October 4, 2013 7:34 pm

Great Danes, favourite fabrics and Tokyo shopping highlights

‘I’ve got Finno-Ugric roots so I guess the Baltic world holds a certain familiar appeal’

After a series of false starts and broken promises, it has taken a slow train (a most welcome break) from Zürich to Stuttgart to finally untie the Fast Lane mail sacks, open all the letters, read them, reread and then arrange them in neat piles while the carriage jolts from side to side. As the Swiss and German countryside gently unfolds outside the window and students board in their Oktoberfest Tracht, I’ve decided to address some of the most frequently asked questions from readers, along with some more niche topics. As ever, you can reach me at the address at the bottom of the column.

How can you possibly enjoy places like Copenhagen and Helsinki? I’ve spent time in both and had a miserable time – they’re expensive and the people are glum.

For starters, I’ve got Finno-Ugric roots (a full 50 per cent) so I guess the Baltic world holds a certain amount of appeal due to familiarity. Genetic predisposition aside, I find the Danes very sunny and happy (global surveys seem to echo this, so I think yours is a minority view) and few places can ensure a sore neck quite like Copenhagen on a sunny autumn day when all the beauties are out on their bikes with their meticulously tied scarfs, tussled locks and wind-burnt cheeks. As for Helsinki, have you ever spent an evening among lovely Finns at Sea Horse? If not, give it a whirl.

I’m currently heading to Jakarta and I wondering if you might help by suggesting some interesting addresses to buy fabric?

As this has come at rather short notice and I’m not a Jakarta expert, it’s a little difficult to help. That said, I’d perhaps try to carve out a bit of extra time on your next trip and head to Bandung. Along with all the traditional fabric businesses, there’s a whole new crop of talent doing amazing textile work and turning their creations into full fashion collections and accessories. Also, Bandung’s climate is a little more tolerable than Jakarta’s.

I know you get this question all the time but I’m heading to Tokyo with my daughter and I want to show her the retail delights of the city. Where should I stay? What should I do?

Indeed, I do get this question all the time, so it’s important that I cover it off for this quarter. I note from your email signature that you work for a large financial institution and, judging by your job title, you’ve got a pretty nice gig, so I think you should go for it and really show your daughter an amazing time.

If you want to cover a lot of ground and do some good shopping right outside the front door, then you could try the newish Palace Hotel Tokyo and book yourself into the suite where my mother’s art is hanging (a Japanese retailer designed one of the suites and purchased some of her more modernist work) and enjoy the central location and views over the Imperial Palace.

Here you’ll have all the delights of Marunouchi and Ginza (make sure you go to the new women’s shop of Japanese brand 45rpm) and Tokyo Station if you want to do a jaunt to Kyoto. You could also visit the Peninsula at the Hibiya end and be both close to the stores and within minutes of one of my favourite bars.

I thoroughly enjoyed your recent article about the value of not just retaining but also celebrating older staff in the service sector. Given that most people who fly for US airlines seem to be over 70, do you think the US carriers are actually ahead of the game compared with everyone else?

Let’s not get too carried away. While I do think that there’s value in having a motherly purser look after you on Cathay Pacific and a proper 60-year-old gentleman manning the bar trolley on Lufthansa, the starting point has to be a commitment to delivering good service and also an affection for the company they’re working for. I recently had a decent experience on Alaska Airlines flying down the US west coast. I had a feeling that the experience would have been even better if the more seasoned crew had a few more tools to work with – better uniforms, a more complete catering offer and even an in-flight magazine that better reflected their brand.

Do I need to follow strict seasonal codes when it comes to the type of suit (jacket) fabric I wear? It seems that things are becoming a little less rigid, no?

Yes, it might be that, or else we’re travelling a lot more and choosing fabrics that span seasons. You can’t go wrong with a good Boglioli cotton suit that’s slightly brushed, as it looks somewhat wintry if you have to do meetings in Munich and then need to be in Bangkok the next day. As mentioned earlier, I’d also recommend 45rpm as well if you want something that will work across time and climatic zones.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

tyler.brule@ft.com

More columns at www.ft.com/brule

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