April 12, 2013 6:17 pm

Around the world in FAQs

Work and lifestyle advice from the FT’s globe-trotting columnist

If you tuned into this part of the page last week, you might recall I was wrestling with mountains of paper on my desk after a three-week stint on the road (I’m back out on tour again – Hong Kong/Tokyo/Okinawa and more) and promised I’d get round to responding to some of the more frequently asked questions in the Fast Lane mail pouch.

Having gone through the stacks of correspondence and dealt with more nice questions and requests, here are some nagging questions and hopefully some informed answers for your queries from the past few months.

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Tyler Brûlé

I’m just about to move apartment and don’t know what to do with my collection of CDs. Should I upload all of them and get rid of them? Should I completely rethink my equipment and put everything in some digital storage cloud?

As an occasional living-room DJ, I rather enjoy the physical process of loading CDs into a machine rather than scrolling and swiping a screen to find music – it’s rewarding to have another way of doing things rather than interacting with yet another digital platform.

For sure, there’s value in having your music on a playlist somewhere but you also have to remember that CDs aren’t as crisp as vinyl, and songs living on a hard drive aren’t as sharp as direct play-out from a CD deck.

My son has just told me he wants to be a chef rather than pursuing a job with a solid Canadian bank. I’m very distressed by his decision as I don’t think he’ll have the same earning power or lifestyle working in a kitchen. What should I do?

Calm down. For starters, it’s not as if your son has told you he wants to work in finance but would like to wear a dress to work every day and have you pay for a decade’s worth of gender reassignment surgery. That would be cause for distress. You should support your son’s desire to do something that is arguably higher risk but potentially more rewarding. I’m not an expert in this area but I believe there are a few chefs who’ve carved out some very jammy gigs for themselves over the years. And even if he doesn’t end up having a TV series and multiple licensing deals for utensils, you’ll still have a nice place to hang out and crack open a few bottles with the family.

How do you feel about potted plants in the home? I feel pressure to have only freshly cut flowers in the house but I think some plants could also do the trick.

If you’re feeling like you want to go a bit more jungle with your interiors, then don’t let anyone stop you. I do think we’re about to see a proper return of indoor greenery and you could be a bit ahead of the curve with your plans to be a 21st-century Nebuchadnezzar. While you’re at it, I think you could also start a movement to get more potted plants out on the sidewalk as well. One of the great things about Hong Kong, for example, is how much greenery locals contribute to their neighbourhoods by adding a few trees and shrubs to the pavement.

I work for a company that will only allow me to take two weeks off in a single block and I’d like to do a round-the-world trip. What should my itinerary be and should I stick with one airline alliance in particular?

It would help if I knew where you were based, as this would make planning easier, but given you only get two weeks, I’m assuming you’re in the US so we’ll start there.

Two weeks isn’t enough for the whole world, so I would focus on one region and then make one or two short stops along the way before heading home. Or you could split the difference. For example, you could fly Finnair to Helsinki and go to Sea Horse for steak, buy some nice fabrics and lighting fixtures, and then continue on to Tokyo. From there you could take the train down to Kyoto, go to Osaka for good pancakes, and then carry on to Fukuoka. You could then fly to Taipei for some dumplings and to commission a custom-made bike, jump over to Hong Kong for a day or two and then fly back to New York nonstop.

You could do this with one alliance but it’s increasingly apparent that these groups are all starting to unravel. Go for smart connections and take the strain off by sticking to the rails for most of your tour.

Is it just me or has the simple act of ordering a coffee become too slow and complex?

No, it’s not just you, it’s a global problem. Aside from everyone feeling that they need to customise their warm beverages with various add-ons or subtractions, the complexity of making coffees has become too time-consuming. Having just opened a café myself, I’m trying to get my colleagues to find a happy medium between quality and speed. I think everyone needs to look to Italy as a model for getting it right (at least in coffee-bar terms): speedy, tasty and sharp. There’s a reason it’s called an espresso.

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Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

tyler.brule@ft.com

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