BELGIUM

Belgians are well known throughout the world for their chocolate. The first tales of this now famous Belgian chocolate date back to the 17th century, when the country was under Spanish ruling, and the cocoa, imported from South Africa, was only available to royalty. Presently chocolate is the most popular sweet on the globe, Belgium being the world’s 1′st chocolate exporter.

BELGIUM

Another aspect Belgians are famous for is their love of chocolate, waffles, beer, cheese and French fries, which they ofentimes consume together. This is actually a myth, no actual Belgian having regularly eaten all of the above at the same time. It is also said that the locals greatly value social etiquette, bringing flowers or chocolates for the host when visiting being expected. When it comes to how Belgians see themselves, the people tend to have a funny, self-deprecating sense of humor. A large number of movies, books and songs that exaggerate the clichés having been produced in the past years.

BELGIUM

There are three official languages in Belgium, each of them being prevalently spoken in different parts of the country: Dutch (spoken in the north), French (in the south) and German (in the north – east). Because of cultural pride, addressing someone from the south in dutch or someone from the north in french is considered to be somewhat offensive. One thing all Belgians have in common though is the appreciation of good beer, it is said that here are produced over 800 different types of beer, the average native drinking about 150 liters of the liquor each year. Other interesting facts about Belgians are the ones regarding proper etiquette, it is very important, if receiving a written invitation to an event, to also respond in the form of writing, as well as arriving on time and waiting for the host to direct the guest to his or her seat.

BELGIUM

One of the must-see tourist attraction in Belgium is “La Grand-Place”, the central square of Brussels, surrounded by architecturally impressive public and private buildings constructed mainly in the 17th century. The central square, measuring 100 meters in length and 68 meters in width, has been included in UESCO’s World Heritage Sites, among the buildings located here being Brussels’ Town Hall and the Breadhouse. Another interesting place to see in Belgium is the town of Durbuy, the smallest town in the world. The beauty of Durbuy lies in its beautiful old stone houses as well as in the pedestrian flowered and cobbled streets.

When It Comes To Social Media, Consumers Wont Take No For An Answer

Nearly 90% of consumers surveyed said they’d be either somewhat less likely or far less likely to do business with that company in the future if confronted with this… and it involves the word “no.”

Tapping into my vast and useless pop culture database (remember I just told you the other day of how much I enjoy tying in pop culture references to make a point) allow me to share the lyrics of one of my favorite songs from a band called Genesis:

“Is anybody listening?
No reply at all…”

Feel free to sing along but this is the “no” in question; the “no” I made reference to in the title and opening line.

The “no” refers to the no reply, literally, that consumers abhor when it comes to brands and social media. A recent study, conducted by an Assistant Professor of Communications at New York University for Conversocial, revealed that nearly 90% of consumers, if confronted with unanswered customer complaints on a company’s social media site, would be either somewhat less likely or far less likely to do business with that company in the future.

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In other words… consumers want to know, brand managers and digital marketers of all sizes and shapes, that you are indeed listening to them and the way you can demonstrate that you are indeed listening to them is by responding to them… by engaging them. Yes, this takes a certain level of commitment on a brand’s part to have someone or a team dedicated to responding to as many questions and complains as humanly possible.

But when you consider the possible ramifications – nearly 90% remember said they would either be “somewhat less likely” or “far less likely” to purchase anything from such an offending company… the choice is pretty obvious. If they (consumers) are taking the time to send you a question or lodge a complaint, the least you can do is acknowledge them.

In her conclusion, Liel Leibovitz, the professor who led the research, spoke to the increasing amount of engagement and interaction on social media as well as the negative impact such behavior can have on a given company and brand:

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“The lion’s share of consumers was both presently and increasingly engaged in communications with corporations on social media platforms… While social media sites are a growing frontier of consumer-corporate interaction, most respondents reported inadequate response times, unanswered queries, and unmet expectations. Most respondents were also adamant that such behavior would have some or much effect on their future decision to do business with offending corporations.”

I would say this (below) reflects just how adamant the survey responders were, wouldn’t you?

Of course the word “eventually” is a very open-ended, vague word… Geez, I eventually want to lose some weight but when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

I digress but I was trying to make a point which is brand managers and digital marketers and social media marketers and so on and so forth should not look at the 52.4% “eventually” respondents and immediately assume “eventually” means when they get around to it. Consumers want to hear from you in a timely manner and yes, you know what timely manner means.

One Last Thing…

I just have to share one final result from the survey…

As soon as I came across this particular finding, I knew I had to share it…

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Back on December 14th I wrote The Major Disconnect Between Brands And Consumers When It Comes To Social Media. I followed that up with a post on January 5th, Even More Proof Of The Major Disconnect Between Brands And Consumers When It Comes To Social Media.

In each of these posts were proof which showed what consumers really want from a brand in social media vs. what that same brand thinks a consumer wants.

Consider the chart above as yet another example of the major disconnect PLUS proof positive that brands want to know you are listening to them and they want you to show you are listening by engaging them.

How do you engage your customers?

How do you respond to questions and complaints you receive via social media?

What types of discounts and promotions do you offer your fans to keep them engaged?

Cooking Lessons in Hong Kong

When you travel to a new place, such as Hong Kong, China, you can experience the local cuisine several ways. You can dine at authentic restaurants serving dishes that reflect the local culture, or you can try your hand at not only eating the local cuisine but cooking it as well. Whether you are in Hong Kong for a short time or an extended stay, you can expand your skills with cooking classes for beginner and professional chefs. You can learn to prepare authentic Chinese dishes, as well as foods from other countries in Asia and Europe.

Martha Sherpa’s Cooking School

Martha Sherpa’s Cooking School offers courses in Chinese and Thai foods, bread, and dessert dishes. Courses are taught in English, Cantonese or Mandarin. The school promises to teach students professional techniques needed for cooking “home-style,” using a wok, a ladle or spatula and a gas stove. Full-day courses, from about 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., cost $200 per person (1550 Hong Kong dollars), while evening and beginner courses, from about 7 to 10 p.m., cost $116 (900 Hong Kong dollars), as of August 2009.

Martha Sherpa’s Cooking School
Flat B, 1/F, Lee Kwan Building
40-46 Argyle Street
Mongkok
Kowloon, Hong Kong
(852) 2381 0132

Cooking Lessons in Hong Kong

Young Women’s Christian Association

The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) English Speaking Department offers various cooking courses for American and other English speakers. The courses, both demonstration and hands-on, include lessons in baking bread as well as cuisines from China, Thailand, Japan, India and Europe. Classes are offered at varying times and days to accommodate the other types of courses the center offers, so check ahead for the schedule. Both member and nonmember pricing are available, with discounts for members; consider joining the YWCA if you will be in Hong Kong for an extended stay and want to take several courses. Some classes last for one day, some are multiple days. Costs range from $39 to $64 (300 to 490 Hong Kong dollars) as of August 2009.

Young Women’s Christian Association English Speaking Department
3/F MacDonnell Road
Central
Hong Kong
(852) 3476 1340

Cooking Lessons in Hong Kong

Home Management Centre

The Home Management Centre offers a variety of courses in cooking dishes from northern and southern China as well as from Southeast Asia and Europe. The cost ranges from $11 to $58 per class (85 to 450 Hong Kong dollars) as of August 2009. Courses are from one to eight lessons each and last from 90 minutes to two hours. Sessions are offered in the morning, afternoon or evening. They are in English as well as Cantonese, although more options are available in Cantonese.

Home Management Centre
10/F Electric Centre
28 City Garden Road
North Point, Hong Kong
(852) 2510 2828

Cooking Lessons in Hong Kong

How to Save Money on Vacation With a Family Camping Trip

Camping trips allow you to spend time with your family, reconnect with nature, and relax. Many families also like to camp because it is a frugal way to vacation. It’s true that campsite rentals are less expensive than most hotels, but you have to be careful not to overspend on supplies if you really want to save money on vacation with a family camping trip. Here are some money-saving tips to keep in mind before you start packing the car for your next family camping trip.

Things You’ll Need:

  • How to Save Money on Vacation With a Family Camping TripBorrowed camping gear Groceries S’mores ingredients (marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers) Water
  • pitcher Coffee pot Cooler Ice
  • Borrowed camping gear
  • Groceries
  • S’mores ingredients (marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers)
  • Water pitcher
  • Coffee pot
  • Cooler
  • Ice

Step 1

Contact several campsites in your area to see which sites have the best deals during the time you wish to vacation.

Step 2

Consider the amenities that are included. It may be worth your money to pay more for a campsite that includes free access to activities such as swimming and horseback riding.

How to Save Money on Vacation With a Family Camping TripStep 3

Ask whether the camp offers special discounts at certain times of the year. Planning your trip around those dates may save you money and allow you to extend your vacation by several days.

Step 4

Make a list of the equipment and supplies you will need. The list may be quite long, especially if this is your first family camping vacation.

Step 5

See if you can borrow at least one or two of the most expensive items on the list. For example, try to borrow a camping tent, air mattresses or sleeping bags.

Step 6

If you plan to do a lot of camping, consider splitting the cost of any new items you need to purchase with another family.

How to Save Money on Vacation With a Family Camping TripStep 7

Plan each meal your family will eat during the vacation. Then, starting several weeks before your camping trip, begin purchasing items you need, planning your grocery shopping around sale items listed in your local newspaper.

Step 8

Pack plenty of snacks and drinks. Consider taking your own water filtration pitcher, too, and, if the campsite includes electricity, take your own coffee pot.

Step 9

If you will be camping with another family, coordinate your food shopping so that you don’t purchase duplicates of items you can share. Be sure to pack plenty of marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, too, to make S’mores each night.

Step 10

Find out where to purchase additional ice during your camping trip. You’ll need it to prevent your food from spoiling.

California Redwood Facts

The redwood tree grows in the coastal area of northern and central California, from the very northern tip of the state to the Santa Cruz area in central California. It can reach astounding heights if it is not cut as valuable timber. The red-barked tree is usually found in groves, where the thick canopy of the tall conifer prevents competition from other trees. Redwood National Park, located in northern California near the town of Crescent City, features many square miles of primeval redwood forest.

Tall Trees

With some trees coming in at over 300 feet tall, the redwood is the tallest tree in the world. This tremendous height is partly due to the fog that forms in the coastal valleys of California and decreases the rate of evaporation among the tree tops. This continual presence of mist during the hottest months of the year insures a wet and super-saturated micro-environment that exists from the very top of the tree right down to the soil.

California Redwood Facts

Thick Bark

Fire can be an aid to the growth of this tree. The thick bark of the tree makes the tree very resistant to fire, so that after a forest fire the redwood will have a high rate of survival. Other trees in the California forest are more adversely affected by fire, so their recovery is more difficult.

Many Parks

There are many places along the coast to go and view the magnificent forests. Big Basin State Park near Santa Cruz and Muir Woods just outside San Francisco are just two such places to visit and stare upwards at the majestic giants.

California Redwood Facts

Thin Under-story

Not much light reaches the forest floor underneath the the thick canopy of the redwood forest, so plant growth at the ground level is limited to just a few species of shrubs and plants that can survive under the conditions of little or no direct sunlight.

Life at 300 Feet

In recent years scientist have set up biological stations in the tops of these large trees, just to study the ecological system that exists in this unusual environment. Research concluded that the biological diversity of life is quite rich. Insects and rodents are abundant as are a variety of plant life that includes many kinds of fungus and moss and even smaller trees and shrubs that have taken root in the uppermost branches of the redwood.

RUSSIA

RUSSIARussia is, without a doubt, one of world’s richest cultures. Public perception sees the country as a very cold territory, with heavy drinkers and a freezing, empty Siberia. The beauty of its women is never contested, as many models on the catwalk have a Russian surname. Vilified in movies, Russians may also appear violent, short-tempered and uncivilized. However, these are just prejudices.

A prejudice that seems to be true is national pride. Russians are indeed proud of their country and won’t accept others to badmouth it. They can be very loud, so don’t interpret a raised voice as a sign of aggressiveness, it can actually mean they’re happy to greet you. Don’t bring yellow flowers and don’t even think about baby showers. If a pregnant woman receives a gift before giving birth, it attracts bad omen. Also, accept tea invitations. It’s a socializing opportunity and a chance to make some small talk with your peers. They prefer black tea, served from a samovar, but this is usually not possible at the workplace and close friends usually talk in the kitchen.

RUSSIARussians love to know the person they’re working with and will side-eye colleagues that are too formal. Going out for drinks is a good way to break the ice. Drinking is often a human bonding habit and Russians are quite famous for enjoying alcohol. In recent years, in the summer, there have been more deaths due to swimming while drunk than because of the high temperatures. Also, since they have a low birth rate, a program in one of its regions was to celebrate a ‘sex day’, exactly 9 months before the National Holiday.

The Baikal lake, the Russian Stonehenge, Kremlin or the Red Square in Moscow, Saint Petersburg or the Trans-Siberian (that includes more than 5 time zones) are just a few attractions that Russia has to offer. Memorial houses for its renowned writers, palaces that once belonged to its tsars, ruins from military conflicts speak of the Russian culture. So pack your bags, get rid of your stereotypes and prepare for an amazing journey.

Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo Review

The Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo is breathtaking. Located on the world famous Place du Casino, this 257-room luxurious hotel is a must visit even if you can’t afford it. At least take a stroll through the hotel. Situated right along the beautiful French Riviera coast, the Hotel de Paris is host to celebrities and dignitaries who appreciate the high end spa treatment, the private designer pool and direct access to the beach.

Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo Review 1

Wows and Woes

This hotel was once a palace, and you will be treated as royalty if you are fortunate enough to stay here. However, it costs a lot of money to be regal, and the Hotel de Paris is one of the most expensive places in Monaco.

Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo Review 1

Insider Tips

The hotel currently has a classic two-night package that offers two nights and breakfast at the hotel for 690 Euros through January of 2010. New packages come along yearly so check the hotel’s Website before booking for the best deals.

Bottom Line

You will feel transported in time to a place where kings and queens lounged lazily in the sunshine while sipping sherry.

ANGOLA

ANGOLA Angola is a Southern African country renowned for its oil reserves, its desert, diamonds and amazing landscapes. The giant sable antelope, an endangered species, lives in the Angolan forests. Much of Angola’s nature remains unaltered by humans since the war of independence (Angola was a Portuguese colony) and the Civil War slowed the evolution of the country. Due to its history, Angolan culture is an interesting mix of European civilization and Bantu cultural heritage.

Angolans are famous for being highly superstitious. Impoverished due to colonialism and war (although it experiences a fast recovery), many diseases haunt the country’s population. To better paint a picture, 1 child in 5 won’t make it to his or her 5th birthday. This has caused a number of superstitions. Angolans take very seriously accusations of witchcraft. If a child is sick, there might be a need for an official house blessing. Otherwise, the family will get sick too. Family, community, tribe – these are keywords for any Angolan. If one is accused of witchcraft, the entire family will be isolated. It’s not uncommon to exclude that person from the family. Also, if you see a dead snake on your way, you will die. While these superstitions might sound fun, so many of them are related to death because famine, HIV, malaria and postnatal death are common, so don’t joke about it.

ANGOLADon’t fall though under the impression Angolans are uncivilized and savage. They are actually very formal and respectful. They usually greet each other with a handshake, but if a senior member is present or a superior, they show their utter most respect by gently bowing. People don’t always think about death and sickness. Friends hang out with each other and love dancing. Semba (its ‘descendant’ is samba) is an Angolan upbeat and romantic music style. The youngsters enjoy playing basketball. When coming here, you might like the fact you don’t have to tip. If you want to, you can leave something small, cigarettes or candies, as a sign of appreciation.

As for travelling around, you have a