Thursday. 14/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Home from home

On the day I became British, the thermometer hit a balmy 31C – which felt appropriate to this sunny Brazilian. For the ceremony at the Old Marylebone Town Hall this week (pictured), I sat with a Croatian couple on one side and a Japanese woman behind me. All in all, people from 16 countries were gathered to become UK citizens.

It was a momentous day for me. My love affair with the UK started at a young age, all because of music. It began with the Spice Girls, my first musical obsession, and continued with the Pet Shop Boys, whose songs spoke to my heart like the music of no other act. And then there was Erasure, All Saints, New Order, George Michael… The list is far too long. Combined with my fascination for British print publications, all of this filled my mind with thoughts of moving here to study journalism and then, perhaps, working in one of these vaunted magazines (wink, wink). I’ve now lived here for 15 years. The UK is where I’ve made most of my longtime friends, fulfilled my work ambitions, shaped my music taste and met the love of my life. And yet becoming a citizen has given me an added sense of security and belonging.

I found myself anxious in the days before the ceremony. There were silly thoughts that I was somehow betraying Brazil or that my parents wouldn’t approve. Of course, it was all in my head: my parents are happy for me and I’m still very much Brazilian too – just with a lovely dose of Britishness. Citizenship is about love. In the past few years, the UK and Brazil have had a tough ride politically, resulting in a worsening image abroad. But as they’re now officially my two countries, I won’t give up on them. I feel protective and hopeful that things will get better.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a producer and senior correspondent at Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Belarus

Weapons of mass distraction

Belarus’s army is conducting military drills close to its border with Ukraine. The official line from Minsk is that president Alexander Lukashenko, a staunch ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, wants to test his military’s preparedness for war. Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, has been reluctant to let his forces join Moscow’s troops in Ukraine but he has repeatedly allowed his country to be used as a staging ground for Russian troops and attacks. The goal is likely to force Ukraine to divert resources from the areas of heaviest fighting. “These drills serve as a great distraction as far as Putin and Lukashenko are concerned,” Alex Kokcharov, political risk analyst at S&P Global and an expert on Belarus, tells The Monocle Minute. “It’s almost certain that these old allies will have stage-managed this situation to keep Ukraine’s forces second-guessing the next point of attack,” he says.

Image: Alamy

Transport / Germany

Pedal pusher

The boom in electric-bicycle manufacturing is a key reason why 100,000 international participants have made the trip to Eurobike, the world’s biggest trade fair for two-wheeled transport, which kicked off yesterday for the first time in Frankfurt. Previously rural Germany’s Friedrichshafen hosted the event for 30 years. “Our heritage was sports bikes, which suited the old location,” show director Stefan Reisinger tells the Monocle Minute. “But we felt that it was time to move to the city as bicycles enter the sphere of urban mobility.”

While there’s plenty of innovation in the vast halls of Eurobike, battery-dependent products still feel a bit bulky. Enter our pick of the fair, Microangelo, a new Taiwanese brand that has engineered a more compact battery that hardly alters the frame. CEO Ray Liao believes that pedal power should remain a part of cycling’s electric future. “It provides an original road-bike experience, with the opportunity for a power boost,” he says. Now that’s the best of both worlds.

For more from Monocle’s Nolan Giles on the ground in Frankfurt, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Carl Bergman

Economy / Japan

Flying the nest

The number of Japanese people who live overseas has doubled in the past 30 years. New figures released by Japan’s foreign ministry show the total increasing from 660,000 in 1991 to 1.3 million in October 2021. It includes students studying abroad for longer than three months but also nearly 540,000 individuals who have chosen to leave Japan longer-term, the highest number since records began in 1968.

The middle classes in particular are looking for opportunities elsewhere, reflecting the lack of economic growth at home: according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average salary in Japan rose by just 4 per cent from 1990 to 2020, compared to 50 per cent in the US and 90 per cent in South Korea. While it’s beneficial for any nation to have ambitious people acquiring a quality education and experiences abroad, Japan needs to do a better job of convincing those talents to return home.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Global

Keeping them keen

A report from one of the world’s largest paywall providers has revealed that about a third of new subscribers to news websites unsubscribe within the first 24 hours. US company Piano found this to be, in large part, due to readers either looking for a specific article or being unimpressed with the premium product. Another cohort of users it highlighted are known as “sleepers”: those who have been inactive for more than 30 days. These amount to a hefty 40 per cent of subscribers on a typical news website.

Despite making for grim reading for some digital publishers, the report suggests a number of ways to keep readers on board for the long haul. These include engaging with subscribers early on, not relying solely on social media to generate paying consumers and providing content across multiple platforms: podcasts, emails and even letters from editors. In other words, despite the rhetoric around digital disruption, the traditional elements of media brand-building, such as putting the customer first, are still holding true.

Image: Alex Atack

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Craft special

From an artisan with a contemporary take on Congolese textiles to a Sarajevo-based coppersmith challenging stereotypes, we meet some of the people working hard to ensure a future for traditional crafts.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: July/August issue

See if your city made the cut for our annual Quality of Life survey in Monocle's July/August issue, where we crunched the numbers and hit the streets to rank the world's most liveable cities. Elsewhere explore the business of language learning, brush up on the brands to help you stay sharp and see what songs should be on your summer soundtrack. Grab a copy today from The Monocle Shop.

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