeatedly opined that Ciller should ?go back to the kitchen'. Refah was politically ostracised and deeply distrusted by the generals and intelligence officers of the shadowy National Security Council who wield great influence behind the scenes and are committed to a secular policy.
Over the next four years, Turkey had six different Governments, with all the major parties, including Refah, at the helm at one time or another. 1999 opened with the collapse of the last of the half-dozen governments and a debate among the generals as to whether to allow the scheduled April general election to go ahead. Under some international pressure, they did so, and saw the Democratic Left Party led by the veteran Bulent Ecevit returned to power. With the support of several small parties, he has been able to form a stable Government. The mood in most of Turkey at the time of the poll had been boosted by the capture, trial and sentencing of the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, following his expulsion from long-term exile in Syria. Ocalan's removal from Syria was the culmination of protracted negotiations between Ankara and Damascus which also covered the use of Syrian bases by the PKK and a number of economic issues, particularly water resources. The Syrians had been put under pressure by a military and security agreement (still largely secret) between Turkey and Israel.
After the success against the PKK, who declared a ceasefire shortly afterwards, the Government soon had more important things on its mind, after a series of earthquakes in the populous north-west of the country killed tens of thousands and wrought massive destruction. The Kurdish issue has re-emerged prominently in 2000 with international concern over the proposed construction of the Ilusu Dam on the Euphrates river in the Kurdish heartland of south-eastern Turkey.
If built as planned, the dam will destroy countless antiquities and flood the historically valuable settlement of Hasankeyf. The political scene has been dominated by the presidential succession, as Suleyman Demirel's term of office came to an end. The victor was a former constitutional court judge, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who took office in May 2000.
Under the constitution of 1987, legislative power is vested in a single chamber, the 550-member National Assembly, which is directly elected by proportional representation for a five-year term. The National Assembly elects both a prime minister (normally head of the largest party in the assembly) and a president, who is head of state and serves a seven-year term, between whom executive powers are shared.
Back to top
General Information on USA
The United States (which includes Alaska and Hawaii) is the fourth largest country in the world and as such boasts the fourth largest population (about 250 million) after China, India and Russia. It is, therefore, a land of many different cultures, customs and ethnic groups. However, the majority of the population (about 75%) are Caucasians of European descent, with the minority groups predominantly being Asians, Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans. This broad mixture of people has allowed the United States to develop a unique multi cultural society.
Again, because of America's size and location, it has many different climates and geographical features including mountains, deserts, frozen tundra, tropical islands, swamps etc. Humidity is often high in the east and south-east and most of the country experiences all four seasons.
American English is spoken throughout the States, although you will find it very different from other forms of English used in other countries. The emergence of Spanish in the States that border Mexico has made this the second language.
Even though there is no official state church In the United States, nearly two-thirds of the population has some religious affiliation - mostly Christian, with Jews, Muslims and Buddhists having a large following.
Customs and Courtesies
Both men and women usually smile and shake hands when greeting. Goods friends and family members may embrace when they meet, especially after a long absence - in a casual situation, a verbal greeting and wave of the hand may be adequate. Friends also often wave to each other at a distance and the Americans may greet strangers on the street by saying hello or good morning.
Except in formal situations, people address one another by their given name once they are acquainted. Of course, combining a title (Mr., Miss. or Dr. for example) with a family name shows respect. You might use this form of address with new acquaintances until they ask you to use their given name (which they may do on your first meeting).
Although Americans are informal people, they have structured lives. Time schedules are generally important. Because of schedules, it is best to make appointments to see officials and to telephone before visiting friends. If you are invited to someone's home, you are expected to arrive promptly, especially if invited for a meal.
It is customary to leave a tip (service charge) of at least 15% when eating out in restaurants. Unless specially invited to eat out at a host's expense, Americans pay for their own meals when dining with friends. If you are invited out, but your host does not offer to pay for your meal, you should be prepared to pay for it or decline the invitation.
The drive-in, or fast food restaurants are very popular and provide an inexpensive hot meal in less than five minutes; it is common to eat in the car when driving and it is not considered rude to eat while walking in public.
Gestures and Communication
When conversing, Americans generally stand at least 2 feet away from one another; this distance is called personal space and is important to most Americans. Holding hands in public is a sign of romantic affection; friends of the same sex generally do not hold hands.
The unit of currency is the US dollar ($) which is made up of 100 cents and available in the following denominations;
notes: $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100
NB: Notes are all the same colour and size
coins: 1 cent (penny), 5 cents (nickel), 10 cents (dime), 25 cents (quarter)
Be aware that bus and train stations, and even some banks, do not exchange money but the larger hotels often have facilities for guests.
Education is free and compulsory for children ages 5 to 16. Although students can leave school at age 16, the majority continues their education to 12th grade, age 17 or 18.
Back to top