Monday, October 10, 2016

The Persian Way (Travel+Leisure)

When Homa Rastegar moved to Munich, Germany, the driver of her taxi from the airport happened to be a fellow Iranian. At the end of the ride, she offered to pay but the driver refused to accept the fare saying that he cannot charge her as Rastegar belonged to his country and that she had just arrived at the new city.

Even if Rastegar had moved to Tehran, Iran, she would have most certainly encountered a similar episode. However, if Rastegar was aware of her culture’s particular aspect at play here, she would have recognized that the taxi-driver was merely practising tarof.

(Read remaining article in October issue of Travel+Leisure (India & South Asia) magazine!) 

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Monday, August 8, 2016

In this country, a no means yes (Conde Nast Traveller)

A random day in December 2003 in Sofia, Bulgaria: Justin Chapmans was waiting for a minibus to take him to the Hadji Dimitar district. When the bus arrived, he asked the driver for his destination to which the driver signalled him to board the bus. In response, Chapmans shut the door and the bemused driver drove away.
Chapmans, an engineer and real estate professional, had recently moved to Sofia from Canberra, Australia, and wasn’t familiar with the local language. He thought he could get by with some body language. Big mistake!
For most of the world, a head-shake from side to side denotes a ‘no’. Bulgarians, however, do that to convey the affirmative. Strange, perhaps, but there’s a reason. Some version of the following tale explains how Bulgarians reversed the meaning of the head-shake: during Ottoman rule in Bulgaria, the Turks were forcing locals to accept Islam by placing a sword on their necks. In this situation, nodding up and down to accept the conversion could mean a slit throat. So, to affirm, they shook their heads sideways.
Read rest of the article on CNT's website here!

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Why everyone in Ethiopia is seven years younger (Conde Nast Traveller)

Upon landing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Emma Southey joined the queue to get her tourist visa stamped. Southey remembers the process being very efficient and, within no time, she was officially in the country. However, when Southey, a travel consultant at Outposts Travel Africa, looked at the date on the receipt, it read 26 July 2008. She thought to herself: “Am I going crazy? I’m sure when I left the UK it was 2015!”
Neither did Southey travel back in time nor was the date on the visa receipt inaccurate. It was because Ethiopia follows a calendar that is years behind the Gregorian calendar that most of the world follows. “Ethiopia is really the only country with a Christian calendar whose count is 7 to 8 years different than the Gregorian calendar,” says Dr Jonathan Ben-Dov, researcher of calendars in antiquity at Department of Biblical Studies in University of Haifa. 
(Read rest of the article on CNT's website!)

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Friday, June 3, 2016

What's in a name? A dad, a gran or maybe an aunt (Conde Nast Traveller)

When Kjartan Ólafsson applied for an apartment in New York, his application raised a few eyebrows at the co-op board. Ólafsson had just graduated from Harvard Business School and wanted to move to the city with his wife, son and daughter. His financial status was never in doubt—but names on the application raised a few eyebrows.
The application showed Ólafsson’s wife’s last name as Guðmundsdóttir, his son’s as Kjartansson and his daughter’s as Kjartansdóttir. “Here was a woman who had two children with two different men and was now married to a third,” Ólafsson explains the board’s quandary. The confusion was a result of the Icelandic naming convention, whereby the person’s last name is the father’s name suffixed with –sson (‘son of’) or -sdóttir. Thus, the last names in Iceland are not family names but are based on father’s name. As you’d imagine, this often trips the rest of the world and as a result, Icelandic families invite suspicion everywhere, from hotel desks to immigration counters.
(Continue reading on CN's website)

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

The dark custom of 'night hunting' (Conde Nast Traveller)

It’s a custom almost every Bhutanese knows about, but would rather not discuss. An old courtship ritual that—depending on who you ask—is “predatory” or just “misunderstood”.
Bomena, as ‘night hunting’ was originally called in the Bhutanese tongue, literally means ‘going towards a girl’. “…this courtship involves a boy stealthily entering a girl’s house at night for courtship or coitus with or without prior consultation,” Dorji Penjore, a researcher at Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, writes in his book Love, Courtship and Marriage in Rural Bhutan. “(Bomena) is an institution through which young people find their partners and get married… Ideally, the process culminates in the morning, with what is locally called jai da jong (meaning ‘coming to the surface’) when the boy is found on the girl’s bed, which is an indication to declare them husband and wife,” he writes.
(Continue reading here!)

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

In praise of the toilets of Japan (Conde Nast Traveller)

Winter, 2005, Tokyo: As soon as Aatif Misbah entered the bathroom of his Shinagawa Prince Hotel, the toilet seat lifted and kindly welcomed him. It was Misbah’s first trip to Japan, and he had no idea what the toilet was saying. Bemused, he pushed a couple of buttons on the toilet’s control panel, he says, only to be assaulted by water from multiple directions followed by a warm jet of air. Eventually, he spotted a button, with a music key on it. He pressed it and the toilet stopped talking. But then it started playing music.
The phenomenon was a fully-automated toilet, versions of which have been installed in more than three-quarter of homes in Japan. Integrating a bidet with the toilet seat was only the beginning. Today, you will find toilets that come with seat warmers, deodorizers, blow dryers, water-jet adjustments and even a ‘sound princess’, which simulates flushing to mask the noise made while urinating. It doesn’t end there: some variants also measure sugar and hormone levels in the urine, which the toilet can email to the doctor over Wi-Fi! Very helpful for women trying to conceive.
(Here's the link to CN Traveller to continue reading!)

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