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Vienna unfriendly? San Francisco a hell-hole?

Respectable Austrian news service APA has published a report saying, and I quote, “according to employees sent abroad by companies, Vienna is the third-most unfriendly city in the world”.

Could this really be true?  How did they work it out?

I looked at the statistics more closely.  It turned out that the report was based on a survey of expats carried out by the “InterNations” network.  You may have heard of them before: two years ago I examined their “Expat Insider 2017” survey, which also rated Austria as one of unfriendliest countries (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

Many Viennese are friendly – here at Zum Schwarzen Kameel

Let’s look at a few more statistics from the 2019 report:

  • the InterNations survey rates Milan and Rome as the second- and third-worst cities on earth for expats – behind Lagos, Jakarta or Moscow.  In fact, of the 82 cities measured, Rome comes 81st, Milan 80th.  Just ahead are Paris (78th) and the awful city of San Francisco, ranked 77th.
  • in fact, US cities score terribly in the survey: New York, LA and San Francisco rank 74th, 76th and 77th of the 82 cities rated worldwide.   This seems hard to square with the fact that the United States is a magnet for immigration from around the world.
  • the survey rates Taipei and Kuala Lumpur as the best and second-best cities on earth for expats, narrowly ahead of Ho Chi Min City – the third best city on earth for expats, apparently, and way better than the best US city (Miami, ranked 27th).
  • InterNations members score Vienna as the 23rd best city on earth for expats, just behind Luxemburg City and Manama (in Bahrain).  Vienna comes in fifth out of 82 on the “quality of urban living” index, dragged down by an odd 31st place in the “safety and politics” measure (crime rates suggest Vienna is one of the safest cities on earth).  Under “getting settled”, Vienna scores a poor 68th place, dragged down by coming 80th out of 82 on “local friendliness“.   Hence the headlines.
  • the figures jump around: Vienna came 8th overall in the InterNations survey in 2016; 28th in 2017; 34th in 2018 (must have been a bad year); before soaring to 23rd in 2019.

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Trollope on the sexes – and the “railway sandwich”

How men and women think, and whether there is a difference, is one of the abiding puzzles of life.  We all want to understand other people.  Many of us want to understand the opposite sex.

How can we understand men, or women?

One of the wisest writers on relationships between the sexes was the 19th century British writer Anthony Trollope.  My piece Trollope: 11 reasons to read him sets out his awesome qualities (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog) – including the fact that much of what he wrote is still 100% current.  More Trollope links are at the end of this post.

Trollope’s 1869 novel He Knew He Was Right examines relations between the sexes in detail.  You can explore quotations from the book below on men (6), on women (9), on relationships (22), on literary criticism (1) and finally (as a reminder of Trollope’s wit and continued relevance) on “the railway sandwich”.

Nothing changes.  Enjoy!

My Trollope Society edition of “He Knew He Was Right” has 823 pages

On Men

The reader may be quite certain that Colonel Osborne had no premeditated evil intention when he allowed himself to become the intimate friend of his old friend’s daughter. There was nothing fiendish in his nature. He was not a man who boasted of his conquests. He was not a ravening wolf going about seeking whom he might devour, (more…)

Literature Festival at Sea: 10/10

“You have 15 seconds to capture someone’s attention,” crime writer Mark Billingham says.  Outside, the ocean rushes by, waves flecked with white horses.  The wreck of the Titanic lies 150 miles south.

Not a bad place for a literary festival

My friends Phreddie and Rosalind put me onto the Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival at Sea.  “Sebastian Faulks, Louis de Bernières, Victoria Hislop, P.J. O’Rourke – what can go wrong?” they said.  I checked it out.  The package included a flight to New York, three nights in a hotel, then seven nights on Cunard’s “Queen Mary 2” in the company of literary greats, plus a top team of (more…)

Goldfinger: “Oddjob: the Pressure Room”

‘Are the James Bond novels any good?’ a friend asked me the other day.

‘They are anachronistic, homophobic and sexist,’ I replied.  ‘But James Bond himself is a splendid creation and some of the novels tell a terrific yarn.’

The cover of my Folio Society edition of “Goldfinger” is almost parodic

Unfortunately, Goldfinger is my least favourite Bond book so far (I have read, this time round, Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever and From Russia with Love – reviews below).  The narrative is short on drive and tension and the plot makes no sense.  Why, for example, when (no spoilers here) Bond has driven villain Auric Goldfinger to a paroxysm of suspicion, (more…)

A complete short story: “Taxi to London”

I wrote the following story as flash fiction at a writing course I attended recently at Loutro on Crete (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).  Unlike my recently-released collection, Seven Hotel Storiesit is not a comedy.

Taxi to London

I had my head down over my exam revision when the hospital called.

‘Is this Dave Ellingsworth?’  The girl’s voice was so calm I felt my adrenalin spike.

‘This is Dave.’

‘You are in a relationship with Joanne Jones, is that correct?’

‘JJ, yes, Joanne, I know her, yes.’

‘In a relationship?  I can only speak to next of kin.’

I felt a sense of despair, and weightlessness.  Was I in a relationship?  JJ had said she thought we were.  But I thought I had ended it last night.

‘Sure.  In a relationship.’

‘She took some pills.  She is out of danger now.  She asked if you could come and see her.’  The woman on the phone sounded like she thought I should go. (more…)

Marilyn Monroe and 5 ways to turn experience into fiction

I have finished reading from my book Seven Hotel Stories when a guy in the audience raises his hand.

‘How much of these stories is made up, and how much is real?’ he asks.  ‘And in general, how do you use your real life to create fiction?’

This struck me as a great question.  How much of fiction is the writer’s experience, and how much is made up?  Suppose you work as a lawyer, or in an insurance office, and are not an astronaut, a detective, or an assassin?  Can you still write about something thrilling?

Marilyn Monroe trained hard to become an actress

Here are five ways you can turn your experience into compelling fiction:

(i) anyone can write great stuff: don’t worry about who you are, or what you do.  All you need is a paper and a pen, or a screen and a keyboard.  The trick is to get started (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site);

(ii) do use what you know to help write your story: whatever you can do and however you live, you can draw on your life experience to create rich, multi-layered fiction.  John Grisham started out repairing roads, then became a lawyer – he used his legal knowledge to write The Firm.  Tom Clancy worked in insurance: his hero Jack Ryan is, like Clancy, of Irish Catholic stock; (more…)

4 astonishing facts about “The Third Man”

Have you seen the classic 1949 British thriller The Third Man (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site)?  If not, watch it immediately!  Either way, consider the following nuggets I recently unearthed about possibly the best film of all time.

My review at the link above sets out 8 reasons The Third Man is movie magic.  But did you know:

(i) The Third Man was nearly never made.  In early discussions, producer David O Selznick said a film called “The Third Man” could never be a hit.  You can find out more in Frederick Baker’s 2004 documentary Shadowing the Third Man;

(ii) the classic ending to the movie, which I shall not reveal here, was nearly changed.  Graham Greene, who wrote the screenplay, initially planned for an upbeat final scene with Anna and Holly Martins forming a relationship.  How this could have squared with the rest of the story, which leads inexorably to the magnificent ending as it was eventually released, I have no idea;

(more…)

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