Category Archives: World Around Me

10 learnings from Japan

I’ve learned some fascinating & exemplary stories about discipline & honesty in Japan through Quora. When the time came to visit Tokyo, I felt that I should familiarize myself with some Japanese etiquette. And I must say that a few minutes of reading came in very handy during the trip. Here is what I’ll keep with me forever:

1. Respect everything

Courtesy: Hobotraveler.com
Cash tray besides the register

Handle everything with both hands, especially money. Most counters will have a tray next to the ledger where you are expected to place money & pick your change. I guess the practice of receiving business cards with both hands comes from here.

2. Avoid 4 & 9 in every way

The Japanese word for “four” sounds like the word for “death” whereas ‘nine’ is sometimes pronounced ‘ku’, which can mean suffering. Its a superstitious piss-off; I don’t know how many follow, but I would avoid a 4 piece gift or a sales offer with too many nines.

3. Go with the group

Generally, the Japanese believe in group decision making that is focused on the larger good. This avoid favorism and blocks in-ways in an integral group – possibly why Japan was never colonized. This could slow down the process, but that’s how it is.

4. Genuine customer focus

Here’s my story: I went to the information counter at HND airport around 7:25 asking for a bus to my destination. The lady said the next one is at 10am. I had read about one at 7:45 and asked her to check; when she realized there was one, she apologized at least thrice for the possible misguide. She then realized that there was very little time left and I possibly couldn’t make it to the bus stop after getting my bus & train tickets. She, in her kimono and modified geta, ran to help me with tickets and brought me all the way to the bus stop around 7:38am. That was perhaps one of the happiest moments of her life Continue reading

1st impression of Air India @ Star Alliance

Delighted to see this!
Delighted to see this!

I was scheduled to fly Air India just 1 day before its Star Alliance (*A) membership went in to effect, thus depriving us of our *G privileges. Nonetheless, most of us are delighted about AIs entry to *A which allows seamless transfer of miles, lounge access, priority boarding, to name a few.

Lunch: sans the typical bakery roll
Lunch: sans the typical bakery roll

AI seems to have taken their entry seriously – knowing that memberships have been revoked in the past. Most of our 4-leg journey was as scheduled. But there’s still a long way to go. The food menu needs to be more internationalized and most importantly, legacy crew needs a mindset change. The crew on the international sector seemed more geared up than their domestic counterparts. Continue reading

La Concorde @ CDG – A childhood fascination

My last trip to France was pretty close to Bastille Day. I was lucky to be at an office overlooking Arc de Triomphe & Tour Eiffel and have French fighter, bomber, tanker & aerobatic aircraft literally pass over our heads as they prepared for the parade. One amazing moment for someone who’s been fascinated with aircraft since childhood. Here is a shot of one such fascination.

Open Borders across Europe

As Indians, the word border only means war & tension to us. I cannot explain how exciting it is to cross borders on foot without any control what so ever.

St. Louis Grenze
St. Louis Grenze

Basel, where I was based, happens to be the north-west tip of Switzerland, bordering with France & Germany – making it an international city. In fact the airport is also shared by the 3 countries, and you can choose to pass through either country’s passport control. There are 2 main railways – the Swiss SBB & French SNCF station, and the German DB station.

German border crossing
German border crossing
The Intersection
The Intersection

The 3 countries meet at a point on the river Rhine, and the intersection is celebrated by the Rhinecenter mall on its banks. In fact, we walked in 3 countries in a matter of an hour, although it wasn’t good enough to mark them ‘done’. Switzerland also shares its borders with Austria on the east, and Italy on the south. Swiss cars bear the Swiss flag on their number plates
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Pristine & Picturesque Switzerland

I’ve been lucky to visit Switzerland thrice this year, adding bits to my Swiss experience each time. A post on this pristine and picturesque country can be concluded at the very beginning – its outright beautiful!

Every frame is a postcard photo
Every frame is a postcard photo

At least for us Indians, some credit does go to Yash Chopra for the glamour he has attached to this mountainous nation. For him, the returns have not only been monetary, but also honorary: Interlaken’s Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel offers the ‘Yash Chopra Suite’ at $2,000-per-night. As our Swiss client had warned, the peaks of Jungfrau & Pilatus are flooded with Asians – particularly Indian, Chinese & Japanese. The Restaurant Bollywood atop Jungfrau – the top of Europe – hints at the same.

Lucerne
Lucerne

Swiss people are absolutely fantastic: well mannered & very helpful. People will go out of the way to find you answers, whether on the street or at the post office. Their manners, put together with the importance of privacy, are what make you feel so safe. The latest I’ve taken a train in Switzerland is 23:30 with full baggage, reached my hotel at 01:30 and not once was I worried. At least between my train journeys on the European continent, I don’t think it gets safer than this. Everything from watches Continue reading