The Truth About Remote Working

The Truth About Remote Working
  • It’s so much easier to concentrate at home rather than in an office. Who knew your beloved co-workers were a huge distraction this whole time!
  • Few of your friends and family seem to believe you actually do any “real work”, and think you must be having a jolly good time chilling all day, rather than frantically trying to achieve your monthly targets.
  • Working from your bed is great at first, but unsustainable. Two main problems here: the strong urge to go back to sleep, and serious bum ache.
  • Your online shopping habits have dramatically increased – being around for every delivery slot is a liberating (and financially dangerous) experience!
  • People expect that you are free to chat and do chores in the daytime, which is not the case if you actually want to keep your job. Saying that, I won’t say no to a cheeky laundry load every now and then, am I right folks.
  • You never, ever wear pyjamas to work, because you fear that’s the road to sadness and despair.
  • Some days you do get desperate to hear a human voice and end up trying to keep your colleague on the phone for as long as possible.
  • Lunch is an extravagant affair with great attention to detail.
  • Tea and coffee is brought to you all the time without question because: “you’re working, I’ll do it”. Best five words in the English language.
  • Socialising on weekday evenings more than than once a week is now emotionally and physically possible.
  • Being one of those cool young professionals who work in coffee shops from their MacBook is not a thing. Commuting, spending money and being in a noisy environment cuts out most of the benefits of working from home!
  • 3 ‘o’ clock, 5 minute nap? Don’t mind if I do.
  • Co-worker messaging groups are the enemy of productivity. Every time your phone bings you have to check Whatsapp, then before you know it you’re halfway down your Facebook homepage. Please social media, have mercy.
  • You find yourself working overtime most days even though no-one is around to witness it. This is mainly to account for the nap and the Facebook stalk of an old school friend you did earlier that day though.
  • You basically become the cat’s servant, who begs you for food and attention all day.
  • Occasionally people catch you having in-depth conversations with the cat, and question if remote working is actually as healthy as you claim.

I hope you enjoyed this list blog about remote working, which I’ve been doing for nearly a year now as Marketing and Communication Manager of Pop My Mind.

Naturally everyone has different preferences towards working remotely or in an office setting depending on their preferred working style. I really enjoyed the benefits of working from home, but it has its disadvantages too, particularly missing out on the social side of work.

What do you think? Do you think it’s a dream come true, or super dull? Let me know in the comments!

For more work-related list blogs, check out You Know You’re Becoming a Responsible Adult When… and You Know You’re Used to the 9-5 When…

Thanks for reading!

18 Ways to Date Yourself This Valentine’s Day

18 Ways to Date Yourself This Valentine’s Day

Whether you are single as a pringle or armpits-deep in a relationship, you should never forget to treat the no. #1 most important person in your life to some well-deserved quality time! (Hint: it’s you.)

Here are 18 ideas on how to go on a date with yourself this Valentine’s Day:

1. Buy an M&S ‘Valentine’s Dine in for 2 for £20’ deal and eat both of the meals yourself.

2. Write down a list of reasons why you’re awesome, and share it proudly all over social media.

3. Write a 2000 word essay over why a popular rom com is a terrible film.

4. Buy cat wine or dog beer and spend a romantic evening in with the pets.

5. Facebook stalk all the people who ever Done You Wrong and consider why their Wrong Doing has made their lives worse than yours. Really relish in it.

6. Draw a nude portrait of yourself. Don’t forget to frame it and hang it in the living room for when your parents next come to visit.

7. Buy a houseplant to be your understanding, judgement-free companion when you cry over Date Night.

8. Let out your hankering for PDA out on trees in the local park.

9. Do some yoga and pretend you have the body of the supple, tanned, muscled gods and goddesses you’ve followed on Instagram.

10. Buy yourself new, ridiculously lacy underwear, and take a good hour sashaying around the house in them.

11. Listen to my Strong Independent Woman playlist at full volume whilst doing activity number 10. (Suitable for Strong Independent Men too.)

12. Book a romantic room in a hotel and convince the staff that you’re waiting for your secret lover (who happens to be a sexy Russian spy).

13. Create a GIF that accurately represents your turbulent emotions so that people will finally understand you.

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14. Bake red velvet cupcakes and decorate them with amusing swear-words.

15. Go to a pottery painting café and hog all the colourful paints, so that the children nearby can only paint in shades of brown.

16. Sit in a deep candlelit bath and consider the fragility of existence.

17. Go to a park and gaze at the sky. Try and find as many penises and vaginas as you can in the shapes of clouds.

18. Invent your own brazenly alcoholic cocktail, trying to capture the strong and bitter taste of your soul.

I hope this has given you some ideas of how to spread more #selflove in your lives. Please date responsibly.

Karis

You Know You’re Used to the 9-to-5 When…

You Know You’re Used to the 9-to-5 When…
  • Swearing has infiltrated into daily office conversation on all sides.
  • You have become a little too comfortable sharing personal info with your co-workers.
  • You have come to terms with the fact you are a bit of a hermit (and by “a bit” I mean “a lot”).
  • You have attended an appraisal, and discovered talking about yourself for an hour is an exhausting endurance test which should never be suffered by any living soul.
  • You have stopped entertaining the thought that attending more than one social activity on a weekday within a week is a possibility.
  • You voluntarily give yourself, and stick to, a strict bedtime.
  • You have allocated a generous portion of your monthly earnings to a “new work clothes” budget.
  • You have calculated just how much you earn (i.e. are objectively worth) a day.
  • You now own, of your own free will, a Boots Advantage Card.
  • You’ve realised that actually a lot of what your mum says is very sensible and wise.
  • You’ve read the first two chapters of every shelf-help book aiming to improve happiness, motivation and/or productivity that Google has recommended to you. And aside for not wearing make-up to work, you’ve not really followed any of the advice given.
  • Every time you meet your friends you say, “aww we should do this more often!” – but in reality, if you were to fit any more into your already packed schedule you would internally combust.
  • You have enjoyed the smug feeling of being able to buy your sisters drinks and not ask for it back in taxi money at the end of the night.
  • You feel like the ratio of how many coffees you make for people in the office, versus how many you accept, is the direct indication of your value as a human.
  • Spending the 24 days of your annual leave in the wisest way possible is a year-long headache.
  • The delay-start function on the washing machine has revolutionized your life.
  • You have realised that even if your friends and boyfriend eventually find out you’re really boring and leave you, you will always have food. And this brings you great comfort.
  • Despite being perfectly content in the job you have, you have decided to change your role drastically in order to be nearer to vegan cafes, loved ones and cats.

If you enjoyed reading this, you may also like my other list-blogs You Know You’re Becoming a Responsible Adult When… and 20 Awkward Moments at Your First Grad Job! Thank you for reading.

How to be Vegetarian in Japan

How to be Vegetarian in Japan

Although people had warned me that it might be a struggle to avoid meat and fish in Japan, I must admit I didn’t quite appreciate just how difficult it would be to find vegetarian food there before I went – that is to say, vegetarian food which constituted towards full, wholesome meals. For the first half of my trip I really struggled, and mainly survived on rice balls and pizza flavoured crisps (don’t tell Grandma). However, after slowly discovering more and more vegetarian and vegan options hidden in the corners of menus, by the end of the holiday I was fuller and fatter than ever.

I wrote this blog article so that you know what to eat if you’re planning on going to Japan and avoiding meat or fish when you’re there…there’s no time to be hangry when there is a beautiful country to explore!

Your Basic Vegetarian Food Groups

1. Onigiri

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Whenever you’re stuck for something to eat, get yourself to the nearest Family Mart or Lawsons and pick up some rice balls. They tend to either be plain rice with a small amount of filling wrapped with seaweed, or flavoured rice without the filling or the seaweed. Both versions are delicious and provide a great lunch or snack. The vegetarian flavours in the filled onigiri are seaweed (two varieties) which have a green label, or pickled plum. The rice balls without a filling tend to all be vegetarian – in any case you will be able to tell if there aren’t because you’ll see the bits of meat mixed in the rice from the outside.

2. Sushi

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Famously sushi often contains raw or cooked fish (apparently tuna mayo is extremely tasty) however you can usually find veggie versions in both supermarkets and restaurants. I really recommend conveyor-belt sushi restaurants for eating out – you can clearly see from the menu what you’re getting, and even better the vegetable sushi is the cheapest going! Keep your eye out for sushi with cucumber (my favourite), pickled radish, spring onion and egg, which seem to be common. Just whatever you do, don’t go for the bean stuffed sushi, it is terrible.

3. Inarizushi

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So technically this is a type of sushi, but since it is so delicious it deserves its own category. Inarizushi is made of abura-age (fried tofu pouces) stuffed with vinegared rice and flavoured with soy sauce. It has a pleasant sweet taste and is very moreish! You can find these in supermarkets on their own or in mixed bento boxes, making it very convenient as a picnic food, and are also found in some restaurants. This was my favourite savoury snack in Japan!

4. Vegetable Tempura

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I was told about this dream by my sister before going on holiday, and we discovered it on our second night there. Simple and effective, tempura is literally something on a stick which is deep fried, giving it a crisp batter and is often accompanied with a dipping sauce or salt. It turns out you can make tempura out of anything, including shrimp, sausage, meat, tofu, aubergine, potato, cheese, asparagus, onion, tomato and quail egg. At more casual tempura restaurants you can choose precisely what selection you want – giving you complete veggie freedom – however if you go to restaurants with set menus, sometimes they will only have an option for mixed tempura (including shrimp). I found that in this instance you can ask for only vegetables and they will happily accommodate your request, but it would be worth checking this before you all sit down and order drinks.

5. Okonomiyaki

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Basically a pancake made with the usual ingredients of eggs and flour as well as shredded cabbage, this dish makes a very hearty meal. It is often sold as a street food, but can also be ordered in special restaurants where you have designated hot-plates in front of you to cook it the way you like it: an extremely messy and fun experience! Hiroshima Okonomiyaki is another version of the pancake with added yakisoba noodles. You can find both of these pre-prepared in some supermarkets too – just be careful that they aren’t hiding pieces of pork, which are sometimes added for flavour.

6. Instant noodles

When you’re in dire straits, and you just need a big hot meal, turn to instant noodles. Japan has the biggest selection of instant noodles in one corner shop that I have seen in my lifetime, you are honestly spoilt for choice. Some have meat in, but if in doubt the curry flavour is a safe bet for since it only contains vegetable stock. There are also some pot pastas which are conveniently titled in English so you can get your tomato and basil fix too, and you can fill them up with boiling water provided by the supermarket. Convenient!

7. Tofu alternatives

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Japan doesn’t really do vegetarian meals on purpose, however often they do it accidentally by including tofu in dishes as a protein alternative to meat. Keep an eye out for these dishes, especially as part of soups or sides, because you are sure to find them on a few menus.

At our ryokan (traditional inn) the chefs kindly swapped my fish for tofu however with a week or so of warning – above is the delicious meat-free meal they made for my breakfast, featuring fried tofu.

8. Tomato Ramen

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This food is not particularly common, nor easy to find, however if you come across it you must try it, because it will change your life. A mash-up between Japanese and Italian cuisine, it basically features ramen noodles, vegetables and other ingredients in a tomato-based broth. Since being vegetarian means you can’t sample traditional ramen (which is made of a broth using meat or fish) this is a great alternative to try some of the food you’ve heard so much about, in a strangely familiar fusion dish. You can also add cheese, satisfying the dairy craving you’ve had since arriving!

9. Sweet Treats

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The deserts are to die for in Japan, and happily usually vegetarian friendly! Although the soft textures can take some time getting used to, the subtle sweet flavours are heavenly. I recommend shaved ice with syrup to cool you down in the hot weather, which is a traditional snack, and to have a matcha tea with a cake in a traditional tea house. It is a must-have for any stay in Japan!

Recommendations for vegetarians

1. Eat at western-inspired restaurants

I know you came here to sample the “authentic culture” and the “local cuisine”, but if you’re tired of accidentally eating bits of fish, then treat yourself to a nice big meal in an Italian restaurant or British pub (yes, they have those, and they are hilarious). There will always be a vegetarian choice of pizza, chips or garlic bread on the menu, and you will be very grateful for it despite being able to eat the same meal in Britain any day of the week.

2. Eat the sides, not the main course

Often in restaurants you can order your main meal and choose from lots of extras, just like in the UK. If you don’t mind confusing the waiter, order lots of sides instead of a dinner. You can make up a good meal out of grilled vegetables, salad, rice and noodles this way if you can’t find anything appropriate on the main menu.

3. Cook

One of my favourite meals there was when we tried cooking our own dinner in our apartment using the ingredients on offer at the local supermarket. It was loads of fun to work on something together and we saved some spending money too. Get yourself some sake and have a wild night in…

4. Bring a meat-eating friend

They will never get tired of eating free food, trust me. It’s super useful to have someone on your team willing to try the weird and wonderful things you spontaneously buy, and give them the okay. I really appreciated my sister taking on my unwanted food when I bought the wrong stuff, I hate wasted food!

5. Explain yourself

Don’t assume that restaurant staff know what ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ means – it is not a well-known diet choice in Japan! Always explain yourself fully when ordering food and be specific about what you want.

6. Your enemy…

…Is dashi (fish broth) and bonito (fish flakes). They are used in loads of dishes in Japan and are to be avoided at all costs if you want a pure veggie diet. You should be able to tell if a dish has them in though because of their smell.

7. Go pescatarian. Yes I said it.

If you’re not too fussy over what you want to eat, and want to concentrate on more important stuff than searching for a restaurant you can all agree on, then being pescatarian for your holiday would certainly make your life a lot easier. Since the Japanese diet is heavily based on fish, it would open up your options to accommodate most of the menu in any restaurant. However, using the pointers above you won’t have to go to this extreme if you don’t want to.

Useful Phrases

It’s worth learning these phrases before you go to save yourself some unpleasant mouthfuls…

I am vegetarian. Watashi wa bejitarian desu

Is this vegetarian? Kono bejitarian wa?

Does this contain meat or fish? Kore wa niku to sakana ga haitte imasu ka?

Does this contain fish stock? Kore wa sakana no dashi ga haitte imasu ka?

I don’t eat meat and fish. Watashi wa niku to sakana wo tabemasen

I don’t eat meat, seafood, eggs and dairy products. Watashi wa oniku to shīfūdo to tamago to nyūseihin wo tabemasen

Or if you can’t remember that: No meat or fish? Niku mo sakana mo nai?

Yes, it is okay. Hai, daijōbudesu.

I’ll have this please. *point at menu* kore kudasai

No thank you. Kekkō desu.

Obviously I was only in Japan for two weeks and have only scratched the surface of what delicious foods they have to offer the vegetarian community! If you have any tips and foodstuffs to share, please let me know.

Thanks for reading.

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First Impressions of Japan

First Impressions of Japan

Below are some observations of what I found unusual or interesting about Japan from my visit there. I hope they entertain you and give you a glimpse of my experience in this wacky and wonderful country! If you’ve been to Japan and want to add anything to this list or share your own stories, please do in the comments section, I’d love to hear about it.

 
• People are really polite and go out of their way to be helpful, to the point where it can even become inconvenient, such as showing you how to get on a train you don’t want or directing you how to take the best photograph.
• If you ask for directions, you will probably be led in person right to your destination.
• Most people are very petite and it is rare to see someone slightly overweight, making it impossible to fit in as large westerners!
• There are vending machines absolutely everywhere, selling every kind of soft drink imaginable as well as beer, cigarettes, chocolate and even cooked food.
• The main train stations are massive, and we got lost more than once whilst trying to find the right exit.
• Each train station has its own little jingle which plays when a train arrives. Lots of these are from well known songs, and some can be quite majestic.
• In rural areas especially, there are lots of cyclists who never use the bike paths and choose to disturb pedestrian walkways. Instead of ringing the bell to ask you to move, they artfully weave in and out of the people who are walking.
• There is matcha tea flavoured everything!
• The toilets range from being very high tech (with self-opening, self-flushing, music playing and rinsing capabilities) to basic squat toilets. Sometimes in one bathroom there is a choice of both to suit what people are most comfortable with.
• Every street is lined with loads of cables and power lines, which make quite impressive silhouettes in the evening.
• Most things, such as shrines, shops and museums, close early around 4 or 5pm outside the city centre, making lazy lay-ins impossible.
• Except for in certain night-life areas, in the evenings the streets are completely silent and barely anyone is around.
• Women dress very fashionably – mostly in loose, plain clothing – and have immaculately clear skin.
• People can smoke in bars and drink on the street, which takes a while getting used to.
• People rarely talk on the train, but often have a nap instead. I also didn’t see anyone eat or drink at the station or on the trains.
• Of all the Japanese manners I learnt before arriving, very few were followed by modern Japanese people, such as not displaying public affection or ordering the same drink in the first round.
• If in doubt, nodding and smiling gets positive feedback in all social interactions even if you can’t say anything other than “sorry”, “please” and “thank you”.
• Despite there being no rubbish bins to be found, the streets are very clean and tidy. Our hosts were strict on waste disposal and it seems to be taken very seriously here.
• The rural landscape consists mainly of forested areas instead of the meadows, farmland and shrubbery of the UK countryside. It is very beautiful.
• People are obsessed with cute animals here since pet ownership isn’t as commonplace – meaning cat, hedgehog and owl cafes are common! However animal welfare for both pets and livestock is questionable…
• Every single temple and castle we visited had been burnt down due to lightning or war and rebuilt.
• Food is either soft, sticky or slimy. Finding hard food in a meal is a rare treasure!
• The Japanese diet relies heavily on rice, which constitutes for the bulk of both savoury and sweet food.
• Zebra crossings alert you that you may walk by playing various bird noises.
• Ponds often have thriving communities of terrapin and koi fish who beg for food by gathering under bridges and opening their mouths.
• You can buy a decent meal out for £7.
• As a hobby or treat, Japanese people hire traditional kimonos and accompanying outfits, and walk around pretty parks and temples in them taking selfies.
• Animals are huge, especially butterflies, wasps, fish, crows and ants. Strangely the cats are still skinny though.
• People seem to be quite pious and often visit shrines and temples to pray. There are all sorts of good luck charms you can buy from shrines to help with love, study, wealth, family and health.
• Nothing is done by halves in Japan, and everything from adverts to shop signs to themed cafes are taken to the extreme by being loud, bold and obvious at all times!

 

Read more about my travel experiences such as what you come to appreciate living in Cambodia, or Misa’s story of starting a business as a young Cambodian woman in rural Battambang.

 

Thanks for reading!

You Know You’re Becoming a Responsible Adult When…

You Know You’re Becoming a Responsible Adult When…

• You don’t feel the urge to excuse yourself to the room at large every time you go to the toilet.

• You start thinking that owning a house may actually be a good investment (as opposed to cutting into your travel budget).

• You now own a decorative candle which you never intend to light.

• You no longer feel self-conscious when wearing completely black outfits. In fact, you embrace the style wholeheartedly.

• You can no longer stomach large quantities of sweet or fruity drinks on a night out, and have developed a strong aversion to amaretto.

• You have managed to pay your own way at meals out with parents (although it still felt a little strange).

• Nine times out of ten, the idea of an evening in is far more exciting to you than a night out.

• You finally understand what “that Friday feeling” is.

• Your desires now include having a good credit rating and a house plant.

• You have planned the date of your decision whether to have children or not (and mildly dread it).

• More than once, you have referred to teenage boys as “youths”.

• You are beginning to appreciate the rewards of having a clean house, despite losing out on such thrills as discovering forgotten fajitas underneath the laundry basket.

• You have resorted to talking about the weather when conversation topics were painfully low.

• You now refer to your female friends as “women” instead of “girls” or “bros”.

• When selecting wine, your immediate choice is not necessarily the cheapest one.

• You have established a deep love and duty towards Aldi and have been spreading its teachings ever since.

• You have become acutely aware of your dwindling metabolism and have done what you always swore you would never do – take up jogging.

 

If you like this list blog then check out my other one on 20 awkward moments at your first grad job. I’ve also written a quick practical guide on how to be lead a more fulfilling life if you want to have a gander.

Thanks for reading!

A Guide to Modern British Manners

A Guide to Modern British Manners

British etiquette is often difficult to understand and put into practise for people who have not spent long in Britain (and for a good portion of the British population too). However, being polite is important in any culture to communicate properly and to be able to get what you want without hassle. Although these manners are flexible and do not apply in more informal situations, they are still worth knowing for this reason.

I have written what I consider to be the important rules of politeness below. Hope you enjoy and feel free to give me your take on what British manners are in the comments below!

The Three Golden Rules

• Say the magic words. If you ask for anything, say “please”. If anyone gives you anything at all, whether it is your change, a cup of tea or a car, you must always say “thank you”. In British culture, you cannot say thank you too many times. Ideally you should be saying it before, during and after someone gives you something in order for the message to fully get across.
• Apologise. British people will apologise for the smallest thing, including for apologising too much. Sometimes, you say sorry not to acknowledge your own mistakes, but to acknowledge that someone else’s mistake is okay. For example if someone treads on your foot, you should say “sorry” to communicate “I acknowledge that you didn’t mean to hurt my toe, and I’m fine with that”.
• Don’t make a scene. Staying respectful and calm is an important part of fitting into British culture. People often comment that British people are more reserved than other cultures, and that’s mainly because talking loudly, squealing with laughter or arguing in public is seen as inconsiderate in the UK since it can bother other people around you.

Out and About

• Do not stare at people…unless you are having a conversation with them, in which case you should make eye contact when they are speaking.
• It is considered extremely rude to spit on the street, cough up phlegm, cough or sneeze on someone, and otherwise do something which could create mess or spread germs in public. Overall, personal hygiene is considered very important in Britain and being clean and presentable in public is essential to fit in.
• When on public transport with few seats left, it is polite to offer your seat to elderly people, or people with wheelchairs or babies, who would benefit from the seat more.
• It is polite to make room for other people. Being aware of your surroundings, and allowing for people to get passed you, is key to being the perfectly mannered person. For example, it is considered kind to hold the door for someone, to let other cars waiting at a junction onto the road, and to allow people to queue in front of you if their needs are greater than yours. Even the most subtle of movements to give other people more room will be noticed and appreciated by most British people!

How to treat strangers differs in different places in Britain – for example in the south strangers will rarely strike up a conversation with each other, whereas in the north chatting to people you don’t know on public transport is quite common. People in the countryside are also much friendlier than in cities. If you’re unsure, smile at someone and say hello, and allow them to make the next move.

Eating

Often these rules aren’t followed, especially when eating with peers. However if you’re in a fancy restaurant or with people you want to impress, sticking to these guidelines means you can’t go wrong:
• Use a knife in your right hand and a fork in your left for main meals, and a spoon in your right hand for pudding.
• Make as little noise as possible whilst eating, because is extremely annoying to British people when they can hear someone chew!
• Eat with your mouth closed. No-one wants to see your food after it has left your plate.
• Keep your elbows off the table (quite an old fashioned rule, but some people still follow it).
• When eating out, always try and pay for your meal. If someone offers to pay for your food, it is customary to have some back and forth conversation saying “I’ll pay”, “no don’t be silly”, “no I insist”, “well I am happy to contribute” etc. before someone submits. This is because often British people will offer to pay for someone else’s meal out of instinct when they don’t actually want to – this dialogue is essential for figuring out whether they are making a genuine offer or not.
• Get the waiters’ attention my making eye contact – not by waving your hand around. In Britain it is polite and expected to treat restaurant staff as equals, not as servants.
• Tipping. It is not essential to tip in the UK, although if you’re eating in a nice restaurant it is polite to give the waiter / waitress 10% of your meal price, which is usually a pound or two per person. If you are eating out around the Christmas period, it is nice to tip more, since these people are giving up their holidays to earn money.

Visiting Someone’s Home

Adults in Britain will often socialise by going to each others’ houses during an evening and having a meal there. I’m pretty sure that this kind of thing will apply to most cultures, but here’s a few tips for what to do in this situation in Britain:
• Bring something to the table. It is customary to bring a small gift for the host when visiting someone’s house. A good gift is food or drink that you can share around during the event, for example a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates. Note: the host will probably have cooked a dinner, so don’t bring something which would affect the main course.
• Take your shoes off when you’ve entered the house.
• Compliment their home – this is a natural kind thing to do when entering someone’s home, although the compliment obviously has to be genuine.
• Engage in conversation (don’t look at your phone for long periods of time).
• Help to clear the table, and if you’re feeling particularly polite offer to do the dishes.
• Don’t overstay your welcome. You have to realise that the host can’t go to bed before you leave! Don’t stay too late, and look out for clues that the host is tired or is hinting for you to leave.

General last pointers

• Never insult anyone. It is extremely rude and inconsiderate to point out someone’s flaws both to their face or behind their back in Britain. For example, you should never call someone fat, ugly, annoying or boring. British people are quite sensitive and will take these things very personally. Of course people still do insult others, but it is generally considered petty.
• Don’t ask personal questions. If you don’t know someone very well, don’t ask things such as what their age is, how much they weigh, how much they earn, or their opinions on politics. When you’re friends with someone, naturally the closer you are the more you share this kind of information.
• Listen during conversations. Don’t interrupt what someone’s saying, and ask the person you’re talking to questions, or as some people call it “passing the ball in conversation”. To talk about yourself for long periods of time if considered bad etiquette in British culture.

British manners, like in most cultures, comes from a combination of tradition, old superstitions and consideration for other people around you. They are not set in stone and are adapting all the time.

Please comment below if you think of any more manners to add to the list!

If you like learning about my take on manners, read the article I made on Cambodian Table Manners! If you want to read more about my thoughts on culture, I have written a few articles including one discussing selfie culture and its roots in Are Selfies Bad? and about cultural stereotyping in Susceptibility to Single Stories.

Thanks for reading.

Advent Illustration: Behind the Scenes

Advent Illustration: Behind the Scenes

This year I created an illustration a day from the first of December until Christmas day – depicting 25 things of what Christmas means to me.

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Day 13 – Making Christmas Cards

The idea came to me when I was illustrating another advent calendar with ‘traditional’ Christmas icons such as snowmen, gingerbread men, bells and angels. When I was making it I thought that despite being the symbols usually associated with the festive period, they don’t relate at all to my personal experience of Christmas. For example, it rarely snows in Yorkshire in December – so snowmen are out off the question! Scenes such as church choirs performing and bells ringing are also very far removed from my own memories of the season.

I made these illustrations to represent what my Christmas is like, and what is significant about it for me. This meant that the drawings often showed spending time with my family, eating a lot of food, and enjoying / enduring the traditions of the holiday.

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The winter cold is an inevitable part of the Christmas season! This was Day 17 of my advent illustration.

My favorite illustrations were Winter Walks, Getting the Sniffles and Making Mulled Wine. I felt that the illustrations were quite strong, and these were all things that happen every December without fail – despite not being traditionally ‘Christmassy’.

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Day 10 – Making Mulled Wine

Each illustration took about 2 hours to complete – plus or minus some time depending on the level of detail. Things such as drawing expressions or trying to create a likeness of a real person took significantly longer, whereas drawing scenes with just objects (such as Day 4 – Mince Pies with Brandy Butter) was a lot quicker.

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Half-way through an illustration – drawing in pen over the initial pencil sketch

I didn’t realise that it would take me this long to draw each picture before I started, which meant that I had to alter my daily schedule to fit them all in. Often I would wake up early before work to get a head start, and got into the rhythm of drawing through my lunch break with a sandwich in one hand and a pro-marker in the other. Before the weekends, I would create a few illustrations in one intense evening and set up my social media posts for Saturday and Sunday so that I could actually have a social life too!

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Working in my lunch break at a cafe on Day 10 – Winter Walks

Due to the time constraints, I went straight into each picture in pencil and then pen without planning the layout on a separate piece of paper beforehand (like I normally do for illustrations and comics). This meant that the pictures weren’t as good quality as I had wanted, and some were experiments that I pulled off with varying degrees of success.

At the start of the project, I chose a colour palette and stuck to it throughout the illustrations. I incorporated the traditional Christmas colours of red and green, but also added warm tones of pink, brown and orange. These colours not only gave off a nice cosy vibe to me, but were also ‘practical’ natural colours which I could use in most situations easily. For instance, the pink and brown I could use for skin, hair and eye colour in the cartoon characters, and the greens and oranges worked well for outdoor scenes.

The only time I broke this colour scheme (by incorperating two blue tones into the mix) was to illustrate Day 8 – My Blue Velvet Dress and Day 15 – The Trip to the Attic, to depict shadow in a more accessible way.

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Keeping the pink and gold from the original colour scheme, and adding dark and light blue

A few days into the advent, my friend, talented watercolour artist Rebecca Freeman, joined in the challenge and drew 25 illustrations of what Christmas means to her. Follow her Facebook art page here for more illustrations!

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Day 16 of Rebecca Freeman‘s advent illustration

Overall, making an advent illustration a day was very fun – although I have to admit there were a few moments I felt I’d bitten off more than I could chew, or wanted to slack off for a night! By the end however I managed to create 25 illustrations, and post all – except one – on time on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook each day. Unfortunately, Day 5 was 18 minutes late due to it falling on date night – my bad.

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My  invariably messy desk on Day 23 of the advent challenge

Many thanks to everyone who has liked, commented and otherwise sent me good vibes throughout this process! Your support was a huge motivation to stick to it and finish the project.

Click here to see the full album of advent illustrations on my Facebook page.

If you haven’t already, feel free to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates on my art in progress and more pieces. Also keep an eye on this blog for a variety of articles on art and other topics that interest me.

Want to see more of my artwork? See my previous blog post showing my sketchbook in Cambodia.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

20 Awkward Moments at Your First Grad Job

• Forgetting to bring an essential item on your first day of work
• Misreading a client’s body language and going in for a hug instead of a handshake
• Being a ‘superior’ to someone who is older and much more competent than you
• Accepting everyone else’s coffee offers but forgetting to do your round
• Attempting to appear sober in front of the boss at work socials
• That awkward conversation where every colleague explains to every other colleague why they don’t want to add each other on Facebook
• Pretending you know what VAT does and how it works
• Trying not to act surprised by the large sums of money that businesses deal with
• Trying to resist pointing out an innuendo during a business meeting
• Curbing your enthusiasm for food at all times
• Being the youngest attendee by a good 20 years at business networking events
• Accidentally making cutting sarcastic remarks during said networking events because you’re nervous and trying to be funny
• Having to politely laugh off sexist remarks in order to be professional
• Negotiating when is the appropriate time to start using winky emojis in emails
• Trying not to mention that you’re a bit hard up at the moment incase your boss thinks you’re hinting for a pay rise
• Having to ask your colleagues permission for a glass of wine at work-related events
• When the conversation moves to, and skirts around, how you got the job and the other people who applied for it
• When you get tongue tied whilst interviewing someone because they’re too attractive to handle
• Trying to discretely stuff your packed lunch box with samosas at the end of an investment meeting (because wasting food is something you simply cannot stoop to)
• Trying to hide your crazy cat lady nature until it’s too late for them to fire you

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One of my comics, demonstrating that these awkward moments are far better than not having a job, let alone an enjoyable one!

If you want to see more of my comics and artwork, go to my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Thanks for reading!

Daily Customs in Cambodia

An introduction to the manners and etiquette that you will encounter often in Cambodia, so that you can communicate with the people easier and without sticky misunderstandings!

The Formal Hello / Goodbye

This is appropriate when meeting anyone respected, especially if it is a formal meeting, or if you are interrupting something they are doing. The correct greeting is saying “chum reap sue” for hello, accompanied with putting your hands together as though in prayer, smiling and inclining your head.

The height your hands depends on the person you’re talking to: for your equal or someone younger you put your hands in front of your chest, for someone older you press your fingertips to your chin, for your mother and father your fingers to your lips, a monk your fingers on the bridge of your nose, and to the gods the heel of your hand should rest on your forehead. The same applies for goodbye, except you say “chum reap lear” instead. If in doubt of their age, fingers to the chin is respectful.

However perfectly you greet someone however, you should prepare to be laughed at because your pronunciation will be so cute to the person you are talking to.

The Touch Barrier

You must not touch anyone of the opposite sex except in rare circumstances. This includes holding your hand out to help them up, patting them on the back, putting your arm around them in photos, and hugging. It’s a hard habit to get out of since in the UK we are used to touching our friends, but it will give the wrong impression if you do!

Same-Sex Interaction

Although the touch barrier is so strict among men and women, it is the opposite when it comes to someone of your own gender. Friends will link arms, put their arms around each other, lean on each other whilst talking and put their hands on someone’s shoulder or knee – especially men. This can be a little uncomfortable to people from the UK who aren’t used to so much contact, but after a while you understand it as a sign of friendship.

Shoes Off

Most popular in Cambodia wear flip-flops or sandals, and as well as keeping your feet cool it also makes it easier when it comes to shoe etiquette. It is impolite to wear shoes indoors and most people will expect you to take them off before you go inside, even in the outhouse. (Usually toilets will have a pair of flip-flops for everyone to use inside the room due to this rule.) The exceptions are restaurants and most shops, but be careful to check before stepping inside for shoes outside the door in case the rule still applies.

Hands

It is rude to use your left hand when giving people things as, due to washing with water after using the toilet, it is considered unclean. Some Khmer will, but you will see a noticeable difference in their response when you give people money with your right hand, and even more when using both hands, which is very polite. You should always give and receive gifts with both hands.

Thank You

People in Cambodia rarely say thank you, and at first it can be a bit surprising and offensive to people from a culture where “thank you” is given for anything from a cup of tea to receiving change. Nevertheless it is still the most useful word you will learn in any language, including Khmer. “Arkun” is what we are told means thank you, but it actually translates as an informal “cheers” kind of meaning. If you want to say it with meaning, e.g. if someone has shown you kindness, adding “juran” to the end will show your gratitude.

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The Bamboo Bridge at Kompong Cham

Invitations

If you are ever invited to eat someone’s food or join a party, you should always accept the invitation as it is very rude to say no, unlike in British culture. Unless you have a pressing engagement, you should stay and eat. This may be because it can take all day to cook a meal and no-one wants their efforts to be in vain! If you aren’t hungry, eating a little is acceptable and you are free to leave when you like after the meal.

Modesty Rules

Most Cambodian people are accustom to tourists and their tendency to not wear much clothing. However, in Khmer culture it is still very inappropriate for people to wear revealing clothes, especially women. If you want to work with people in the local community and be respected, it is important to cover your shoulders, chest and legs to below the knee. In the cities wearing skimpy clothing is more accepted, but in the rural areas people who do may be criticised and given unwanted attention. When thinking about your dress sense, you should consider whether you want to be seen as a tourist or instead be accepted into the community you are staying in at the expense of a nice tan.

Body Language

Body language and tone of voice is an important factor in politeness in Cambodia. For example, you must signal people to come with your palm facing downwards because gesturing with your palm up signals aggression. Whistling is rude, as is standing with your hands on your hips. When talking to people, speaking with a quiet, soft voice and smiling is very polite, whereas raising your voice, making quick hand gestures or having an angry expression is considered very inappropriate and even shameful. If you want co-operation, speaking softly is the key!

British Customs

As well as there being lots of manners in Cambodia that are useful to learn, it is also good to familiarise yourself with the customs that we are used to which do not apply here. One thing is that people in Cambodia often chew with their mouth open, and very loudly, which is very rude in British culture and takes a while to get used to. Men especially spit a lot, and children will sometimes wee in their yard or next to the dinner table, men outside the bathroom even if the toilet is vacant.

On the other hand, strangers will approach you and strike up conversation, which is inappropriate in parts of Britain but very comforting when faced with an alien world of new customs where you are often the center of attention.

 

If you want to learn about the basics of good Cambodian table manners, you can see my previous blog post on it here.