Linda Zoon - Blauw Bloed

A Conversation with Linda Zoon

Linda Zoon

Graphic designer and illustrator with a passion for fashion

 

Linda Zoon is ILNI’s illustrator creating the beautiful interpretations of our bag personalities. She is the one who has brought Augustina, Betty-Joan, and Cresces to life. Linda has amassed a growing following on social media due to her beautiful illustrations of the Dutch Queen Maxima. As soon as the Queen appears somewhere, Linda will be illustrating her outfits and posting them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest. She illustrates not only the wardrobe choices of the Dutch Queen but also creations from designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Kithe Brewster.

ILNI - Augustina by Linda Zoon

 

How long have you been a graphic designer and who are some of the brands you have worked for?

I have been in this field of work for 35 years and have been fortunate to work with fashion brands and government agencies including the municipality of Rotterdam, FAB Magazine, Vorsten (Royal magazine), Metro (newspaper), Amsterdam Fashion TV and others.

Of course, I also welcome working with private and smaller customers. I am always happy when someone calls into my studio and wants to look around. Just today I was called about an illustration that hangs in my shop window. How nice is that!

 

What is the biggest challenge in this line of work?

For anyone working as an illustrator, the biggest challenge is to set yourself apart with your own unique style.

For me personally, the biggest challenge was working to acquire international fame with my fashion illustrations and becoming an illustrator for fashion designers (Haute Couture) and stylists. Still on my list is to be officially recognised as the illustrator of the wardrobe of our Dutch Royalty, Queen Maxima.

 

How do you cope with deadline stress?

Luckily, the higher the pressure, the better I perform. Deadlines have never been a problem for me. In fact, I thrive on the challenge to deliver everything on time while keeping a sharp eye on the quality of my work.

 

Linda Zoon - giadcurti201722

What qualities do you think one needs to work as an illustrator?

You must be able to listen carefully. Much of our work is about understanding the ideas of client and by listening and interacting back and forward with them bringing their best ideas to life. As an illustrator, we are not the fashion designers; we are an extension of the designer, the ones who can illustrate their ideas. In a way, we translate their designs into beautiful illustrations making their ideas more tangible, like in a fairy tale. A great illustrator can turn clients ideas into visions.

 

 

Where do you get your inspiration?

From everywhere, but especially through social media. I follow the great fashion shows and fashion weeks. When I see something that catches my eye, I just have to draw it. It gives me energy and relaxes me. I forget about the world around me and I am like a child again.

 

What is the strangest or most fun thing you have ever encountered in your job?

I often post my illustrations of what Queen Maxima is wearing via Twitter or Instagram and these get a lot of attention. A Dutch TV show Blauw Bloed (Blue Blood), about the Dutch Royal family noticed these posts and called me about being part of a fashion item on their program. They came to film in my studio for 4 hours one day and created a really nice piece about my work. (I secretly hope they ask me again 😉 ) Video here

 

Linda Zoon - INSTA-MAXIMA

 

How important is social media to your job?

Social media is like my shop window. It is how I promote myself. When I post an illustration of one of the Royal Family members I get a lot of responses. Without social media many of the great experiences I have had would not have happened.

 

Where do you hope to be in 5 years from now?

I want my studio to be firmly on the map and to be well known as an international illustrator working with some of the larger fashion magazines (Vogue Italia, Harpers Bazaar USA). I hope to continue working for a number of large fashion houses, both domestically and internationally. And of course, I hope to be making illustrations officially for the Dutch Royal Family.

 

What is your favourite vacation destination?

City: Paris

Country: La Gomera (Canary Islands / Spain)

 

What are your plans for the weekend?

This weekend I am in The Hague and plan to visit the City Museum. There is a beautiful Art Deco exhibition currently on. I am hoping to get some more inspiration 😉

 

Linda Zoon

 

Get in touch with Linda

 

Website: www.lindazoon.nl

Linda Zoon on Facebook

Linda Zoon on Instagram

Linda Zoon on Vimeo

Linda Zoon on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Perfect Parisian Weekend

Paris is the perfect place to spend a lifetime, but for those of us not lucky enough to call this beautiful city home, a weekend will have to do. We have put together our favourite picks for making your trip into a perfect Parisian weekend.

Putting on the Ritz

The Ritz Paris has been an icon of style and elegance in this beautiful city since it opened in 1898 and is our pick for a perfect Parisian stay. A known favourite of Coco Chanel and F. Scott Fitzgerald, there is no better place to enjoy a weekend in Paris than in the luxury of this beautiful hotel. We also love that from the Ritz it is an easy walk to the jewellery and fashion boutiques around the Place Vendôme and along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Luxurious and convenient for shopping, need we say more?

Shop until you drop

Speaking of shopping, while you can find many fabulous shops around every corner in this city of style, our favourite two picks are the Le Bon Marche and Merci.

Le Bon Marche has been setting the style of Paris since the 19th century when the owner and his wife decided to create a unique store where customers could come in and browse undisturbed. Le Bon Marche is now one of the most exclusive department stores in Paris, combining high-end products with surprisingly friendly staff that encourage a relaxed style of shopping without the hustle and bustle. Our tip, visit their gallery of imagination where products and brands from around the world are displayed. Look out for their pick of designers who are yet to hit the mainstream and check them out before everyone else finds out about them.

Our other favourite shop is Merci. A new concept store that is located in the heart of the historic district of Haut-Marais inside an elaborately reconfigured 19th-century fabric factory. The three loft-like floors are filled with furniture, jewellery, stationery, fashion, household products, children’s wear and haberdashery. You will also find stylish cafes and a restaurant to keep you refreshed. That’s not all we love about Merci; this most generous of retail stores also gives all its profits to charity.

Pick a fragrance

What is a trip to Paris without buying perfume! Our pick for the place to find your dream fragrance is in Guerlain on the Champs-Élysées. Arguably Paris’ most famous perfume shop, it is also one of the most beautiful. Bringing sweet fragrances to Paris since the early 1900s, this shop is a wonder to be in. Marble floors, shimmering mirrors and art deco styling take you back to a time of elegance and grace in the city of style. If you really want to soak in the glamour of this glorious reminder of the past, you can book into their decadent spa for total indulgence and pampering.

Fill up on French Cuisine

After all that shopping you will need to find the perfect place to eat. May we suggest the Monsieur Bleu for lunch? Monsieur Bleu is an Art Deco marvel with green marble floors, velvet banquettes and geometric chandeliers. This restaurant perfectly combines elegance and chic with an extensive menu filled with classic French cuisine. Monsieur Bleu really is a “must visit” for the perfect Parisian weekend lunch.

Explore somewhere new

For something a little out of the ordinary, we think you might like the Musée du quai Branly. Filled with a wide range of indigenous and folk-art that extends back to the Neolithic Age, this museum is like an adventure back into another world. Wind your way through this innovative building housing more than 300,000 artefacts that have been presented to the Kings of France or collected by the great explorers over the centuries. It is easy to spend an hour or two in this museum just appreciating the beauty of tradition and craftsmanship from the centuries.

Promenade like a Parisian

When you have shopped, filled up with French cuisine and soaked up some culture, what could be more Parisian than to partake in a centuries old custom of the promenade? A perfectly Parisian custom of taking a leisurely walk in a public place for pleasure and/or display. The Jardin des Tuileries is a public garden where the stylish citizens of Paris would parade in their finest clothing in ages past. But, even if you are not into parading, these stunning French style gardens, which separate the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde, are a much-loved cultural walking place for Parisians and tourists and a nice break from the busy city.

Experience Vegan Haute Cuisine

As the day turns into evening we have a unique suggestion for dinner in this city so well known for leading-edge cuisine. Our recommendation is the Gentle Gourmet. Known as the house of vegan gastronomy this restaurant combines the finesse of French gastronomy with an ethical and ecological dimension and a lot of passion and precision. Each season the experienced chefs create a stunning plant-based menu filled with bold vegan twists on French classics that make this restaurant well worth a visit.

Lights out

Finish your evening with an enchanted flair by finding a location over-looking the eliminated sights of Paris at 1 am. This is when the city of Paris turns its lights off for the evening. There is something magical about watching all the twinkling lights of Paris going out leaving only the muted streetlights still glowing to guide you home after a perfect Parisian day.

Bonne nuit.

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5 Compelling Reasons to Visit Bruges

Bruges, one of the most incredibly well preserved medieval towns in Europe has a picturesque village centre that is almost unchanged from 600 years ago when the city was a thriving financial hub. Due to an unfortunate twist of fate, the city became an almost forgotten backwater for hundreds of years, leaving it sleeping like in a fairy tale only to be awoken 600 years later beautifully preserved and now lovingly restored.

Today Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city buzzes with renewed energy and visitors from around the world, fuelled by artisan chocolate, fresh roasted coffee and 100s of varieties of craft beers. Bruges is a medieval wonderland that is well worth a visit for a few days. Here are my 5 most compelling reasons to visit this vibrant historic city.

Our Five Reasons To Visit Bruges

  1. The Scenery is Magical

Walking through Bruges is like stepping back into an old fairy tale with cobbled streets, elegant 12th century houses and horse-drawn carts.  Stay right in the centre in one of the many period style guesthouses dotted around the city. My pick is the Bonifacius Guesthouse (www.bonifacius.be). Dating from the 16th century this guesthouse has a perfect location overlooking the canal at the centre of Bruges. Staying here is like living in a wealthy private house from many eras ago as all of the rooms are decorated with stunning rich fabrics, objects d’art and unique antiques.

The best part is that in stepping outside the door you are in the midst of the beautiful Bruges. From here you can take a stroll along the Dijver canal that meanders through pretty streets, quaint houses, and public buildings. You cannot miss the Markt, (main square) where towering 83 metres above the square is the 13th-century Belfort tower. It’s well worth climbing the 366 steps to enjoy a unique vista across the city’s spires and red tiled roofs.

 

  1. The Chocolate is Heavenly

Belgium is known for amazing chocolate and Bruges is no exception. Artisan chocolate houses are on every street corner. You can take your fill from truffles, pralines and rich liquor filled chocolate. Do some tasting, heck do a lot of tasting and fill your bags with this divine gift to take home.

Our pick of the best is BbyB (bbyb.be) where chocolate pralines and bars are wrapped in Pantone-style numbered boxes and displayed like priceless jewels. Try #05 Dark Chocolate filled with cherry and lemon.

It is impossible to pick just one great chocolate place in a city of more than 50 chocolate boutiques to choose from, so my close second-best choice is The Chocolate Line. The owner Dominique Person is known as the mad scientist of chocolate. Try some of his odd but surprisingly good combinations such as the lavender, fried onions or a mix of lime, vodka and passion fruit. (www.thechoclateline.be)

 

  1. The Food Market is Exceptional

On Saturday and Sunday morning you can visit the street market on t’Zand square. Find your way past the usual stands selling clothes and gadgets, to find the food market with stands selling a wide range of the best Belgian cheeses, smoked herring and freshly baked bread. If you are early, around 7.30am you can get the warm bread direct from the Schaeverbeke Bakery, renowned as the best bakery in Bruges, this is the place to buy fresh pistolets (bread rolls) or be tempted by the window display filled with macaroons, tartine russes and an impressive range of organic bread and rolls. You should also try their signature marrentaart, an almond-flavoured curd puff pastry tart. (www.schaeverbeke.be)

 

  1. The Beer is Crafty

You cannot miss that Bruges is home to a thriving craft beer scene. Beer pubs offer hundreds of varieties for every palette. Ask for a tasting of a few beers and you will be delivered a long board with 4 or 5 small glasses of different beers to try. Our pick for the most authentic bar is to get underground in Le Trappiste

Bar (http://belgianbeer.wixsite.com/letrappiste) Built into a 13th Century cellar, with exposed vaulted brick arches Le Trappiste is the perfect place to spend an evening with a fun crowd trying out some of their 100 or more specialist beers. Each beer is served in its own uniquely shaped glass.

For serious beer connoisseurs the De Halve Maan Brewery http://www.halvemaan.be offers an entertaining XL tour of the brewery ending in the brewery cellars with tastings of three of their best beers including the favourite local beer: Brugse Zot.

 

  1. There is Holy Blood

Ok, I had to add this one to the list due to the sheer curiosity factor. The Basilek van het Heilig Bloed (Basilica of the Holy Blood www.holyblood.com) located on Burg Square holds a relic that is said to contain the blood of Christ. It is displayed every Friday and each year since the 1300s the vial has been taken in a procession around the city in a festival of costume theatre. But, even if you are not in town for the festival, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is well worth a visit. Dating from the 12th century this church is a fine example of gothic architecture and is filled with numerous valuable works of art slightly blackened by centuries of candle smoke. Wander slowly through the centuries old chapel soaking in the history of the location before emerging again on the Markt Square still in a world that looks like you are back in time.

 

Take your time when visiting Bruges, this newly awakened city is not for fast-paced visits trotting from one tourist destination to the next, instead relax, walk and soak into the fabric of this beautiful gem of a town that was forgotten for some many centuries. Enjoy the vibrancy that now flows again in the centuries old market square and all around the town.

 

 

8 Elegant Experiences for an Unforgettable Stay in London

London is one of our favourite destinations at ILNI and so we have collated our picks of the most elegant and perfectly British experiences for an unforgettable trip to this fabulous city.

 

Stay in Elegance

 

The Gore Hotel

Situated in South Kensington, the Gore Hotel simply oozes historical elegance and character from every pore. Walking into the hotel you are walking back into an era of glamour and refinement. Like a wealthy estate from a previous era, each room is beautifully decorated with antiques and rich fabrics. Sitting next to the iconic Albert Hall, the Gore Hotel has offered luxury accommodation for more than 100 years and continues to do so today in style.

www.gorehotel.com

 

 

Shop with Elegance

 

Liberty London

Liberty is known as the destination of choice for the artistic shopper. Opened in 1875 when the brilliant Arthur Liberty presented a shop selling a collection of ornaments, fabric and objects d’art that instantly proved to be irresistible to shoppers in London. The tradition has not faded with time. Standing at the top level of the store one can look down over the wooden staircases into the beautiful store filled with rare finds, remarkable antiques mixed with the latest and greatest home items, fabrics and stationary. The Christmas selection is simply divine and well worth a visit.

http://www.libertylondon.com

 

Fortnum & Mason (Piccadilly)

For three centuries Fortnum’s has been known as the quintessential British shop for food. Located in Piccadilly, the store has a long reputation of quality and exclusivity in the products it sells. Be prepared to encounter an irresistible display of gourmet pleasures, from chocolates and biscuits to smoked salmon and Stilton, vintage marmalade and seasonal produce. All housed within the traditional architecture of the store. Our tips; pick a random tea from their huge tea selection to take home and try. And if you are looking for a gift, the musical biscuit tins will bring a smile to anyone’s face.

www.fortnumandmason.com

 

Ladurée London (Burlington Arcade)

Ladurée is the place to go for French Macaroons. This tiny, yet adorable store with the gold plated interior is located at the entrance to Burlington Arcade. And by tiny we mean mini sized, only a handful of customers can get inside the store at one time. Our suggestion is to choose your favourite flavour / colour through the plate glass window before going in to collect your little pieces of macaroon heaven.

 

 

Sip Tea in Elegance

 

England and Tea go hand in hand and when visiting London one should always take the time for an elegant high tea. Our picks are the Wolseley and the Ritz for enjoying a perfectly British teatime.

 

The Wolseley (Next to the Ritz)

The Wolseley serves a classic English breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but our favourite is afternoon tea, with gorgeous three-tiered platters of delicate fruit scones and pastries the high tea is a delight to behold and to eat. And did we mention the stylish and luxurious surrounds of this perfect piece of British elegance?  Also popular with celebrities, this casual but chic restaurant is a place to see and be seen in.

www.thewolseley.com

 

The Ritz

No trip to London would be complete without afternoon tea at the Ritz. Walking in the ground floor past the hall porter you will find High Tea being served in the spectacular Palm Court among glittering chandeliers and antique mirrors. Towering étagère are stocked with sandwiches, scones, teacakes and pastries, to be enjoyed with shining silverware and fine bone china teacups. This is a purely elegant way to enjoy a high tea with exceptional service and delightful live music from the pianist or harpist.

http://www.theritzlondon.com

 

 

Pause in between all that elegance

 

Wellcome Library Reading Room

If you are looking for a space to take a breath and rest for a short time during a busy trip in this fantastic city. Our pick is the Wellcome Library Reading Room. A mixture of part gallery, part library and events space; the reading room offers a space for exploring the Library’s collection or just to relax and read a book. Our tip, take a look at the collection of odd collection medical tools from the past or enjoy a board game at one of the many games tables.

www.wellcomelibrary.org

 

 

Drink in Elegance

 

The Bar @ The Dorchester

The Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane (www.thedorchester.com) is home to one of London’s oldest and arguably best cocktail bars in the city. The Bar as it is so aptly named is an elegant space with walls covered in luxurious lacquered mahogany, mirrored glass, velvet and dramatic red glass-spears. The Dorchester has managed to create the perfect atmosphere to enjoy one of their delicious bespoke cocktails. Our pick is the Perfect 10, the house specialty martini.

 

With so many options in this fabulous city there is something for everyone. Our pick of eight elegant experiences are merely a tasting of the many unforgettable experiences London has to offer. We hope these will be inspiration for you to find even more on your next visit.

 

 

The 5 Rules for Bargaining I Learned in a Chinese Market.

Having lived in Southern China for a number of years, I have spent what amounts to days of my life haggling over prices in local shopping markets. The markets of China are a mad world of cheap products and bargains galore. They are also a fantastic learning ground for the fine skills of bargaining that can be adapted to business anywhere.

The most important thing I have learned is that bargaining is a game, not unlike poker and here are the rules.

The Rules For Bargaining

Rule number one

Never let excitement show on your face. A cool, calm customer is going to have a better chance of striking a bargain, than someone gushing over a rare find.  So, wander around, look at things, pick things up, but keep your poker face on.

Rule number two

Never ask a price unless you are ready to start the game. Once you ask for a price you have entered the game zone. It is easy to spot the beginner who has randomly asked the price of something they were not really interested in. They are usually the ones with a shopkeeper attached to their arm trying to get them to return to their shop to continue the game.

Rule number three

Never suggest a price. The shop owner will always try to get you to suggest the first price. He is asking you to show your hand first. Resist. Ask the shopkeeper how much the product is. They will then take a moment to eye you up and down, taking in all visual information about your potential spending ability, and then suggest a ridiculously high price.

Rule number four

Never accept the first price. They are only testing your standing as a player of the game, and are simply signifying they are ready to play. Many new players will pay the first price and not only miss out on a great game, but will be the laughing-stock of the market for paying double or triple the price of an item. Don’t spoil the game.

Rule number five

Have a price in mind that you would be happy to pay, and then suggest a figure significantly lower than that. This signifies the game is now in full play. When you counter with a ridiculously low price, expect your opponent to pull a face and shake their head. If they are willing to play the game they will counter with a price slightly lower than their first offer. You can keep playing the price back and forth until you are happy with the price or until your opponent digs in their heels and refuses to budge.

This is where the game can get interesting.  When your opponent is no longer willing to reduce the price you have two options.

Option one

At this point, you can concede and pay the price they want. After all, you are probably down to arguing over only a few dollars. Smile, give in and pay the money. Good game.

Option two

If you have taken the measure of your opponent and think he/she is offering you an inflated price, you can try the old ‘walk away’ trick. Turn to walk away. If they call you back the game is still on. If they let you go, you have reached the final price. You can keep walking and look for another game to join, or swallow your pride and go back and pay the price they are offering.  Good game.

Most important rule

In bargaining anywhere, it is key to enjoy the game while remaining gracious to your opponent. The best win-win outcome is a price that makes everyone happy after a playful back and forward between buyer and seller. A well-played game ends with smiles and laughs as well as a good bargain for you so don’t get too hung up over the final few dollars.

 

 

48 Hours in Lisbon

As the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon is the perfect place to unwind for 48 hours before heading onward to one of the more usual beach resort destinations. After a few years of being ignored by tourists, Lisbon has come back in favor as a lively and picturesque city full of interesting history, traditional food and fantastic live music. We show you how easy it is to fill 48 hours in Lisbon.

Day One:

Morning

Spend the morning meandering among the shops and cafes the Baxia area of the city. If you are looking for something special the boutique shops of the Avenida da Liberdade are filled with designer goods. When you have shopped your fill, take a ride on the old iron elevator, the Elevador Santa Justa. A marvel of a past era this lift still carries visitors up the side of the hill to another higher districts of the city. From the elevator, you can walk along to see ruins from the major earthquake that struck the city in 1755. Wander back down the hill and settle on a terrace on Rossio Square, the traditional heart of Lisbon to enjoy lunch at one of the local cafes.

Afternoon

In the afternoon explore the older side of the city, Alfama. A maze of cobbled streets and stairways, the Alfama district of the city leads up from the river to the ancient castle overlooking the city. You can walk up to the castle stopping to see beautiful traditional houses covered in ceramic tiles, browse the boutique shops and perhaps quench your thirst in one of the many trendy bars of the area. If your legs are not up to the steep walk, jump on the number 28 Tram to Largo da Graca or hail one of the many electric tuk-tuks in operation ferrying tourists up to the castle.

The castle of Lisbon, Castelo São Jorge is well worth a visit, if not for the amazing history, most definitely for the views of the city from the castle walls.  Dating back to 1147 the history of this part of the world is a fascinating entwinement of cultures and religions. This castle was the location of the Christian Crusaders battle with the North African Moors in 1147. Over the centuries it has passed between religions and rulers and boasts a unique blend of architecture and design from many cultural influences. From the castle it is a short walk to the open-air markets, where you can lose yourself for an hour or two browsing among the many stalls selling traditional items along with tourist treasures.

Evening

After all that walking, it will be time to recharge. Head back down the hill into the flat area of the Baixa district to one of the excellent open-air bars for pre-dinner drinks. If you are looking for an authentic place to eat, pick one of the noisy and sociable Tascas. These are inexpensive traditional restaurants popular with locals. Here you can try unique Portuguese meals such as Bacalhau (salted codfish), which is said to have over 365 different methods of preparation.

For the remainder of the night, relax in the bars and late-night eateries behind Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (north of Baixa), watching the crowds go by while enjoying a glass of locally produced wine. If you want to experience the local Fado music, simply follow its haunting sounds to one of the small bars and restaurants with live music.

Day Two:

Morning

For the second day in the city, head in the opposite direction along the river to Belem. Belem is a picturesque district to the west of Lisbon, which lines the banks of the River Tejo. A must to visit is the Belem Tower, Torre de Belém which juts out into the river. This ancient tower is a Gothic designed structure that stands at the mouth of the Tejo river guarding the entrance. You can walk out to the tower along a raised walkway and climb to the top to enjoy the views out to the ocean.

Afternoon

For lunch head to the industrial chic area of the LX Factory further along the waterfront.  An old manufacturing hub that has been transformed into a vibrant complex of shopping and eating featuring small start-ups, boutiques, cozy cafes and one of the most unique book stores in the world. The bookshop, Ler, is situated in an old printing factory where books are packed from floor to ceiling around the large ancient printing machine in the centre with steel staircases connecting the bookshelves across the open space.

Evening

For the evening head back to the river to the Cais do Sodre ferry terminal.  Here you can catch a ferry across the river to Cacilhas for your evening meal. A short walk along the river you from Cacilhas port is Atire-Te ao Rio, a charming old waterfront restaurant with the perfect views of the sunset over the 25 de Abril Bridge. A fabulous way to enjoy the evening meal with a spectacular ocean view.

If you are still up for some late night entertainment head back across the river to the warehouses at the Santo Amaro Docks that have been converted into stylish bars and chic restaurants.  Music and partying goes on all night, most nights of the week and a lively crowd is guaranteed.

After 48 hours in Lisbon you will be vowing to come back to enjoy this special city again soon.

8 Star Tips for First Timers on a Business Trip to China

Having lived and worked in China for the last 8 years I want to offer my 8 top tips for ensuring your first trip to China on business is a more pleasant experience than it is for many first-timers.

 

  1. Book your own accommodation with a well-known international hotel chain.

Many first time visitors rely on local suppliers or business partners to book their accommodation. This is a sure-fire way to ensure a very uncomfortable stay. Chinese suppliers will book you in a local Chinese ‘luxury’ hotel. Unfortunately, many of these hotels have perfected the art of looking luxurious on the outside, while offering very little substance expected by a western business traveller. To begin with the reception staff may not speak English which will make it a frustrating experience when you find out there is no Wi-Fi service in your room. Through a series of increasingly frantic hand gestures you will finally realize the unthinkable, that this service is only on offer in the lobby. You might as well set-up camp in the lobby as the sofas there may be softer than the rock-hard bed in your room, the air is certainly fresher than the stale smoke smell lingering upstairs and coating your clothes. And, besides, with the level of noise coming from the karaoke bar in the basement, you are not going to sleep tonight anyway. Come morning, pray that by some miracle there is a real coffee shop somewhere in walking distance of the hotel, as you will not be getting anything resembling coffee in the breakfast service at the hotel. These hotels are built to cater to Chinese businessmen and you will not find fresh brewed coffee, toast or cooked eggs on the breakfast menu, rather cold sweet tea, Congee (stewed rice) and dumplings. Better to start your trip right and book yourself into one of the many well-known international hotels that bring a higher standard of hospitality, fresh coffee and soft beds.

 

  1. Pack lots of business cards (and some fake ones).

Since moving to Europe, I hardly see anyone use a business card at an introduction. So, perhaps it is worth mentioning how many business cards you will need on a trip to China. Everyone shares a card on meeting. It is a legitimizer, showing you really do represent the company. It also establishes the ranking order of the participants of the meeting based on their job title. Without a business card you are no one. When you are meeting a supplier at their office expect to exchanges business cards with every employee in the meeting. If you are visiting a trade-fair every vendor will want a card in exchange for his or her information brochures. Extra savvy business travellers will also carry cards with a fake email address for this purpose, which saves them from years of spam-like email advertising from each vendor.

 

  1. Download and familiarize yourself with the WeChat app.

WeChat is the Whatsapp equivalent in China. It is easy to use and will be the preferred communication line of your supplier. The bonus part of this app is that it provides an in-app translation. Your supplier can send a message to you in Chinese, you simply long press the message and it is instantly translated into the language of your phone. Easy, simple and the best download you can make before your trip. You can find out more information at WeChat.com

 

  1. Get on board with Uber

In most cities in China, the easiest way to get around quickly and cheaply is by taxi or Uber. It is simple to hail a taxi from the road with a wave of the hand and even easier to order an Uber car from your room. You will receive an alert when your car is close by which means no standing in the heat or rain trying to hail a taxi. Uber cars are comfortable, the drivers are friendly and many speak a lot more English than local taxi drivers. Payment is simple, as you do not need to worry about carrying small change to pay the driver directly. Upon payment through the app via your credit card an invoice is sent directly to your email for expense reconciliation when you return from your trip. Perfect!

 

  1. Pack lots of tissues

A simple tip that can save embarrassment. A packet of tissues in your bag is essential when visiting toilet facilities in factories and or at local markets. There is no toilet paper provided in the stalls, everyone brings their own. On a side note, be prepared for a shock in the toilets. You have probably read that most toilets require squatting over a hole. But what you may not be prepared for is the smell from all the accidents of people missing the hole. Enough said, bring toilet paper and hold your nose or develop a camel-like bladder when out and about!

 

  1. Skip the Baijou

Chinese suppliers love to take an unsuspecting foreign visitor out for a night of food and drinks. They enjoy plying you with the evil tasting rice wine called Baijou. No matter how well you hold your drink, this one will not stay down. Be warned, in this case it is better to be a boring teetotaller and still be functioning for meetings the next morning.

 

  1. Don’t expect vegan or vegetarian requests to be taken seriously

There really is no such thing as a vegetarian dish in a local Chinese restaurant. Usually an order of such a dish results in the bemused owner picking out the obvious meat pieces in a ‘vegetarian dish’. Better to stick to rice only and eat up when you get back to your self-booked international hotel where you can guarantee they know what vegetarian means.

 

  1. Finally, make sure you have the right visa in your passport.

All entry to China on business requires a business visa applied for in advance at your local Chinese embassy. Most visas are single entry only. The key warning for beginners is that Hong Kong and Macau, although officially part of China, actually require officially leaving China to visit them. Meaning your visa will be cancelled when crossing from Mainland China into Hong Kong or Macau and you will not be able to get back to the Mainland without a new visa. Keep this is in mind if planning a quick shopping visit to Hong Kong mid-business trip.

 

Enjoy your trip!

 

 

9 Reasons a Visit to New Zealand is Worth the Long Flight

It would be easy to come up with 90 great reasons a visit to New Zealand is worth the extra flight time. But, let me cut it down to my top 9 reasons to go to the far edge of the Pacific Ocean and experience New Zealand for yourself. I promise you will not be disappointed.

  1. Unspoilt nature at every turn

The scenery in New Zealand is spectacular and very Instagram worthy. It is not just unspoilt, it is unique and unforgettable with wildly, diverse landscapes around every bend. From glaciers, volcanoes, lakes and rainforests, to narrow canyons, and thundering waterfalls between rolling green fields, it really is a stunningly beautiful place to visit.

Must sees:

  • Milford Sounds fjord with towering mountains, waterfalls and rainforests, and home to penguins, fur seals and pods of dolphins.
  • Blue Lake, Nelson with some of the clearest water in the world
  • At least one of the 150 amazing film locations from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You will see why New Zealand was the perfect place for Middle Earth.
  1. The people are awesome

Warm, friendly and engaging, your interaction New Zealanders will be a highlight of your trip. They are a great mixture of European, Polynesian and Maori people, and all speak English with a fun accent. They will easily chat with you while waiting for your fish and chips or give you directions on the side of the road and happily tell where to go to avoid the expensive “touristy spots” and enjoy New Zealand like a local.

Language must knows:

  • Kia-ora : the Maori word for hello, thanks, and good bye. You will hear it everywhere.
  • Jandals: the New Zealand word for flip-flops or thongs
  • Kiwi – refers to the bird or the people of New Zealand. The fruit is called a kiwifruit.
  • Togs – swimwear
  • Dairy – the local corner store or 7/11
  1. Remote and safe

New Zealand is a pretty laid-back culture with a low crime rate and low gun use. The police don’t even carry guns. But best of all, there are no dangerous animals, nothing that will bite or sting or poison you. As an island that has been isolated from other landmasses, New Zealand luckily avoided all the poisonous snakes and crocodiles that inhabit Australia. This means you can walk through bush and swim in the lakes and streams without worrying about dangerous wildlife.

  1. Sparse population

With only 4 million people in a landmass slightly bigger than the UK, there is a lot of space. There are also a lot of sheep, more than 60 million! So in terms of animal population, humans make only 5% of the total in New Zealand!

  1. Wine

While winemaking is only a few decades old in New Zealand, the climate and the locals have taken to it like natives. From fresh, bright, tropical Sauvignon Blanc wines to rich, full-bodied Merlots, the 10 major New Zealand wine regions offer world-class wines best tasted in the spectacular locations of the vineyards.

Must do:

  • Drink wine at one of the vineyards on Waiheke Island. The island is only a short ferry ride from Auckland harbour and is home to many boutique vineyards, offering tastings with views out over the ocean.
  1. Great food

Being an island inhabited by a wide range of nationalities the local food also reflects this. If you have a chance to try any of these local foods give them a go.

  • Hangi – Traditional Maori meal cooked with hot stones underground
  • Pavlova – large meringue dish served with lots of cream and fruit
  • Lolly cake – as the name suggests
  • Hokey Pokey ice cream – New Zealander’s favourite ice cream flavour,
  • ANZAC biscuits – type of oatmeal biscuit.
  • Fish and Chips – best bought and eaten on the beach wrapped in paper
  • Bluff oysters – probably the best in the world. Fresh from the sea and onto the plate they are heaven.
  • Paua fritters – Type of shellfish made into fritters with cream and onions
  1. Extreme sports

New Zealand is the place if you are an adrenaline junkie. There is an extreme sport for everyone from water-based thrills to alpine sports and extreme cross-country expeditions. Expect to be thrilled.

Must dos:

  • Heli-skiing: Extreme skiing in locations only accessible by helicopter
  • Hike on a glacier
  • Bungee jump in Queenstown (home of bungee jumping)
  • Ride a jet boat along the river through the high canyons in Queenstown.
  1. Wellington

Wellington is the capital city and is the city with the most vibrant arts scene, and lively nightlife. Located on a beautiful harbour at the base of the North Island, this is an excellent place to spend a few days before heading across to the South Island.

Must dos

  • Visit Cuba Street: this is a most interesting street in town, pop into one of the cafes and experience the best coffee.
  • Ask for a flat white coffee: the kiwi version of a latte with a little less milk. Jump on the cable car and ride to the top of the botanical gardens then meander your way down through the gardens and back into the city.
  1. Unique wildlife

One of the most surprising things about travelling around New Zealand is how often you see the local wildlife. You do not need to go to a zoo to see penguins, dolphins, whales or seals, they are all just there in their natural habitat doing their thing.

Must dos:

  • Whale watching in Kaikoura
  • Swimming with dolphins in Akaroa
  • Cage diving with Great White Sharks on Stewart Island,
  • Visit Waitomo Caves to see the glow worms

The list could go on, but better to visit and see for yourself this unique and unforgettable country.