Month: January 2019

  • Don’t kiss, don’t swear: rules of a Dubai stopover

    Australians travelling through Dubai have been warned they are at risk of fines or jail for cultural misdemeanours as simple as holding hands in public, swearing, harassing women with a prolonged stare or wearing inappropriate clothing.
    Nanjing Night Net

    ”Just one person needs to take offence and to make a complaint and you can be in serious trouble and be held in custody for a long time if you challenge the charge,” said Radha Stirling, founder of the non-profit organisation Detained in Dubai, which helps people in legal difficulty in the United Arab Emirates.

    Qantas will enter a partnership with Emirates this Sunday that will result in its flights to Europe being routed through Dubai instead of Singapore.

    The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warns on its website that de facto relationships, homosexual relationships and acts of adultery and prostitution are subject to severe punishment.

    ”It is also against the law in the UAE to share the same hotel room with someone of the opposite sex to whom you are not married or closely related,” DFAT cautions. ”These laws apply to residents as well as visitors.”

    Drinking in public or being drunk in public is another offence that can land travellers in strife. Australian travellers of Jewish background who are Israeli passport holders can only transit through Dubai and are not allowed to leave the airport because the UAE is a participant in the Arab League boycott of Israel.

    “Qantas has said that Jewish and Israeli passengers will be safe transiting through Dubai, provided they don’t leave the airport,” Ms Stirling said. ”But what happens in the event of a catastrophe or severe weather when airport hotels are full?”

    The partnership with Qantas and Emirates comes into effect on March 31, and will result in more Australians in Dubai than ever before, adding to the 50 million people — including 2 million Aussies — who already pass through there each year.

    ”While this is a new hub for Qantas, many Australians are already familiar with it,” a Qantas spokesman said.

    ”Different rules apply in many of the countries we fly to, which is the very nature of international travel.

    ”We encourage all our passengers – whether they are travelling to Asia or the US or the UAE – to check the Australian government’s Smart Traveller website so they are fully informed of local laws and customs before they board our aircraft,” the spokesman said.

    Qantas has been providing cultural training for its staff before the alliance with Emirates, advising that customer issues with UAE passengers may be best solved by a man.

    ”Don’t take offence, don’t continue to try and sort something out, simply hand it over to a male colleague. It doesn’t matter whether you are the manager or supervisor, the fact that he is male will make all the difference,” is the advice.

    Laurent Chaudet, the general manager of the Pullman Mall of Emirates hotel, said: ”Australians might think of Dubai as an ultra-modern destination, but they need to remember that it is a Muslim country with traditional values.

    ”The simple advice would be to wear respectful clothing, avoid drunkenness and use of foul language, and respect the culture of the people here.”

    Paul McGrath, the managing director of Australia’s largest independent travel company Creative Holidays, is enthusiastic about Dubai coming on to the radar with the Qantas/Emirates alliance.

    He said 40 per cent of people booking Europe trips with the company already stop over in Dubai for an average of four days on the way back.

    Mr McGrath rates Dubai for its diversity, from shopping to desert experiences.

    ”I’d say that people just have to be conscious and mindful of the cultural differences. Be aware and be informed and there really isn’t that much of a problem. They are lovely people, gracious and gentle …”

    Several tourists and expatriates have run afoul of conservative rules in the UAE in recent years.

    In 2010, a British couple were arrested and sentenced to a month in jail for kissing in public in Dubai.

    In 2009, an Australian man was arrested for allegedly saying “What the f—?” to a plainclothes police officer who grabbed his arm at Dubai Airport. He was forced to remain in Dubai for months before being let go with a fine.

    In the most prominent case, a British couple were jailed for three months in 2008 after having drunken sex on a public beach.

    Two Emirati women started an online campaign last year, called UAE Dress Code, urging foreigners to respect local sensitivities and not dress provocatively.

    DUBAI RULESThe drinking age is 21. Drinking in public or being drunk in public are not tolerated.Offensive language, spitting, aggressive behaviour and smoking outside designated areas are not tolerated.Public displays of affection such as holding hands or kissing are not tolerated.It is customary for men to shake hands however Emirati women tend not to offer their hands to men.Men should avoid staring at local women or attempting to make eye contact.During Ramadan while Muslims are fasting from dawn to dusk,  non-Muslims can only eat  and drink in screened-off areas in many hotels and restaurants.Wear respectful clothing. Swimwear is appropriate by the pool or on the beach but frowned on elsewhere. Low-cut dresses or tops, short skirts and short dresses are not recommended in public.Men should wear a T-shirt or shirt at all times.

    *Source: Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • A peek behind closed doors

    Laura Linney in Hyde Park on Hudson.Laura Linney is talking mistresses. Specifically political mistresses. ”I think there are a lot of them in every scenario,” says the actress who played the wife of one American president in the miniseries John Adams and is now appearing as the secret lover of another in the movie Hyde Park on Hudson.
    Nanjing Night Net

    ”Whether you’re talking about an American president, or leader of a foreign country, or the head of the company, people have liaisons all the time,” she says.

    ”And people have long-term relationships that are deeper than friendships – a little more important, a little more profound – regardless of whether they are sexual or not. These relationships have happened since the beginning of time and will no doubt keep happening.”

    Linney, whose warm vulnerability and intelligence on screen have earned her Oscar nominations for You Can Count On Me, Kinsey and The Savages, plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secret mistress Daisy Suckley in Hyde Park on Hudson. Bill Murray is the charismatic president juggling a messy personal life during a historic visit by stammering King George VI – yes, the one from The King’s Speech – to seek US support for Britain weeks before World War II.

    One of the movie’s concerns is how public and private relationships have changed since FDR’s liaisons were considered off limits and photographers politely avoided shots of him being carried or sitting in a wheelchair because of his paralysis from polio.

    Linney believes the more open attitude to private matters is awful for most people. ”It’s not just as far as relationships are concerned, it’s also people with their children, people who are going through a hard time, if there’s an illness or if, God forbid, an accident,” she says. ”Reality as entertainment has taken on a whole other force and no one is immune – no one.”

    Reality as entertainment was predicted, of course, in one of Linney’s best films, Peter Weir’s The Truman Show. ”Isn’t that amazing,” she says. ”How brilliant was Peter Weir to tap into all of that.”

    In an acclaimed film, theatre and television career that also includes Love Actually, Mystic River and television’s The Big C, the Juilliard graduate has also worked with Australian directors George Miller on Lorenzo’s Oil and Ray Lawrence on Jindabyne.

    ”There’s a delicious twinkle behind the eye of all of those directors and there is a fierce intelligence, which I love being around,” she says. ”And also a real sensitivity to telling stories in a visual context. All three of those men are incredibly creative in storytelling, intellectually and emotionally and visually. And they’re just fun.”

    To prepare for her role in Hyde Park on Hudson, Linney read Daisy’s diaries and went to her home on the Hudson River. ”The letters and the diaries that were published gave you a sense of the voice and her cadence and the language she used in terms of affection and things like that.

    ”But the house was really incredibly beautiful. You go to this beautiful home, which is now a museum of her entire family, go into her room and seeing what she surrounded herself by was just incredibly helpful.

    ”She lived to be almost 100 years old. And she never married. But she woke up every morning to a large, large lithograph of FDR right across from her bed. Next to that was a vitrine filled with little knick-knacks that he had bought for her.

    ”FDR famously had a dog named Fala, a black Scotty, and the dog became symbolic of him and his presidency. And when I found out that Daisy was the one who gave him Fala that was a bit of information that took me back the most. I had no idea that his connection to Fala led right to her.”

    Linney, who says she was an ”imaginative, shy but active kid”, learnt lessons from her playwright father that have helped her acting career.

    ”He certainly taught me early on what to look for, where to place my priorities and what makes a good story and why. He was a huge influence.”

    So do these presidential and mistress liaisons still happen? ”I have no idea,” Linney says. ”But I have to say that I love watching the Obamas together, more than any other presidential couple. That’s a very different kind of relationship that we’re seeing and I love watching them together. It’s an intimacy that’s not forced. It’s a warmness that’s enjoyable and I’m a big fan of theirs.”

    Hyde Park on Hudson opens on Thursday.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Fixed outlook not all it’s cut out to be

    There’s talk the Reserve Bank is done with cutting interest rates, and some fertile, or perhaps febrile, minds are even suggesting it might be ready to lift them.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Well, it can’t, the bank has told us.

    It’s made no secret of the fact that it doesn’t know when it will next adjust rates, but its default position is that they are more likely to be heading downward rather than up.

    That said, the market’s job is to suss out when the rate cutting is likely to be over, even before the Reserve knows.

    And we seem to be at a watershed.

    The pressure on variable rates is still down – the banks are now discounting by 1 per cent – but is rising on fixed-term offers.

    A good signal is government bond yields because they show how much it costs to raise money for different lengths of time.

    Being risk free, the return on a bond is a benchmark for all other rates.

    The odd thing is you could earn more by buying a bond with three months to run than one lasting three years. In fact, the three-year rate was even under the overnight rate banks can get from the Reserve Bank.

    So much for making a long-term financial commitment.

    That’s why rates on fixed-term home rates have been lower than the standard variable, and that online at-call rates are higher than those on a two-year term deposit.

    But bond yields have just flipped over so the cash and three-year rates are virtually the same. In which case things are about to change for borrowers and savers alike.

    For a start, the gap between fixed and variable mortgage rates is closing.

    You can fix below the variable rate if you hunt around, but it’s hardly worth the hassle. The lowest variable rate is State Custodians’ 4.99 per cent, which is identical to ME Bank’s three-year fixed rate.

    Oops, should look at the comparison rate, which takes fees into account. It then becomes 5.35 per cent compared with UBank’s 5.12 per cent, which at first blush seems dearer.

    But you don’t want to get carried away by the comparison rate. It’s useless for comparing variable with fixed loans.

    The reason is that it assumes you’ll switch to that lender’s variable rate at the end of the term when I’m sure you would be looking around at that time for whatever ‘s the best offer.

    Anyway rather than play spot-the-rate-move, especially when it’s lineball between variable and fixed, it’s better to do a bit of both.

    In fact, keep some of your mortgage variable and have a mix of different terms for the fixed part.

    Besides, paying more of the mortgage off sooner will save you more than a rate cut difference here or there gained by fixing.

    It’s trickier for savers. It might not feel like it, but banks are doing you a favour because for the first time since the global financial crisis they can borrow more cheaply offshore than from you and me.

    So you can be sure they’ll drive deposit rates down.

    For a while overnight rates have been better than on anything but very long-term deposits, a mirror of the bond market.

    And so this has flipped around, too.

    Again there’s not much in it, but a term deposit past two years pays better than the at call online rate.

    But remember bond yields are rising, so must those term-deposit rates.

    Twitter @moneypotts

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Renovating for profit

    If there was ever a lesson that renovating is a mugs’ game – it was in the bitter disappointment of Mark and Duncan at The Block All Stars auction.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Despite six weeks of hard work – and stress – the buyers just didn’t fall in love with the fellas’ quirky ideas.

    There was the fish tank (beautiful but requiring effort to maintain it) in the fireplace. The kid’s bedroom – a great idea, well-executed but limiting the buyer pool to someone with children (boys in particular), or a purchaser prepared to redecorate or rip out the room and start again.

    And the “silent” talking birds in the backyard – although admittedly you could easily remove the bird cage if it wasn’t your thing.

    There were plenty of elements that those on the hunt for a property could either love – or hate – at Mark and Duncan’s.

    Even the animal-print splashback in the kitchen was different enough to potentially divide the market.

    And while the backyard was gorgeous, its multiple levels and fish pond almost certainly would have put off families with babies and toddlers who wanted a safe, easy garden (like Phil and Amity’s) and investors desiring a property that had broad appeal to renters. The boys’ garden design was also somewhat at odds with the kids’ room inside (although admittedly the bedroom was designed for older kids).

    Is the lesson that when you’re renovating with the intention of selling you should keep it safe, go mainstream and some might even say, a little boring?

    In some ways, yes.

    “If it is a bit quirky and it isn’t going to appeal to mainstream, we say to clients ‘you will get a discount to a comparable property without those quirks’,” says Lisa Bradley of Finders Keepers Buyers Agents.

    “However, you will be giving that same discount away when you sell. So it’s not like you will be getting a bargain … unless you can change it.”

    McGrath Estate Agent’s chief auctioneer Scott Kennedy-Green, who auctioned Dan and Dani’s property, says renovating for sale is not so much about avoiding the quirks as knowing your market.

    “It was a house that was very specific [and] didn’t cater to the mainstream Bondi Beach taste,” he says of Mark and Duncan’s property.

    “If you’re going to renovate and you’re going to pick a market, you have to identify with that market and make sure that you’re not leaving yourself short on prospective purchasers by anything that might narrow your buyer percentages.

    “That backyard was a little bit challenging for utilisation on a day-to-day to basis. But there were also other areas in the house that were less than mainstream for the Bondi purchaser – it had a kids’ bedroom and it didn’t have a backyard so … it had many different themes to it, which were quite pleasant and appealing to look at but functionality and usability … for that sort of purchaser just wasn’t there.”

    Did you love Mark and Duncan’s quirky property? Or do you think they would have been better off going for a more plain-vanilla approach?

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.