Posts Tagged ‘Living’


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Liveable v lovable

The FT asks a very good question, Why is it no one really wants to live in the most liveable cities? 

…The polls underlines the fundamental fault that lies at the heart of the idea of measuring cities by their “liveability.The most recent surveys, from Monocle magazine, Forbes, Mercer and The Economist, concur: Vancouver, Vienna, Zurich, Geneva, Copenhagen and Munich dominate the top. What, you might ask, no New York? No London? No LA or HK? None of the cities that people seem to actually want to emigrate to, to set up businesses in? To be in? None of the wealthiest, flashiest, fastest or most beautiful cities

“These surveys always come up with a list where no one would want to live. One wants to live in places which are large and complex, where you don’t know everyone and you don’t always know what’s going to happen next. Cities are places of opportunity but also of conflict, but where you can find safety in a crowd.
“We also have to acknowledge that these cities that come top of the polls also don’t have any poor people…” 

Liveable usually does not mean the most dynamic…

… can someone coming from somewhere else improve themselves, reinvent themselves? Is there upward mobility? The top cities score badly again. London and New York are magnets for immigrants precisely because they allow those kinds of new beginnings

The common criteria of What makes a city great for all these surveys are:

Blend of beauty and ugliness – beauty to lift the soul, ugliness to ensure there are parts of the fabric of the city that can accommodate change.

Diversity – if lots of people are wanting to come to a city, there must be something there. 

Tolerance – the only way diversity works but also an accommodating attitude to sexuality (gay communities are famously successful inner-city regenerators) and religion (there are signs of increasing intolerance towards religious minorities all over the world). 

Density – density of habitation is crucial in ensuring density of activity, a vibrancy of commerce, residential and cultural activity. 

Social mix – the close proximity of social and economic classes keeps a city lively. 

Civility – impossible to measure and slightly against my stated notions about the benefits of friction but critical nevertheless. I once criticised the ingratiating politeness in the US and was told by an American who used to live in Paris that “it’s better to be told to have a nice day by someone who doesn’t mean it than to be told to go f*** yourself by someone who does”. Discounts any Israeli or Russian city from ever getting on the listEH

Read the whole article here 

Liveable v lovable 

By Edwin Heathcote FT.com

Published: May 6 2011 17:52 | Last updated: May 6 2011 17:52
A collage of city monuments and landmarks
Vancouver is Hollywood’s urban body double. It is famously the stand-in for New York, LA, Seattle and Chicago, employed when those cities just get too tough, too traffic-clogged, too murderous or too bureaucratic to film in. It is almost never filmed as itself. That is because, lovely as it is, it is also, well … a little dull. Who would want to watch a film set in Vancouver? To see its skyscrapers destroyed by aliens or tidal waves, its streets populated by cops and junkies, its public buildings hosting romantic reunions? Yet Vancouver (original name, Gastown) has also spent more than a decade at the very top of the charts of the best city to live in the world. Can that really be right?
The big cities it seems, the established megacities of the US, Europe and Asia are just too big, too dangerous, too inefficient. So what do these top cities have in common? How exactly do you measure “liveability”?No. Not at all. In fact, Vancouver’s boringly consistent topping of the polls underlines the fundamental fault that lies at the heart of the idea of measuring cities by their “liveability”. The most recent surveys, from Monocle magazine, Forbes, Mercer and The Economist, concur: Vancouver, Vienna, Zurich, Geneva, Copenhagen and Munich dominate the top. What, you might ask, no New York? No London? No LA or HK? None of the cities that people seem to actually want to emigrate to, to set up businesses in? To be in? None of the wealthiest, flashiest, fastest or most beautiful cities? Nope. Americans in particular seem to get wound up by the lack of US cities in the top tier. The one that does make it is Pittsburgh. Which winds them up even more.
So that’s the mountains, lakes and huge cups of generic coffee accounted for. Then there’s efficient public transport (that faint whoosh is the sound of London, NY and LA disappearing). There are also cultural institutions, global connectivity, green urban policies, well-designed housing within an easy commute, and so on. Each determinant on its own seems an indisputably good thing. But what do they mean together? Can Munich (Monocle’s Number 1) really be one of the best places in the world to live? On a Sunday afternoon?All the surveys use an index. But what is on it? “There’s always proximity to nature,” says Tyler Brûlé (editor of Monocle and patron saint of liveable cities and airport lounges, whose column appears weekly in the FT’s Life & Arts section). “Global connectivity is important, education and we’ve recently added chain store metrics – is there a Starbucks or a Zara?” he says.
To even begin to understand how these slightly unsettling results are arrived at, we need to understand who compiles them and who they are for. The lists are made by well-travelled academics, researchers and journalists for corporate, media and creative executives on generous expense accounts as well as other academics enjoying grants and stipends. And, of course, by Tyler Brûlé.
Most of these people are profoundly concerned with things like well-designed street furniture, a proliferation of eye-wateringly expensive artisanal retail, boutique hotels with good (English-speaking) service and environmentally friendly mayoral policies. Certainly these are all things which help but they skew the polls to a particular type of European or marginal Pacific city. What they also do is to strip out all the complexity, all the friction and buzz that make big cities what they are.
I spoke to Joel Kotkin, a professor of urban development, and asked him about these surveys. “I’ve been to Copenhagen,” (Monocle’s Number 2) he tells me “and it’s cute. But frankly, on the second day, I was wondering what to do.” So, if the results aren’t to his liking, what does he suggest? “We need to ask, what makes a city great? If your idea of a great city is restful, orderly, clean, then that’s fine. You can go live in a gated community. These kinds of cities are what is called ‘productive resorts’. Descartes, writing about 17th-century Amsterdam, said that a great city should be ‘an inventory of the possible’. I like that description.”
Joel Garreau, the US urban academic and author, agrees. “These lists are journalistic catnip. Fun to read and look at the pictures but I find the liveable cities lists intellectually on a par with People magazine’s ‘sexiest people’ lists.”
Ricky Burdett, who founded the London School of Economics’ Cities Programme, says: “These surveys always come up with a list where no one would want to live. One wants to live in places which are large and complex, where you don’t know everyone and you don’t always know what’s going to happen next. Cities are places of opportunity but also of conflict, but where you can find safety in a crowd.
“We also have to acknowledge that these cities that come top of the polls also don’t have any poor people,” he adds. And that, it seems to me, touches on the big issue. Richard G Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s hugely influential book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better (2009) seems to present an obvious truth – that places where the differential in income between the wealthiest and the poorest is smallest tend to engender a sense of satisfaction and well-being. But while it may be socially desirable, that kind of comfort doesn’t necessarily make for vibrancy or dynamism. If everybody is where they want to be, no one is going anywhere.
“Sure, Vancouver is beautiful,” says Kotkin, “but it’s also unaffordable unless you’re on an expense account and your company is paying your rent.” Burdett agrees: “Economically all these cities at the top of the polls are also in the top league.” In fact, it can often be exactly the juxtaposition of wealth and relative poverty that makes a city vibrant, the collision between the two worlds. Where parts of big cities have declined, through the collapse of industries or the fears about immigration that led to what urbanists have termed the “donut effect” (in which white populations flee to the suburbs, leaving minorities in the centres), there is space to be filled by artists and architects, by poorer immigrants arriving with a drive to make money and by the proliferation of food outlets, studios and galleries. These, in turn, attract the wealthy back to the centre, at first to consume, and then to gentrify. Whether in New York’s SoHo, Chelsea or Brooklyn, in Berlin’s Mitte or London’s Shoreditch, Hoxton and now Peckham, it is at these moments of radical change that cities begin to show potential for real transformation of lives, or for the creation of new ideas, culture, cuisine and wealth. Once gentrification has occurred, bohemians may whinge about being priced out, as they always have done but, in a big enough city they are able to move on and find the next spot.
In a strange way the everyday conflict with the (unliveable) city can also become part of the attraction. Professor Tony Travers of the LSE says, “At one level the kind of urban sophisticates who live in these areas, in Hoxton or Brooklyn, want to fight the city. The urban struggle is part of the self-image of living on the edge.”
If the relative poverty of newcomers to the city distorts income equality in one direction, then the arrival of the super-wealthy does the same from the other end. The recent turmoil in the Middle East has led to a huge wave of investment in London property, one of the traditional safe havens for foreign money. London, unlike many cities that appear high on liveability lists, has few controls on property ownership. “If cities are any good,” says Travers, “they’ll attract a footloose international crowd who bring wealth.” And so the gap gets bigger.
He adds: “But they also come because of stability. If they buy something, they’ll be able to get their money back.” Which explains why New York and London remain popular, desirable and hugely expensive, despite never appearing on the lists.
The big cities also suffer from size. It’s true that Tokyo (Monocle’s Number 4) occasionally makes it on to these lists but metropolises like London, New York, Paris and Istanbul struggle with aged infrastructure and vast, sprawling transport systems. They are penalised in surveys for their inefficiency compared to, say, a small Scandinavian city. But it’s easy to be efficient when you’re small and when you have a highly taxed, wealthy population. It is also easy to initiate green measures, from recycling to cycling, which prove far more challenging in a proper metropolis with its problems of crumbling infrastructure and mobile population.
Yet it is proven again and again that the biggest cities are in fact the greenest. Their density, the close proximity in which people live and the minimal amount of land they occupy – compared with largely suburban Vancouver, for example, makes for a far smaller carbon footprint. Mumbai is probably the greenest big city there is – slums like the million-strong Dharavi use minimal land, energy and water. And, of course, without wishing to patronise, it is undeniable that there are happy people living surrounded by their families in Brazil’s favelas and millions living lives of drudgery and lonely despair beneath northern Europe’s leaden skies. The world’s most liveable informal cities lists have yet to be pioneered.
There is one criterion which throws up shockingly counter-intuitive results – beauty. On this criterion alone, almost any Tuscan hill town, perhaps Venice, perhaps Paris, would come out on top, yet none of these are there. Most of the beauty in the cities which occupy the tops of the leagues seem to ghettoise their beauty outside the city. They have convenient escapes, though the most beautiful and enjoyable – Rio, San Francisco and others – are curiously absent from the lists. The problem is that beauty doesn’t do you any good at all. It’s not a factor for the efficient, mid-sized chart toppers – though places such as Zurich certainly have their lovely bits. But it also damages your chances of making it into the disaffected megacities mentioned at the start of this article. The most beautiful cities become monuments to their own elegance, immobile and unchangeable. They cannot accommodate the kind of dynamic change and churn that keeps cities alive. In London, New York and Berlin, it is their very ugliness which keeps them flexible.
“The other big question,” says Kotkin, “is can someone coming from somewhere else improve themselves, reinvent themselves? Is there upward mobility?” The top cities score badly again. London and New York are magnets for immigrants precisely because they allow those kinds of new beginnings. They do have class structures but they are increasingly malleable.
There is one problem, though, that remains hard to ignore – violence. Johannesburg may be beautiful but its per capita homicide rates are astronomical; Los Angeles and New York are held back for the same reason. Washington DC’s per capita homicide rate, for example, is more than 30 times that of London and this continues to hold US cities down in the rankings. Urban guru Richard Florida remarks that the key to liveability is to “ensure that a city can guarantee the safety of all its residents”.
Of course, the ultimate difficulty with these surveys is that tastes are individual. I find London infuriating but –with the possible exception of New York – couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather live. “The city is a unique and private reality,” wrote Jonathan Raban, author of Soft City. He proposed that his London was a “soft city”, a place that everyone remakes in their own manner, in which every place evokes a personal memory or connection and which we navigate through our own unique mental maps. Our cities are our own – we make them inside us. No city means the same to two people so how on earth can we measure them?
Edwin Heathcote is the FT’s architecture critic
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Rankings: the best and the worst
New York
The only city that gives me a thrill every single time I walk through it. Fast, furious, brash, cosmopolitan yet completely self-absorbed, it is the perfect big city.
Rio de Janeiro
An extraordinary cocktail of pleasure and pain, beaches and favelas, condos and shacks, Rio is one of the most beautiful, most tolerant and most varied cities on earth. Unfortunately, its high murder rate discounts it from traditional best cities lists. But what a cityscape.
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul

The fulcrum of the delicate balance between Europe and Asia, Christianity, secularism and Islam, Istanbul manages to be both one of the most beautiful cities on earth and yet accommodating to huge and constant change. It is a young, international, wildly commercial city with an extraordinarily vibrant street scene, open 24 hours and genuinely alive.

London
London seems to have the ability to reinvent itself. It has been a magnet for immigrants for centuries and remains a place where the poor can make something of themselves and the wealthy can enjoy their money. Its infrastructure is crumbling, its property overpriced and its weather dull but London’s cultural life is astonishing and most of its museums are free.
Rome
It might be more than 1,500 years since Rome was a proper world city but its allure lies in a blend of history, chaos, beauty and infinite layers of culture.
A few that don’t make the grade
Moscow
Impossible to traverse on foot, infinitely rude, corrupt, understandably alcoholic and seriously traffic-clogged, Moscow needs work. It does have some beautiful bits, from the Kremlin through to the masterworks of revolutionary modernism but the legacy of the communist police state hangs heavy.
Dubai
Everything that could go wrong with a city does here. It is, in fact, a place with no “here”. A succession of malls, highways, hotels and hideous towers, it has spent its history announcing its arrival but hasn’t a clue what to do when it gets there.
Birmingham
Once it was the workshop of the world, an astonishing morass of industry that somehow threw up a powerful, elegant Victorian city, which has been completely destroyed. Its decline has been less complete than that of, say, Detroit or Flint but it manages to be uglier nevertheless.
Jerusalem
I know, I know – beautiful, holy, history lingers in its every shady corner. Yet the treatment of Arabs as second-class citizens, the ghastly security wall smashing through its edges and the omnipresent guns have spoilt it. Jerusalem is the perfect example of why tolerance is so critical to a city.

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>April 22, 2011
A Passover Toast to a Rabbi Known for Social Activism, and for Kosher Coca-Cola
By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN

Rabbi Tuvia Geffen, of blessed memory, was born in Lithuania in 1870 and educated in the renowned Slobodka yeshiva. In the wake of a pogrom, he immigrated to New York in 1903, and seven years later he moved to Atlanta to become the rabbi of Shearith Israel, a tiny and struggling Orthodox congregation meeting in the battered remnant of a Methodist church.

During his early decades at Shearith Israel, Rabbi Geffen established Atlanta’s first Hebrew school and oversaw its ritual bath. He stood by Leo Frank, the Jewish man falsely accused of murdering a young Christian girl, and after Frank’s lynching in 1915, the rabbi urged his congregants not to flee the South in fear.

At Passover in 1925, he spoke eloquently and presciently against Congress for passing immigration restrictions that “have slammed shut the gates of the country before the wanderers, the strangers, and those who walk in darkness from place to place.” As early as 1933, he warned about the Nazi regime in Germany. Long before feminism, he advocated for Orthodox women who were being denied religious divorce decrees by vindictive husbands.

But all those achievements are not why we invoke the name and memory of Rabbi Geffen today, more than 40 years after his death. No, we come to honor his least likely yet most enduring contribution to the Jewish people and his adopted nation: kosher-for-Passover Coca-Cola.

Yes, observant Jews of today, searching supermarket counters for those bottles with the telltale yellow cap bearing the Orthodox Union’s certification, and yes, Coke die-hards of any or no religion who seek out those same bottles for the throwback flavor of cane-sugar Coke, you owe it all to Rabbi Tuvia Geffen.

He of the long beard and wire-rim glasses and Yiddish-inflected English, a man by all outward appearances belonging to the Old World, he was the person who by geographical coincidence and unexpected perspicacity adapted Coca-Cola’s secret formula to make the iconic soft drink kosher in one version for Passover and in another for the rest of the year. To this day, his 1935 rabbinical ruling, known in Hebrew as a teshuva, remains the standard.

That ruling, in turn, did much more than solve a dietary problem. A generation after Frank’s lynching, a decade after Congress barred the Golden Door, amid the early stages of Hitler’s genocide, kosher Coke formed a powerful symbol of American Jewry’s place in the mainstream.

“Rabbi Geffen really got the importance of it,” said Marcie Cohen Ferris, a professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina, who specializes in Jewish life in the South. “You couldn’t live in any better place than the South to get it. To not drink Coca-Cola was certainly to be considered un-American.”

Or look at the interplay of Jews and America from another angle. Rabbi Geffen’s solution to the Coke problem was not to forget the kosher rules and melt into the melting pot. But neither was it to decry the spiritual pollution of modernity in the form of a fizzy drink. A half-century before the era of cultural pluralism, his answer was to have the majority address the distinct needs of a minority.

As a contemporary Orthodox rabbi, Adam Mintz, has written in an essay on Geffen and Coke: “Struggling to find their place in a land that was often hostile to their religion, American Jews respected and appreciated rabbis who sought to include them within the Orthodox camp rather than simply condemn them as sinners. Of course his approach would not have been possible had he not felt confident in his powers of persuasion.”

We can safely say, however, that this issue chose Rabbi Geffen rather than the other way around. As early as 1925, as the Orthodox authority in Coke’s home city, he was receiving inquiries from other rabbis about the drink’s kosher status. A few other rabbis had already given certification, without knowing the secret formula. And multitudes of American Jews were drinking Coke regardless.

“Because it has become an insurmountable problem to induce the great majority of Jews to refrain from partaking of this drink,” Rabbi Geffen wrote in his teshuva, “I have tried earnestly to find a method of permitting its usage. With the help of God, I have been able to uncover a pragmatic solution.”

Putting aside God’s props for a moment, we should note that Rabbi Geffen had some significant earthly help in the person of Harold Hirsch, a Jewish Atlantan who was Coca-Cola’s corporate lawyer. Through Hirsch, Rabbi Geffen was permitted to enter that industry’s Holy of Holies and receive Coke’s secret formula.

With it, the rabbi was able to identify the elements that rendered Coke nonkosher during the bulk of the year (oil of glycerine derived from beef tallow) and specifically during Passover (a corn derivative). Hiding the exact ingredients behind Hebrew euphemisms in his teshuva, Rabbi Geffen explained the needed corrections. Glycerine could be replaced by coconut or cottonseed oils, and the corn derivative by cane or beet sugars.

Kosher-for-Passover Coke is now produced under rabbinic supervision at bottling plants serving Jewish population centers in New York, Florida, Southern California and Houston, among other areas. A number of other major brands have followed Coke into the Passover market: Dannon, Lipton, Pepsi and Tropicana. There are tequila and blintzes made without forbidden grains.

“It used to be that for Pesach you were limited to matza and hard-boiled eggs,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, the head of the Orthodox Union’s kosher-certification program. “Now, I’ve got to tell you, I love those cheese blintzes.”

And, whether devout or debauched, Coke fans anticipate Passover for their own cultish reason: the usual sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup, is replaced by cane or beet sugar.

Moshe Feder, an editor of science-fiction and fantasy books, traveled to six supermarkets from his home in Queens before finding four two-liter bottles of Passover Coke. The subject of his quest happened to come up at a seder the other night. The host, a Jewish man, had never heard about the difference between Coke and Passover Coke. But two Roman Catholic guests, Mr. Feder reported, “knew all about it.”

Rabbi Geffen, of blessed memory, who’d have guessed you were so ecumenical?

E-mail: sgf1@columbia.edu
A Passover Toast to a Kosher Innovator — On Religion – NYTimes.com


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Original Canned Air


The ‘AIR from PRAGUE’ is becoming a very popular souvenir and gift from Prague, Czech republic. We are offering an original product… 100% organic. Fresh air from Prague relieves stress, cures homesickness 
and helps fighting nostalgia.”

“Feeling down? Got the blues? Buy a whole box of Air and open the cans whenever you feel sad, remember the atmosphere, marvelous time you spent in Prague and feel better.”
Of course, the first time I saw this was in Jerusalem, where they still sell Holy Air.

As an alternative, I propose the following:

Swiss Air” – Get High in the Alps  
One breath of Swiss Air and you’ll be relaxing before you know it. Perfect for winding down after that rough day at the office — or home.

Guaranteed Stress Reliever


NYC AirInhale the Action 
Party it up as if you were in the City that Never Sleeps. Purified to give you the buzz of New York City – without all the smog. 


Guaranteed to Wake You Up



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Mar 24, 2011 – 21:27


Cracks showing in business oasis Switzerland

There are not many empty flats left in Swiss cities

There are not many empty flats left in Swiss cities (Keystone)


by Matthew Allen, swissinfo.ch

A shortage of affordable homes and international schools, along with a prolonged row over tax, threatens to weaken Switzerland’s magnetic pull for foreign firms.

Lured by low tax rates and a high standard of living, a steady stream of overseas companies have set up operations in Switzerland in recent years. But there are signs of growing discontent from new arrivals.


Top of the grumble list is the astronomic rise in house prices in Geneva, Zurich and Zug – a trend that has already priced many locals out of the market, and threatens to do the same for foreign workers.

“The new Eldorado has become even more of a magnet and there is a risk that this could result in a social crisis,” Emmanuel Fragnière of Geneva’s HEG School of Business Administration told swissinfo.ch earlier this month.

“Politicians are very happy to collect the new taxes, but they need a coherent policy to promote the location that takes into account structural difficulties.”

Problems are also showing up in Zug and in Rolle, situated between Geneva and Lausanne.


Noise control

“No one imagined what would happen with so many people from outside Switzerland coming here to work,” Rolle Social Democrat politician Patrick Bréchon told swissinfo.ch.

“They are not really creating local jobs. The housing market is like a jungle. House prices have shot up unbelievably and infrastructure – transport, roads and schools – is really behind.”

Local complaints have also been matched with anecdotal evidence of foreign workers finding it tough going in their newly adopted country. The British magazine, the Economist, interviewed newcomers complaining of boredom and a lack of places in international schools.

“You need muscle to get kids in international schools,” said one financier named only as Alex. “Otherwise it’s a Swiss school, where your kids will find it hard to settle.”

Others experienced problems adapting to stricter Swiss regulations on noise and refuse collection than they were used to at home.

Geneva-based relocation expert Francois Micheloud acknowledged that the huge influx of foreign firms and workers had created some structural problems, made worse by slow planning and construction rules.


Tax uncertainty

But he firmly believed that solutions could be found to ease the pressures, such as developing rural areas north of Lausanne or in canton Vaud.

“We are not like Monaco – a small piece of rock where you cannot build any more,” he told swissinfo.ch. “Bottlenecks will be resolved by companies spreading out to areas that are still within reach of Geneva airport.”

Switzerland’s vaunted tax competitiveness is also coming under sustained pressure from the European Union. The Swiss authorities have made noises that the corporate tax system could be revamped to meet some EU demands, but nobody knows how this could be done.

“Companies interested in relocation to Switzerland should know what the tax rules will be like in future,” tax expert Stephan Kuhn of Ernst & Young told swissinfo.ch. “They would not come to Switzerland if the tax system is unpredictable and subject to major increases.”

British-based companies, on the other hand, received a boost from Wednesday’s budget announcement that tax rates would be cut by two per cent in the next three years, a full percentage point more than previously thought.


Incentives remain

This prompted advertising giant WPP to consider relocating its tax base back to Britain from Ireland, where it had recently moved.

In a recent interview in the British Observer newspaper, the chief executive of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, chided British firms for heading to cheaper tax regimes, saying they had broken their bond with society.

“We could go, in theory, anywhere for a low tax rate. But first of all, how do you know that country isn’t going to change its tax rate in ten minutes?” he said.

However, Britain’s new 23 per cent rate would still be higher than the Swiss burden. Depending on where a company is based, combined effective federal and cantonal rates vary between 24.5 and 14 per cent.

Francois Micheloud is convinced that the relocation of foreign firms to Switzerland will continue “for many years to come”.

“The incentives for companies to come to Switzerland remain the same as before: competitive tax rates, excellent transport links, a central European location, access to a highly skilled work force, clusters of business competence and flexible labour laws,” he told swissinfo.ch.

“And Switzerland is still a delightful place in which to live.”


Matthew Allen, swissinfo


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EF, Switzerland
@Rene. What about the greed of the swiss communities???? I have lived here for 6 years and whenever foreigners complain (which often involves simply asking a question) they are hit with absolute vitriol from the Swiss who constantly want to proclaim that people don’t integrate or that people are filth because they don’t blindly accept the “CH is perfect” mantra. Why can’t the Swiss take responsibility for offering up their country to foreign companies for the sake of receiving more tax revenue and more consumption (especially with regard to real estate)??? Where are the Swiss peoples vitriol about that? I’ve known many educated foreigners who came with the goal of integrating– but the reality is that the Swiss are often inhospitable and downright unwilling to invite others into their coveted world. So foreigners are forced to rely on each other. Why do you Swiss want to create a society that is so fragmented– with different groups staying in different ghettos????? You will pay for it in the end. And it is all due to your own GREED. Companies and expats can’t come here without your approval– you have been courting these companies to come here. You had better start thinking ahead as to the human and social consequences of your greed and stop blaming others.

Lisa, Switzerland
We’ve lived here for 4 years. In that time we have had a bike and a scooter stolen right from our locked apartment building to which our managers replied “Shouldn’t have left them there” even though everyone else does. My husband had his backpack stolen off the train. He had placed it behind him rather than on a seat which then takes up a seat someone else could have used. When the train stopped in Bern a man pulled it out and took off. At the next stop when my husband went to get up and noticed it missing, the woman sitting next to him said a man took it at the previous stop. When my husband asked her why she didn’t say something she just shrugged her shoulders. That was certainly being helpful (not). A good portion of the kids here act more like thugs than decent human beings. I could go on and on. The truth is there is crime here just like everywhere else, what bothers me is that the Swiss act so much more superior than everyone else, when the truth is they are no better or worse than the rest of civilization.

Rene, Switzerland
@ EF, Switzerland: Your concluding question: “But then again, why don’t the companies ask more questions so they understand more than just what the tax situation will look like?” The answer is: Corporations couldn’t care less about the consequences about moving their operations (operations, headquarters or P.O. Box?) to Switzerland other than the “low tax haven”, fringe benefits in the name of higher net profits, share holder values and most of all greed by the corporate leadership (CEO’s & CFO’s), Board of Directors, and major share holders of these corporations.

DOYLE, Switzerland
My goodness, no wonder the Aussies refer to us as “Whinging Poms”. Nowhere is perfect. We’re all here for a reason, so just chill out and enjoy!


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Tokyo with the dimmer switch on

By Tyler Brûlé
FT.com / Life & Arts –

Published: March 18 2011 17:19 | Last updated: March 18 2011 17:19

This isn’t the column I wanted to write this week – or ever. It’s late Thursday afternoon in Tokyo, I’m sitting in the JAL lounge at Haneda airport and I’ll soon board a Cathay Pacific flight for Hong Kong and then carry on to Milan. The airport isn’t chaotic, the queues aren’t anything out of the ordinary and I really don’t want to go. I was originally supposed to fly on Friday but all the flight changes forced an early departure and I’m staring out across the bay to Tokyo and taking stock of the past few days.
I arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday. The 4.35pm ANA flight from Seoul’s Gimpo airport to Tokyo Haneda usually operates at close to 100 per cent capacity – with business class frequently wait-listed. When I walked up to the counter at Gimpo on Tuesday afternoon, there wasn’t a passenger in sight in the ANA check-in zone and as I approached the desk a manager eagerly popped out from behind to assist his staff with the check-in procedure. While boarding passes and bag tags were being printed, I asked how full the flight was. For a brief moment he instinctively smiled and then shifted his lips to a frown and said flight NH1164 was “empty”.
For the better part of 96 hours I’d been corresponding with staff in our Tokyo office to gauge their moods while also monitoring the behaviour of the five London-based colleagues with me in Seoul. Originally, four of us were due to travel on to Tokyo but by mid-afternoon on Monday a photo-shoot scheduled for Wednesday had been shelved, there were frequent questions about the necessity for the trip by others, the Tokyo team was continuously updating and assessing the viability of the schedule, and all along I was getting a strong sense that my cohorts weren’t keen on making the trip to Japan. Between meetings I took the opportunity to fire off a quick e-mail explaining the situation and advised that anyone uncomfortable about travelling to Japan could return to London but that we also had a moral and professional responsibility to support our colleagues in Japan if they were still going about their normal business and working as usual. By the time I reached the gate, I was alone.

Read the rest here: FT.com / Life & Arts – Tokyo with the dimmer switch on

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Jerusalem

The Diary: Simon Sebag Montefiore

By Simon Sebag Montefiore
FT.com / Life & Arts – Published: January 28 2011 22:03 | Last updated: January 28 2011 22:03

Jerusalem has always driven people mad: the Jerusalem syndrome is a madness caused by the disappointment of finding that the real, messy, chaotic, angry place is not the Celestial Holy City of the imagination. One hundred visitors a year – mainly Christian pilgrims – go insane and are committed to the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre. Many emperors, conquerors, leaders, Jews, Muslims and Christians have, in their way, succumbed, losing touch with reason when it comes to Jerusalem.

In 2000, the British Journal of Psychiatry described the syndrome as a “psychotic decompensation … related to religious excitement induced by proximity to the holy places of Jerusalem”. The study warns tour guides to be aware of the danger signs in their groups and these include: an obsession with taking baths; compulsive fingernail/toenail clipping; preparation, with aid of hotel bed linen, of toga-like garb, always white; screaming; ranting; procession to shrines and delivery of sermons there. Even writers about Jerusalem have been known to suffer bouts of the syndrome: my wife Santa thinks we’ve all been suffering from it in our house. She is very glad my book Jerusalem: the Biography is out.
. . .
On the subject of family, it is tempting to write Jerusalem’s astonishingly dramatic history as a succession of massacres and conquests but cities are really created by families over centuries. I found myself researching an epic family saga of dynasties – royal, aristocratic and sometimes obscure.
When I am in Jerusalem I always stay in either the American Colony Hotel in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah or the Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the guesthouse beside the Montefiore Windmill. Sir Moses Montefiore founded the Montefiore quarter and windmill (a real one he exported from Kent) in 1860, the beginning of the expansion of the Holy City from within its walls to create New Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab suburbs. It was thanks to this great-great uncle that I wrote my book: indeed our family motto is “Jerusalem”. He founded the Montefiore quarter for poor Jews but it was so dangerous to be outside the city walls that, initially, its inhabitants crept into the city to sleep.
During the 20th century, the King David Hotel was built almost next door. During the Arab Revolt of 1936-38, “the Montefiore” area came under Arab attack; during 1948, Arab irregulars tried to storm it while the British, based around the King David Hotel, fired on Jewish forces and blew the top off the Kentish windmill. Now it’s one of the loveliest parts of the city outside the walls, the site of the city’s literary festival.
The American Colony has a parallel history: a mansion built at almost the same time but by the greatest Arab family, the Husseinis. Rabah Al-Husseini, its owner, sold it to a sect of American evangelist millenarians, the American colonists led by the Spafford family. They had settled there in 1888 to prepare for the apocalypse but became a much-loved Jerusalemite institution. Later they converted the house into a hotel: in 1948, Bertha Spafford, the founder’s daughter and now a Jerusalemite matriarch, tried in vain to prevent an Arab ambush, launched from the hotel grounds, of a Jewish convoy of ambulances. In the 1990s, the Oslo peace talks started there.

Read the rest of the article online at FT.com

FT.com / Life & Arts – The Diary: Simon Sebag Montefiore

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The New Starbucks Trenta Cup Is Bigger Than Your Stomach

The New Starbucks Trenta Cup Is Bigger Than Your Stomach

To satisfy the unquenchable gullets of America’s brand-name coffee drinkers, Starbucks will introduce a 916ml Trenta cup. That’s more than the average capacity of the human stomach, and enough caffeine to stand in for a defibrillator.

Of course, it’s not much—if any—different from a Big Gulp or any movie theater’s large beverage container. But for some reason coffee’s just that much more insidious. You’ll be able to sample one for yourself when the Trenta rolls out nationwide by May 3rd. [Image credit: National Post via Laughing Squid]

The New Starbucks Trenta Cup Is Bigger Than Your Stomach

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