Posts Tagged With: understandin

How Mexico Changed Me

Mexican Flag

Mexican Flag

I admit it; I used to be a Gringo (don’t tell anyone else). A long time ago, the only thing I knew about Mexico was what the United States media pushed out to everyone. I thought of Mexico as a destitute place where everyone was trying to cross the border into the USA. I could not have been further from the truth.

I had just started a job at a gigantic international company and my boss informed me that I had to go down to Aguascalientes, Mexico to meet my North American team. I begrudgingly did so, anxious at what I would find. When I arrived, I was in utter shock at how wrong my preconceptions had been.

North American Team's Office

North American Team’s Office

Aguascalientes was a modern city with a thriving middle class. It looked like it was taken straight out of somewhere in the south east United States. Everyone I had met was proud to be Mexican and live in Mexico. They showed me around their city as well as bringing me into their homes and introducing me to their families. This had shaken me to the core; if I was so wrong about Mexico, what else was I wrong about? I then began my quest to open my mind and discover what I was missing on this great planet of ours.

What happened to my cultural perceptions paled in comparison to what happened to my culinary ones. I grew up thinking that I had liked Mexican food . . . Ha! I did not even know what Mexican food was!!! It turns out that most of the stuff (especially from the chain restaurants) is Tex-Mex, NOT actually what anyone would find anywhere in Mexico. The food I found in Mexico was fresh with complex flavors yet served simply. A real taco was not a hard shell jammed with as much things as one could fit, it was a soft corn tortilla, a well prepared meat and usually a lime on the side. If you wanted condiments, your choices were limited to the fresh salsas they had made right there or some hot local sauces . . . that’s it.

The only place where I saw massive accompaniments was at a restaurant that served Queso Fundido. If you haven’t tried this dish, which is similar to a Fondue, try it immediately! Here you get a boiling clay pot of melted cheese, plain or with your choice of an addition, soft corn tortillas and a tiered Lazy Susan of crazy condiments. This tray of splendor contained, the usual, guacamole, sour cream, etc., but it also contained grilled knob onions, mushrooms, chilis, and much more. Think of Queso Fundido as a Quesadilla on steroids. You could also order the melted cheese cooked with lovely things such as Chorizo sausage, mushrooms, onions, and/or so much more.

Whenever I went down there for business, I would usually go down early and leave late in order to take advantage of the weekends and visit some places, along with having some leisure time for myself to spend time with the team outside of work. During the work week, my friend Sergio asked if I wanted to go for a typical Sunday family breakfast at a restaurant the upcoming Sunday. There was no way I would ever pass up an opportunity like this, so I quickly agreed.

Sunday Breakfast with Sergio

Sunday Breakfast with Sergio

Sunday morning came and Sergio picked me up at the hotel I was staying in. Along the way, he told me that this particular restaurant had two restaurants side by side. One was open in the evenings for dinner, while the one he was taking me to was open only for breakfast. (What an odd use of space?!?) There, he introduced me to the most wondrous of all breakfast foods, chilaquiles. What are chilaquiles you ask? They are fried, crispy tortilla chips, cooked until ever so slightly softened with either red or green salsa and then topped with crema. From there you order it as is or with pulled chicken, egg, or whatever else they have on the menu. I know this sounds an awful lot like nachos, but believe me, they are so vastly different. Once you try them, you will want to start every morning with a plate of fresh chilaquiles. This is something I would have never thought I would love eating for breakfast.

One weekend, my buddy Fernando and his family took me up to the silver mining town of Zacatecas. On the way there, they stopped off in this small town to get, what Fernando and his wife said, were the best gorditas in Mexico. We pulled up to this hole-in-the-wall restaurant that was surprisingly clean, warm and friendly. Being the Gringo I was, I was surprised to see that they only served gorditas . . . no tacos, no tortas, no tamale, just gorditas. I quickly learned a valuable lesson. If you do one thing and do it extremely well, people will go out of their way to acquire what you are offering. That is a concept that is very foreign to people from the States.

Later on that evening, they took me to a restaurant dedicated to some famous general named Francisco Villa. The restaurant was decorated like a house/museum to this guy. Apparently, they thought very highly of the great achievements he did for Mexico. I sat there wondering why I had never heard of this general before. Then it dawned on me . . . I DID! Mexicans often have odd nicknames for their formal names. One nickname for Francisco is Paco. Another is Pancho. This was a restaurant in honor of Pancho Villa!!! Another life altering event happened at that moment. I suddenly realized that what we are taught in history class is completely subjective to where you live and who is teaching it. Villains could be heroes and heroes could be villains.

Pancho Villa's Restaurant

Pancho Villa’s Restaurant

The only downside to visiting Mexico was that I could not eat what restaurants were trying to pass as Mexican food for years after that first visit. Eventually, I came to grips with it by calling it Tex-Mex. Also, in recent years there have been a lot of authentic Mexican places popping up from full blown restaurants, to street carts, to hole in the walls.

Overall, Mexico changed the way I look at the world. It proved that all I thought was fact was merely an illusion which others proposed to me. I knew from then on, that if I was to truly understand the world and its myriad cultures, I would have to get out there and discover it myself. In essence, Mexico changed who I was at my core and what I believe in as a citizen of this great planet.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Make your own judgments about locations and people.
  • Immerse yourself fully in other cultures.
  • Go outside of your comfort zone and try new things.
  • Discover local history through new eyes.
  • Shed your old beliefs, open your mind and discover the truth for yourself.

Author:                 Robert J. Gorman, Jr.
Date:                     7/20/2014

Categories: Travelin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Amsterdam Is Misunderstood

Amsterdam, the misunderstood …

I sit here in the business class lounge on yet another trip to my Amsterdam office. I hear the heated conversation of a fellow business man on the phone with his wife arguing vehemently about him having to go to Amsterdam for work. He wholeheartedly puts forth that he has no choice and if he does not go, he will be fired. He goes on to say that he is going there for work and not “for fun”. But his wife is having none of it. She would rather give up their financial stability than risk her husband partying and/or being unfaithful to her. I do not know their situation.   For all I know he could be a raging drug addict pervert who has hurt her many times before. That is not what this article is about. It is about the magnificent city that is Amsterdam. Everyone has preconceptions about this jewel of a city, but they are most likely vastly incomplete. Amsterdam is a treasure chest with no bottom!

While it is true that prostitution and mild drug use are legal, it does not mean that those activities are the only reason to go there. Smoking is legal in the United States, but I’m not going to start smoking because I am there. These very same vices are accessible in regions around the globe with varying degrees of legality/enforcement. If someone is going to partake in those activities, they probably already have elsewhere. Additionally, if you have jealousy or sobriety worries for your spouse going places, then you have bigger issues than the trip at hand to deal with.

Beautiful Canal

Beautiful Amsterdam Canal

Amsterdam is one of those picturesque places that is imagined but rarely exists for most of us. It is divided by manmade canals rather than just streets. These waterways are lined with tall, thin, beautifully architected buildings which used to be warehouses/houses for the traders from its shipping hay day. These houses now serve as residences and offices. The beauty is surreal and one can only imagine what it would be like living or working there. Allow me to brag a moment … it is truly breathtaking to be able to work from an office right on a canal. The fresh air gently blowing in while passenger boats float by with tourists or locals out for a day on the water … absolutely magical.

Office Canal

Canal view from office

I cannot stress this enough, Amsterdam is one of the best walking cities of the world! There is very little automobile traffic in the city center (Centrum). Commuters and locals take well thought out trolleys throughout the city, but they are not overwhelming. That leaves room for pedestrians and bicycles … oh there are bicycles … everywhere! (Note: Bicycles and cars/buses have right of way. So stay alert!) As one walks, there are major roadways and tiny alleyways each hosting unique treasures. These routes are lined with small and unique shops and businesses.   One can enjoyably get lost searching for what amazing thing lies around the next corner.

Hint: If you have a Smartphone, turn on your GPS and add your hotel or specific other destination to your favorites and NEVER get lost!!! Amsterdam is that small and easy to navigate.

 The Dutch people … what an amazing culture! Due to Amsterdam’s status as a premier tourist destination, everyone I met was friendly, warm and welcoming. As with most European metropolitan areas, the people speak many other languages besides their own … and well too. You will have little trouble speaking with the locals. As a matter of fact, you should engage them as much as possible. Everyone has an interesting story or viewpoint and they are eager to hear yours.

 So, what do you like to do? Arts and culture? Amsterdam has some of the finest and most unique museums. They have it all, from Van Gogh to Medieval Torture. Are you a foodie? Because the Dutch have a history of world exploration, they import everything and with that comes an eclectic mix of world cuisines. Fancy Tibetan? They got it. Argentinean steaks? Yup! American fast food? Unfortunately yes to that too. I had one of the best and most unique sandwiches from an Italian sandwich shop called Cora Broodjes (Cora Sandwiches – on Prinsengracht.

Cora Sandwiches

Cora Sandwiches

Do you like to party? Amsterdam’s got an amazing nightlife. And they really aren’t serving coffee as the top item in those coffee shops. Europeans are well aware of the lure of Amsterdam. Some fly in, party all night without sleep and then catch a flight back home the next day … yeah it’s that kind of city!

 Do you like the water? Rent a paddle boat (or bike boat) and cruise the canals at your own pace. Want a guided tour, get on a canal tour boat and navigate the waterways learning all about what made Amsterdam a jewel in Europe’s crown.

Paddle Bikes

Paddle Bikes

While the tourists are indulging themselves in anything they could imagine, the local population operates right along side as if the rest does not exist. Parents with front and rear bicycle baby seats peddle along cobblestone streets. Women with skirts and high heals peddle their bikes with a style and grace that they must be born with. Business people zipping along in trolley cars heading to their next appointment. Old and young couples strolling the canals hand in hand without a care in the world. Yeah, the locals know how good they’ve got it.

Is Amsterdam wooden clogs and tulips? Yes.
Is it tall thin row houses and canals? Yes.
Is it prostitutes and drugs? Yes.
Is it bicycles and boats? Yes.
Amsterdam is all of this and so much more!

It is a safe, friendly, beautiful, historic city that everyone should come, explore and discover what Amsterdam is to them.

Travel Note: If you want REALLY good beef ribs in an old world super friendly atmosphere, get yourself to Café de Klos (Kerkstraat 41-43). There is usually a long wait for the few tables that they have there, but no worries . . . they own the bar across the street and you can hang out over there for some drinks and appetizers while you wait. If you want to cut down the wait time, ask to sit at the bar instead of a table (for some reason, there is more bar space than table space). The staff is hysterical and will make fun of themselves and you in a heartbeat, so don’t go there if you are of the faint of heart. But if you play along, you will become a regular in their eyes and will have an awesome time. Need a menu, just call the bartender over . . . it’s on their shirts! If you go, ask for Marik (aka Mark – looks like Kiefer Sutherland) and tell him Superman sent you.

Cafe de Klos Menu

Cafe de Klos Menu

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Make your own judgments about Amsterdam.
  • Get around by walking or renting a bike.
  • Use the GPS/Maps feature on your Smartphone.
  • Talk with the locals.
  • Get outside of your comfort zone and try something new.

Author:                  Robert J. Gorman, Jr.
Date:                      8/12/2014


Categories: Travelin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How To Eat Pipikaula Ribs At Helena’s Hawaiian Food

Helena's Hawaiian Food

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

In the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean lies the most remote archipelago on the planet . . . Hawaii, the quintessential tropical paradise.  When traveling there, you will experience the most amazing beaches, tropical rain forests, cultural activities and restaurants.  But what is Hawaiian food and where do you get it?

That is a difficult question as Hawaii is a melting pot of many cultures.  Most people’s first experience with the Hawaiian cuisine is at a commercial luau.  (TIP: To find one while in Hawaii, check out: This Week Hawaii ( or Spotlight Hawaii Publishing (  These are the free magazines with coupons that you can pick up at the airport or tourist locations.)  But commercial luaus are just that, the food is made for the large crowds that attend.  So where does one find authentic Hawaiian food?

One could say that the Hawaiian plate lunch is Hawaiian food and they would be correct to an extent.  You can find plate lunches at many restaurants and roadside food trucks.  Plate lunch is two scoops of white rice, one scoop of macaroni salad and some super flavorful Hawaiian delight such as Kalua Pork (pig cooked in an Imu pit…amazing), Loco Moco (beef patty with egg on top), garlic shrimp, etc.  Plate lunches derived from immigrants sharing lunches while working on the sugar plantations.  It has become a staple of daily life in Hawaii.  While it is Hawaiian cuisine, it is not traditional fare.

One of the best places to find traditional Hawaiian food, in a non-luau setting, is at Helena’s Hawaiian Food (, 1240 North School St. in downtown Honolulu.  This is a no nonsense, local and foodie restaurant.  The only way to get this kind of authenticity is if you are eating at your Hawaiian auntie’s house.  If you go there during peak hours, you should expect to wait for a table.  Be patient, it is beyond worth the wait.

The menu is a compilation of unbelievable traditional Hawaiian fare.  They have the famous Kalua Pig, Laulau (pork and/or fish wrapped in taro leaves), amazing stews, Luau squid or chicken (cooked in coconut milk), Lomi Lomi, unbelievable seafood and much more.  But, when you go to Helena’s, you absolutely cannot miss their world renowned Short Ribs Pipikaula Style.  This dish is so good, it has been featured on two TV cooking and travel shows and is a winner of the prestigious James Beard Award.

The Short Ribs Pipikaula Style are strips of beef short ribs which are hung and dry aged.  They are then cut up to bite sized pieces and cooked to order.  While the Pipikaula Short Ribs are not to be missed, there is a proper way to eat them to enhance their succulent flavor.  Sure, you could pick them up and devour them as is and would not be the slightest bit disappointed.  But there are extras that come with this dish that should not be ignored.  When you order these wondrous morsels they are served with a small bowl of sliced Maui onions and another small bowl of Hawaiian sea salt.  Each piece of meat still has the bone in, but it is a small cross section of the longer rib bone.  It is just the right size for picking up and eating around the bone.

The meat is meant to be eaten with a small piece of the Maui onion and a little sprinkling of the Hawaiian sea salt.  The way you do this is entirely up to you.  Personally, I dip the onion piece into the salt catching a few granules and then putting in onto the meat I am about to bite.  I have seen people lick the meat, dip it into the salt and then pop a slice of onion in their mouths before they bit the meat.  Again, you can add your own flare to this.

Pipikaula Ribs

Pipikaula Ribs

The meat has a very rich flavor that is enhanced by the Hawaiian sea salt.  The Maui onion provides a sweet and pungent contrast to the beef.  The combination of these flavors makes the beef flavor explode in your mouth.  You are left salivating waiting for your next bite.

I have to make a comment about an underappreciated menu item, Poi.  When newbies first encounter it, usually at their first luau, they think it is a Hawaiian joke to get mainlanders to eat it.  But, I assure you it is not, they just do not know how to eat it.  Poi was and is the starch staple on the islands.  When eaten straight up it has no immediate appeal and is an acquired taste.  But, that is not how Hawaiians generally eat it.  Many Hawaiian dishes are highly flavored or extremely rich in flavor.  When you take these powerful proteins and dip them into the poi it tames the flavors down a bit.  Let’s say you are not a fish eater but are over a friend’s house and that is what they are serving.  If you dip the fish in the poi, it reduces the fishy flavor and makes it more palatable.  That is the trick with eating poi, dip something else in it and it magically becomes wonderful.

You can tell the great pride owner Craig Katsuyoshi takes in his dry aged beef.  Before we took a picture together, he joked about my height saying I might hit my head on his hanging beef strips.  We had discussed the variety of Hawaiian specialties he serves.  He was surprised how deep a mainlander went in trying items from his menu.  I told him that I am a long standing Kama’aina to the Hawaiian Islands.  He nodded understandingly knowing that I was just coming home for dinner.

Rob and Craig Katsuyoshi

Rob and Craig Katsuyoshi

Author:                  Robert J. Gorman, Jr.

Date:                      8/3/2013

Categories: Eatin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Top Ten Hindi Phrases

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Whether you are traveling to India or interacting with people, here is a list of extremely useful basic Hindi phrases.  Whenever I travel or my coworkers/friends travel I prepare this very same list for them.  I have found that these are the top phrases that can handle 90% of any native conversation you would need to have.  Even with a travel phrase book, this list printed out can be a quick life saver.

In India, there are many different ways to say the same thing.  This is due to regional, dialectal, situational and personal preferences.  Even the pronunciations vary for the same words.  The best advice I have from whenever I go to India is to relax and make an attempt.  If you are far off base or use something incorrectly, the people are very helpful and will help you say it correctly.  Two of my friends once had a 20 minute discussion on how I should say a simple phrase (no conclusion was ever made).  The bonus is that, in the cities, most people speak at least basic English and truly appreciate you trying to speak their native language.  To that point, I have compiled this list with the simplest and most widely used phrases to get you in good with the locals.

Rob & Freinds In India

Rob & Freinds In India

1)         Hi / Bye
            Namaste  (nah-Mah-stay) or Namaskar (nah-Mahs-Kahr) / Alvida  (Al-vee-dah)

2)         Yes / No
            Haan  (Hahn) / Nahin  (Nuh-heen)

3)         Please / Thank you
            Krpaya  (Krip-ay-Yah) / Shukriyaa (shook-Ree-ya-ah)

4)         Excuse me.
            Kshama keejeeae  (Kuh-shah-ma kee-jee-ay)

5)         Where is . . .?  (…the bathroom)      …kaha hay?  (kah-Ha Hay)
           Toilet kaha hai?                     (Toy-let kah-Ha Hay)
           The train station                    Steśan              (stay-Sahn)
            The bus station                      Bas ka aḍḍa    (Bahs Kah Ahd-dah)
            The police station                  Pulisa Steśan   (Puh-lees-ah stay-Sahn)
            The embassy                          Dūtāvāsa         (Doo-tuh-vahs)
            The hospital                           Aspatāla          (Ah-spuh-tahl)

6)         Take me to …
            … Jaanaa hay.  (Jah-ah-nah Hay)

7)         Do you speak English? / I don’t speak Hindi.
            Apko angrézee atee hay?      (Ahp-koh ahn-Gray-zee Ay-tee Hay)
            Mujhe hindī nahīn ātee hay.            (Mooj-hah Hin-di nah-Hin Ay-tee Hay)

8)         How much is this?
            Yae kitna hay?  (Yay Kit-nah Hay)

9)         My name is… / What is your name?
            Meraa naam …hay.  (Mee-rah Nahm … Hay)
            Aapka naam kyaa hay?  (Ahp-kah Nahm Kee-yah Hay)

10)       I need a doctor!
            Mujhey Doctor kee zaroorat hay!  (Mooj-hay Doctor Kee zah-roo-Rat Hay)

(TIP: For a larger Hindi phrasebook, check out: )

Now that you have the basics . . . get out there and meet some people!

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Hi / Bye                                   Namaskar / Alvida
  • Yes / No                                  Haan  / Nahin
  • Please / Thank you                  Kṛpaya  / Shukriyaa
  • Excuse me                               Kshama keejeeae
  • Where is…?                            …kaha hay?
  • Take me to…please.                … Jaanaa hay.
  • Do you speak English?           Apko angrézee atee hay?
  • I don’t speak Hindi.                Mujhe hindī nahīn ātee hay.
  • How much is this?                  Yae kitna hay?
  • My name is…                          Meraa naam …hay.
  • What is your name?                Aapka naam kyaa hay?
  • I need a doctor!                      Mujhey Doctor kee zaroorat hay!

 Author:                  Robert J. Gorman, Jr.
Date:                      10/2/2013

Categories: Meetin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Walk In Germany

Cologne, Germany

Cologne, Germany

We all know how to walk, right?  WRONG!  If you travel to Germany, you will be stunned by the impeccably clean streets, gorgeous classic and modern architecture and the politeness and warmth of the people.  As with almost everything in Germany, there are rules!!!  These rules keep the peace and order within and make it the wondrous place that it is to visit.

Before my first trip to Cologne (Köln) a friend of mine warned me about different colored sidewalks and something about him getting a ticket from a police officer for not following signals.  After slowing him down and asking to clarify, I realized he was trying to inform me about the rules walking there.

Sidewalk in Cologne, Germany

Sidewalk in Cologne, Germany

It turns out that Germany, ingeniously, has paved the bike paths a different color to differentiate which space pedestrians and cyclists should utilize.  Normally, pedestrians have the right-of-way, but not in Germany.  A cyclist will run you down if you are sauntering in their lane.  While this is true, most will jingle their bike bell to warn you of their approach.  The oddest thing to see is that people politely get out of the bike lane right away.

That’s the thing . . . Germans understand and follow these rules.  Even more, they expect everyone else to.  This was evidenced when I was in a taxi.  The taxi driver was not from Germany and began to make a turn into a crosswalk that had a “Walk” signal for the pedestrians.  While the pedestrians were not in a group nor knew each other, they, in unison, started screaming at the taxi for daring to violate the crosswalk rules.

German Crossing Signal

German Crossing Signal

On that note, crossing signals should strictly be adhered to.  Both for the regular street ones and the ones for the train track crossing.  This is where my poor friend acquired a ticket from a police officer.  Apparently, seeing that no train or traffic was coming, decided to make his way across the street in the crosswalk.  BAMN!!!  A cop descended on him like a bat out of hell and issued him a summons along with a stern lecture.

German cities are the most amazing walking cities in the world.  The streets are so clean, the people are friendly, and signs clearly mark where destinations are.  But, I cannot stress enough how strict Germans are with their rules.  If you follow them, you will have a wonderful time and truly enjoy your time there.  If you disobey the rules . . . you will feel like everyone around you has turned against you.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • When walking, stay off of the colored paved bike lanes.
  • Stay in the crosswalks when crossing a street.
  • Pay strict attention to the “Walk” and “Do Not Walk” signals.
  • Pay strict attention to the “Walk” and “Do Not Walk” signals when crossing the train tracks as well.
  • Do get out there and explore Germany’s extraordinary walking cities.

Author:                  Robert J. Gorman, Jr.
Date:                      9/30/2013

Categories: Behavin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Chinese (Mandarin) Phrases

Chinese Pagoda

Chinese Pagoda

Whether you are traveling to China or interacting with people, here is a list of extremely useful basic Mandarin Chinese phrases.  Whenever I travel or my coworkers/friends travel I prepare this very same list for them.  I have found that these are the top phrases that can handle 90% of any native conversation you would need to have.  Even with a travel phrase book, this list printed out can be a quick life saver.

1)         Hi / Bye
            Nǐ hǎo (Nee How) / Zàijiàn (Tsy-jee-En)

2)         Yes / No
            Shi (Shur) / Méiyǒu (May-Yoh)

3)         Please / Thank you
            Qǐng (Ching) / Xièxiè (shyay-Shyay)

4)         Excuse me
            Duìbùqǐ (doy-Boo-chee)

5)         Where is . . .?  (Where is the bathroom?)
            …zài nǎlǐ? (Zī nah-Lee)  (TIP: …zai nar? (Zī nahr) in Beijing)
            Cèsuǒ zài nǎlǐ? (Say-swoh Zī nah-Lee)
            Train station              Huǒchē zhàn              (ho-Cha Jahn)
            Bus station                 Qìchē zhàn                 (chee-Cha Jahn)
            Police station              Jǐng shǔ                      (Jing Shoo)
            Embassy                     Shǐguǎn                      (Shur-Gwan)
            Hospital                      Yīyuàn                        (ee-Yoo-ahn)

6)         Take me to …
            Dài wǒ qù … (Die Woh Choo)

For this one, I have found it most helpful to have a business card (especially from your hotel), or a written name of the location you wish to go to, and point to it as you say “” (Choo).  It gives the driver/person a chance to study the location without asking you to repeat anything or to get into a lengthy conversation.

7)         Do you speak English? / I don’t speak Mandarin.
            Nǐ huì shuō yīngwén ma? (Nee Hway Shwoh Yeeng-wen Mah)
            Wǒ bù huì shuō pǔtōnghuà. (Woh Boo Hway Shwoh Poo-tohng-Hwah)

8)         How much is this?
            Duōshǎo qián? (Dwah-shaow Chee-an)

9)         My name is… / What is your name?
            Wo jiao… (Woh jeeYow)
            Ni jiao shenme mingzi?  (Nee jeeYow shan-Muh ming-Zuh)

10)       I need a doctor!
            Wǒ xūyào yīgè yīshēng! (Who Shoo-yaow ee-Guh yee-Shung)

Now that you have the basics . . . get out there and meet some people!

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The Cheat Sheet

  • Hi / Bye                                   Nǐ hǎo / Zàijiàn
  • Yes / No                                  Shi / Méiyǒu
  • Please / Thank you                  Qǐng / Xièxiè
  • Excuse me                               Duìbùqǐ
  • Where is…?                            …zài nǎlǐ?
  • Take me to…                          Dài wǒ qù …
  • Do you speak English?           Nǐ huì shuō yīngwén ma?
  • I don’t speak Mandarin.         Wǒ bù huì shuō pǔtōnghuà.
  • How much is this?                  Duōshǎo qián?
  • My name is…                          Wo jiao…
  • What is your name?                Ni jiao shenme mingzi?
  • I need a doctor!                      Wǒ xūyào yīgè yīshēng!

Author:                  Robert J. Gorman, Jr.
Date:                      9/12/2013

Categories: Meetin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Hail A NYC Taxi

NYC Taxis

New York City Taxi Cabs

Welcome to Noo Yawk Siddy!!!  New York City is home to too many things to begin mentioning (TIP: See resources below).  Most people think of NYC as just the borough of Manhattan, but there are phenomenal things going on in the other boroughs as well (Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island).  Just think, you can’t go to a Yankee (Bronx) or Mets (Queens) game without leaving Manhattan.  As with many modern metropolises, you have a plethora of transportation options; walking, buses, trains, etc. . . . oh and now even convenient rental bikes (  But sometimes you just want the luxury of your own personal driver who knows the city to take you where the other mass transit vehicles cannot.  Then, my friend, you need a cab.

One can call a cab company and order a taxi, if you have a specific time you are leaving.  Or, you can use one of the SmartPhone apps like Hail-0 ( or Way2Ride ( (TIP: They can be found on the Apple Store or Google Play).  But, if you are on the run, you are going to need to hail a cab . . . and there are some rules.

First, if there is a taxi stand nearby, go and wait for a cab there.  These stands are located at the airports, Penn Station, Grand Central, along the West Side Highway and other locations.  There is no logical reason why some areas have stands and others do not, so look around first.  (TIP: If you want more information on or locations of taxi stands, check out this article:  Around those locations it is illegal for a taxi to pick you up other than at a stand.

Regarding locations, it is best not to hail a cab in the middle of a block.  The only exceptions are if you have called for/ordered a cab and are waiting for it or if you have gear or baggage that you need to put into the trunk.

Other than that, it is best to hail a cab at a corner.  This can work to your advantage.  If you know the direction you are heading, go to the nearest corner which traffic is heading the way you need to go.  Also, you may need/want to go to a different corner if taxi traffic is not abundant enough on that street corner.  (TIP: Taxi drivers like to cruise around in higher volume areas.)

Hailing A Cab

Hailing A Cab

Now to hail a cab . . . stand on the street corner and face the oncoming traffic.  Raise your hand definitively in the air and look down the block for the next available taxi.  If you raise your hand timidly, the driver may assume you are either not ready for a taxi or do not know where you want to go and will most likely pass you by.  Try to see into the cab to see if it has any occupants (NYC taxis are not allowed to pick up multiple fares.).  Another item to take note of is the identifying light on top of the cab.  There are three states it can be in (See image).  If the taxi’s identifying numbers are lit up alone, it is available for hire.  If all the lights are off on it, it is occupied or on its way to pick up a fare.  If the “Off Duty” lights are lit, the driver is at the end of his/her shift and heading back to the garage.  (Tip: You can attempt to hail an “Off Duty” cab.  If you are heading in the same direction of the garage, they may stop to pick you up or stop to ask where you are heading.  If it’s convenient for them, they just may take you.)  If the taxi appears to be available, make eye contact with the driver to show your intent on needing a cab.  Watch to see if he/she shakes their head negatively.  This could be due to them being off duty and heading back to the garage or heading to a prearranged fare.

Taxi Availability

Taxi Availability

While attempting to hail a cab, make sure to be aware that no one else is hailing one as well as it is rude behavior to cut in and take a taxi someone else is waiting for.  If there is another person ahead of you, you can ask them if they want to share the cab with you.  Surprisingly this works on occasion.

There are some rules that NYC taxi drivers must adhere to.  If their “available light” is lit, they are not allowed to refuse a fare.  All NYC cabs are equipped with credit card machines and they must accept either credit card or cash.  For a full list of NYC taxi rules, please visit:

When the taxi pulls over for you, enter from the sidewalk side of the cab.  Let them know right away if you need to put anything into the trunk.  Once safely inside, tell the driver the cross streets of your destination, such as “23rd & Madison” (meaning 23rd Street and Madison Avenue).  You can also give an exact address, but the driver still may ask you the cross streets.  Another option, if you are unsure of a destination, is to ask the driver.  (TIP: It is always best to state a cross street location emphatically so the driver assumes that you are a local and not someone he/she can take on a longer, more expensive route.)

Along the way, if you are not from New York City, please do not be alarmed by the aggressiveness of the drivers.  There are certain unwritten driving rules which the cabbies adhere to while driving on NYC streets, but those are in another article. (TIP: For more information see the Understandin’ article “How To Drive In NYC”.)  The best thing to do is sit back and look out the window as if you are watching a TV show or an action movie.  On a similar note, taxis now have in-car infotainment centers.  You will find this either entertaining/informative or annoying.  If the incessant ads or noise bothers you, you can turn the volume down and/or the screen off.  (TIP: In the cab you have control of both the climate controls and the infotainment center.)

Once you reach your destination, make sure to check the meter (as you should also do along the way), located on the front dashboard, to see what the fare is.  Unless the driver got into an accident or drove in a life threatening manner, you should ALWAYS give a tip (15 – 25%).  While the fare may seem expensive, these drivers have a lot of overhead to pay for (i.e., rental of the taxi, gas, maintenance, etc.), most of which never reaches their pockets.  So, a tip is where they make most of their take home pay.  (TIP: Tips should be based on a percentage of the actual fare NOT a flat amount that you think is reasonable.)  NYC taxis have the ability to accept credit cards so you can pay either cash or credit.  Once done, leave the taxi promptly, on the sidewalk side of the vehicle, to allow them to pick up their next fare.

Now that you know how to hail a NYC taxi cab, get out there and explore all that the five boroughs have to offer!

New York City
Events Resources:

The Cheat Sheet

  • Use taxi stands where available
  • Go to the nearest/optimal street corner
  • Raise hand with intent
  • Make eye contact with driver and watch for them to nod yes/no to you
  • Enter/exit cab from the sidewalk side of the taxi
  • Check meter for actual fare
  • Always provide a percentage based tip
  • Leave taxi promptly after paying

Author:                  Robert J. Gorman, Jr.
Date:                      4/10/2013

Categories: Doin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Spanish Phrases

Seville Flamenco Dancers

Seville Flamenco Dancers

Whether you are traveling to Spain, Mexico, South/Central America or interacting with people, here is a list of extremely useful basic Spanish phrases.  Whenever I travel or my coworkers/friends travel I prepare this very same list for them.  I have found that these are the top phrases that can handle 90% of any native conversation you would need to have.  Even with a travel phrase book, this list printed out can be a quick life saver.

1)         Hi / Bye
            Hola (Oh-lah) / Adios (Ah-dee-ohs)           

2)         Yes / No
            Si (See) / No (Noh)

    3)         Please / Thank you
            Por favor (Por fah-Vor) / Gracias (Grah-see-ahs)

 4)         Excuse me
            Perdón (pair-Dohn)

5)         Where is . . .?  (…the bathroom)
            ¿Dónde está . . .?  (dohn-Day ess-Tah)  (…el baño) (El Bahn-nyoh)
            The train station        La estación de tren    (Lah eh-stay-see-Ohn Day Trayn)
            The bus station     La estación de autobuses (Lah eh-stay-see-Ohn Day Ow-tow-Boos-ehz)
            The police station     La estación de policía            (Lah eh-stay-see-Ohn Day Po-lee-see-Ah)
            The embassy              La embajada              (Lah Em-bah-hah-Dah)
            The hospital               El hospital                  (Ehl Os-pih-Tahl)

6)         Take me to …
            Llévame a… (Jev-ah-may Ah)
TIP:  For this one, I have found it most helpful to have a business card (especially from your hotel), or a written name of the location you wish to go to, and point to it as you say “aquí” (ah-Kee).  It gives the driver/person a chance to study the location without asking you to repeat anything or to get into a lengthy conversation.

 7)         Do you speak English? / I don’t speak Spanish.
            ¿Hablas Inglés? (ah-Blas Eng-lays) / Yo no hablo Español. (Yoh Noh Ah-bloh ess-Pan-nyohl)

 8)         How much is this?
            ¿Cuánto cuesta esto?  (Qwan-toh Qway-stah Ess-toh)
TIP:  A nice shortcut for this is to just say “¿Cuánto cuesta?”  Most Spanish speaking people will understand what you mean and, in fact, use this abbreviated phrase themselves.

 9)         My name is… / What is your name?
            Mi nombre es … (Mee Nohm-bray Ess) / ¿Cuál es su nombre? (Qwahl Ess Soo Nohm-bray)

 10)       I need a doctor!
            ¡Necesito un medico! (ness-seh-see-Toh Oon Mehd-ihk-oh)

Now that you have the basics . . . get out there and meet some people!

Running With The Bulls

Running With The Bulls

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Hi / Bye                                   Hola / Adios
  • Yes / No                                  Si / No
  • Please / Thank you                  Por favor / Gracias
  • Excuse me                               Perdón
  • Where is…?                            ¿Dónde está . . .?
  • Take me to…                          Llévame a…
  • Do you speak English?           ¿Hablas Inglés?
  • I don’t speak Spanish.             Yo no hablo Español.
  • How much is this?                  ¿Cuánto cuesta esto?
  • My name is…                          Mi nombre es …
  • What is your name?                ¿Cuál es su nombre?
  • I need a doctor!                      ¡Necesito un medico!

 Author:                  Robert J. Gorman, Jr.
Date:                      9/12/2013

Categories: Meetin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten German Phrases

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Whether you are traveling to Germany, Austria, Switzerland or interacting with people, here is a list of extremely useful basic German phrases.  Whenever I travel or my coworkers/friends travel I prepare this very same list for them.  I have found that these are the top phrases that can handle 90% of any native conversation you would need to have.  Even with a travel phrase book, this list printed out can be a quick life saver.

My mother one-upped me when she went to Germany.  She seemed to get by on two words: “schön” (shurn) meaning “nice” and “danke” (Dahn-kah) for thank you.  These and smiling a heck of lot seemed to do it for her.  Please try a little harder than she did.

1)         Hi / Bye
            Hallo (Ah-lo) / Auf Wiedersehen (Owf Vee-dur-zay-en)

 2)         Yes / No
              Ja (Yah) / Nein (Nine [9])

 3)         Please / Thank you
             Bitte (Bit-tah) / Danke (Dahn-kah)

 4)         Excuse me
             Entschuldigen Sie (ent-Shool-dig-gun Zee)

 5)         Where is . . .?  (…the bathroom)
             Wo ist …? (Voh Ist)  (… das Badezimmer) (Dass Bah-duh-zim-er)
             The train station        Der Bahnhof              (Dair bahn-Hohf)
             The bus station          Der Busbahnhof        (Dair Boos-bahn-Hohf)
             The police station      Die Polizeistation       (Dee Poh-lit-Zie-shtat-Zee-ohn)
             The embassy              Die Botschaft             (Dee Boht-Shahft)
             The hospital               Das Krankenhaus     (Dahs Krahn-ken-How-ss)

 6)         Take me to … please.
             Nehmen Sie mich … bitte.  (Nay-men Zee Mihck … bit-Tah)
TIP:  For this one, I have found it most helpful to have a business card card (especially from your hotel), or a written name of the location you wish to go to and point to it as you say “hier” (heer) in between “mich” and “bitte”.  It gives the driver/person a chance to study the location without asking you to repeat anything or to get into a lengthy conversation.

7)         Do you speak English? / I don’t speak German.
             Sprechen Sie Englisch?  (shpreck-Ken Zee Eng-lish) / Ich spreche kein Deutsch.  (Eeck shpreck-Kuh Kine Doytch)

8)         How much is this?
             Wie viel ist das?  (Vee Feel Ist Dass)
TIP:  A nice shortcut for this is to just say “Wie viel?”  Most Germans will understand what you mean and, in fact, use this abbreviated phrase themselves.

9)         My name is… / What is your name?
             Ich heisse … (Eeck hi-Suh) / Wie heissen Sie?  (Vee hi-Sen Zee)
TIP:  How the person answers this one will tell you a LOT in Germany.  If they answer, “Frau …” (Frow) meaning Misses, “Fräulein…” (fraw-Line) meaning Miss, or “Herr …” (Hair) meaning Mister, they want to keep their relationship with you on a formal basis only.  If they answer with just their name, then they are more relaxed and you can be too.

10)       I need a doctor!
             Ich brauche einen Arzt!  (Eeck brow-Kuh eye-Nen Ahrrst)

 Now that you have the basics . . . get out there and meet some people!

Cologne, Germany

Cologne, Germany

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Hi / Bye                                    Hallo / Auf Wiedersehen
  • Yes / No                                   Ja / Nein
  • Please / Thank you              Bitte / Danke
  • Excuse me                              Entschuldigen Sie
  • Where is…?                            Wo ist…?
  • Take me to…please.           Nehmen Sie mich…bitte.
  • Do you speak English?       Sprechen Sie Englisch?
  • I don’t speak German.        Ich spreche kein Deutsch.
  • How much is this?               Wie viel ist das?
  • My name is…                         Ich heisse …
  • What is your name?            Wie heissen Sie?
  • How much does it cost?    Wie viel kostet es?

Author:                 Robert J. Gorman, Jr.
Date:                      9/12/2013

Categories: Meetin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sushi Bar – The Rules!

Awesome Sashimi!

Awesome Sashimi!

Hey!  Why are you eating like a Gaijin at the sushi bar?!?

If you are in America at one of those Chinese owned Chinese/Japanese restaurants, then no one is going to care how you eat at their establishment.  But if you are in a real sushi bar, or even better, one in Japan, you had better know the rules and customs or you may look like an idiot and insult your hosts.  Japan is a land of customs and traditions so you should at least know the basics before invading their sacred territories.  Let’s hit rewind and talk about how to do sushi the right way.

You find a nice sushi bar and walk in.  The first bit of business is on you.  Look around and take notice of how clean and maintained the establishment is.  If it is not up to your standards, looks run down or dirty, leave immediately.  Raw fish is not something you should take your chances with; unless, of course, you enjoy spending a LOT of time in the bathroom or a hospital emergency room.  If the restaurant cannot maintain basic outward appearances, then they will definitely be cutting corners in regard to food purchasing, preparation and handling.

Clean? … Check! . . . OK, on to the sushi bar.  As you enter into the restaurant, make sure to at least do a head bow to your host/hostess before requesting a seat at the sushi bar.  While most of the world, outside of Japan, does not do this, it will at least acknowledge that you are in-the-know and showing basic respect of their culture.  When you approach the sushi bar, perform the same head bow or a 15 degree bow to the Sushi Chef and say “Kon’nichiwa” (Kon-ee-chee-wa).  (TIP: For more information on the tradition and etiquette of bowing in Japan, see:

As you sit at the sushi bar you will notice several items on your place setting; a small bowl for your soy sauce/wasabi, a tea cup, chopsticks, the soy sauce decanter and possibly a small ceramic piece to rest your chopsticks on.  Use this chopstick holder or rest them on the side of the dipping bowl.  Never, I repeat NEVER stick your chopsticks standing up in your rice bowl or your rice.  For most Asian religions, this is done only at funeral ceremonies and is highly offensive if done at a dinner table. (TIP: For more information on Japanese funeral traditions, see:

In traditional Japanese establishments, the host/hostess will bring you a hot, moist towel.  This is not bath time folks.  Use it to clean your hands and place it immediately back in the wooden basket/ceramic plate/next to your place setting.  No matter how tempting it is to keep it for later, you will be looked at bizarrely by everyone around you.  It is important to note that clean hands are important because you will be handling super fresh food with delicate flavors with them.  One would not want to flavor a piece of sushi with whatever you touched last (We all know you just came from the bathroom too).

When sitting at the sushi bar, there are two people that you order specific parts of your meal from.  Any drinks, soups, salads and/or non-sushi items are ordered from your server.  All sushi items are ordered through the sushi chef.  This seems straight forward enough, but it is an important distinction to understand.  The sushi chef does not/should not be disturbed from their work.  They are using surgically sharp knives, handling delicate sea food that should never be cross-contaminated and generally should not be bothered with other restaurant functions that can break their concentration.  As far as ordering, you can order off of the menu or you can let the chef create a meal for you.  While menu items are great solid choices for the novice sushi diner, the best sushi meals I have ever had were random creations from my sushi chef.

Preparing your dipping sauce . . . in the small bowl put in a small piece of wasabi (to taste) and then pour in some soy sauce.  Do not fill the bowl all the way up or put in so much wasabi that it looks like wasabi-mud.  Or you can just add a dot of wasabi to your fish.  This flavoring sauce or straight wasabi should be used very sparingly just to add an accented flavor to your sushi not to overpower it.

For the first time sushi goers, here are the various common forms of sushi and what to do with them:

Sashimi: Raw fish slices.  This is the simplest form of sushi and you should enjoy the delicate flavors and difference between the types of seafood.  This is the perfect type to use your wasabi-soy dipping sauce on.

Nigirizushi: (a.k.a. – Nigiri Sushi) This is the prototype sushi.  It is the cut piece of fish on top of a small pillow of flavored sushi rice.  It sometimes has a small band of seaweed wrap (Nori).  This can be dipped in the dipping sauce – fish side ONLY!

Makizushi: (a.k.a. – Maki Sushi) These are your basic and not so basic sushi rolls.  The traditional rolls have long slices of seafood or vegetables in the center surrounded by rice and wrapped in the Nori seaweed wrap.  In the United States these rolls get a LOT more elaborate.  It would be acceptable to dip the traditional ones into the dipping sauce, but less so the modern versions.  The rule of thumb here is, if the sushi chef prepares a roll with its own sauce or unique flavoring, it would be highly insulting to alter the flavor that is presented to you with the soy-wasabi dipping sauce.

Temaki: These are the cone shaped hand rolls.  As with their Maki Sushi cousins, they are a bit more elaborate than regular sushi and should only be dipped if they do not have any of their own sauce on them.  (TIP: For more information on these and other types of sushi, see:

What to drink?  What to drink?  Traditionally, acceptable drinks are water, green tea and/or sake.  (TIP: To find out more about the various forms and quality of sake, see: or  Recently, beer has become acceptable as well.  Any other drinks are believed to interfere with your palate’s ability to discern sushi’s delicate flavors.

Sushi place setting with meal.

Sushi place setting with meal.

Now that you have ordered your sushi, believe it or not, there is etiquette around actually eating it.  If you have a platter or are sharing sushi with other people and want to pass a piece of sushi to another person, use the back end of your chopsticks; NEVER with the part you eat with.  Sushi is generally created to be eaten in one bite to get all of the flavors that the chef intended for you to taste, so it is acceptable to cram a whole piece in your mouth.  There are some exceptions; Temaki rolls are meant to be more than one bite.  Also, there are monster sized rolls called Futomaki which I believe are created as a dare to shove all in your mouth in one shot . . . but good luck there.  I have personally, and have seen some Japanese sushi eaters do this, but it is not a pleasant experience.

Another note on eating sushi is not to plow through an entire arrangement in one shot.  Sushi has delicate flavors and subtle nuances.  One should eat each piece taking in its unique flavors.  In between bites, have a piece of your pickled ginger (which is provided next to the wasabi on your plate) and then a sip of your accepted beverage to cleanse the palate.  Avoid trying other types of food before or during your sushi meal or all you will taste is a fishy mush.  I guarantee you will enjoy your sushi to its fullest if you follow these steps.

Not full yet, or want to try something that has caught your eye?  It is 100% encouraged to order additional items from the sushi chef.  It is a tremendous compliment on their skills.  Another reason to order something else is that portion size outside of the United States is smaller.

Had your fill?  Excellent!  Did you eat all of your rice?  You had better!!!  It is an insult to your host to leave even a grain of rice on your plate.  Japanese warriors, in ancient times, were paid with rice.  To this day, rice is a sacred staple in Japan.  To leave rice shows that you are arrogantly wealthy and wasteful.  It is in stark disregard to others who are not as fortunate as you are.

So, now that you are done, who do you pay?  As with ordering, you should always pay the bill with the wait staff, but never the sushi chef.  The chef considers what he/she does an art form and money dirties his/her work.  The wait staff will go talk to the sushi chef directly and tally up what you have ordered and then bring you the bill.

Tipping . . . in Japan, NEVER.  It is considered offensive and takes away from the service that they take great care in providing.  Elsewhere in the world, you should always look up what is accepted in each place you are traveling to.  A great info-graphic on this can be found on this site (  Another good resource for this is on this one (

Now that the bill is settled up, make sure you perform the customary bow to your sushi chef, especially if the food was outstanding.  Also, do not forget to bow to your wait staff as well as the host/hostess on your way out.  If you want to attempt to add in some basic Japanese expressions, you could say: Thank you – Arigatō (Ardei ga-toe) and Good bye – Sayōnara (Sa-yo-na-ra).

As you can see, the Japanese culture is steeped in tradition.  Nothing expresses a society’s customs more than its culinary history and traditions.  Sushi is the quintessential expression of Japanese pride and history.  If you respect their way of life, even something as trivial seeming as food, you will earn their respect and bring honor to your name.

Not bad, now you can pass for someone who is in-the-know when it comes to sushi etiquette!  Go out and enjoy the benefits of your new found knowledge.

 The Cheat Sheet:

  • Bow to your host/hostess and sushi chef when entering
  • Ordering & Pay through your wait staff but order sushi directly with the chef
  • Never stick your chopsticks into a bowl of rice
  • Pass food with the back end of your chopsticks
  • Drink water, green tea, sake or beer
  • Use soy-wasabi dipping sauce sparingly and never dip your rice
  • Finish your rice
  • Bow to those who have served you when leaving

Author:                  Robert J. Gorman, Jr.
Date:                      4/5/2013

Categories: Eatin’ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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