BREXIT.

Well that happened. 

As a Bulgarian – I got the right to free-movement working (without a visa) in January 2014. It’s been a great 2 and a half years of EU mobility for the United Kingdom, but I guess their fears have overcome their compassion. And this demonstrated the power of propaganda and proper advertising for political campaigns. And a catchy name #brexit

I may never understand what my parents experienced in their 20s when the Soviet Union fell and Bulgaria moved away from socialism to democracy (Hyperinflation, government corruption, and massive immigration changes). But I think this is starting to come close as I begin to experience to consequences of globalisation and the personal fears of living with political instability. I am disappointed, disturbed, and disillusioned by this ‘Leave’ vote.

In the last 5 years of living in the UK, I’ve experienced not only a 200% increase in student fees, but also massive changes to the EU regulations of free movement affecting immigrants in this country.

On the bright side, I’ve also seen London host the Olympic games, the Parliament legalise same sex marriage in England, the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and the birth of two royal children. And I benefit from European initiatives such as ERASMUS. It’s been an amazing journey in this country (and I’m finally beginning to feel culturally assimilated), but we shall see where my story continues from here and how this Brexit vote affects London’s future.

The Tipping Point – of my love for Malcolm Gladwell

While doing some research on the diffusion of innovation for an upcoming talk – I refreshed my memory on the ideas in Gladwell’s book ‘The Tipping Point.’ 

If you haven’t read it… I would definitely recommend it, along with Blink and Outliers from Gladwell. (This is my second time telling you this – so hopefully increased frequency will get my point across).

“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” – Blink

Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.” – Outliers

“That is the paradox of the epidemic: that in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.” -Tipping Point

“When it comes to interpreting other people’s behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and context.” -Tipping Point

 

My Watch-obsession: Top 5 wristwatches for time keeping

I have a love of watches because they are one of the original single-function devices of the 20th century. Before tech giants came in and offered 200 different functions on your wrist,  a watch was a simply accessory that served one function: time-keeping. Slowly, some wristwatches started offering a date-display, dual time zones, and 60 second timers on the front dial. And today, there are millions of different clock options, but my favourite UX still remains the circular 12-hour analog dial. I can’t seem to quite visualise time as effectively on a digital clock because it’s one thing to read 12:40 and another to see the two moving hands that make a pie slice (clearly displaying a third of an hour until 1 PM).

I have 2 fundamental beliefs when it comes to watches:

  • It must FUNCTIONALLY display the time in a readable manner (not just be a fashion accessory)
  • A watch should look and function like a CLOCK.

AKA. a watch should enable you to arrive on-time and time manage your day (function) before (form) it looks stylish.

After ranting about function, let me move on to say: I love the design of watches. 

In the last 4 years, I’ve been investing in my (slight) watch obsession and though I’d share some of my favourite designs/makers for my personal taste.

  1. Mondaine Ladie’s Evo Watch 

Mondaine

Mondaine is the official Swiss Railway watch, so you will see that exact clock interface if you take a train in Switzerland! It’s got a classic strong colour combination: red, white, and black. And for anyone who’s a typography-lover, their new collection Mondaine Helvetica is absolutely gorgeous.

2. Withings Activité Pop 

withings-activite-pop

This was my first and only attempt at a wearable device. The obvious reason I went for this design over others on the market was the analog-styled dial. (This was one of the first on the marketplace and since then there have been more analog-dial wearables.) The wearable also measured your daily steps and synced with my iPhone. Plus, it measured swimming activity and had a battery life of over 6 months without ever charging.

3. Shore Project #3 – Newquay

Shore Project

Shore Projects is an independent British watch manufacture. Having lived in the UK for over 4 years now, I felt some sense of loyalty to try a British brand. Plus, I love their branding (the packaging had a complete brand identity) and the idea of watches designed as limited-time ‘projects.’ This was also my first watch with brown leather (oh the adventurousness!)

4. Eone Bradley Compass Iris 

Bradley_CompassIris_3Q_1024x1024

My latest discover (Thanks to Wired Magazine!) was Eone Time – most likely my next purchase. Besides their clever logo and interesting dial interface, the watch is designed in Braille-style, allowing blind individuals to feel what time it is.

“Because telling time shouldn’t require sight.” – inspired by Gold Paralympics Medalist Brad Snyder

5.  Skagen – This Danish brand has been taking off in the last 6-months as I keep noticing more and more Skagen watches around my office. They have a great mixture of timeless and modern design principles and my favourite from their current collection is: Hagen Steel Bracelet and Anita Crystal Steel Mesh.

Honourable Mention: And also, have a look at Daniel Wellington for ‘prepy-style’ and classic watches. It draws influence from British Isles, but is a Swedish watch brand. Amazingly, the first DW watch was sold in 2011 – but it’s now found around the world as a symbol of style and simplicity.

I’ve decided that if I win the lottery… I’m going to retire and become a watch-designer. Happy Sunday @11:54 AM.

 

 

Pinterest – putting the PIN in social media and pretty pictures.

I recently started a Pinterest account:

http://www.pinterest.com/violetaitodorov/

It’s such a cool concept… almost like a more efficient version of StumbleUpon and Tumblr. I love the layout that lets you group “pins” into a different “boards”. There is so much vocabulary around social media, and here I am … a young 21 year old … learning a new language again. How many times can the Internet change formats and words?

With the rise of SnapChat, Instagram, and Pinterest… I think it’s clear that our society is becoming more and more focused on quick information relayed through pictures. The same goes for Tindr and Twitter (which limits your characters per tweet). It’s no longer about getting your message across, now it’s about being a pretty picture with short, punchy text. I still like reading long copy, and maybe someday that will come back; but for now, filtered pictures dominate our consumption of media.

45 Pounds of Hair Loss.

Today, I got a haircut. Seems simple enough. I Googled salons in London and found what I believed was the cheapest…. And yes, the cheapest was 45 Pounds for a cut and style. Granted I am in central London and I didn’t look for any available Groupons and deals, but I’d still like to share my overall experience.

Some background information is necessary first. Before today, I have never spent more than 20 Dollars on a haircut. That’s about 12 Pounds. And when I get my haircut at my grandmother’s hairdresser in Bulgaria, it costs 8 Levs… which is just over 3 Pounds. Thus, I’ve always avoided paying a lot of money for a haircut. I respect the profession and the hairstylists; I’ve just never been in the loop of stylist number 1, head stylist, top consultant, Brazilian blowouts, and highlight colouring. But this London Hair Salon experience was so much more than a haircut… it was luxury and marketing at it’s finest.

The Salon was very chic with white, brown, and light blue as it’s modern colour palette in Covent Garden. I walked in and quickly recited my name and appointment time, as if to prove that I belonged. A Nice Lady asked to take my coat, scarf and purse. The Londoner in me immediately thought about whether or not it was safe to hand over my bag. I hesitated for a moment and passed over my accessories… standing bare in the entryway. Then, the Nice Lady asked, “Can I make you something to drink? Tea? Coffee?” My though: “Am I allowed to do that?” My response: “Uh, no thank you.”

Next I was escorted to a chair where my stylist introduced herself and together, we discussed what ‘look’ I was going for. When we reached an agreement, I was escorted downstairs for shampoo and washing. Apparently, it was crucial that my hair be washed in the salon with their products… never mind that I had washed it one hour before to avoid extra costs. I sat down as the chair reclined and I placed my head into the sink. Next thing I know: the seat has transformed into a massage chair, my stylist is kneading my scalp and asking again if I want coffee. This time, my hesitation results in a “umm…yes, black simple coffee please.” The stylist turns to the Nice Lady and says “A black Americano for my lady please.” I was now “her lady.”

By the time we where done downstairs and I was escorted upstairs with my freshly washed hair, the Americano was waiting for me at our station. In the classiest manner I could pull off, I took out my gum and took a sip. The stylist then started cutting my hair; the moment had finally arrived! In the time it took her to add some layers and a little fringe to my brown mop, she politely asked me 9 times – and yes I counted – if she was pulling my scalp too much. Every time, I repeated, “no no” and smiled. I was probably doing something wrong because I kept adjusting my head to try and make it easier for her…

And there I sat. Getting a simple haircut. And I felt awkward, clumsy, and out of place rather than stylish and pampered. Every time my white coffee cup clanked on the plate, I got self-conscious. Everyone in the shop was trying his or her absolute hardest to make me feel comfortable, but the “girl who got a 3-pound Bulgarian haircut” was feeling something else. I felt spoiled. I felt like a haircut shouldn’t cost this much. I felt like I was out of touch with reality as a university student. True, that is a strong reaction to have against a haircut.

This might just be me, but if anyone else feels like this, know that you’re not alone. Getting my nails done, having my hair professionally cut, getting relaxing spa massages and trying on shoes for over 50 dollars makes me feel awkward and elitist. I can definitely afford it, but it doesn’t make me feel good. And isn’t that the point of these places? They want to pamper you and make you cappuccinos while you read Vogue. I’m not here to say that there’s anything wrong with it, but simply that it might not be for everyone. Just because something costs more, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more enjoyable for everyone.

5 ‘Petite’ Things About Paris

Exactly 5 months and 1 day ago I took the Eurostar from London to Paris, and naturally I voiced my enthusiasm on this blog. Well the time has come to journey back (quite literally… I am faced in the opposite direction of the train’s movement). So here are a couple things I’ve learned during my time in France:

1. As your proficiency skills in one language go up, your other languages will suffer. I would have never thought that becoming better at French would mean spelling and grammar mistakes in English, after all English is native language! But no, I was making silly typos almost every single day by the end of my stay. Bahhhhh, Alors, qu’est ce qu’on fait?

2. Quiche is one of the most delicious foods on the planet. Bahhhh….. Voilà.

3.  Being a nanny is a great way to socialize and learn about the country’s culture. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about the population by observing how children are raised. Bon… bahhh, on prend une goûte après l’école. Un petit Pomme-pot et une tartine avec Nutella pour toi aussi? 

4. They say bahhhhh….. a lot. The best way to learn a foreign language is to pick up the little sounds in between words. Believe me, it will do wonders for your accent. Je te promis.

5.  Living in Pars is HARD. And disheartening some times. You might get your phone stole. You will get whistled at and harassed. No matter how well you speak French, people will treat you like a foreigner. The metro will stop at random times. Your Internet will not work. You will live in small spaces. You will not have a gym near your apartment. Nothing will be open on Sunday and Monday and anything administration-related will never be open.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s a wonderful city. But to survive, you have to willing to struggle. To fight for what you want. Paris n’est pas la ville que tu as vue dans le film d’Amélie Poulin. Désolé.   

That being said, I would still recommend the experience to everyone. After all, the city does grow on you. You’ll crave a baguette as you walk down the cobblestone roads. Children will have the most adorable names. You will randomly decide to go the Musée d’Orsay on a Thursday night. And the French Countryside is absolutely lovely for a weekend escape.  

Bon… bahhh… voilà ! Une vite réflexion pendant que je prend le train à Londres. En gros, j’adore France et je suis impatiente d’améliorer mon français de plus. Peut-être c’est un peu difficile, mais avec les amies sympas ce serait une bonne expérience. 

INTERNSHIPS.

After doing internships across companies, countries, and departments, I’ve learned a lot about getting the most out of your internship. So here are some tips!

My Golden Rules of Being a GOOD Intern:

  1. Always carry at least THREE PENS. One for yourself, one for your boss, and one for a client. (you should have a notebook for yourself)
  2. Learn people’s NAMES. When you enter a company, people will give you instructions such as, “Give this to Betty, and make photocopies for Jenna.” When you’re introduced, make an effort to remember names.
  3. ASK questions. It’s much better than not knowing. And if you don’t ask and do it wrong, it becomes your fault.
  4.  Always keep BUSINESS CARDS. Not only during the internship, but for future job opportunities with partnership clients and corporations. And you already have an insider contact number!
  5. Do your RESEARCH on the field, company, and their products. You will fit in much better if you understand the company’s core values and past products. Furthermore, if you know what field you want, you can target specific people and projects to work on. Make sure you know what you want to learn before you start.
  6. Be INTERESTING and share your BACKGROUND. People like people, not resumes and not interns. So get to know employees on a personal level, outside pure work. It MAKES all the difference.