Monday 18 July 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 18/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Andrew Taylor

Opinion / Petri Burtsoff

Escape to the country

Since long before “mindfulness”, “going offline” and “switching off” became part of our language, the Finns have had a simple antidote to the stress of city life. They leave and head to simple cottages in the countryside. In a country of about five million people, there are more than 500,000 such cottages, almost all of them in the woods, beside a lake or by the seaside.

The Finns aren’t alone in retreating somewhere for the summer break but, in my humble and highly partisan opinion, nothing compares to the benefits of disconnecting the Finnish way. Research shows that recovering from work stress only happens when both your mind and body are removed from the cause of stress. The recovery can be hastened when you move to a place that’s disconnected from work and where you can occupy your mind with something else.

Finnish cottage holidays aren’t at all sedentary. Potatoes, onions, tomatoes and herbs need to be planted, tended and harvested. That wood for the lakeside sauna won’t chop itself and woe betide the holidaymaker who falls behind on maintaining his or her fishing boat after the ravages of winter. This might sound stressful to some readers but rest assured that when there’s no one breathing down your neck, no deadlines to meet and no client to please, chores become leisurely pastimes that help you shift your focus.

Finns have learned that disconnecting properly takes time – the idea of a measly week or two off every year, as is the standard in Japan or the US, sounds rather disagreeable to our ears. The culture of retreating to summer houses proves that disconnecting is possible and that it doesn’t even have to mean switching your phone off. After a few days of rusticity, surrounded by nature and living a simpler life, you’ll find yourself forgetting where you left it.

Petri Burtsoff is Monocle’s Helsinki correspondent. For a collection of essays from six writers on the simple pleasures that bring them joy, grab a copy of the July/August Quality of Life issue of Monocle magazine from newsstands today.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Saudi Arabia & Israel

The sky is no limit

As part of his controversial trip to the Middle East, Joe Biden became the first US president to fly directly from Israel to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. The flight was hailed as a sign of the warming relations between the two countries. Last week, Saudi Arabia announced that it will open its airspace to all airlines – including those from Israel. As well as paving the way for more flights between the countries, the new open-skies policy will mean shorter flights from Asia to Israel, as airlines will no longer have to take detours around Saudi Arabian airspace. There are also plans for Saudi Arabia to permit direct charter flights from Israel for Muslims participating in the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. While the Middle East remains full of challenges, President Biden can leave the region confident that some of its countries might be on their way to developing friendlier ties.

Image: Triennale Milano/Gianluca Di Ioia

Arts / Italy

Meeting of minds

The pandemic years have made us all ponder existential questions. If you’re seeking some answers, the 23rd Triennale Milano International Exhibition, Unknown Unknowns: An Introduction to Mysteries, is well worth a visit. Running until 11 December, the main exhibition is curated by Ersilia Vaudo, an astrophysicist and chief diversity officer of the European Space Agency.

Unknown Unknowns brings together 600 works from 400 artists, from Ettore Sottsass to Anish Kapoor. But the event, which is also known for its eclectic mix of designers, architects and curators from around the world, isn’t just about art. “It’s an opportunity for dialogue and research,” Stefano Boeri, the Triennale Milano’s president, tells The Monocle Minute. Berlin-based architect Francis Kéré (pictured, on left, with Vaudo and Boeri) has designed the display installations and curated two other exhibits. Look out for “The Future’s Present”, a 12m-high tower covered in modern interpretations of patterns found in Kéré's native Burkina Faso.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / France & UAE

Ever-closer union

UAE president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan will meet Emmanuel Macron in Paris today, returning the favour after the French president’s visit to the Gulf state in May. It’s a sign of the deepening relationship between the two countries, which has resulted in a recent arms deal worth $19bn (€18.8bn).

The closer ties between the countries have also manifested in culture: France has lent art to the UAE and helped extensively with the opening of the Louvre’s Abu Dhabi outpost in 2017. Today’s meeting is likely to focus on security, climate change, energy and technology. “It will primarily be about regional security but will be mutually beneficial,” Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, tells The Monocle Minute. “The UAE presents itself as an advanced technological state and President Macron likes to show that he’s at the forefront of Middle Eastern security challenges.”

Image: Kevin Serna

Urbanism / USA

Positive thinking

After two years of public meetings, Chicago’s mayor Lori Lightfoot has unveiled a 10-year plan to enhance equality and liveability in a metropolitan area long blighted by racism, poverty and crime. Dubbed “We Will Chicago”, the project includes initiatives aimed at tackling inequality and health disparities. Among the laundry list of other challenges are improving public transport and policing, and jump-starting the arts and culture scene. Detailing the draft last week, Lightfoot admitted that historic policies had been “racist, discriminatory and predatory” and spoke of the need for a new vision for America’s third most populous city. Key to the solution is identifying the problem.

The document highlights pollution and bad mortgage practices as priorities for poorer communities. The main lesson is that addressing long-standing structural issues and steering funding into underprivileged areas require central planning and a set of common goals. The draft is now open for public comment. If Chicagoans care about shaping their city’s future, contributing to its 10-year vision is a good place to start.

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Germany’s top songs

This week, Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco dives into the German pop charts.

Monocle Films / Paris

How to enjoy life

Join us for a whirlwind tour around the cobbled streets, cocktail bars and jazz lounges of Paris to explore how to enjoy the small things in life and find out why hedonism (in moderation) matters.


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