Thursday 21 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 21/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

House news / Josh Fehnert

Present and correct

Education rates are soaring but there’s a widening skills gap. Technology is important but we also need to institute a common-sense curriculum that values hospitality and how we make people feel. If we don’t address it, some softer competencies – such as pouring wine, reading a room or dressing for a meeting – might vanish entirely from our collective cultural repertoire.

In the private sector, entertaining, training and travel budgets have been slashed to preserve profits. At a state level, purse strings are tightening, so insular governments are flogging embassies and snipping diplomatic staff.

The logic is pernicious. Why have a scene-setting office when your team can work from their kitchen tables? Why hire a skilled ambassador when your country could have a snappy social-media campaign instead? Why wear a tailored jacket when you could slouch in wearing slippers? There are savings to be made but this approach might cost you too.

The ideas of hospitality and style – and making a little effort with both – are the twin themes in the April issue of Monocle, which is out today. Under the covers are 50 global hospitality lessons, a report on restaurants that feel fresh because they never followed trends and our spring fashion top 25. We also enrol in a US craft school, profile the French firm kitting out the country’s embassies and join a military mission 6,000 metres above the Nevada desert.

In our sit-down with Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the idea of hospitality and warm welcomes takes a tougher tangent. How has a centre-right government helped Greece to become the first Orthodox nation to recognise same-sex marriages? How might the country convince migrants to put down roots while reassuring those who are concerned? What happens when there’s diplomatic trouble rumbling with the near neighbours? Luckily, Mitsotakis has a plan – and understands the importance of a well-cut suit.

Great leaders of countries, cities and companies often grasp the value that honed hospitality skills bring. They know that presentation and how they treat people can inspire, enliven and educate others. Isn’t it time to narrow that skills gap?

Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s editor. The April hospitality and fashion issue is on newsstands now. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Embracing change: Canadian Senate ratifies new free-trade bill with Ukraine

Image: Reuters

Trade / Canada & Ukraine

Tricks of the trade

The Canadian Senate has ratified a bill to implement a new free-trade agreement with Ukraine, paving the way for it to become law. According to the government, this will be an important trade tool for Ukrainian companies entering the Canadian market. The bill is an updated version of a deal that came into force in 2017 but not everyone is happy about it. Canada’s opposing Conservative Party unanimously voted against the bill and asked to renegotiate the deal to remove a reference to carbon taxes.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau accused the party of copying Republican lawmakers in the US, who have tried blocking further military aid to Ukraine. Although Canada is home to the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population, this obstructive stance by the Conservatives will be familiar to many of the country’s voters who head to the polls in the coming year.

Fashion / Switzerland

Trying times

Switzerland’s monthly watch exports fell by 3.8 per cent in February, according to figures released by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. It is the second slump in more than two years and comes ahead of the annual Watches & Wonders fair, which takes place in Geneva from 9 April. But such a slowdown is not unexpected: the watch industry is affected by the same geopolitical and supply-chain issues that are currently creating challenges for a host of industries around the world. In the case of Swiss watches, the dip is mostly due to a fall in the number of shipments to China and Hong Kong, which decreased by 25.4 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively. But things are ticking over nicely elsewhere: the US market continues to grow, the UAE is on track to surpass the UK, and India is showing immense potential. Watch firms that are able to redirect resources and engage customers in stronger markets should be able to overcome the challenges without slowing down production or seeing a reduction to their bottom lines.

Image: IFC

Culture / Egypt

Treasure trail

Pictures released by the International Finance Corporation show that Cairo’s long-delayed Grand Egypt Museum is progressing well. The highly anticipated project, designed by Dublin studio Heneghan Peng Architects, is scheduled to open in May, almost 12 years later than originally planned. Partly funded by Japan, this monumental, £1bn (€1.2bn) endeavour hosting some of Egypt’s most-treasured artefacts will be the world’s biggest museum.

Egypt’s economy has fallen on hard times due to growing public debt and the fall of the Egyptian pound against the dollar. The ongoing conflict in neighbouring Gaza has also affected its tourism sector, on which it so heavily relies. Egyptian authorities hope that the opening of the museum – as well as the unveiling of other forthcoming public projects, such as the building of a new administrative capital 45km east of Cairo – will somehow encourage visitors to book their tickets.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Getty Images

Q&A / Alberto Guerra

Test of character

Cuban-born actor Alberto Guerra is one of Mexico’s biggest film and television stars. He recently made his US debut as the male lead on Griselda, a Netflix series inspired by the true story of Colombian cartel leader Griselda Blanco (Sofía Vergara). The show topped Netflix’s rankings and recorded 20 million views during its first two weeks of release. Here, Guerra tells Monocle about the development of his character and the need to showcase more Latin American talent on screen.

Given that we don’t know much about the people around Griselda Blanco, how did you create your character, Dario, in your head?
I wanted to approach him from scratch. There is little that you can learn about a character like him. But something that I thought could help was learning about how people change when important things happen to them. I developed a lot of fears when I became a dad, for example. People change when they fall in love. But what happens when your line of duty is violent? What changes inside of you? The result is a character who is different from the typical on-screen hitman.

There is a scene set in a motel in which Dario experiences an internal crisis about his job. Is this true or part of the script?
We don’t really know what unfolded in the motel room. But such scenes aim to show that this character, regardless of what he does for a living, is not immune to his feelings. Both the director (Andrés Baiz) and I were tired of misconceptions about these types of characters, who are portrayed as macho and without emotions. It’s a lot more fun to give them added depth.

This production features so much talent from Latin America. What’s your take on the Latin American film and TV industry and what will it look like over the next few years?
The main difference between Hollywood and parts of Latin America is the amount of money spent, not the talent. There are equally good actors in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia but they have never had access to a large budget. So what deserves celebration this year is that Latin American actors are receiving an increasing number of opportunities to make good projects such as Griselda and Society of the Snow.

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs

Blaise Duboux and Destinate

We explore wine destinations around the world. First we head to the picturesque village of Epesses in the Lavaux winegrowing region of Switzerland, home to the largest vineyard area in the country and a Unesco World Heritage Site, to meet Blaise Duboux and tour his eponymous estate. We also meet the founder of an agency working to build up and promote wine tourism in South Africa.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00