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Uncategorized

The difference; style vs fashion

When you look at pictures of people from decades past, you might have one of these two reactions; people sure knew how to dress back then or people looked ridiculous back then. It doesn’t matter if the pictures are from the 90:s, 80:s, 70:s or older.

That difference, my friends, is the different between style and fashion.

While style – contrary to the old saying – is never truly timeless (just look at how the way clothes are cut differ with every age), there are definitely some timeless qualities that people with style possess.

Nobody can question the style of James Dean, in jeans and a white t-shirt, even though you probably wouldn’t wear that cut of jeans today. That doesn’t matter, the style is timeless.

The same goes for style icons such as Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Humphrey Bogart, Karl Lagerfeldt. Or more contemporary, Ryan Gosling and David Beckham.

Style is something that you have.

You can buy the latest, trendiest, coolest fashion. As long as you have money, you can easily be the most fashionable guy that you know.

All you need is a credit card and an issue of the latest men’s magazine of choice, and they will point out the exact outfits to wear this week and the upcoming weekend.

Style, on the other hand, is much more personal. It’s something that comes from within. It isn’t an answer to the expectations from the people around you. It’s a statement of who you are and how you see yourself. What you like and what you stand for.

“Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.” – Edna Woolman Chase, editor in chief of Vogue magazine from 1914-1952

I lived for many years in a small town of about eighty thousand people. It was probably the most fashionable place I have ever seen. Everywhere you looked, you saw people that looked like they cane straight out of a fashion magazine.

They were wearing the latest brands, the coolest shoes and the acessories that were most in at the moment.

They flocked to the newest and trendiest bars, cafes and restaurants to the point where most bars and restaurants never survived for more half a year to a year. Crowded the first month, and slowly emptier and emptier until they weren’t fashionable anymore.

Only a handful places survived and thrived in this town year after year. They didn’t survive because they had the best drinks, food or service. They survived because instead of trying to chase after the newest and coolest, they had their own style. When people had tried out that newest and coolest place, they returned.

I think this goes for people as well. If you strive to be fashionable, you have to constantly play catch-up. You need to put a lot of effort into knowing and owning the latest and greatest, because when you don’t have the energy to do so anymore, you will feel empty. And you might be afraid of getting looks of disapproval instead of constant compliments from the people around you.

“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself.” — Oscar de la Renta

On the other hand, if you develop your own style, you don’t have to play catch-up anymore. You’re not the expectations of others. You’re you. Genuinely you.

The real fashion victims

Fashion is not sustainable. Especially since the arrival of fast fashion, when what is in and out doesn’t just change every season, but with every shipment of cheap, throw-away garments from China.

It’s not sustainable for the ones who are constantly chasing the latest trends, but it is even worse for the real fashion victims – our planet, the climate and those who work in the sweatshops that produce them.

There’s little hard research on how often people generally wear their clothes, but one survey of 2,000 women in the UK found respondents on average wore an item seven times.

Think about it. Seven times. For something that took hundreds of liters of water to grow, many processes to enrich, and a long transport from East Asia to wherever you live.

Fast fashion is not sustainable. Even a garment that was made in the worst possible way, but worn 100 times, is better for the planet, the climate and the workers of the factory than anything that is worn just seven times, no matter how organic and “sustainable” the production methods are.

And even if it costs ten times as much, it’s cheaper per use.

How do I develop my own style?

The easiest way to start digging is to dig where you stand. If your wardrobe is filled with the coolest designer jeans and the latest t-shirts, you are probably a jeans and t-shirt guy, so start there.

The next step is to cancel the subscription for that trendy man’s magazine, and instead direct your attention to other sources.

Look at older magazines, image google, look at art and photography with people of different ages and from different times.

Make a list if you’re so inclined, but keep track of what you like and what you don’t. Then try to figure out what it is about them that you like or don’t like.

Types of garment. Colors. Materials.

Go to a men’s store that cater to timeless style rather than fashion. Try things on, but don’t just look. Also touch and feel the materials.

In what ways does wool, cotton and linen feel different? Which do you like? How does different weave types feel?

Bring a female or gay friend to the store. No, I’m not stereotyping here. Not all women or gay men have a better sense of style than straight men. Most do, though, but that’s beside the point. What matters is that they probably look at other men in a different way than straight guys do.

Categories
Behaviour Travel

5 tips that will help you fly economy class like a gentleman

I take about 20-30 flights per year. Most of them are shorter leasure trips within Europe. I always fly economy, both for the sake of the climate and for my wallet.

A lot of things can be said about economy, but very few things are pleasant. You sit in a tiny seet, cramped next to a stranger. Some of your fellow passangers are not used to flying, and are unaware of basic aviation etiquette.

But don’t despair, there are still a lot of things you can do in order to make life easier and the journey more tolerable for yourself and those around you.

1. Relax in the airport lounge before your flight

While flying is annoying, waiting for a flight can be even worse, but we’ve all seen them. While we’re tired and annoyed from camping out near the gate for an hour or more, with crying babies, loud talkers and commotion, just when boarding starts, they arrive.

Refreshed, relaxed and with an effortless stroll.

The lounge people. These ellusive people, who have been hiding out behind doors, clearly marked with signs saying “By invitation only”, until boarding.

The benefits of airport lounges

Airport lounges are basically calm, all-inclusive waiting areas for those who are willing to pay a little more extra for a lot more comfort. Actually, you don’t have to be willing to pay extra. You just need a basic understanding of the economics of airports (which is based on the fact that most people will spend a significant amount of money just from a couple of beers, a sandwitch and some bored shopping).

They usually have different seating arrangements; couches, arm chairs, cafe tables and workspaces, so that you can comfortably relax, have a meal or work.

They are usually equipped with a buffet ranging from light snacks to full, warm meals, a bar with alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments, a private bathroom, often with showers.

All this – sometimes except for premium drinks – free of charge once you’re in.

How do you behave in an airport lounge?

Most airport lounges have dresscodes, but they are usually informal. As long as you don’t look like a bum, you’re good to go.

Behaviour is more important, though. Since the purpose of airport lounges are to create a calm environment for people to relax, don’t be loud and obnoxious.

Be courteous to everyone, be calm, talk quietly, turn the sound off on your devices, and go to the side if you’re on the phone, so basically, how any gentleman would behave anywhere.

So, how do you get in to the lounges?

While having a Business or First Class ticket is often the easiest way, it’s also the most expensive, and usually not necessary.

Believe it or not, even though almost all of them have signs saying by invitation only (or similar wordings), a lot of them do accept payment at the door without an invitation, especially during off hours.

A lot of airlines will also sell access to economy travellers as an up-sell item. Look in their app or website.

The cost of a single entrance ranges from $35-$50, and while this might seem expensive, a couple of beers and a sandwich will not cost much less.

If you travel more than once or twice per year, a lounge access card, such as Priority Pass, is the way to go. They range in price from $100 and up depending on if the number of visits are fixed or unlimited.

The best way to get them, however, is by getting a premium credit card. Personally, I have a Mastercard Black, that cost me roughly €200/year, and apart from the usual premium credit card benefits such as excellent travel insurance and conciërge service, it also includes an unlimited Priority Pass, that also allow me to bring guests for an extra fee of €25 or so.

2. Be prepared

Be prepared before check-in, security, passport checks and boarding.

Always keep your travel documents in the same place, easily accessible. Personally, I always keep my passport and (when applicable) paper boarding passes in my right inside pocket, but find the place that suits you.

Before security, look over the signs. Wether you need to take belt and shoes off, or if you need to take laptops and liquids out differ from airport to airport, but they always have signs or screens with the information.

On boarding, make sure you have everything you need during the flight in a small bag, so that you can quickly put your main carry-on in the overhead compartment without having to dig through it, toss the small bag by your feet and be seeted within a few seconds, so you don’t create a traffic jam.

And, which shouldn’t have to be said – ensure that you have your documents ready for inspection on boarding and in passport controls.

3. Obey the armrest etiquette

The armrest etiquette can be tricky, but the rules are simple.

On a 3-chair configuration, the middle seat has priority for both armrests. This is because both the isle- and window seats are more comfortable, and you have the possibility to stretch out towards the isle or window.

In all other configurations, you have priority to your right armrest, while the neighbour to your left has priority to the armrest by your left arm.

Easy, right?

4. Dress appropriately

It’s not comfortable to fly on a long haul-flight in a business suit. It’s also not very good for the suit. If you have a meeting where a suit is required after a long flight, take the suit in the carry on and switch in to it before descent.

While comfortable, also don’t wear your home pants, that you throw on for lazy Sunday mornings.

Instead, opt for loose (but well) fitting pants, jeans or chinos. Stretch can be your friend here, to retain comfort while not looking like you’re wearing a tent. Pair this with a polo shirt and make sure you have a sweater to put on if it gets cold, and you’re good to go.

Unless you have an odor problem, it is OK to remove your shoes.

Also, make sure you are newly showered and that your clothes are clean before you get on that 10 hour flight, and that you wear deo but take it easy on the cologne before boarding. Take advantage of the shower in the lounge if you have a layover and enough time.

5. Be courteous but also understanding

While it’s not pleasant to be stuck for hours within inches of strangers, common courtesy goes along way. Greet them, assist them if they need something. Chat if you want, but be mindful of their body language and stop if it seems like they want to be left alone.

If you opt for an alcoholic refreshment at the lounge before the flight, do it in moderation.

Also, be patient, understanding and helpful to people who are not aware of proper etiquette, who have disibilities, are overweight or are travelling with children.

Remember, as bad annoying as that crying baby might be for you, it’s ten times worse for the parents…

Bonus tip: Compensate

Yes, flying is bad for the climate. But flying also has a lot of benefits. It brings people and cultures together in a way that would be impossible without flying.

It helps you grow as a person, meet new people and explore the world. I am also an expat, so flying makes it possible for me to maintain the relationships with my family and friends back home.

I am not willing to fly less. But I am willing to pay for my “climate sins”, so I always compensate.

Compensating for flights are not expensive. It adds a couple of dollars or euros to intracontinental flights and perhaps ten dollars or euros for intercontinental flights. It might not be as good for the environment as staying home, but it’s a lot better than doing nothing. You should do it.

Enjoy your flight

Follow these simple rules, and your flight will be much more tolerable, both for you and those around you.

Enjoy your flight!

Categories
Behaviour Values

What does it mean to be a modern gentleman?

The word gentleman has a long history, and the meaning of the word has changed throughout the ages. Our society has changed greatly in the last 50 years, yet when some people think of a gentleman, the image that pops up is usually someone from the 19th, or the first half of the 20th century.

The liberation of women, the equality movement and not least the #metoo movement have brought a lot of good. It has pointed out and in some cases helped us get rid of some toxic male behaviours. It has given women more power and opportunities.

While the purpose of these movements have been to ensure that toxic masculine behaviour is no longer tolerated, it has failed to strengthen the positive aspects of masculinity.

Or, rather, it hasn’t failed. It was never it’s purpose. It’s up to us to define what it is being a man today. And especially what it means to be a modern gentleman.

History of the word gentleman

Originally, a gentleman was the lowest rank of the landed gentry of England, ranking below an esquire and above a yeoman; by definition, the rank of gentleman comprised the younger sons of the younger sons of peers, and the younger sons of a baronet, a knight, and an esquire, in perpetual succession.

As such, the connotation of the term gentleman captures the common denominator of gentility (and often a coat of arms); a right shared by the peerage and the gentry, the constituent classes of the British nobility.

Yeah, the English hierarchy of social statuses is confusing, I know. But it gets easier.

The word gentleman as an indicator of rank had already become of doubtful value before the great political and social changes of the 19th century gave the word a wider, more informal meaning. The change of meaning of the world can be seen through the successive editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica:

In the 5th edition (1815), “a gentleman is one, who without any title, bears a coat of arms, or whose ancestors have been freemen.”

In the 7th edition (1845) it still implies a definite social status: “All above the rank of yeomen.”

In the 8th edition (1856), this is still defined in similar words as in the 5th edition, but the writer adds, “By courtesy this title is generally accorded to all persons above the rank of common tradesmen when their manners are indicative of a certain amount of refinement and intelligence.”

And from the mid 19th century and onwards, gentlemen has more and more come to be related to behaviour than heritage, slowly morphing into how the word is used today.

A modern definition

A gentleman is a man who treats others, both men and women, regardless of their standing, in a respectful manner and not taking advantage, pushing or manipulatong others into doing things that are not in their best interest. In other words, it’s OK to push someone to for example seek medical care or pursuing their dreams, but not pushing or manipulating someone to do you favours.

This also has some implications, for instance that:

  • Don’t take your anger or frustrations out on others.
  • That you don’t discriminate based on gender, ethnicity, sexual preference or anything else.
  • That you listen to others more than you speak.
  • That you don’t brag, boast or belittle others.
  • That you dress and act in order to feel comfortable rather than to impress.
  • That, especially as a leader, you inspire and encourage rather than command and demand.
  • That you own up to your mistakes
  • That you forgive the mistakes of others
  • That you are awesome!
Categories
Style

A gentleman’s guide to Harris Tweed

What is Tweed

Tweed is a rough, woolen fabric, usually woven with a plain weave, twill or herringbone structure. Tweeds are an icon of traditional Scottish and Irish clothing, being desirable for informal outerwear, due to the moisture-resistant and durable properties of the material. They are made to withstand harsh climates and are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and Scotland.

While originally made for wearing in the country, as styles have become more casual, Tweeds made it’s ways into the city, and today, a Tweed suit or sports jacket is by many regarded as one of the most stylish, timeless and gentelmanly things to wear.

What sets Harris Tweed apart

Harris Tweed, often referred to as the king of Tweeds, is handwoven by islanders in their homes in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It is made from 100% pure virgin wool, which also must be dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.

The Harris Tweed certificate of authenticity in one of my Harris Tweed jackets.

The name and the characteristic Harris Tweed Orb is protected by the Harris Tweed Act of 1993 and protected by the Harris Tweed Authority.

The History of Harris Tweed

The islanders of Lewis and Harris, the Uists, Benbecula and Barra have woven cloth by hand for centuries. It was originally made for their own use, and surplus was traded as barter, eventually becoming a form of currency amongst the islanders, but eventually made it’s way to London through export.

Gearrannan, the Outer Hebrides, Scotland

The original name of the cloth was tweel, Scots for twill, due to it being woven in a teill weave.

According to legend, the name Twill came around 1830, when a London merchant received a letter from a Hawick firm about some tweels. The London merchant misinterpreted the handwriting, understanding it to be taken from the river Tweed that flows through the Scottish Borders. The goodes were adverstised as Tweed, and the name has been used ever since.

As the Industrial Revolution reached Scotland, mainland manufacturers had turned to industrialized weaving, but the traditional hand weaving was retained in the Outer Hebrides, and although the fabrics were known for their quality weaving, the cloth was still produced mainly for home use or for the local market until the middle of the 19th century.

Even as the export market grew, supplying the upper classes of London with high quality Tweeds, the traditional hand-woven home production remained, and it was eventually protected in the Harris Tweed Act of 1993.

Harris Tweed inspection stamp. Photo: Giftzwerg 88 CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, every 50 metres of Harris Tweed are checked by an inspector from the Harris Tweed Authority before being stamped, by hand, with the Orb Mark, which guarantees it’s authenticity.

How is Harris Tweed made?

The creation of Harris Tweed begins with fleeces of pure virgin wools which are shorn from Cheviot and Scottish Blackface sheep.

Although most of the wool is grown principally on the mainland, local sheep wool is also added to the mix. The two types of wool are blended together to gain the advantages of the unique qualities and characteristics of both.

Dyeing and spinning

Once shorn the wool is scoured before being delivered in large bales to the mills of the three main tweed producers where it is then dyed in a wide variety of colours for blending.

The freshly dyed coloured and white wools are weighed in predetermined proportions and then thoroughly blended by hand to exact recipes to obtain the correct hue. It is then carded between mechanical, toothed rollers which tease and mix the fibers thoroughly before it is separated into a fragile, embryonic yarn. This soft yarn then has a twist imparted to it as it is spun to give it maximum strength for weaving. The spun yarn is wound onto bobbins to provide the ingredients of weft (left-to-right threads) and warp (vertical threads) supplied to the weavers.

This vitally important process sees thousands of warp threads gathered in long hanks in very specific order and wound onto large beams ready to be delivered, together with yarn for the weft, to the weavers.

Weaving

Tweed being handwoven on a traditional loom.

All Harris Tweed is hand woven on a treadle loom at each weaver’s home on a ‘double-width’ Bonas-Griffith rapier loom in the case of mill weavers, or normally an older ‘single width’ Hattersley loom in the case of independent weavers. The weaver will ‘tie in’ their warp by threading each end of yarn through the eyelets of their loom’s heddles in a specific order then begins to weave, fixing any mistakes or breakages that occur until completed.

Finishing and inspection

The tweed then returns to the mill in its ‘greasy state’ and here it passes through the hands of darners who correct any flaws.

Once ready the cloth is finished. Dirt, oil and other impurities are removed by washing and beating in soda and soapy water before it is dried, steamed, pressed and cropped.

The final process is the examination by the independent Harris Tweed Authority which visits the mills weekly, before application of their Orb Mark trademark which is ironed on to the fabric as a seal of authenticity.

Is Harris Tweed expensive?

No, surprisingly not. I would even go as far as saying that Tweed is currently grossly underpriced and a well-tailored Harris Tweed sports jacket can cost as little as $400 when bought in, or orderd from, Scotland. This is not much more than any other well made sports jacket from a reputable brand.

When factoring in the quality, longevity, history and hand made production, it’s a real bargain.

Categories
Gastronomy Health Values

Meat, less meat or no meat?

There is a great debate currently going on, whether you should eat meat, reduce the amount of meat you eat (“flexetarian”), go vegetarian or completely vegan, for the climate and for your health. But should you?

The facts

There are two main arguments to eating less meat. The impact on climate and the impact on your health. So let’s dissect these arguments.

The carbon footprint of meat and dairy

Food accounts for 10%-30% of a household’s income. Typically, this figure is higher in lower-income households.

Out of that, meats account for approximately 57% and Dairy 18%.

Not all meats are created equal

While the carbon dioxide release for beef is almost 7 pounds per serving, and Legumes generate only 0.11 pounds per serving, switching from beef to pork (1.72 pounds per serving) or chicken (1.26 pounds per serving) will have a greater impact on your carbon footprint than switching from chicken to legumes.

This means that there are some carbon footprint savings that you could do by switching from beef or eating less meat.

On the whole, though, agriculture only accounts for about 8% of all carbon emmissions, so the savings are limited. Transportation, Energy and Manufacturing account for 70%, so it might be better to stop buying useless crap from China on Wish than to ditch that cheeseburger.

Source: University of Michigan

The impact of meat on your health

There are both benefits and risks of switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. The benefits include slightly less risk of cardiac events and cancer in vegetarians, but the science is still unclear, and the links are weak.

At the same time, if not managing their diet properly, especially vegans can risk getting insufficient amounts of vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc and Omega-3. While rare, if the diet is not managed, there is also a slight risk of protein deficiency.

In other words, the research is unclear, but there might be a link between eating less meat and better health.

Source: Harvard

Is it immoral to eat meat?

Morality is a complex issue, and there are philosophical arguments both ways.

One thing that seems to be nearly universal, though, is that causing unnecessary suffering in animals is wrong. From that, one could draw the conclusion that if choosing to eat meat, it’s better to opt for free ranged and/or organic meat than factory farmed.

It also tends to taste better anyway.

You decide

Ultimately, you decide your own diet. You have to weigh the risks, benefits and ethical issues.

The important thing, though is that the choice is personal. Whether you decide to eat meat, become a flexetarian, vegetarian or vegan, it is a personal choice, and it doesn’t make you morally superior to anyone else, so live and let live, and let everyone else make their choices as well.

Enjoy your meal!

Categories
Uncategorized

How to make a perfect Old Fashioned

You cannot get more classic than the Old Fashioned, a humble concoction of four, simple ingredients; whiskey, sugar, bitters and ice.

The Old Fashioned was developed during the early 19th century and given its name in the 1880s, so it’s literally one of the cocktails upon which all mixology is built.

It is said that the fewer ingredients, the harder a cocktail is to master. This is because even the smallest variation in preparation, down to the size of the ice cube, will affect the result.

Here is a recipe that, if followed exactly, we guarantee will make a perfect classic Old Fashioned every time, and a also works as a great starting point to experiment with different variations.

Perfect classic Old Fashioned Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 oz./6cl rye or bourbon
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 large ice cube (or 2-3 normal sized cubes)
  • slice of orange peel

Directions

Place the sugar cube in an Old Fashioned glass or whisky tumbler.

Wet it down with Angostura bitters, crush the sugar with a wooden muddler and rotate the glass so that the sugar grains and bitters give it a lining.

Add a large ice cube. Pour in the whiskey.

Stir until chilled and properly dilluted, about 30 seconds (depending on the size of the ice cube).

Gently twist the orange peel over the cocktail, so that some of the aromatic oils from the peel land in the glass.

Garnish with the orange twist and serve immediately.

Rye or Bourbon?

Because Old Fashioned is built on Whiskey, and the other ingredients are only accents, it matters a lot which whiskey you use and whether to use bourbon or rye is all up to your personal preference.

If you prefer a dryer, slightly peppery Old Fashioned, then go for a rye.

If you, on the other hand, want a slightly sweeter, rounder and richer flavour, go for a Bourbon.

Reach for the top shelf

Quality matters, and no matter whether you choose a bourbon or rye, go for the top shelf. Life is too short for bad whiskey and you don’t want your delicate work to be spoiled just because you wanted to save and extra $20 on a bottle.

The Old Fashioned glass

The old fashioned glass, sometimes referred to as a lowball glass, is a short tumbler used for serving spirits, such as whisky, neat or on the rocks.

Old fashioned glasses typically have a wide brim and a thick base, so that the non-liquid ingredients of a cocktail can be mashed using a muddler before the main liquid ingredients are added.

Common variations

A common variant is to substitute the sugar cube with simple syrup, which was the prefferred method of David A. Embury.

Another variant is to substitute the orange peel for a lemon peel, which gives a slightly fresher aroma, great for an outdoor summer night.

The peel can also be accompanied by or substituted for a maraschino cherry.

Categories
Alcohol

A gentleman’s guide to akvavit

Ah, akvavit. The drink of the cold, dark north. Enjoyed by Scandinavians for hundreds of year, but lately gaining more and more international recognition.

What is akvavit?

Akvavit, from the latin aqua vitae – water of life – is a distilled spirit that originated in Scandinavia, where it has been produced since the 15th century.

It gets it’s distinctive flavour from spices and herbs, and according to EU law, the minimum ABV is 37.5% and the dominant flavour must come from caraway and/or dill seed.

How to drink akvavit

Traditionally, akvavit is drunk during festive gatherings, such as Christmas, Midsummer and crayfish parties, chilled, as shots during the meal. In Sweden, it is mostly consumed immediately following a song, called snapsvisa, of which the most known one is “Helan går”.

Lately, however, akvavit is getting more and more common as a drink ingredient, both for cocktails and long drinks. For instance, akvavit and tonic – often garnished with a twig of dill – is an excellent digestive after a meal.

Two main styles

There are two distinctive reginal styles of akvavit. Traditionally, the Danish and Swedish aquavit is lighter in both color and taste, while the Norwegian akvavit is often darker, due to being matured in oak casks. This also gives it more complex flavours, loved by some but which might make it too overwhelming as a drink ingredient or with food, and better suited as an aperitif.

Linje akvavit

Perhaps the most exotic style of akvavit is the Norwegian Linje Akvavits. Linje Aquavit is named after the tradition of sending oak barrels of aquavit with ships from Norway to Australia and back again. This means that the akvavite passes the equator (“linje”) twice before being bottled.

The constant movement, high humidity and fluctuating temperature cause the spirit to extract more flavour and contributes to accelerated maturation and higher complexity.

Which akvavit should I try?

If you want to start easy with a smooth akvavit that is not too overwhelming, then Swedish O.P. Anderson and Danish Aalborg are great picks. They are both versatile and can be used both as aperitifs, shots during the meal and as drink ingredients.

If, on the other hand, you want to dive in to something more rich and complex right away, Lysholm Linje, is dark, rich and complex, and best drunk sipped as an aperitif.

Skål!

Categories
Culture Travel

A gentleman’s guide to behaving abroad

In a globalized world, where more and more people get access to travel, cultural crashes happen. Most of us have probably witnessed tourists doing strangem disrespectful and rude things.

We may have laughed, got upset or just shrugged it off, but no matter how you react in these situations, keep in mind that they most likely didn’t realize that they did something wrong.

They were simply behaving the way they would do at home.

And be certain, if you travel (if you don’t you should), then you have probably been that person too, that locals either laugh at, get upset by, or just shrugging it off.

Cultures differ widely between regions, countries and continents, and what is seen as normal in one place is often seen as deeply rude by people from different cultures.

Sh how do you avoid being “that guy”?

Assume that anything you do could be deemed as rude

Talking too loudly or two quietly? Slurping or not when eating soup? Accepting or recieving a gift? Tipping, not tipping, tipping too much or too little? Greeting a woman with a handshake, or without a handshake?
Wearing shoes indoor or no shoes? Haggling or not haggling at a market?

These are a few examples of opposite everyday behaviour that are deemd as curtious in some cultures and rude in others.

With this, I want to illustrate that any behaviour – as innocent as it might seem to you – might be regarded as deeply rude when you are a guest in a different country.

Read up on the culture

Before any trip you make, read up on the basic culture. Learn a little bit about the country, the people and their habits. This does not only help you understand the social convetions, but also the context and origins of their customs.

Also, read up on specific topics, such as:

  • Tipping – when, how and where should you tip? How much?
  • Haggling – should you haggle or not, and if so, how and how much?
  • Eating and drinking etiquette – is it acceptable to drink alcohol, and if so, how much? Should you finish your food or leave a bit on the plate? How do you use the silverware?
  • How and when to greet others
  • How to behave at someon’s home. Do you bring a gift? Which type? Do you bring a bottle of wine for the meal or not? Do you wear your shoes inside? Should you be on time or late, and if so, how much?
  • Learn some simple phrases in the local language. Hi, yes, no, please, thank you and I’m sorry will get you a long way and will get people on your side.

By reading up on these basic topics before you leave for your trip helps you be prepared, and minimize the risk of commiting a faux pas.

Observe the locals

Observe how the locals behave and imitate them.

Ask

If you are put in a situation where you are not sure how to act, simply ask. While asking will reveal that you don’t know, it will also show that you care and that you want to avoid offending anyone.

While language can be an issue, ask the hotel staff, your guide or anyone else who speaks English or your language.

Apologize

Be seneitive, and if people seem to react negatively to something that you do, ask what it was and promptly apologize, preferably in the native language.

Don’t be afraid

While it might seem scary to have to behave differently or not knowing how to behave, most people in most cultures will understand, especially if you show that you try and apologize when you fail.

The worst thing that can happen is that you get told off, but this happens rarely. In most cases, a slight faux pas can lead to a shared laugh, a chat and perhaps even friendship for life. It’s not the end of the world as long as you show that you try.

Categories
Travel

A gentleman’s travel guide to Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a small (~850 million people), but vibrant city in the heart of Europe. While perhaps most known for it’s cannabis bars (called coffee shops) and the Red Light District,
Amsterdam is cultural and picturesque, with it’s tall, narrow, crooked houses lining the many canals. It also has a very rich and – sometimes controversial – history.

The people

Amsterdammers are known for being open and direct. Don’t be alarmed if a complete stranger walks up to you and comments on your clothes, no matter if it’s a compliment or telling you that they don’t think that color looks good on you.

They don’t consider this rude, they consider it being frank and honest, no matter if they are asked for their opinion or not.

In general, the Dutch people have a live and let live attitude, which means that they tolerate many things that would be deeply offending elsewhere – such as drug use and sex. Don’t think that this means that they cannot be offended, though. Even though they are tolerant in general, there are taboos and things you shouldn’t do when in Amsterdam.

English is never a problem. Dutch people are the best non-native English speakers in the world.

The city

While the city is home to less than a million people, it is still much more crowded than most western cities.

This is partly due to the city itself being small – the area inside the city ring is much smaller than the neighbouring Schiphol Airport.

But it is also due to the blocks being small, streets and sidewalks narrow and a lot of space is taken up by canals.

Due to it’s diminutive size, small streets and flat topography, bicyxle is the default mode of transport in Amsterdam. Driving is confusing and often slow, and while the public transport network is excellent, biking is often the fastest alternative. In fact, you can get to anywhere in the city within 20-30 minutes, and to most in 10-15.

Areas to visit

Even though Amsterdam is small – or maybe because it is – it contains many different neighbourhoods with very different character. This is something that many tourists who mostly stay in the De Wallen / Redlight District and surrounding areas.

De Wallen, Redlight District and Chinatown

The areas surrounding the central station is by many tourists believed to be the center of Amsterdam. The truth is that most Amsterdammers rarely set foot in this area, and while the buildings and architecture is very much traditional Amsterdam, you won’t get the geniune Amsterdam experience here.

The entire area is overran by bachelor partties and other groups of young, drunk, obnoxious tourists. Amsterdammers are happy that they stay there, but any tourist with basic respect for other people is warmly welcome were we Amsterdammers go and hang out with us.

While it is definitely worth visiting the Red Light District, a couple of hours is enough. Use the rest of your time in Amsterdam to explore the areas of Amsterdam that are better suited for gentlemen.

De Pijp

De Pijp is one of the main bar and restaurant areas for locals to hang out. This fairly recently gentrified area is home to the largest outdoor market in Amsterdam, Albert Cuypmarkt, as well as plenty of hip bars and restaurants.

Jordaan & Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets)

If you prefer to explore local brands and smaller boutiques over the large international chains (and you absolutely should), then head to the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) for your shopping.

You find them in the canal district just east of Jordaan, and you’ll find everything from second hand stores to the coolest, hippest Amsterdam brands.

When you need a break, head for one of the traditional Brown Bars in Jordaan to keep your thirst at bay.

Museum District, Leidseplein and Vondelpark

Rijksmuseum and The van Gogh Museum might be the most famous of the Amsterdam museums. That unfortunately also means that they are some of the most crowded, and you need to book way in advance.

The can Gogh Museum is open until 10PM on Fridays once a month. If you’re in town, I recommend it, as it’s calmer. The bars and music they play also helps.

If not, I recommend going to the Stedelijk Museum, filled with modern and contemporary art or the private Mocum Museum, specializing in Banksy instead.

While in Amsterdam, Please

Smoke responsibly

If you want to visit one of the cannabis bars, called coffe shops, keep in mind that the products are much stronger than in many other places, so take it easy.

Technically, smoking weed outside of coffee shops or private homes is not allowed. In practice, however, noone will mind if you rather want to sit on the edge of a canal or in a park as long as you behave and show some common
courtesy. Pick a spot that is a bit to the side, so that you don’t bother anyone with your smoke.

Drink responsibly

Amsterdammers are not strangers to alcohol, and we don’t mind having a few drinks ourselves on occation. As long as you behave, it’s all good.

Keep in mind that it’s not allowed to drink in public in some areas in central Amsterdam. However, if you want to have a picnic with a bottle of wine in a park, it’s not a problem as long as you behave.

Rent a bicycle

The best way to get around Amsterdam is by bike, so if you want to explore the city like a local, do rent a “Granny Bike”, as the dutch people call their traditional bikes.

Don’t, however, think that you can bike like an Amsterdammer. The bike traffic is crowded and might seem chaotic to an outsider. There is a system, but until you get used to it – be prepared to yield at all times.

Respect the sex workers

Prostitution is allowed in Amsterdam, and is generally seen as any job. The prostitutes even pay taxes and enjoy social security. While not seen as a high status job, prostitutes are generally respected, as most people here acknowledge that they are providing an important service to some people.

Wether you agree with that or not, respect the sex workers. Don’t stop and stare or ask for the price unless you intend to shop, and don’t take photos.

While in Amsterdam, Please Don’t

Urinate in public

No further explanation is needed. There are public urinals everywhere. Use them, or ask to use the restrooms in one of the bars.

Buy hard drugs on the street

Hard drugs (basically all drugs except for cannabis, mushrooms and peyote) are illegal, and street pushers cannot be trusted. If you want to experiment with hard drugs, it’s better to befriend some locals.

Walk on bike paths

Bike riders own Amsterdam. They are everywhere. Always look both ways when crossing a street or bike path unless you want to learn all the Dutch curse words.

Common gotcha’s

  • Cash is often not accepted.
  • Credit cards are often not accepted.
  • PIN Cards, a local version of Maestro Debit cards, are the most common form of payment. Some places with PIN signs will also accept international Maestro cards, but not all.
  • Beware of bikes. Always.
  • Dog owners are not always good at picking up after their dogs.
  • Be prepared for the Dutch Directness
  • Don’t be offended if you try to speak Dutch, and they answer in English. They are not offended by your crooked Dutch, they simply think it’s more efficient with English.
Categories
Values

5 traits of a gentleman

Being a modern gentleman comes from inside. Anyone can dress sharp and look like a gentleman, but what really matters are your core values and how you apply them when you interact with people around you.

If you dress well to show off, rather than to make the people around you comfortable and at ease, or if you care more about how you are percieved than doing the right thing, you might find that few people will genuinely refer to you as a gentleman.

It’s very hard to keep up an act and, even if successful, it won’t make you happy. You will constantly feel like a poser.

If you, on the other hand, work on your core values, your behaviour will automatically and effortlessly reflect them.

So, let’s jump right in. What are the top five traits of a gentleman?

1. Integrity

Integrity is a personal quality of fairness that we all should aspire to.

Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way.

It means having a moral compass that doesn’t waver and is based on the well-meaning of yourself and of others.

2. Responsibility

Being responsible first and foremost means that you take responsibility for your actions.

It’s human to make mistakes. We all do them. At work. In our relationships. In traffic.

Some people try to hide their mistakes or even blame them on someone else in order to keep up the appearance of being perfect and without faults.

A gentleman, however, always owns up to his mistakes. He admits when he has done wrong and does what he can to correct the error.

3. Respect

All human being deserves to be treated respectfully. It doesn’t matter if they are your superiors, inferiors or equals. It also goes for people that doesn’t treat you with the respect you deserve.

Lead with example and you will see that the more respect you show others, the more respect they will show you.

4. Competence

We live in a time where we are told that if we are just confident, we can accomplish anything. Unfortunately, this is not true.

If you were to jump out of a plane with a parachute strapped to your back, would you rather be confident than competent?

The truth is that confidence without competence is overconfidence. It will often lead to feelings of entitledment and frustrations. And while it might help you climb the corporate ladder to a certain degree, it’s like climbing a ladder that is not secured on a stable foundation.

Sooner or later the ladder will slip and you will fall.

The gentleman’s approach is therefore to focus on being competent, rather than confident, in whatever endavour he will pursue. If you do your homework, learn what you need to learn and put in the hours of practice needed, confidence will automatically follow.

And because the confidence is based on a solid foundation of competence, the ladder will be much more stable.

5. Emotional maturity

Emotional maturity is a complex issue, but a simplified explanation could be something like the art of acknowledging your emotions, and making them work for you instead of against you.

While this is the hardest trait to master, in some ways it’s also the most important trait of a gentleman.

Emotions are complex things. If you let them control you, you will lose control of your life, and it will be hard to remain reliable and dependable.

On the other hand, it’s not wise to ignore them either, as they are excellent clues to what is going on and how it makes you feel.

The secret to master them is to realize that they contain information that is aimed for you. If, for instance, someone does something that makes you angry, you are not really angry at the person or the thing they did.

The anger is triggered inside you, not as a result of the person or their action, but as your reaction. If you don’t believe me, think of it this way; depending on your mood, the same action by the same person can trigger a wide range of emotions in you.

As a gentleman, you should listen to your emotions, but not act on them. If you gets angry, you don’t take it out on the other person, because that person is not responsible for your anger.

So what should a gentleman do?

Well, while it differs from situation to situation, in general a gentleman would:

  1. Acknowledge the emotion
  2. Figure out what triggered the emotion and what it’s trying to tell you.
  3. Deal with the issue and the person in an adequate, respectful way.
  4. Deal with the emotion and learn from it internally, separated from the issue and the person.