The bowl with the cat printed on it

We closed our suitcases and did one final check in the house in which we had lived for a long year, to switch off the lights, lock the door and take the plane to Shanghai. And then we found one bowl with a cat printed on it, left in the sink. “Just throw it away”, […]

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Our struggle against pleasure

Today’s wellbeing increasingly comes from abstinence rather than indulgence. Smartphones halt day dreaming. Social media causes depressions. Commitments and emotional baggage stop us from developing deeper understandings. More people die from eating too much than starve. Yuval Noah Harari writes: “Sugar is now a greater danger than gunpowder. You are more likely to die from […]

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Strategy lessons from racing

Racing is life under high pressure, and I think advertising (or any industry) can learn a lot from how racing cars are designed. The car In the book ‘How to build a car‘, famed Formula One engineer Adrian Newey talks about cars he designed and the philosophy behind them. I think it’s interesting, because cars, […]

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The rarer nature becomes, the more distant we become of it

This is one of the many paragraphs from ‘H is for Hawk‘ by Helen Macdonald that stood out for me and still lingers in my mind weeks after reading it: “I think of what wild animals are in our imagination. And how they are disappearing — not just from the wild, but from people’s everyday […]

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My Chinese parents

(Originally posted on Seventy-Magazine.) I’d like to give an insight on China’s ‘silver generation’, because while China’s younger generations are often in the spotlight, its senior citizens are largely ignored — despite its 150 million ‘members’ having a combined annual income of around 300-400 billion RMB. But instead of some board generalisations, here’s a slice of life […]

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Zwolle in Shanghai

This vinyl record made it to Shanghai and that’s a miracle. It makes me wonder about how this music was composed around 250 years ago in a candle-lit room in Germany, and played over 60 years ago by an Englishman visiting a small city in post-war Netherlands. I wonder about the church that was built […]

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Take a photo of your supermarket

This morning I watched Michael Palin visiting Shanghai in 1988. He just walks around the city of 12 million people and it’s fascinating. At three minutes there’s a car trying to get through a narrow street. At five minutes, a Chinese medicine store. At six, a Chinese duo speaking English and telling Palin they like […]

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The difference between “wang” and “woef”

I’ve now taken two months of Mandarin classes, and last week our teacher taught us the words for cat (māo) and dog (gǒu) — and as a sort of fun extracurricular, she also explained the sounds they make: “miaow” and “wang” — or rather; how those sounds are perceived by Chinese. In the Netherlands, a […]

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Through the open doorway

(A version of this also appeared on China Daily.) I find debates on objective reality not in the least useful, because eventually you arrive at the question whether all of the truths on which we base ourselves are true. And the answer has to be yes. Even if the truths we hold true would be […]

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China’s young identity market

(Originally posted on Seventy-Magazine.) It’s hard to imagine how different China was only fifty years ago. Chinese people largely dressed the same, ate the same food in cantinas and decorated their homes in similar fashion. Few brands were known, most originating from before the Japanese Occupation, the civil war and the tumultuous 50s, 60s and […]

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