28 november 2011

Spanish eating habits

After a week in Madrid, we’ve gained a little more insight into the eating habits of the Spaniards.

Lesson 1: Lunchtime. We were running a workshop with Spanish participants in the subject of value communication. As workshop leaders, we are responsible for telling participants when coffee and lunch breaks will occur. Our suggestion in Spain was to take lunch at 12.30, which we thought was rather late. ‘Not possible’ we were told. ‘Not possible to eat lunch before 1pm. The restaurant might be open but the kitchen certainly won’t be’. Compare this to lunch time in Sweden which is usually 11.30 and can be even as early as 10.30! There are probably a lot of hungry Swedes in Spain.

Lesson 2: Dinner time. If you suffer from late night indigestion, Madrid is probably not the city for  you. Turning up to eat at restaurants at 9pm, which we thought was late, we were the only guests there. The food was rolled out half an hour later and lots of it! We needed to take a couple of tummy-soothing tablets when we returned to the hotel.

Lesson 3: Tapas time. Many people are familiar with tapas. But do you know where the word comes from? We didn’t either until we were told by a Spanish person one lunch time. Firstly, Spaniards usually don’t eat tapas at home unless they are having a party. Tapas are reserved for bars and restaurants. Tapas originated from patrons standing by a bar and having a drink. Because of the heat, the practice was to put a small saucer (tapas) on the top of the glass to act as a lid and keep the flies out of the precious liquid. Then some smart Alec, or maybe an Alfonso, saw a business opportunity and put a small bite to eat on the saucer. And the tapas was born!

Neil and Lynn

2 november 2011

Love thy neighbour

             Students march in the parade to celebrate 'No' day

I find myself working from Cyprus this week. While Cyprus public relations works hard to distance itself from the economic woes of their Greek neighbors, that distance does not over-ride tradition. Especially when a public holiday is involved!

We arrived to Cyprus on October 28th,  just in time for Oxi day, the Greek national holiday otherwise known as ‘No day’.
This holiday commemorates the day on October 28, 1940 when the Greek Prime Minister rejected the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to allow Italian troops to come into Greece at the beginning of WW II. Had the Greeks not said "No!" (Ochi or Oxi in Greek), World War II might well have lasted considerably longer. Facing Turkish aggression, the Cypriots drew inspiration from Greece's refusal to let Italian troops invade. 

As a result, while it’s actually a Greek holiday, Oxi day is also a public holiday in Cyprus - one of 18. Parades and celebrations took place throughout Cyprus, with the main one being along the road outside the Greek embassy in Nicosia.

Love thy neighbor - makes sense...I’d be happy to celebrate with the neighbors on May 17th (Norway), June 5th (Denmark), and December 6th (Finland) for a few more days off!


27 oktober 2011

How to overcome the small talk barrier

Last week I was on a trip to London and I was struck by how true one stereotype is. Standing in the bus queue, perfect strangers would start talking to each other to pass the time. In shops, staff were friendly and would chit-chat about nothing just to chew the fat. The stereotype about the small-talking Brit is true - even in the capital city.

There is no denying that small talking is a really important element of life and for some cultures it is much more important than for others. And this often carries over into the world of business. For many cultures, small talk in business is the way to get things done. In other words, small talk is BIG, important talk.

Although many Swedish people are aware of this in theory, putting it into practice isn’t always that easy! I receive many, many questions saying, ‘I know it’s really important, but I still feel really nervous or stupid when I am expected to small talk with visitors in English or when I'm at an international conference. How do I actually do it?’ In other words, how do we overcome the small talk barrier?

Sometimes it seems that we don’t want to initiate conversation unless we have something useful or funny to say. However, the first thing to remember is that the purpose of small talk in business situations is to get the conversation going and involve the other person. When we realise this, we understand that nothing is too inane or uninteresting to say. We should also bear in mind that we are in this situation together with another person, and they might be feeling just as uncomfortable or insecure as we are.

Overcoming the small talk barrier is quite simple if you follow these few simple tips:

What to talk about?
Option 1: The person themselves (eg ‘I understand you work as a Clinical Research Officer. How long have you been doing that?’)
Option 2: The situation and location (eg ‘Have you been to Stockholm Waterfront before?’)

How to kick off the conversation?
Option 1: Pose a question (eg ‘What do you think of the art exhibition here in the head office?’)
Option 2: Offer an opinion (eg ‘I think this seminar is going to be very interesting.’)
Option 3: State a fact (eg ‘There’s always a lot of traffic on the motorway from Malmö.’)

But which is the most effective way? In my experience, it is always best to ask a question that requires an answer. In this way, we involve the other person more than if we simply offer an opinion. Asking a question that requires the other person to give their opinion is an especially useful way to increase another person’s involvement and interest in the conversation.

So, overcoming the small talk barrier isn’t so difficult if you think about these simple tips. And remember, in business with your international colleagues, customers and visitors, small talk is not a threat – it’s an opportunity!

Wouldn’t you agree?

Neil S

14 oktober 2011

What Spaniards think of Swedes

I was recently running a workshop in Madrid and took the opoprtunity on a lunch break to ask some of the participants what their perception of the Swedes is. Since they work for an international Swedish company, I thought they might have a valuable insight that could help me in my work as a cultural diversity trainer.

Upon receiving my question, they immediately boomeranged me with a question back. Did I mean Sweden or did I mean Swedes? Both, I said.

They thought about it and then said in a unanimous voice,

'Sweden is a very modern country. One of the world's richest. The people there have everything. They are happy and healthy and secure.'

What about Swedes themselves then? I asked.

Again some thought.

'They're very nice. Very polite. But I don't understand why they have to pretend to be interested in what everybody thinks when they make a decision. It just wastes time, and they don't really mean it anyway.'

Neil S

26 september 2011

Stir-fried fish with barbecue sauce – Estonian style

It worked like this. The buffet was full of raw seafood, fish, meat and vegetables that you should put on your plate and take to a kitchen counter. At the counter you would choose a sauce, the chefs would stir-fry the contents of your plate and the waitress would bring the resulting meal to your table. At an Asian-style wok restaurant in Tallinn that is exactly what we did.

As we sat at our table and waited for the meal, we nibbled on sushi and salad. The waitress approached with our stir-fried food. One of my travelling companions, who is always friendly, smiled at the waitress and said

‘Mm , this’ll be good. Barbecue sauce, what d’you think?’

The waitress looked blankly at him, then at his plate and then back at him. Without the slightest flicker of a smile, she said

‘With fish? No.’

And she walked away.

Wow, we thought – that was direct! Not ‘I’m afraid I can’t say, sir’, or ‘Yes, some people like that combination’ but simply and frankly  - ‘With fish? No.’

This brief encounter highlights one of the ways in which culture affects communication. How direct is it ok to be before you cause offense? In Estonia, obviously, you can be pretty direct.

Different cultures have different tolerance levels for directness. Some cultures require a lot of ‘padding’ of the language in order for it be polite. Others don’t. But one thing to bear in mind is that, no matter if a culture is direct or indirect, both cultures are selecting what they say with care. The direct culture desires to be clear and honest with no misunderstandings about what they mean. The indirect culture desires to keep harmony in the relationship, not rock the boat and not cause upset. Both cultures feel they are being respectful.

So if ever you’re visiting Estonia don’t expect any pussy-footing about. Be prepared to take it on the chin and to be told exactly what they think.

With niceties? No.

12 september 2011

Turning off the motorway

Sometimes great things happen when you turn off the motorway.

Last weekend, I was looking for a place to stay in the Östergötland district of Sweden. After ringing several places that were fully booked, I managed to get a room in a little town called Söderköping.

Having never heard of Söderköping, I didn't know what to expect. But, what I found was not what I expected. Söderköping is a beautiful town with an interesting place in Swedish history. One of the oldest towns in Sweden, Söderköping has many beautiful buildings from the 1200's. In the 1800's the town became an important centre for trade, thanks mainly to its interesting location, clinging to the side of the Göta canal.

The Göta canal was one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in Sweden. The canal stretches from Sjötorp on Lake Vänern to the east coast. It has a length of 190 kilometres and a total of 58 locks. Of this distance, 87 kilometres are man-made. Although disussions to build the canal were initiated in the sixteenth century, it wasn't until 1810 that the king issued a charter allowing it to be built. The Göta canal was largely built by 58,000 soldiers and it took 22 years to finish, dug mostly by hand. Throughout the 19th century, the Göta canal continued to be a very important transport route for both goods and passengers and today, it is one of Sweden's most popular and wellknown tourist attractions.

And one of the places you can see it is in the small town of Söderköping. Not only did I have a great eveníng in this town, I also learned something about Sweden's industrial history.

So, sometimes it's worth turning off the motorway.

Neil S

6 september 2011

The healing waters of Catalonia

It came warm out of the wall at 60 degrees celcius. It tasted slightly metalic and heavy. The healing waters from the spring of Caldes de Malavella in Catalonia, Spain, attract visitors from far and wide, all hoping to cure their various ailments. It is rumoured that, thanks to these waters, the locals of Caldes live longer and healthier than those in the rest of Spain.

The practice of travelling to hot or cold springs in hopes of effecting a cure of some condition dates back to pre-historic times. Many people around the world believed that bathing in a particular spring, well, or river resulted in physical and spiritual purification. Forms of ritual purification existed among the native Americans, Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.

In Caldes de Malavella there is Roman spa, now in ruins, which reflects the town's signifance throughout history. In fact, the word 'spa' comes from the Roman town Aquae Spadanae, now called Spa in Belgium.

Sitting on the terrace of Vichy Catalan, a thermal centre in Caldes, it's not hard to see that people still today believe in the potency of thermal waters - elderly people, people in wheelchairs or on crutches, zimmer frames parked against the wall, children with unusually-shaped heads, people with visible operation scars across their bodies  - all gathered on this Sunday afternoon.

But I'm here for it's youth-giving qualities. Another pint of your best brew please!


3 september 2011

Where was I ???

Yum….(or so I've heard)

Last month, I was found myself on this place which embodied the words, 'barefoot elegance'….

Where was I ???

Here are some clues:

- approximately 480 miles south of Miami
- population 52,000
- number of banks, 570
- 14 shades of blue and sand as far as the eye could see (at least for 7 miles) 
-  national dish, turtle stew (I'm afraid I wasn't daring enough to try it)

While I was only there for a short visit, I felt a longing to return the moment I left. Not to try the various types of green sea turtle dishes available at the local restaurants - but to dive into the workings of this tiny place (22 miles/35km long, 8 miles/13km wide) where a blend of of 100 nationalities live in harmony.

Any guesses???

Lynn G. (scroll down for answer)

Grand Cayman

30 augusti 2011

20 minutes. Belize.

Under the Palompa - the writer's favorite place to sit for a half hour. Belize.
You know you're on a small island when it's enough to tell the airline that has lost your luggage, 'my local address is Casa Amarillo (the Yellow House)'.

'So when do you think I'll get my luggage?' I ask. The polite lady behind the counter answers 'oh, in a day or so, (pause) Belize.' With a long line of other travelers behind me, I decide not to question further. After flying Stockholm-New York-Miami-Belize City and then a further short jaunt to the island of Ambergris Caye, I'm not really surprised my luggage didn't make it.

Ambergris Caye is the largest of the 200 cayes that dot the coastline of Belize, (25 miles/40 kilometers long and a little over a mile/almost 2km wide in some places) and is located in the shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea just off the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

The only inhabited place on the island is the area around San Pedro town. The tiny town of San Pedro is about a mile and half mile long. I quickly found a local shop where I purchased a swimsuit and tooth brush. Not being on the island for work, I figured that would tide me over till my luggage arrived. Shopping done, I jumped into our golf cart (the main mode of transportation and equally as expensive as renting a mid-size car!) and was off to Casa Amarillo.

'How far from here to Casa Amarillo?' I ask the locals. '10 minutes. (pause) Belize.' is the reply. Keeping track, I notice we arrive some 25 minutes later.

The coastline of Ambergris Cays is is protected by a 190 mile/305k. long Barrier Reef. It is the second largest living coral reef in the world. We set out to explore the transparent waters of this area by boat. Our journey took us to Hol Chan, the area's marine reserve with coral over 500 years in the making. After an amazing snorkeling experience full of marine life, we were making our way back to the Casa. I ask the captain, 'how long does it take to get back?'. The reply, '20 minutes. (pause) Belize.'

Later that evening, I realize I had no idea how long the boat trip back had taken. I am finally starting to get it….the idea….the feeling….the understanding….of Belize time.

Caught up in my city life of schedules and of deadlines, where effectiveness is often measured by how much we fit into our day, I found myself blissfully sinking into the place where time just 'is'. For the week, the word HURRY was banished from my vocabulary. (apart from when running from the golf cart to the Casa door to avoid the swarms of thirsty mosquitoes!) Maybe a little 'belizin' when in Stockholm isn't such a bad idea. 

As for my luggage, filled with stuff I was so sure I needed but did just fine without….it arrived a day or so later. Belize.

Lynn G.

23 augusti 2011

Everyone for raki

Crete, in Greece, is world renowned for being the home of the Minoan culture and civilization. Nowhere does this become more apparent than in the ruins of the ancient palace of Knossos. The palace, which was home to King Minos, was a huge labyrinth of rooms, with shafts of natural light and ventilation systems. The Minoans were a peaceful race, so secure in their own culture that they didn't build any walls around the palace to keep out their enemies. No walls, no moat, no watchtowers. A very hospitable people, the Minoans cultivated business relations and traded in olives, grains and wine.

This sense of hospitality has carried over the centuries to current day Cretans. While the Minoans would ply their guests with wine, today's island residents offer a very different brew.

In most traditional tavernas on Crete it is customary to bring fresh fruit or another kind of sweet to the guests after they have eaten. This sweet treat is complimentary and is always accompanied by a little bottle of raki and enough shot glasses for each of the guests. Raki is a Cretan spirit. Strong and potent. The kind of stuff that makes your face grimace and your toes curl. The raki comes after you've asked for the bill but before the bill is delivered. In Crete, it takes at least half an hour to pay. The time is spent knocking back the powerful shots of raki.

But the strategy of giving the guests free raki is not only hospitable, I'm sure. The Minoans were shrewd business people and so are the Cretans of today. Who leaves a better tip?
A sober guest? Or the tipsy one who's just knocked back a few glasses of this lethal complimentary Cretan potion?

Neil S

21 augusti 2011

Crossing Istanbul

You think you have traffic???

How does one travel smoothly and efficiently across a sprawling city of over 19 million people? Well, if that city is Istanbul, and you're going by bus, it's not easy or quick - but it is exciting! 

The bus is waiting to take us from the airport, half way across town to our hotel. As we get underway, we are immediately immersed in the atmosphere of the city. Istanbul spreads, literally, across continents, with the western half in Europe and the Eastern half in Asia. Separated by the Bosphorus sea and connected by two main bridges, traffic is a bit manic! With the majority of the people living on the Asian side and commuting to and from work on the European side, driving across town (or even half way across) on a week day can take hours! 

I was enjoying a chat with fellow passengers while also noticing the very creative interpretation by our driver (and many other drivers) of where and how many lanes the were on the road. There seemed to be a preference for keeping within very close proximity to other cars on all sides. Guess this makes for maximum use of space on  the roads!  'Wow - I just saw a 4 lane road materialize into 6 right  
before my eyes!' This nearness to others also provided an opportunity for close observation of the locals.  Lots going on inside the vehicles! People singing, eating and of course talking in a multitude of animated emotional states to themselves, to those beside them, behind them, and on the phone. While observing the people, and the plethora of local sites and sounds along the way, my senses filled with excitement. Then suddenly one sound rises above all else - SMACK!

That's the sound our bus makes as it rams into the back of the taxi in front of us. For a brief moment everything comes to a SILENT STOP. Then, just a quickly, sounds fill the air again as horns start honking, voices shout and sirens soar. Engines rev on all sides of us as other drivers seek every opportunity to maneuver around what is now in their path. It seems though, that this is not an infrequent occurrence as the police arrive to the scene quickly and in just over an hour, we are on our way again.

So, how long does it take to get even half way across this city? The answer-well it  
could take an hour, maybe two, but six would not be totally surprising. I think dinner this evening is close to the hotel - maybe even in the hotel. Perhaps for tonight, that's the best choice. I can save the other side of town for my next visit!


Journeys close to home...

On our way again.....

Apologies to our readers for not posting much about our travels in the couple of months leading up to the summer holiday. Even though we didn't write much then, it doesn't mean we weren't on the go. We are pleased to say that those months were, to put it mildly, BUSY!

The majority of our trips during that time were within close range to our home base in Stockholm. Imagine all the places you can get to from Stockholm by taking a one hour flight. Now add to that a one hour train journey, bus ride or car trip. During April-June, my colleagues and I covered most of those places within an hour's range (or at least it felt that way!). While planning the timing and logistics for getting to each new location, I heard myself saying over and over -
'Oh, no problem - it's only about an hour away!'. Well, I gravely miscalculated!

The road works, the traffic, the parking, the train delays, the bus or taxi to get to the train, bus or plane.....hmmm.....'Only an hour away'......well, I learned a valuable travel lesson.....

.....Better get going by 6am at the latest, and with any luck, I'll get there by mid-day!


9 juli 2011

The big sky of Österlen

Light polution is a problem of the modern world. Those of us who live in large cities, rarely see the sky at night. We've lost our connection to the stars, planets and constellations and we usually only see a reflection of the dingy orange of metroploitan lighting when we look up into the night sky.

This is what makes leaving the city so exciting. A move to less populated areas, to a more rural location reconnects us with the universe.

Österlen is the most south-westerly tip of Sweden. The sandy, Baltic coastline looks out onto a horizon of sea, with Poland out-of-sight on the other side. Everything is big in rural Österlen. The sea is big. The fields of wheat are big. The sky is big and bright and blue.

But it is at night that the sky comes into its own. The night sky over Österlen, when not lit by the distant midsummer sun, is a black sheet of hugeness. The constellations of stars are all visible, just like in the text books.  You can stand for ages gazing up in to the night sky over Österlen. All those stars that we normally don't see in the cities are up there, centuries old and glimmering like sequins on a magician's velvet cape. You are baffled by the massiveness of the heavens and the smallness of yourself.

Everyone should be reminded of this, the most primitive of circumstances. The night sky, the moon, the stars - and a very small city boy overwhelmed by the magnitude of the experience.


17 mars 2011

A Warm Welcome in Marrakesh

One of the many palatial living rooms at L Mansion, Marrakesh
'It's very warm here' she says happily as we step off the plane at 5pm in Marrakesh. Normally, I don't warm up until it's at least 28°C, (82°F) but after several months of minus temperatures in Stockholm, even I agree that 20°C (68°F) feels warm! The locals seem to be of a different mind though, as they dressed in thick sweaters or wool kaftans with their hoods up.

After a short drive through the bustling, winding roads of the city we arrive at the gates of our hotel, L Mansion. Built on 12-acres filled with blossoming citrus and olive trees, L Mansion is truly an authentic Moroccan palace.

We were greeted warmly by the estate proprietor. After seating us comfortably in one of the many magnificent palace living rooms, we were offered warm mint tea. While sipping our tea, despite the ornate surroundings, the thing we noticed above all else, was 'the quiet'. In fact, as it transpired, we were the only guests. Serving primarily a discerning American clientele, the other scheduled guests had apparently been scared off from a trip to Morocco. It seems the political issues currently happening in the Arab world, while barely visible in the day to day lives of the people in Marrakesh, still impact them greatly.

Having spent about half my life in Sweden, I know that the differences between the Scandinavian countries are many. There is a tendency however, among people not from Scandinavia, to 'lump ' all Scandinavians together as if they come from a single place. 'They are more or less the same' I sometimes hear and even read in various tourist publications or on websites. I guess the 'Arab world' has suffered the same fate as the people of 'Scandinavia', despite the immense differences in each nation and its people.

So here we sit, enjoying the warm evening sun, surrounded by friendly staff with warm smiles, in a peaceful palace just minutes from the crowded streets of Marrakesh - all alone.

5 mars 2011

Tradition on the streets of Britain

No matter how modern we think we are, some things never change.

Sitting in the suburb where I grew up, logged on to BT Open Zone and merrily accessing the server in Sweden via vpn, I hear a noise from the street. It's a distance noise, a cry that gets louder and louder as it moves down the street. I feel a vague twinge of recognition somewhere in the depths of my memory.

But it can't be what I think it is. It's not possible. Not in 2011!

I put my laptop on the floor and go inte the living room to look out of the window onto the street. I hear it again. A cry, this time louder, but still not visible. I look to the left and the right, but I can't see anything.

And then I hear it - clear as day. A resonant voice echoing down the street:

'Raa-boh! Raa-boh! Raa-boh..........'

I can't believe it - the Rag and Bone man is here.

Historically, the Rag and Bone man was a man who travelled the streets of a city and collected old rags (for converting into fabric and paper), and bones (for making glue), scrap iron and other items, often trading them for other items of limited value. Now they collect any junk that they think has a useful resale or recycling value.

When I was a kid, in the 70's, they would use their distinctive 'Raa-boh' (Rag and Bone) call to alert householders to their presence, sometimes also ringing a hand bell. Whenever you gave them something, you would recieve a goldfish in return - a living goldfish swimming around in a water-filled plastic bag. I loved those goldfish.

I stand at the window in amazement. The Rag and Bone man still exists! But even he has modernised his practice.

In my childhood, he trotted around the streets in traditional horse-drawn cart with colourful balloons attached to the horse.

Now, he drives around in a spic-and-span white van. And through his side window, I see the familiar blue glare of a gps system.

Neil S

28 januari 2011

The silence of the lands

Gateway to old town, Tallinn

It's been said that the further north you go in Europe, the more tolerant people are of silence. Due to smaller populations and therefore less competition for the word, the nordics are a prime example of this.

This acceptance of silence is also a key to successful communication in the Baltic countries. This week Lynn and I have been in Tallinn, Estonia running an intercultural workshop. The participants were from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland,Iceland and Sweden. One of the questions we asked on the workshop was what is the meaning of silence. Thoughts differed on this one. It means I agree, it means I disagree, I like you, I don't like you, I am angry, I am respectful, I have nothing to say, I have no opinion, I am shy, I am tired, I didn't hear you. No surprise then that it's easy to jump to the wrong conclusion when people are quiet.

The overriding similarity between the Baltic countries however is the feeling that silence is 'comfortable', not to be feared or avoided. The same attitude exists in Finland. This may seem strange to those of us from cultures where we interpret silence in group situations as embarrassing and fill the gaps with chatter and noise. A skill to learn for those of us from cultures less tolerant of silence is to patiently wait the more silent cultures out. In Sweden, when we are running training courses and we ask a question to the group, we slowly count to 10 in our heads while waiting for a response. The technique usually works. In Estonia, the key was to count to 35. And, even then, we didn't always receive an answer.

There, you can talk as much as you want about being comfortable with silence!

Neil S.

14 januari 2011

Spoiled in Smokefree

I've finally understood and grown to accept that I am no longer the intrepid traveler I once was.

Upon entering Lipscani, the 700 year old OLD town of Bucharest,  Romania, I would expect my sense of adventure about what lay before me to be on high. And why shouldn't it be? I had already noticed and was facinated by the city of Bucharest which is truely a work in progress. The neglected stands beside the restored, the intricate, ancient and ornate beside the ultra modern, and the glamourous beside the gutted. Somehow it all melds together to give character to a place that has been experiencing rapid transformation over the past 21 years.

Our 4 day stay was in the Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel. Originally part of the buildings of the Casa Poporuli (known today as Parliament Palace) the hotel is by all appearances quite beffitting of the name 'grand'.  The Casa Poporuli is unquestionably Romania's most famous building.  Built during the darkest days of the Ceausescu regime, it was host to the former communist government. The expansive main building of the Casa Poporuli, no longer shrouded in the secrecy of the communist state, now houses the Romanian
Parliament, the Museum of Contemporary Art, a modern conference center and it's open for tours to the public! Desipte all this, due to its enormous size, much of building still remains unused.

Now, back to the old town....we decend further into the pedestrian streets of the area. After some brief time exploring we are ready for a coffee break. So what do we search for? Is it the authentic little place with local food and flare-NOPE. Is it the trendy hot spot where the hip city dwellers hang-again, NOPE! I take my small family on a search for the only known fully smokefree cafe in the whole of the old town.

Finally we stumble upon the place. I was not entirely surprised to find it empty and with a menu as bland and dull as the placed itself seemed.

Tempted to stay anyway and avoid the smokey assult on our on senses that we were no longer accustomed to, we dig deep into our travelling past for a bit of the long lost adventurer spirit. Finding a spark, we venture to the place next door - the French Cafe. I understand this as some sort of compromise- minimal risk on the food- in fact, we enjoyed what is said to be the best espresso in Bucharest together with an extraordinary onion soup. This was, of course, accompained by a chain smoking crowd in lively conversation.

Definately worth a trip to the dry cleaners when we are back in our "exciting" smokefree paradise.