Wednesday 22 November 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 22/11/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Playing it cool: caipirinhas at Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Image: Shutterstock

Society / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Grains of truth

While many of us in the northern hemisphere have already started wrapping up as winter approaches, the southern hemisphere is getting warmer and people are flocking to beaches. On a recent two-week trip Down Under, I was reminded of the joys that a little good weather can bring, especially when combined with top hospitality and some natural beauty.

What struck me most was how different Australia’s beach culture is to that of my native Brazil. Both nations have wonderful beaches and a deep appreciation for the sea but these feature in residents’ daily lives in contrasting ways. In Australia, the beach gets more action earlier in the day and is somewhere you swim, run or practise your surfing. I didn’t see many people tanning themselves and drinking alcohol is prohibited. (This, as I found out to my detriment, is strictly enforced.) We Brazilians are sporty too but we mostly think of the beach as a space for leisure in which to relax with a caipirinha: it’s where you go to see and be seen, to admire and be admired. It is a space for flirting or even shopping – those beach sarongs on sale in Copacabana can be rather beautiful, for example.

A nation’s beaches can tell us a lot about its psyche. What I found in Australia was not exactly what I had expected. The country is big on rules. It has banned smoking and private beaches are few and far between; seaside developments are also strictly regulated to keep these civic spaces clean, public and open to all. Slightly different from the sexy chaos of Ipanema.

There is no right and wrong on how to enjoy the beach. Both countries do it well. It’s easy to dismiss the Aussie rules as excessive but they keep the country’s sandy expanses suitable for people of all ages. I am used to Brazil’s bustling beaches that provide an extension to city life but Australia’s pristine seaside was pretty enough to appreciate sober.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is Monocle Radio’s senior correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


In the pink: William Lai at a recent campaign rally in Taipei

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Taiwan

United front?

Taiwan is in for a dramatic few days as William Lai of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) waits to find out who will officially stand against him in January’s presidential election. The nomination period, which closes on Friday, has prompted a flurry of negotiations between the main opposition figures, Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) chairman Ko Wen-je and Foxconn billionaire Terry Gou.

All three of the candidates know that splitting the opposition vote will hand the DPP another four years in government. No one, however, appears willing to step aside. The deal between the KMT and TPP to form a joint presidential ticket collapsed over the weekend. Ko, in the meantime, has also held talks with Gou. But as Taiwan’s fractured opposition struggles to break the impasse, Lai announced top diplomat Hsiao Bi-khim as his candidate for vice-president, bolstering his chances of becoming Taiwan’s next leader.

Hula lot of fun: Aloha Yokohama Festival in Yokohama, Japan

Image: E Holomua Kãkou

Tourism / Japan & Hawaii

Warmer welcome

Travel between Japan and Hawaii is soon expected to become easier than ever. The US island state is working on a new system that will allow Japanese travellers to complete all immigration procedures before leaving their country.

Hawaii has been a popular holiday destination for Japanese tourists since it lifted its foreign travel restrictions in 1964. Today they spend the largest amount of money per visitor, according to Hawaii’s tourism agency. Getting to the tropical archipelago is already easy for Japanese citizens, who don’t need a visa to visit. Both All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines also offer regular direct flights there. Hawaiian cultural festivals are celebrated in cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka, while the state’s cuisine is widely enjoyed across the country. Simplifying the customs process for Hawaii’s most lucrative visitors is a smart economic decision that will bring the two places even closer.

Business / Sweden

Fully charged

As the electric-vehicle (EV) market grows and evolves, Sweden’s Polestar is seeking to set itself apart from its competitors by focusing on good design. When Monocle recently visited its headquarters – a former Volvo site dubbed “The Eagle’s Nest”, looking out at Gothenburg – Maximilian Missoni, the company’s head of design, gave us an exclusive preview of four new models.

“The purity, timelessness and logic in the line comes from a Scandinavian mindset,” said Missoni. “Design is like a weapon. Deployed properly, it can create a desire for a more sustainable option.” While the wider EV sector experiences a backlash as more consumers wait for hydrogen-powered or smart-fuel options, Polestar is projected to sell between 60,000 and 70,000 vehicles in 2023. Its longer-term target is to compete with Porsche’s annual 300,000 mark – a sense of ambition that we commend.

For our full report on Polestar, buy Monocle’s November issue, which is out now.

Beyond the Headlines

The List / Global

Poll positions

With the Argentine general election just ended and Taiwan preparing to hit the ballot box in January, Monocle highlights three other elections to look out for before the end of this year.

Dutch general election
The Netherlands is holding a general election following the collapse of the government led by the outgoing prime minister, Mark Rutte, in July over immigration-policy disagreements. Among the contenders for the top job is Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius, the new leader of Rutte’s party, the Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie. The daughter of Turkish migrants, she will be up against Pieter Omtzigt, leader of the centre-right Nieuw Sociaal Contract, and a left-wing alliance led by former EU climate chief Frans Timmermans.

Democratic Republic of the Congo general election
20 December
In less than a month, president Felix Tshisekedi will be seeking re-election for a second term against 25 other candidates. Official campaigning has started this week; his rivals include Martin Fayulu, who came second place in 2018’s elections, as well as political first-timers such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege.

Egyptian presidential election
10 December
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who came to power following Egypt’s 2013 coup, is hoping to be re-elected against three other candidates in December: Hazem Omar of the Republican People’s Party, Abdel-Sanad Yamama of the Egyptian Wafd Party and Farid Zahran of the Egyptian Social Democrats. El-Sisi’s policies have so far failed to turn around the country’s collapsing economy. He also faces growing public discontent as a result of his close relationship with Israel and his decision to enforce harsher controls on the Egypt-Gaza border.

Image: Constantin Mirbach

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Design

Chybik +

We go on a workshop tour to learn the craft of creating bespoke globes and Czech architect Ondrej Chybík (pictured, on right) joins us in the studio. Plus: we visit an installation that illuminates the history of Georgian light shows.


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