My personal favourite part of visiting new countries is trying new food. I’m usually willing to try almost anything, so I’m pretty adventurous.
Every once in a while though, you run into a dish that requires an extraordinary amount of bravery or, as I’ve heard it described, stupidity.
What you are seeing in this picture is stinky tofu, and on a recent trip to Hong Kong, I ingested this crazy local street food dish.
For a very long time I’ve walked around Hong Kong and occasionally smelled something so revolting I just began calling it “Hong Kong Smell” and, I’ll be honest, I chalked it up to sewage.
So imagine my surprise when a group of people standing in line behind me at a food stall smelled just like it! We got in a conversation and I learned that all this time it’s been stinky tofu that was the culprit.
Of course, moments later I was paying my 5HKD (about $1 USD) and taking a bite!
The verdict… not that bad! I’ll be back for more next time I’m down in my favourite street food city.
On a related note, the Michelin Guide to Restaurants, if you’re not familiar with it, is a listing of the greatest restaurants in the world. I have no idea how they decide, but recently they released a Michelin guide to Hong Kong street food. I still have a few to visit, but maybe I’ll write my own reviews once I’ve finished them.
Trevor Price, CLVS, BFA – International Video Specialist
In a recent blog, we discussed some of the most challenging countries to take international depositions – one of which was the exotic nation of India. Besides requiring prior permission from the Indian Central Authority, all deposition attendees must have a visa to enter the country. In years past, this process would take between five and seven business days (duration was subject to the Indian government) and required stacks of documentation for approval. This made taking late-notice depositions practically impossible.
However, the Indian government recently made e-visas available for “casual business trips,” and they can be approved in as little as three to five business days (Please note that a “casual business trip ” has not been defined by the Indian government and should be cautiously interpreted). Though the process has been shortened, there are still vital details and steps to be followed to ensure visa approval:
Applications should be filled out at least three to five business days before the deposition date(s).
All travel arrangements must be made beforehand since specific details are required on the application (port of entry, arrival date, destination in India, etc.).
When selecting the type of visa, deposition attendees will need to choose “Business Visa” for Visa Service and “Attend Technical/Business Meetings” for the reason.
It is important for individuals to fill out their own applications, as it requires personal information such as family history, home address, work history, religion, etc.
A copy of the applicant’s business card, scanned version of their passport, and JPEG picture (e.g. copy of your passport photo) should be ready for download.
Though not stated on the e-visa requirements, an Indian firm/sponsoring entity along with their contact information must be listed on the application. An experienced court reporting firm can help you with this.
Even with the current requirements, the new e-visa process creates greater accessibility for deposition attendees, significantly decreases the wait time for visa approval, and overall simplifies one of the steps in the Indian deposition process.
On February 10th, a series of happy accidents that stemmed from a trip to Nagahama for an Ume plum bonsai exhibition of all things left me in Nagoya wondering what to do the next day.
We were on a castle tour, as we sometimes are, and Nagoya had to get crossed off the list, but castles don’t usually take all day, and I was exploring the internet for some of the other things Nagoya had to offer. It turns out Nagoya was offering something truly special.
As Japan ramps up its tourism efforts before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the quality of information you can get about different Japanese cities has increased dramatically, and Nagoya is no exception. As is the case with almost everywhere in this country, each city seems to have a reputation as being all business and no play, but if you do some searching, there is almost always something amazing to see or do no matter where you go.
It just so happened that our timing was, as usual, uncanny. On February 11th, Konomiya, near Nagoya, would be holding the Hadaka Matsuri, sometimes known as the Naked Man Festival, one of the strangest festivals in the entire country.
I’ll give a quick rundown on the basics as I’m sure there is more accurate information out there on the internet.
The short story begins a few months before. Men volunteer to be “chosen” as the scapegoat for the festival, and one man is selected to bear the bad luck of all the attendees. He is called the Shin-otoko. He is sequestered before the festival for three days, and his body hair is completely shaved.
On the day of the festival, thousands of men dressed in nothing but a simple loincloth (called a fundoshi) arrive at the shrine. They make their way down the streets surrounding the shrine from all directions, and the entire neighborhood is flooded with men in loincloths, street food vendors, and interested gawkers.
The men are in groups representing different areas from around the Nagoya area, but sometimes there are some people that have come from much farther away. They come bearing bundled bamboo as offerings for blessings from the priests. This takes several hours to complete as each group enters the shrine, receives the blessings, and then runs out.
Then comes the wait. For the next couple of hours, the groups will await the arrival of the shin-otoko. The chosen man spends his day trying to make his way toward the shrine from outside in the neighborhood surrounding. The belief is if you are able to touch the chosen man as he makes his way to the shrine, you will transfer your bad luck to him for the next year. That’s what everyone is doing here!
It’s a bit of an inside joke that the harder you touch him, the better chance your luck is to be transferred properly. People don’t hold back much when they get a chance to smack him with all their might.
It’s not all bad for our hero though. He has a group of men equipped with buckets that spend the entire time defending our naked running man. They toss ice cold water attempting to ward off would-be slappers. Remember, it’s February! It’s cold enough already without freezing water being dumped on you.
When everyone finally makes it to the shrine, that’s when things get really crazy. The shrine itself is equipped with water hoses and spray nozzles that soak the waiting crowd of 10,000 or so fundoshi-clad men waiting for their chance to slap their bad luck away.
The shin-otoko enters and fights his way through the crowd while the shrine workers tie themselves to the inside of the shrine and climb over the crowd to get the black-and-blue chosen one and drag him into the shrine. As soon as he’s inside, that’s it. It’s all over and everyone goes home, frozen and laughing.
My experience was amazing! I came early enough that I was close to all the action as people brought in the offerings for the temple, and when the chosen man arrived, I was actually allowed into the ring where the action takes place. I was not close enough to get soaked with water though (thank goodness).
The atmosphere was pure madness, and yet I still had a local gentleman take the time to explain everything that was going on. He said he had never participated himself, but next year he was planning to participate since he turns 42, which is considered an especially unlucky year. Hopefully he gets a good smack in so he can avoid the bad luck!
Trevor Price, CLVS, BFA – International Video Specialist
Norway, on the westernmost tip of the Scandinavian Peninsula, allows voluntary depositions of willing witnesses, regardless of the witness’ nationality. Norway is famous for long winter nights and seemingly endless summer days, breathtaking fjords, fishy cuisine, and, of course, Vikings. Norway’s official name is the Kingdom of Norway, which until just over 100 years ago, included Greenland and Iceland.
As a party to the Hague Evidence Convention, Norway permits voluntary depositions of willing witnesses in civil and commercial matters; however, prior permission must be obtained from the Norwegian Central Authority. This permission should be requested at least 4 weeks before the desired deposition date. The U.S. Embassy will request permission for a U.S. citizen. Norway’s ease when it comes to scheduling depositions makes it an ideal location for deposing a Dane, incidentally, as nearby Denmark does not generally grant permission to take depositions.
Once it has been determined that Norway will host your depositions, some points to consider include the following:
Oslo, Norway’s capital, has been ranked first in large European cities for quality of life – meaning it is a charming, convenient, and of course, expensive host.
If only scheduling 1 or 2 days of depositions, consider attending remotely – this saves time, cost, and is easily facilitated with the help of a best-in-class court reporting agency.
If attending in person, you are in luck, as Norway does not require a visa for stays of 90 days or fewer. Do be sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months past your return date (as always recommended when traveling internationally), and have at least 2 blank pages for entry and exit stamps.
Norway is a truly spectacular country to visit, offering the best in nature, with breathtaking fjords, lakes, and forests, as well as a spectrum of museums (Viking history! Art!), music, and fine dining. English is widely spoken, and Norwegians are a friendly if not overly chatty people. In fact, it is highly likely your Norwegian witness will not need an interpreter, but if that isn’t the case, there are several qualified interpreters with legal experience in Norway. Working with a reporting agency with reporters and videographers living throughout Europe saves your client on travel expenses. It also gives you valuable intel into how to best use your free time in Norway!
For more information on depositions in Norway or throughout Europe, contact our International team at 888-433-3767, or via email at email@example.com.
Suzanne Quinson International Scheduling Coordinator
One of the hurdles to tackle when planning for international depositions is the search for the right location. For someone scheduling their first deposition in Tampere, for example, this can be a bit like chasing a shadow in a fog. Here are four points to consider when looking for a deposition location in an area unfamiliar to you.
Proximity to the legal team’s hotel – if possible, book a conference room in the hotel where the attorneys are staying. This saves on transportation costs, as well as time! It’s a huge bonus if the hotel has an adequate business center to help with last-minute print jobs, though the court reporting agency can help you find nearby printers, and shredders as well, if needed.
Technical capabilities – will videoconferencing (mobile or traditional) be needed? If so, don’t forget to conduct a test call prior to the deposition date, to verify the connection strength and stability.
Comfort – this includes any catering considerations. If food and beverage will be requested, confirm any dietary restrictions can be accommodated. In cases of multiple days of depositions, the comfort factor is of the utmost importance both to the attorneys and witnesses.
Expense (of course) – certain cities are notoriously expensive. Hot spots like Paris and Hong Kong can require some creativity to save costs for your client (for example, deposing a witness in a hotel room, rather than reserving a separate conference room). Don’t forget to check cancellation policies and fees as well. Check with the court reporting agency to see if a corporate discount is available if they book the conference room on your behalf.
The location for a deposition abroad should so completely meet all your needs it’s like taking the deposition in your own conference room at your office. This is entirely possible with proper planning and preparation.
The Planet Depos International Team works with local court reporters around the world and has been scheduling international depositions for over a decade. For assistance scheduling international depositions, contact Planet Depos International Scheduling at 888.433.3767 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should I stay or should I go? Not only is this a catchy 1980s hit single, but it’s also a common question from attorneys and paralegals when planning depositions abroad. With the advancement of video streaming technology, counsel will often elect to stay in the U.S. when deposing their international witnesses. However, as convenient as this option may sound, there are a few factors to consider when deciding to attend in person or remotely:
If the parties attend remotely, the next factor to consider is the method of video streaming. Two of the most common means are through either videoconference or mobile videoconference. Just like the attendance factor, there are several pros and cons to consider:
For more information on international videoconferencing, contact Planet Depos at International@planetdepos.com or call 888.433.3767.
Katelin Myers – International Scheduling Coordinator
LOCATION – LOCATION – LOCATION – The German Ministry of Justice limits the location where depositions may take place to the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt. The U.S. Consulate General is located in the northeast quadrant of historic Frankfurt am Main (Nord-Ost).
RESERVATIONS AT THE CONSULATE GENERAL – Once you have the Notice of Deposition or the Court Commission stating that the deposition is to be taken before the Consul, it must be submitted to the Consulate. At least six weeks before the deposition is to take place, the Notice and the mandatory scheduling fee of $1,283 must be sent to the Consulate.
GETTING PERMISSION FROM THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE – Upon receipt of the Notice and the fees, the Consulate will ask the U.S. Embassy in Berlin to approach the Ministry of Justice to request approval for the deposition.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE OATH – Since the depositions must take place at the U.S. Consulate General before a U.S. consular officer, the oath must be administered by a U.S. Consul. The court reporter cannot administer the oath even if both parties stipulate.
SECURITY – At least 3 business days before the deposition, a list of all participants along with any electronic equipment must be submitted to the Consulate. Two days before the deposition, the list will be submitted to the Security department, and at that point, no changes can be made to the list. No cellular devices are allowed in the Consulate.
HOURS OF OPERATION – The U.S. Consulate recently changed the hours of operation for taking depositions. The hours are now Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm. Keep in mind that the Consulate is closed on German and American holidays and on the last Thursday of every month.
Traveling to Frankfurt is extremely easy with direct flights from many major U.S. cities arriving at the Frankfurt Airport every single day. Hotel accommodations are easy to come by with many both luxurious and affordable properties from which to choose. There are even hotels within walking distance of the Consulate. Here’s our preferred location in Frankfurt.
Once you have your Notice of Deposition, have paid your fees, and have fulfilled your requirements with the U.S. Consulate General, all you need to do is pack your bags, grab your valid U.S. Passport, and hop on a plane to Frankfurt! Genießen Sie Ihren Aufenthalt in Frankfurt am Main!
Planet Depos has been covering depositions in Frankfurt for many years with teams of reporters and videographers scattered throughout Europe. The International Scheduling team can assist you with interpretation, printing exhibits, and shredding unwanted documents. Email us at email@example.com or by calling 888-433-3767.
When it comes to adventuring abroad, it can be a stressful experience for anyone – whether you are a first-time traveler or a seasoned jet setter. With the increase in airport security measures, documentation requirements, and passport theft, preparing your travel papers before you take off can help alleviate travel headaches. Be prepared for your journey with these few tips:
Before you leave:
Leave a copy of your passport back home with family or friends, along with any other important information you may be bringing with you, such as your itinerary, driver’s license, hotel reservations, etc.
Keep a physical and electronic copy of your passport, driver’s license, and other documentation with you. If you are pickpocketed, then you’ll at least have copies back at your hotel (preferably left in a hotel safe), and on your phone, email, etc. Bring along other objects with your name on it (e.g. prescription bottles, mail, phone bill, etc.), as they can be used as a form of backup ID.
Keep all forms of ID and anything valuable on your person as much as possible, such as carrying them in an inside jacket pocket, money belt, or small purse (with zippers). Try to avoid the “touristy” look with fanny-packs, baseball caps, and big backpacks.
If your passport is stolen:
Notify all relevant parties immediately after the theft: local police, the U.S. Consulate/Embassy, your airline, hotel, and contacts back home.
Keep any documentation provided by the police and Embassy, as you will need it when heading back home. Extra copies should be made just in case.
Make sure to follow any instructions from the airlines regarding your return flight. Bring all the documentation you have proving your passport was stolen and anything to help confirm your identity. Also arrive early (and we mean very early) before your flight to allow extra time to get through check-in and security.
The seemingly impossible has happened – you finally land the perfect dates to take your Japanese depositions! The
deponents are available, there are no disputes with any of the parties, and you even found a direct, economical flight directly to Tokyo. To seal the deal, you check on the U.S. Embassy’s website for availability, but lo and behold the dates you need are gone. What now?
Never fear! Although depositions in Japan can create unnecessary stumbling blocks for any legal team, with some insider information, there are ways to maneuver around these pitfalls.
Check the Dates
First, make sure the dates on the website are actually the only dates available. The list on the Embassy’s site is typically accurate, but sudden cancellations take time to process and aren’t immediately reflected online. To double-check on your preferred Embassy dates, have your local court reporting team confirm availability for you by reaching out to the Embassy on your behalf.
Second, consider a change in location. Most depositions in Japan are taken at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo; however, an often forgotten alternative venue is the U.S. Consulate in Osaka! This location has two room options to choose from, and the smaller room typically has earlier dates available.
Try a Nearby Country
Finally, if the first two alternatives don’t work out, try a nearby country. If your witness is willing to travel, they can ride a ferry to South Korea or take a short flight to Taiwan, Hong Kong or Guam, where depositions are less restricted. This option also offers you the ability to attend remotely, provides more location choices, no restrictive time limits, etc.
No matter where you decide to take your depositions, Planet Depos Asia teams can cover with on-the-ground support and no travel fees. For more information on taking depositions in Japan, contact Planet Depos at International@planetdepos.com or call 888.433.3767.
Katelin Myers – International Scheduling Coordinator
Finland is an enviable destination for depositions. First of all, there is plenty of coffee! Finns drink more coffee than any other nation in the world. No one will have any issues remaining alert through a deposition in this country. In seriousness, though, Finland makes scheduling depositions easy, and it is a unique and gorgeous country to visit, should you be attending the depositions in person.
Finland is a party to The Hague Evidence Convention, but permits the taking of depositions regardless of the witness’ nationality, with no restrictions or troublesome requirements. This makes it an ideal location to depose a Russian witness who is willing to travel, incidentally, as Russia does not permit depositions at all. Further simplifying matters, Finland requires no visa for U.S. citizens visiting, so you can attend in person with ease. Should you prefer to attend via videoconference (or mobile videoconference), hotels in Helsinki and elsewhere can easily accommodate this request. Also worth mentioning, English is widely spoken and Finns are by nature a hospitable people.
Working with a court reporting agency with local reporters will really make scheduling in Finland a breeze, first by drastically cutting travel costs related to the deposition. The agency can schedule the reporter, videographer, and interpreter if one is needed, so you don’t have to scramble to find a qualified team. A local reporter and videographer can assist with printing of exhibits, as well as the myriad of other logistical details involved in depositions abroad. They can even offer suggestions for how to make the most of any free time you have while in Finland, whether you like museums, music, or nature.
The Northern Lights from Lapland, Finland. Photo by Vincent Guth.
On that topic, the time of year will affect the amount of free time you have. Winter days in Finland are short and cold, and the winter is long! If the winter is cold enough, the Northern Lights can be seen in Helsinki, though, so maybe the bite of frigid temperatures isn’t so dreadful. Spring, when it finally arrives, is brief and still chilly, but can be quite pretty, with flowers peeking out of the snow and everything gradually turning lush and green. Helsinki becomes more bustling as spring creeps rapidly to summer and people get out and about. Summer days are long (19 hours of sunlight in Helsinki!) and warm — but not hot — and Finns take advantage by getting outside for hiking, sailing, and festivals. 2017 promises some especially appealing festivals, as Finland celebrates 100 years of independence. Autumn is a short season as well, packed with gorgeous colors, and more outdoor activities before winter comes and brings back the cold temperatures.
Lastly, a few things to remember for your depositions in Finland:
Your passport must be valid for at least six months past your departure from the Schengen Area.