My modern take on men opening doors for women; a common-sense guide.

I thought it time to bring back this at Christmas; when respect should be the by-word for our interactions with each other.

At a dinner party recently, in conversation with a friend (thanks, Mette Mikkelsen, for making me reflect on this a bit more), came the subject of men opening doors for women. I am a man, and the interlocutor a woman. Both of us, I think it is fair to say, qualify as feminists. But our takes were different on the question of a man opening a door for a woman.

Style: "Mad Men" January Jones (Betty Draper) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm)

I shall start this by admitting that I do it. I will open a door for a lady IF the situation is such that it makes sense for both of us. But in the same way as I would open the door for anyone. To be clear, in my younger years I opened doors for women because I was taught that a gentleman does. And a gentleman does BECAUSE he is a man, and she a woman.

Like so many things that are symptoms of patriarchal structures, the ‘why’ of it is the proof in this particular pudding.

The issue, as there certainly is one attached to a man opening a door for a lady, is about the intention.

It is nice, not rude, or sexist, to do something nice for someone because you respect them, because they are another person, and it’s the right thing to do, and it’s courteous. I would, and do, happily open doors for a wide range of people, and allow them to go first out of respect, courtesy, or just plain niceness.

That decision should (and I hope it mostly is although we are all fallable!), not about the sex of the recipient of the benevolent act. I would like to think my act is a gender non-specific one. At times, however, I find myself through my Aussie male (sexist) conditioning, forgetting myself and opening a door for a woman BECAUSE they are a woman. Nobody is perfect. 😦 The trick, like combating racism, is to catch yourself out and question yourself.

Where it becomes a problem is if the intention of the male opening a door for a woman is to be ‘correct’, according to his own idea about what is correct, to her as a woman.

Why is this a problem, I hear you ask? That’s a great question, and the subject of my dinner party conversation.

Because doing nice things for someone CHIEFLY because of their sex is, you guessed it, sexism, and is quite simply the flip side of doing something bad to someone for the same reason. It betrays an uneven power relationship.

The safest way as a guy to act on this question of ‘man opening door’ is to, before the situation occurs, reflect on your own intent. Do you act out of niceness and courtesy in a general, gender unaware sense, or do you do it out of ‘correctness’ and hold the door mostly for ladies because they are women?

if the latter, for the sake of promoting gender equality, then consider changing your perspective.

That starts with understanding that women are not the weaker or more decorative sex, and you can and should rather open the door equally for anyone whether man or woman, young or old, out of niceness; because you are a good guy.

Try this: I open the door for women other people, because I am a gentleman polite.

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The Princess Revolution

A new generation of parents is shopping with the idea that pink and blue—along with robots, bunnies, dinosaurs, and unicorns—are for every child.

A great read from Adrienne Lafrance at The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/05/pink-is-for-boys-too/481659/

ENTJ: the Curmudgeon Leader?

For those of you who don’t know me, let me start with an admission.
I am an ENTJ. To some of you, that means little.To many of you, however, I suspect it means a great deal.

ENTJ, stands for Extroversion-Intuition-Thinking-Judging, and is a personality type in the very interesting Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI. This scale aims to pigeon-hole, and pretty accurately too, everyone’s personality. There are limitations; of course, no abstract model can ever fully define all people. But it’s good. For me, close to spot-on.

The ENTJ type is not the rarest, but quite rare; roughly 2-4% of the population may be so labelled. The type is often called the Executive, or the Field Marshall, and it is a corner of the business world occupied by hearty, frank, decisive leaders engaged in a wide range of activities. Natural leaders in the corporate world, you will often recognise them as they lead large functions and are driven to lead more, greater, larger, bigger, better.

ENTJs are usually very handy at anything that requires reasoning and intelligent talk. They are often great public speakers, and convincers of people. Sit them in a negotiation and watch them play their often formidable role.

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Interestingly, they are usually also well informed, but (nota bene!) also excellent bluffers, appearing through powerful personalities and charisma to be all-knowing. I have to confess to bluffing on occasion (okay, okay, a lot of the time) and it is remarkable just how many other types will back down when confronted by an ENTJ’s viewpoint, put out there always with confidence and, sometimes, with arrogance.

ENTJs dominate their space. They will lead. Strongly. Decisively. Acting quickly and with vigour on anything that makes strategic sense.

Until, of course, the ENTJ encounters another ENTJ. Now THAT makes for a fun workplace! Have you ever seen those nature documentaries featuring two ‘prowess’ animals fighting – like ENTJs, such animals often have great antlers! – butting heads until one is unconscious? That’s two ENTJs working near each other.

Sometimes, but not always, one will concede something, giving a small amount of ground, or choose not to fight to unconsciousness over this particular point. But the one who thinks they are most right – and ENTJs ALWAYS think they are right – will ultimately stand ground and, just maybe, not suffer concussion.

But ENTJs, sometimes laughed at for a modicum of ‘social awkwardness’, as they often need to step back a little to size up a social situation to gauge how brusque and direct they can be, are also often the curmudgeon of the office.

Curmudgeon

kəːˈmʌdʒ(ə)n/

noun

noun: curmudgeon; plural noun: curmudgeons

  1. a bad-tempered or surly person.
synonyms: bad-tempered person;

While a rare type, everyone knows one, whether they know the letters or not. Everyone has, often without knowing the MBTI profile of the protagonist, anecdotes about run-ins and incidents with the ENTJs in their lives. To many people, the ENTJ is the boss or colleague who once bulldozed them on a point of strategy, or didn’t pay enough attention to their feelings, or forgot to wish happy birthday even when the cake is on the table.

Yes, directness is the calling card of many an ENTJ. Offensiveness too. Not to mention brusqueness. But it is not on purpose. They just often don’t have the emotional intelligence, or a well-developed ‘feeling’ side in the MBTI scale. Don’t blame them. Best thing you can do is to try to help them, actually. As an ENTJ who has been chastened after staff gave feedback on curmudgeonly behaviour, I was able to adjust. Change, even.

It is possible to help an ENTJ to develop, or be more aware at least, of the feeling side of the shop. Why would you want to? Plainly stated, your life will be MUCH easier. If you are a good worker, the worst thing you can do is have an ENTJ on your back. Helping an ENTJ see how they are squashing you is a good way to get on their good side. Or you will get fired. But if the latter, they were a nasty, abnormal ENTJ and you didn’t want that job anyway.

I am often asked how best to work with me. Yes, some people have that much gall! Just kidding. As an ENTJ with an overdeveloped thinking side, I like that someone would have the guts to come and ask me for that particular piece of advice.

For those working with ENTJs, either above, below, or beside, you need to know a few things about how to get your way with an ENTJ. So here is my twenty cents worth on how to work better with people like me:

  • Discuss first the research base for an idea. ENTJs are easily fascinated, like a cat with a string and a catnip fish on the end, when new knowledge is in the offing. Get them excited about the research base for your idea, the possibilities for new information, and what that might mean for them.
  • Highlight the theoretical background. ENTJs love theories almost as much as they love new and powerful research, or playing Scrabble. Lay out the theory behind your idea, talk about contributors, thinkers, and philosophies, and you will quickly have their eyes as wide as dinner plates.
  • Demonstrate to them how what you want to tell them fits a strategy. ENTJs are very focused on implementing a strategy. For ENTJ and strategy, think pit bull and old shoe – or side of beef – and you are in the right area.
  • Show how your idea will increase competence. Nobody, and I mean nobody, loves improving competence more than the ENTJ. You can tell this, because if you show them a weakness in your competence or, god forbid, you actually act incompetently, they will not hesitate one bit to chew you out over it. ENTJs do not tolerate incompetence, fools, or making the same mistake twice. Show them how your idea will improve competency, and you will have a firm supporter in them.
  • Indicate the far and broad-reaching possibilities that arise from your idea. Got some big thoughts about major change? Hit them with it. Got a ‘star chart’ to lay out the new universe (the one showing the universe as it will exist once your idea is implemented)? Start unrolling it. Convince them there is a wide new world out there waiting to be conquered, and that we could be first, and they will have your back.
  • Show that it has intriguing and fascinating possibilities. As I mentioned, ENTJs are fascinated by the world not yet explored, or conquered. Fascinate them, bedazzle them, with fascinating new information, and they will yearn to learn more. Faster than you can say ‘Engage’, your project idea is up and running.
  • Be a credible source of information. While the ENTJ is an excellent bluffer, don’t forget they are (almost) always incredibly well-informed. Hungry for knowledge, ENTJs are hard to bluff. So know your stuff; they might rely on your info in front of the board and woe betide the inaccurate advisor.
  • Expect arguments. Arguments with ENTJs are absolutely unavoidable. Breathing conflict in preference to air, the ENTJ incites battles. That does not mean they want to defeat you. They, in fact, want you to defeat them! Yes, the ENTJ wants above all else to learn, and will challenge anyone, openly and directly, to show them another way, demonstrate new facts, convince them you are right. They respect a fight, as long as it takes them forward, helps achieve their strategy.

So, do these things and you will have an all-conquering ally or champion.

If I can be personal for a second, one funny thing about being an ENTJ is not knowing you are socially awkward. The ENTJ does not know, for example, they  intimidate people just by ‘being’. Many other personality types, especially the many with actual feelings, are cowed by the openly brash and sometimes abrasive confidence of the ENTJ. Brusqueness, rudeness, offensive directness, are all tell-tale signs of an ENTJ on a rather bad day, or one not in touch with their ‘feeling ‘side (and there are many such!).

As an ENTJ ( or the inadvertent victim of one), you might be vulgarly curious to know one of the most difficult times for an ENTJ. The 360 degree staff evaluation. Why? Because suddenly, the ENTJ is confronted by a lot of staffers and peers who confess to having had their feelings somewhat trampled by the rampaging leader. And ENTJ’s are not normally knowingly offensive. It just happens when empathy is lacking. So, go easy, but take the chance to remind an ENTJ how they made you feel. It might change things for the better in the workplace.

I hope by now, Dear Reader, that you realise ENTJs are a powerful force if they are on your side, or you are on theirs. If they are your leader, you are in really good hands. They will not only take you places you’ve never been before, or even imagined being, but they will personally lead any charge into uncharted territory. Let’s be honest, an ENTJ will lead you to the very mouth of hell if their deliverables are in that balmy neighbourhood.

If you need a project advanced, and it makes sense to the ENTJ, you have a natural battering ram to push it through the senior ranks and get it done. If you need someone to help translate the idea you had into corporate strategy, and then go see it brought to the Board, the ENTJ is your person.

Famous ENTJs who, when I name them, will automatically make you realise who the formidable type you are dealing with is, include: Margaret Thatcher, Aristotle, Winston Churchill, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Aung San Suu Kyi, Joseph Stalin, and Rahm Emanuel.

ENTJs, the loveable curmudgeon of the office, who can lead you to new worlds like nobody else can. Fear them! But enjoy them in equal measure.

The Non-Linear Career; celebrate diversity

A lot of people ask me how does it work to have a career that seems to have major dog-legs every few years, and even some massive career changes along the way.

The secret is “the non-linear career”.

Don’t get me wrong. It is neither easy, nor for everyone. It is, for example, not the type that headhunters and executive search firms go for because they dogmatically follow criteria that are all geared to find one person who has done one thing their entire professional lives. It is also not the one that fits into the boxes of, for example, UN employment forms with the multiple choice paths. It is not for the risk-averse. It is not the professional life for those who think about their pension.

So, then, what is a non-linear career? What does this dog-leg CV look like?

Allow me to describe mine as an example. I started my full-time professional life as a soldier, then a Federal Agent, I served in Australia, China, and Mongolia. That’s the first dozen or so years of my career.

But before that even, at uni and high school from the age of about 14, I was sales staff and sales management for the family book store, unloader of freight from semi-trailers, kitchen hand at Pizza Hut, stacker of shelves at Woolworths, touch rugby referee, puller of beer at the Newmarket Hotel…you name it.

The last dozen or so years of my career, since the start of the Noughties, the rollercoaster ride gets wild: human rights expert, human trafficking expert, policing advisor, business developer, organised crime advisor, intelligence advisor, international development professional, non-profit advisor. In that time, titles came and went, including Chief Operating Officer, Managing Director, Director, Technical Director, Team Leader, Principal Consultant, Advisor, Principal Advisor, Strategy Advisor, Planning Expert, Founder, Partner, Evaluator etc. The list goes on.

And yet, despite working experience in more than 45 countries, having lived for long periods in 9, recruiters don’t see a thing.

In contrast, the linear path – the one that works for HR people – looks like this: work hard, don’t make waves, stay on the boss’ good side, wait for promotions, go to company picnics, and look to change employer only when necessary, and only after putting in enough time right where you are.

This is not a secret career path, and of course this path, even if formulaic, works fine for some people. Indeed, it is the one many people take. But it is not the only path, and not the best path for all.

For many, including me, the non-linear career offers an opportunity to explore. There is wide world of professional experience out there, and some of us want to taste it. Just as some people want to travel and some don’t.

For the successful non-linear, it is important not to worry about each job leading seamlessly and successfully to the other on paper. If you are the explorer, seeking experiences the world over, you will have a dog-leg CV; no doubt about it. Accept it. Relish it. And be ready for the hard bumps and surprising turns that sometimes come with rollercoaster rides.

The non-linear career path can be recommended for those who have a spirit for adventure, a high threshold for risk, and relish living without much of a safety net.

By way of encouragement, providing some ideas for the red threads in your career, including some of the most important features the non-linear bring to each role, are:

  • As the original finder of the waters of opportunity in the professional desert, you see opportunities where others might only identify problems.
  • As a ranging problem-solver and overcomer of obstacles the world over, you tend to intuit where the obstacles are. And instead of focusing on the dimensions of the obstacles, your glass-half-full style causes you to focus on how to get past them in ways that don’t burn bridges behind you. But, if someone forces you to burn a bridge, you do it.
  • Your strong sense of independence and self-reliance means that you (most of the time) believe in yourself and your ability to handle and learn new things based on what you’ve been able to accomplish in the past. The key is to communicate this well-founded inner confidence naturally and effectively.
  • You always have been, and will remain, the path-finder.
  • You are not risk averse. The non-linear is not afraid to take on calculated risk and fail. But when the non-linear does fail, as everyone does who ever took a chance, you know how to take it in perspective, brush it off, and move on.
  • Your lack of fear gives you freedom. When a boss doesn’t see your qualities, or fails to reward you, you quite easily look for ways to move forward and even grow, and you don’t take offence at not being seen for what you could bring. Your inner freedom lets you move on; no regrets.
  • Having had to compromise and solve problems in dozens of contexts, you look for often inspiring ways to make things better without blaming others. You are the definition of the solutions-oriented individual.
  • As an expert in blending into a range of cross-cultural situations and making it work, you are a communicator. And you learn to publicise yourself effectively. You don’t sit back and wait for someone to notice you. You know that just won’t happen. You let people know about things you’re working on by making it part of an interesting story. As a classy communicator you share your experiences without bragging.
  • You know that in all jobs, in all work places, in all countries, there are things to enjoy. You can find those little acorns and relish them, even if you don’t like the job, the workplace, or the country. You are a survivor, and survivors survive on the acorns. Do your work well and with a great attitude, but also keep your eyes and ears open for something else you could suggest to take on that might do more to float your boat.
  • As the experienced communicator, you know how to connect to people in a trusting way and build relationships that are mutually beneficial.
  • You are decisive, so you usually know when it is time for you to pack up and move on. And you do it without fuss or apology.
  • You work without a safety net, and usually don’t even think about whether there should be one or not. You know in your heart that you will always find a way, even if you cannot see a picture of it in your head. Yet.

One of the greatest challenges to a non-linear career is recruitment and ‘the HR people’. When someone with a non-linear career gets into a room with the hiring manager, things start to happen. Their sense of adventure, initiative, spirit, passion, and ingenuity makes them shine. But until then, HR people reign. And they usually screen the non-linears out of the field. On the rare occasion the non-linear candidate gets an interview, often they are on the other wide of the world precisely because their careers take them places, so they will still not get in the room. They will often be relegated to the dreadful, death-affirming, non-dimensional Skype interview.

The approach for the non-linear is to showcase in your CV, the cover letter, and in words (if you land an interview), that you really understand what the employer needs, and by emphasising what you bring to the job, including the non-linear features of resilience, adventure, ingenuity, good humour; i.e. your transferable skills and values. You might not have been in the one place for 20 years, but you know how to work in 20 cross-cultural contexts!

Don’t worry too much about what you don’t have. Role criteria are checklists designed to find a 5-legged sheep in a field of 4-legged sheep and, eventually, they end up employing a 3-legged one. If you meet the criteria, then fine, but if you don’t, there is always a chance a hiring manager will see through the HR checklist mentality, so go for it anyway. Remember that when you go beyond the criteria and define what it is the hiring manager wants, they are often recruiting because they need to change it up. Something hasn’t worked in how they did things before. And the non-linear knows all about changing it up.

Looks for ways of getting the attention of the hiring manager first; circumventing HR. The hiring manager often carries a pocket veto; if someone in the field intrigues them enough, they can overrule HR and push for shortlisting the non-linear. This has happened to me when I seriously diverged from the advertised criteria, but conceptually offered a solution to the hiring manager’s very real problems.

Identify and intrigue the hiring manager; it pays off. Early in the recruitment process, try to find out who the hiring manager is, and approach them with a brief message about your claims, and ask whether despite having these strong experiences you should apply. A good hiring manager will look well at the broader nature of your experience, and the candour of the approach, and help you get shortlisted.

Another of the great obstacles in non-linear careers is self-doubt. I have to say frankly, every time a change is coming on, doubt sneaks in, like shadows creeping in on your peripheral vision. When re-writing your CV, something non-linears have to do frequently, the point is to identify those things that have carried through your career; roles, titles, and locations might have changed, but there are ‘red threads’ running through your career, those transferrable values and skills mentioned above. Highlight those red threads and that will help banish your self-doubt.

You’ve got game. And you know it. So just bring it.

The third great challenge to be overcome is the tendency, especially when considering the next big thing, to drift back to the norm. My advice is to celebrate your very own diversity. When you follow a career path based on things you loved doing, things you felt strongly about, or undertook risky journeys to get new experience, and put to good use those skills you most enjoy, and when you make an effort along the way to manage the obstacles and next steps, at the end of it you will be surprised when you look back.

I often get great praise on, and quite some satisfaction from, my dog-leg career path; people look at it and see a book or a TV series (even if, to me, it looks like a boat built by committee and held together by gaffer tape!). Without being melodramatic, the non-linear is exciting to outsiders; the trick is to get your non-linear CV past the HR munchkins and into the hands of people who really want to hire top talent.

In the non-linear career, you need to celebrate your very own diversity if you are going to feel contentment and find success.

In all long, non-linear careers, if you draw a line backwards, you can actually see a path. It is called the road less travelled.

Male Trailing Spouse Interview: Expat Survival Guide

For those interested, here is a very brief interview for the Expat Survival Guide; the views from male trailing spouses

The Male Trailing Spouse series – Brian in Iran

Expat Guide to Living in Tehran

UPDATE 20 January 2016: Bread, Sourdough Bread!! 🙂 Thanks to information from reliable informant, Hanna Takemoto, Palladium now stocks great (better than Iran-good) sourdough bread. It looks the real deal, weighs the real deal, and IS the real deal. Located in the breadstore outside the supermarket entrance, near the shopping trolleys and the foot of the escalators. Highly recommended for those longing for luxury bread!

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For those of you living in Tehran, or visiting for a good while, you might like a list of good places to go and do things, and some help finding things. Tehran is confusing for the visiting foreigner; you have to find or know a place for every last thing. So, let me try to steer you in the right direction for things like eating, shopping, drinking coffee etc. I will start with the categories:

  • Shopping (where to buy stuff);
  • Eating (where to get decent nosh);
  • Out and About (some ideas for places to go to in Tehran and surrounds); and
  • Kids-friendly (some tips on places that are kid-friendly, kid-suitable, or family-friendly).

You will note some are not yet completed – it is a work-in-progress and will be updated with more information, reviews etc as we go on. I will also put up a list of useful telephone numbers, vets, dentists, doctors etc. with the disclaimer that they have worked for me, but I don’t stand behind their services (nor, sadly, have any kickbacks been offered or received). Caveat emptor!

This posting will change often as I update it, and so it will be a good idea for you to bookmark it for checking back regularly.

Also happy to take tips, and answer questions, if there is something specific you are looking for.

  • Shopping (where to buy stuff):
    • Basiji Market (or Meisam Bazaar), also called the Farmaniyeh Shopping Centre (which REALLY overstates its size!) located on the corner of Farmanieh Street and Ariya Street in Farmaniyeh is a nice little shopping corner with a few fruit and veg places, a ceramics shop for your cheap dinnerware, and a very decent corner store. This corner store in particular is useful for western goods, including ‘pickled chicken‘ (if you have to ask what that is, you don’t eat it). You can get Nespresso capsules, western breakfast cereals, burrito and taco kits, imported cheeses and sauces, and much more. A good spot! Where on the map:
    • Palladium Mall, located on Moqadas Ardabili Street, (best accessed from Aref Street), Zafaraniyeh is a new mall with a great supermarket in the basement floor. A food court, children’s playroom, and very good toy shop are some of the other features. The supermarket has rare features such as passable croissant, mighty good rucola, the best sparkling water in Iran (VIP) and a wide assortment of other goodies. A great fruit and veg section with things you won’t find anywhere else including a good array of herbs and spices. And VERY good quality fish (but stick to the Persian Gulf fish, not the toxic Caspian fish). And they have genuine (Italian) Parmesan cheese! Where on the map:
    • Miiv – A fabulous ice-cream maker. They are the best in Iran for sure, and probably rate up there with the best in Europe. They only deliver, making seasonal products – blood orange sorbet, for example – and great quality old favourites like French Vanilla, the quality is superb. Home delivery only. Tel: 0910 1180357
    • Hyperstar – see my earlier blog posting on this as a shopping place operated a la Carrefour. This mall is located off the Bakeri Expressway in the far southwest of the city in Kooy E-eram. Inferior to Palladium for the range and quality of their products, it is larger still and has a broad selection of department-store products including TVs, DVDs, electricals, sporting goods etc. Where on the map:
    • Ilio – Situated in the Modern Elahiyeh complex, corner of Afriqa Blvd and Bihar Street, Elahiyeh (just off the Chamran Expressway). While ostensibly a chocolatier (and their chocolates are by far the very best in Iran) (a la Belgian chocs), this is a great place to go for a superb coffee and also for excellent ice-cream. Premium ice-creams, such as their pistachio, are sublime – but be warned, the explosion of roast pistachios in this ice-cream makes it very rich indeed. They also have an ice-cream only outlet in the food court at Palladium Mall (see above). Where on the map:
  • Eating (where to get decent nosh):
    • Eclipse (Fresh bagels, burgers, and sandwiches) – Situated in North Dibaji Street, Kamraniyeh, close to the south-eastern side of the Italian Residence, this is a new place and a VERY welcome addition (start?) to good eats around Kamraniyeh/Farmaniyeh. The bagels, panini, and burger rolls are all freshly baked on the premises. It is possible to buy just the bagels – par-baked – also to take home. They deliver pretty much anywhere in the north. It is a branch of the same award-winning sandwich store in Copenhagen (Soren Norbys Alle 2, 2300, Kobenhavn S). I can highly recommend the Pulled Lam (sic) bagel, and La Bomba (La Bomba was the Danish award-winner)! They do burgers, baguette, and steak sandwiches. Ask for the owner, Shayan! Tel: 021 26450450.  Where on the map:
    • Sam Cafe (coffee and sandwiches) – located on the 2nd floor of the Sam Centre in Fereshteh Street, Elahiyeh, this is a very cool spot for a GREAT coffee and some pretty agreeable foods like croissant, sandwiches, terrific little cakes, and waffles with strawberries, this place looks and feels like a cafe from San Francisco or Soho. Brilliantly friendly (and hip) staff. Excellent fresh juices as well. A top spot to sit with or without friends and just relax. I highly recommend one juice in particular they have, called Sharbat-e Tokhme Sharbati (for more on this great drink, see: http://turmericsaffron.blogspot.se/2012/07/sharbat-e-tokhme-sharbati-chia-seeds.html) which is a traditional Iranian-Style Summer Drink; super refreshing. Where on the map:
    • Ilio (coffee and ice-cream) – see above.
    • Monsoon (Asian fusion – trendy) – Located in the Gandhi Centre, Gandhi Street, in north Tehran (another location in Goldan seems to have closed down now), this trendy lounge/cafe serves something different from the usual Iranian restaurant. It is principally Asian food with some slight western touches, one might say. The food is quite good for Iran, but expensive. Eat there, by all means, but don’t expect to be wowed by the food despite the stiff price. Decor is cool, soundtrack is usually uber-cool. Service in English is certainly possible. Tel: 021 8879 1982. Where on the map:
    • Parkway (Asian – elegant trendy) – Situated on the 8th floor of the Sam Centre in Fereshteh Street, Elahiyeh, Parkway is a nice change of flavours from Iranian food. Asian trendy, looking and sounding (great soundtrack!) like something from cool New York, a little reminiscent of the wine bar at New York’s MOMA, it is very nicely decorated and a relaxing place to eat away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Valiyasr area. Expensive, of course (maybe to make sure the place is kept pretty much only for the well-healed in the city!), the service is quite good with a number of staff circling at any one time and some speaking English; one or two speaking very well. Try the Mongolian beef, or the chicken or shrimp dumplings. The Beijing Duck, while not especially close to the real deal in China, is more than Iran-good and well worth having for the great change of flavour from kebab. Parking on-site is free (access from the rear of the centre, Bahar Street). Where on the map:
    • The Terrace (international – trendy) – located in very leafy East Maryam Street, Elahiyeh, The Terrace is a cafe that has groovy music, and a nice ambience, at least if you sit upstairs and outside on the actual terrace. Inside feels like an ice-cream shop for atmosphere and colours. Parking is impossible (Maryam is a very busy but tiny street); take a taxi. The menu is a little pedestrian; pizzas, paninis, pastas etc are the order of the day. Pretty good drinks with fresh juices and mocktails available. Expensive, again aiming for the more well-healed Tehranis. Where on the map:
    • Diwan (Fine dining) – Situated on the 8th floor of the Sam Centre in Fereshteh Street, Elahiyeh, this is arguably the premier restaurant in Tehran. You can expect beautiful decor (lots of works by modern Tehran artists are on the wall), a great soundtrack, nice ambiance, a good percentage – but not all – of the staff speak some English. The menu is ‘western fusion’, and pretty good, although in my view not actually worth the very steep price. Friends say it used to be better; that the food quality has gone downhill. But if you have visitors, or are a visitor, and you want to see where all the rich go to dinner in Tehran, this is the likeliest place. You will not get out for under 80USD a head, and likely much more. Thank goodness you don’t have to add wine to the bill! Where on the map:
    • Cafe du Reza Golaie (Traditional Persian food, cool music cafe) – This music cafe at number 172, in 30th Tir Street, close to the Glass and Ceramic Museum, and the Chaim Synagogue, and due north of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The walls are festooned with old photos of rockers and stars, the soundtrack for the place is all western and variable, including my daughter’s favourite Michael Jackson. And the food is pretty darn good, really simple stuff and, well, at least Iran-good. The menu is Iranian food, with some western touches, like an Iranian roast chicken with English-style roast veggies. The borsht is far better than its Russian namesake, and very good on a cold day. A tiny hole-in-the-wall kind of place, it is easily missed except for the crowd of locals lining up for a scarce table. It is possible to book, although I understand answering the phone is not their strength. Possible even, for a large enough group, to book the whole thing and close the curtains. A well-worthwhile place to take western visitors to show that some touches of western style exist. Tel: 09124430694 (ask for the owner, Shervin). Where on the map:
    • Burgerland (burgers – home delivery and eat-in) – This burger bar located in Andarzgu Blvd, in the north, not to be confused with the nearby Home Burger, is a good spot for a good quality western style hamburger. With just a few burgers on their menu, they do them well; juicy burger, double burger, farm burger and a few others. They do pretty passable chips too. Beware that the burgers, when loaded up with sauces, get a bit sloppy after delivery, although their home-delivery is very fast. And those answering the phone for your order always speak English and are pleasant to deal with. Tel: 021 2239 8600. Where on the map:
    • Murano (Italian – home delivery) – Anyone here for long realises that the vast majority of take-away pizza in Tehran are simply crap, and not at all calorie-worthy. But with a handful of outlets around Tehran, including Gheytarieh and Pasdaran in the north, and one at Gandhi I believe, Murano is about the best home delivery pizza in Tehran. Suitably tasty thin-crust pizzas, the Inferno is what everyone orders when they want some spice. The vegetariana, parmigiana, and margerita are all Iran-good. You can very often get English-speakers answering the phone if you persevere, and delivery is fast (usually have it in half an hour or so).  Tel: 021 2207 7639
    • Taj Mahal (Indian – home delivery) – located in the Taj Mahal Hotel, near the Hemmat Expressway, this Indian Restaurant delivers. Allow a good couple of hours for delivery; so call around 7pm and you will be able to eat around 9pm. The phone number is for the hotel, so just ask to be connected to the restaurant. Delivery is in the final price, and usually comes hot and fresh by taxi with one of the staff. The food is pretty good, and favourites include palak paneer and aloo ghobi. The chicken tikka masaala is also more than Iran-good. Tel: 021 8803 5444
    • Chai Bar (cafe and sandwiches) – located in Salimi Street, (I think the area is called Hekmat, near Karimi Street), this cute garden cafe is situated in the grounds of what is a calligraphy museum these days. Parking is not especially easy; taxi is better. It is a lovely peaceful garden for sitting for a coffee, or a good fresh juice, but also good to eat. Sandwiches are the main fare; try the Cheese steak sandwich. They are not international standard, but Iran-good, but it is a really nice place to sit and chew the fat with friends. Where on the map:
    • Leon 1960 (western, trendy, brunch speciality) – open all hours, but a real favourite for brunch, Leon 1960 is, liked several other places listed, located on the 8th floor of the Sam Centre in Elahiyeh. A lovely view of the mountains, and open terrace if the air is not too chunky that day, it is actually a lovely place to sit and enjoy a big plate of bacon and eggs, or panini, or fruits. Fresh juices and mocktails are as good as you might expect, and the coffee is very agreeable. Where on the map:
    • Saboos (bakery, cafe, breakfast, sandwiches) – located in Elahiyeh, on the corners of Alef Street and Javanan – it is the first northern exit off the west-bound Chamran after the Parkway Bridge. The surroundings are cool, Seattle chic, I guess might sum it up. The crowd is also pleasantly modern. The food is very good, as is the coffee. Omelettes, baguettes, and burgers are the things to order. The bread from the bakery also more than passable, but not sourdough last time I looked. Where on the map:
    • Yas Restaurant (elegant Iranian food, lunch and dinner) – located on val Yasr Blvd 2627, adjacent to the entrance to Melat Park (opposite the bronze umbrella-man statue. Is it an elegant place to have lunch and dinner (not especially family-friendly, but possible). Some English from the staff, and menus in English. Very good for things such as lentil soup, kebab of course, and the stews and khoresh. A bit pricey for Iranian food, but worth it for the nice surroundings and linen. Where on the map:
    • Stay tuned – always more to come…..
  • Out and About (some ideas for places to go to in Tehran and surrounds);
    • Carpet Museum
    • Glass and Ceramic Museum
    • Golestan Palace
    • Niavaran Palace
    • Saad Abad
  • Kids-friendly (some tips on places that are kid-friendly, kid-suitable, or family-friendly).
    • Niavaran Park
    • Qeitarieh Park
    • Fire and Water Park
    • Melat Park
  • Handy Phone Numbers
    • Vet: Dr Ibrahim Abdehou (speaks some English, but less crossed wires if you have some Farsi help). Does house calls, and can source good quality pet food and cat litter (surprisingly hard to find in Iran). Tel: 09122171071.
    • General Practitioner: Dr Jamshid Ansari – A very friendly Iranian-German GP, he speaks English and German fluently, does house calls, with strong network of specialists for anything particular that needs attention. Tel: 09123707812.
    • Dentist: Dr Keyhani – a very friendly fluent English and Danish speaking dentist, he operates from his clinic in Farmaniyeh, beside the Farmaniyeh Hospital. Tel: 021 26110052.

Neanderthal attitudes excusing violence against women

While proud of my country for so many achievements over the decades and centuries, there are a number of dark stains on our consciences.

One of these is violence against women.

In an age when women have been into space, are in Parliament and sometimes even in Cabinet, when women CEOs start to become a decent percentage (albeit at still perversely low levels, but better than at any time before) of overall senior corporate positions, there are a very large number of men out there who think violence against women can be justified.

Recent survey work done by VicHealth, found, for instance, that 1 in 5 Australian men think if a woman is raped while intoxicated, it is not entirely the fault of the rapist.

Almost the same number of men – and you’ll need to sit down for this – think that their own drinking or drug-taking can excuse their raping a woman.

And, in one of the saddest results, more women than men now think that a woman who is drunk and raped is somehow more deserving of her rape.

It’s an overall astounding set of results that speaks to why Australia is one of the few developed countries not going anywhere fast on gender equality.

Excuses for violence against women continue to disregard the rights of the victim in favour of an inappropriate claim to possession or access to women by men,

It’s got to stop.

And that starts with men speaking up against perpetrators. If 4 in 5 men are right-thinkling on this, then those 4 need to speak up, speak out, and help stop the problem.

And the all-important role to be played by women must surely be to make sure that as far as possible, women do not fall into the trap of minimising and excusing bad behaviour by men.

Let’s get the word out to the neanderthals in our societies that:

  • There is NO excuse for rape.
  • There is NO excuse for domestic violence.
  • There is NO excuse for violence against women.

For more, I commend this Guardian Australia article by Melissa Davey: http://gu.com/p/4xjen