You’re from Hong Kong – how did you end up in Slovenia?
I was hired before I came to Slovenia as a Traditional Chinese medicine expert a few years ago. Back then I was a bit exhausted with the busy and crowded environment in Hong Kong, so I was looking for a change. Indeed, it was the internet that found Slovenia for me after intensive browsing and Google searching. I visited Slovenia for one week before I took the job and that was the first time I came to Europe. It is, however, my personal choice to stay in Novo mesto, a relatively quiet and small "city".
In 2017, I had a major change in my job. At that time, I needed to choose whether I stay here or restart in other city. I even got another job offer in Koper. But somehow I feel responsible to all my clients who have been visiting me for years, and I would like to continue to serve them. So despite some good business opportunities offers, I chose to settle in Novo mesto.
What were some of the problems you faced when moving here, and how did you deal with them?
Frankly speaking, at first, not many problems because I was hired as an expert, so basically someone took care everything for me – renting an apartment, arranging job, even taking me to the government office and bank with a person who speaks Slovene. But then, slowly, the longer I lived here the more problems I had.
The first challenge I had was getting my driving licence. It took my more than a year, even with the effort of my Slovenian driving instructor, and yet I was not able to satisfy the ever-changing and never-ending request for paperwork from the Upravna Enota. At a certain point I just realised that he was asking for documents that didn’t exist. And every time when I wanted to get some clear answers, instead of giving me one, the guy just tried to think of something to send me away. So I took the advice from the expat group online, tried another Upravna Enota, and guess what? I finally took the practical exam, passed and got my license. I was not so lucky the next time with my visa renewal though, and I really do not want to get into the details.
But you know, similar stuff like that, they never tell you the things once and for all, so the whole procedure is dragging on for so long and at the same time the officers are complaining that they have so many jobs to do. For a person who comes from a city that is world famous for its efficiency, this is unbelievable and almost hilarious. Interestingly enough, sometimes this could happen in private companies as well, but at least I can choose another bank and telecom and live with it.
What are some things you miss from Hong Kong?
As mentioned above, our efficiency, maybe some more pragmatism as well. The government and companies in Hong Kong are (or maybe were) famous for high efficiency and quality. This is very understandable. For a small city with seven million people and as one of the largest financial centres in the world, everything needs to be fast, precise, no-nonsense. And for the previous generation of the Chinese community, they also needed to face rule under the British. They needed to find their space to keep their own Chinese heritage and customs, but at the same time adapt to the British.
The British were also quite clever, especially after the late 60s, when they finally realised that instead of just taking and taking, as they did in other colonies, they also needed to build and develop the city as a modern society. So for my generation who grew up in the 80s and 90s, we kind of have the best of both worlds. I was able to learn from my Chinese heritage for our hardworking and can-do attitude, respect for tradition and authentic Chinese culture while at the same time I am familiar with the practice of the rule of law, have communication with the free world and enjoy our economic success.
And of course, the variety of food from home is also what I miss. It is not just about having Chinese food. It is the variety of fresh vegetables, seafood and all kind of imported food from all over the world. I do enjoy the quality of food in Slovenia, but I do want to have more vegetables than lettuce, spinach, broccoli and stuff like this.
What things do you think Slovenia could learn from Hong Kong?
In some ways, I think Slovenians are too comfortable or even obsessed with being a small country. Look – being geographically small does not mean that you cannot think big. Sometimes you really need to break through the comfort zone and explore. And in this process, there will be pain and difficulty but you need to have a long term plan and bigger picture in mind together with a good faith. However, the Slovenians that I have met are either too passive and pessimistic for advancement, or they react aggressively protective of their own rule, despite the fact that those rules are causing more trouble or are impractical in the real world. So in short, what Slovenia can learn from Hong Kong is more of our can-do attitude, with more flexibility and pragmatism.
What things in Slovenia would you like to show people in Hong Kong?
I do not want to show them anything because I want this country to remain a hidden gem (laughs). Just kidding. Well, to be honest, it is a difficult question to answer. I enjoy the relatively slow and quiet pace of the country but if I tell everybody about this then I am kind of ruining the peace. Slovenia has everything, but just a tiny bit of everything. And for people in Hong Kong, we are so internationalised. We travel a lot. So if they want the European heritage, they go Vienna or Florence; if they want to the city vibe they go to Berlin or London; if they want the nature or beauty, they go to Switzerland or Iceland. In the recent years, more Hong Kong people are interested in visiting the Balkans or somewhere with less people. This is the only time when people from Hong Kong will look for Slovenia, and then have trouble pronouncing Ljubljana.
Do you speak Slovene, and if so, how did you learn?
I took some private classes when I was an employee. But ever since I started my own business, I do not have the time and energy for more lessons. At work, I can understand many familiar phrases or vocabulary items related to my work. I have a translator and interpreter for my business. For my personal life, I mostly speak English. For some occasions I just hire a personal assistant or consultant for complicated or formal things. In general, my Slovene is slabo.
What’s the situation of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in Slovenia?
Just like many other things in this country, Slovenia has everything but on a small scale. The first TCM expert was invited by the former Yugoslavia. Somehow that doctor settled in Slovenia, and since then more experts like me were hired to come here. Still, doctors come and go, while TCM here is kind of controlled by the business owner, so the TCM profession is way less mature than places like Canada, USA, Australia and Switzerland.
At the same time, Slovenia is also in a difficult position with regard to training their own TCM doctors. There are acupuncture services in the hospital and there are medical doctors who perform acupuncture. But if we consider the more internationalised and widely accepted standard of training, the formal training of TCM is basically non-existent in Slovenia. Slovenians can go overseas for formal training, but it requires a huge investment. Therefore, importing TCM experts and training capable interpreters for non-Slovene speaking doctors is a more practical and cost-efficient way of providing authentic and quality TCM services in Slovenia. To a certain degree, we are quietly assisting the overloaded medical system herem while generating profit for the government and creating jobs.
What are some things that people get wrong about acupuncture?
Acupuncture is not just poking needles into the body. There are different types of acupuncture. The one that I am practicing is the classical Chinese approach which is under the Traditional Chinese medicine theory and system. Other Asian medicines like Korean and Japanese ones are similar to the Chinese, but still have their uniqueness. There are some “modern” forms of acupuncture, to be accurate “dry-needling”. They are not performed under the TCM theory, but using scientific and anatomical knowledge like trigger points or the nervous system.
As I have mentioned, acupuncture is not just putting needles into the body. There is a reason behind it. However, after hundreds of years of reductionist science, many people refuse to accept the fact that there is another rational and logical approach to understanding our body. TCM is a holistic philosophy which is a complete and sophisticated system, but at the same time fundamentally different from science. We may be able to get some scientific findings in TCM, but again they are only small pieces under a reductionist system. Anyhow, I don’t want to bore people with too much academic talk, but instead to emphasise the value and importance of an independent and mature TCM theory.
What are some things that acupuncture can help with?
Throughout my years in Slovenia, I have helped many people. Some conditions that I find more responsive to my treatment are digestive system problems like irritable bowels, thyroid problems and psychiatric problems like depression and anxiety. The list is too long, really, to name just a few.
Do you think you’ll stay in Slovenia “forever”?
I do have some plans on the personal, business and professional levels. But who knows what tomorrow might bring. I will try and do my best to provide and serve my clients as well as Slovenian society. May the people here will help me, value me and God bless me.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ms Cheng’s work in Slovenia, then you can visit Aku Energija online or at Ulica talcev 9, 8000 Novo Mesto
STA, 15 March 2019 - Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King, who is in Slovenia on Friday to discuss the security situation in the EU, told participants of a Citizens' Dialogue event in Ljubljana that rightist terrorist attacks such as the one that happened in New Zealand's Christchurch today were also possible in Europe.
He noted though that attacks by extremist Islamists were more frequent in Europe.
King labelled today's attack in New Zealand, in which at least 49 people were killed, horrific, expressing solidarity with the families of those killed or affected by the attack.
Speaking at the event hosted by the Faculty of Social Sciences, he said that the EU had stepped up cooperation among security forces of individual countries in a bid to fight terror.
Terrorists' access to explosives and financing has been restricted and the EU is also fighting against radicalisation, including on-line, he said, adding that a lot more needed to be done.
King pointed to cyber security as one of the main challenges. Next to the fight against on-line radicalisation, it also includes measures against cyber-attacks, hate speech and misinformation, which external actors use to influence political debate or even EU election results.
The safety of electronic devices themselves is also important and here the EU plays an important role with its security certificates, he said.
The debate also touched on the future of the EU defence and the idea of forming a joint EU army. King said EU members already cooperated in defence, including in EU missions in third countries.
He moreover pointed to the joint EU projects aimed at strengthening defence capabilities of individual countries. A joint army would foremost enhance defence capabilities, he believes.
King, who is also in charge of the fight against organised and cyber-crime, and hate speech, is scheduled to meet Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar and officials from the Slovenian intelligence agency SOVA later today.
You can spend years without going into a gallery or concert hall, but everyone has an intimate connection with the arts of architecture and fashion, and downtown Ljubljana is great place to observe these two expressions of creativity combined with design and engineering. While I’ve been struggling to keep up with the city’s stylish inhabitants, my guide to its built environment for the last few years has been a small, easy to carry book called Let’s See the City! Ljubljana: Architectural walks and tours, by the architects Špela Kuhar and Robert Potokar (2012, Piranesi Foundation) At a cost of just €18, it’s well worth a place on your shelf or in your bag if you live in the city, or are planning an extended trip and would like to learn more.
The book is laid out chronologically and as a series of six themed walks and five tours. It uses hundreds of photographs, maps, illustrations and plans to show the buildings, as well as the interiors of many places that are difficult to enter, thus putting the city in the palm of your hands. An attractive and well-designed book, it’s as easy to navigate as Ljubljana itself.
Plečnik is the big name when it comes to the city’s architects, but the book shows how there’s much more than his contributions to admire, leading you through the medieval Old Town and Secessionist/Art Nouveau quarters like Miklošičeva, with their colourful and decorative structures, on to post-WW2 Ljubljana and up to today, with the historical development of the city clearly laid out in ways that bring the streets to life. What’s more, unlike Vienna, London, Paris and so on the various buildings and views are relatively close to each other, and nearly all could be seen – from the outside, at least – in a leisurely walk over the course of day, with plenty of café or bar breaks to read up on and enjoy your surroundings.
Take the time to do so and you’ll learn more about the buildings that give Ljubljana much of its character, and of where, for example, the medieval ends and the Baroque begins, how Mayor Hribar compares to Mayor Janković in terms of putting their mark on the city, and what the rivals and students of Plečnik got up to (and if you don’t know Ravnikar, you should, with a key example of his work shown here).
In short, this book contains a wealth of knowledge that’s sure to enrich your time spent in Ljubljana, and is one of the volumes in my apartment that I return to the most, and with most pleasure. You can find it in various bookstores, or order it direct from the authors here, while all our stories about architecture in Slovenia can be found here.
STA, 14 March 2019 - Slovenia will deport three Bosnian citizens after they were found to be a threat to national security and public safety due to alleged links to Islamic radicals in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Interior Ministry confirmed for the STA. Commercial broadcaster POP TV reported that the three men were linked to radical jihad recruiter Bilal Bosnić.
POP TV acquired confidential records put together by the police and intelligence agency SOVA according to which the men actively supported religious extremism and terrorism and were willing to use violence to achieve political, religious and ideological goals.
The records also say the three men, who all work as lorry drivers, were in contact with foreigners who have been found guilty of crimes related to terrorism and foreigners who left for Syria and Iraq to join terrorist groups, POP TV reported.
The broadcaster says that two of the men visited Bosnić, who is serving a seven-year prison sentenced for recruiting IS fighters in Bosnia and Slovenia. Bosnić is believed to have been the head of Islamic radicals in Bosnia.
The ministry said that the Ljubljana Administrative Unit revoked the residence permit of the three men at the proposal of the police. POP TV has identified the men as the brothers Selvir (37) and Nelvir (40) Duraković, and Selim Ljubljankić (39).
POP TV says this measure was taken in December and that the men appealed it, saying that visiting "a neighbour" in prison was not a criminal act and neither was helping the person's children.
Their appeal was rejected by the Interior Ministry in late February, said POP TV, adding no recourse is possible.
The men were not given a deadline to leave the country, which means that they will be deported by the authorities. They also face a five-year ban on entering Slovenia.
POP TV tried to contact the men, only to find out that the Duraković brothers were en route abroad. The news crew talked to their boss Jernej Jerman, who knew nothing about the brothers facing deportation and was adamant that "no such thing is happening at our company".
STA, 14 March 2019 - Ireland was promised Slovenia's continued support with regard to Brexit as Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture Andrew Doyle held talks at the foreign and agriculture ministries on Thursday.
Busy morning in Ljubljana, meeting with my European counterparts and representatives from Slovenia. Brexit was top of the agenda, and the support from our colleagues across the EU remains strong @IrlEmbLjubljana pic.twitter.com/LWRlo1xiCQ— Andrew Doyle TD (@ADoyleTD) March 14, 2019
Meeting Foreign Ministry State Secretary Dobran Božič, Doyle was told bilateral cooperation was based on a shared understanding of values, principles and the rule of law.
"Božič provided assurances about Slovenia's solidarity with Ireland in the framework of the UK's exit from the EU," the Foreign Ministry said in a press release.
The officials also discussed the situation in the Western Balkans, the forthcoming Three Seas Initiative summit in Slovenia and Ireland's participation in the Bled Strategic Forum.
In talks with Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec, Doyle was quoted as saying that Ireland appreciated Slovenia's support in Brexit talks, in particular on the Irish border backstop.
Aside from the consequences of Brexit, the discussion also touched on the Common Agriculture Policy post-2020 and rural development, the Agriculture Ministry said.
All our stories on Slovenia and Brexit are here
Below is a review of the headlines in Slovenian dailies for Friday, 15 March 2019, as summarised by the STA:
"Whole decade for two hundred metres": Serbian businessman Miodrag Kostić, who owns a majority share in Aerodrom Portorož, is ready to start investing in the airport's development immediately, CEO Robert Krajnc says. (front page, 4)
"How to fill pension fund": The problems of the pension system cannot be fixed merely with patching up the pension legislation. Pensions are a comprehensive problem of the society and should be addressed as such, the paper says in an analysis of the pension insurer's problems. (front page, 3)
"Was America caught in Chinese trap?": Just as American trade negotiators are demanding that China reform state-owned companies, the crisis that hit Boeing might force the US to do the same. (front page, 6)
"Britain will not leave EU yet": A new day has brought a new, so far the most chaotic episode of the Brexit crisis and political drama, the paper says in a reference to the latest Brexit vote in the British Parliament. (front page, 6 commentary 18)
"Dentist accused of attacking a patient": After a GP was found guilty of abuse of power and violation of sexual integrity of a minor earlier this week, the paper talked to a victim of a sexual assault by a dentist that happened in Maribor in 2006. (front page, 12)
"17 thousand euro gross": This is how much the doctor with the record high pay earned last December, the paper says, presenting an overview of monthly pay of doctors around the country. (front page, 2-3)
"What burns shares on the Ljubljana stock exchange?": Finance looks at last year's business results of blue chips, their plans for this year and the movement of their shares. (front page, 4-5)
"Why hard Brexit is not completely out of the picture yet": A hard Brexit is still a possibility despite yesterday's vote in the British Parliament, because the MPs have said on many occasions what kind of Brexit they do not want but never which option they support. (front page, 8)
"Give us our future back": Young people in eight Slovenian cities will join the Global Climate Strike For Future uniting 1,769 cities in 112 countries, to call for green national budget and for closure of the Šoštanj coal-fired plant and Velenje coal mine by 2030. (front page, 2-5)
"Pulling her tooth, he harassed the patient": A dentist, charged with sexual abuse, was supposed to attend a pre-trial hearing at the Maribor District Court today, but the hearing was cancelled yesterday. (front page, 21)
STA, 14 March 2019 - Translators, interpreters and copy editors have produced a white paper on translation to urge more regulation to raise standards governing language-related professions.
The document is a basis for dialogue with Slovenian decision-makers, Barbara Pregelj, one of the 41 women authors behind the project, told the STA on Thursday.
It analyses the situation in these language-related professions, outlines systemic and specific challenges, and brings cases of best practice.
As well as this, it puts these professions into an European framework, explained Pregelj, a member of the project's steering committee.
Since these professions are not regulated, those practising them are often self-employed, which puts them in a weak negotiating position.
Non regulation leads to problems such as precariousness and poor working conditions, affecting the profession's reputation and resulting in poor-quality services.
The document thus calls for regulating the profession of freelance translator and copy editor by setting down the lowest level of education and basic qualifications.
It calls for legislation to determine prices, for overhauling public procurement rules so as not to favour the lowest price and for introducing a sample contract.
A national registry of professional translators, interpreters and copy editors should also be set up, and more oversight introduced of non-professional interpreters, translators and copy editors.
Pregelj pointed to the importance of translation and interpreting for a two-million nation which speaks Slovenian, a language which has globally only few speakers.
"Translation has constituted Slovenian literature and culture and together with interpreting, it articulates it abroad as well as at home."
This makes the White Paper more than just an expression of a demand for giving translation, interpreting and copy editing more credit in Slovenian society, she believes.
While the focus is on translators and interpreters, the White Paper is conceived broader to include copy editors and language advisers, as these fields are interwoven.
The document has been compiled over the past year in collaboration with associations of translators and interpreters plus all Slovenian universities.
It will be presented to the public on 23 April, World Book and Copyright Day.
March 14, 2019
By tradition the Ski Jumping World Cup begins in Kuusam, Finland in November, and concludes in March with the finals on the Gorišek Brothers Flying Hill in Planica, Slovenia.
Planica was also the site of the first ever flying World Cup competition in 1972, and you can check below how things worked back then:
Did we just see an athlete on a cigarette break at 4:06?
Apparently, things seem to be changing all the time in Planica as well, and this is not only the case for the competitors but spectators too. You might have already figured out that climbing around the hill and the surrounding trees and getting drunk on the way is not allowed anymore. Besides, there are other things the organisers would like this year’s visitors to Planica to pay attention to.
In line with the Planica sustainability policy, the organisers will be giving right of way to organised and public transportation.
Since 2013 it has been possible to travel to the venue for a relatively low price using a combination of train and bus. On Saturday and Sunday there will be special trains taking Planica spectators and regular passengers from Ljubljana to Jesenice, where they will take free bus rides straight to the hill and back to Jesenice after the event. Train tickets will be sold at 50% less to those in possession of event tickets (25% price for children between the ages of 6 and 12, free of charge for kids younger than this).
Like in previous years, people who nevertheless decide to drive to the event in their own car are encouraged to park in Kranjska Gora, where free shuttle buses will operate on a circular route to Planica.
Sixty thousand people are expected to attend the four days of ski flying in Planica this year, and all will enter the spectators’ area at several checkpoints. To avoid overcrowding and bottlenecks, security staff will exercise ticket and security controls separately: visitors will have to show their tickets first, and will be examined for any disallowed items such as pyrotechnics and alcohol later.
Visitors are also asked to pay attention to six information points with markings high enough to be seen from a relative distance – you go here in case you get lost or lose somebody, need to get help, etc.
You might want to inspect the layout of the site before purchasing tickets, with a mind to where the sun will be, and whether you want to stand or sit.
STA, 13 March 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said on Wednesday that he personally believes Britain's exit from the EU would probably be best postponed a little as things currently stand. He feels Slovenia would be ready to back a postponement provided that other member states did the same.
Speaking to the press during a two-day visit to Egypt, Cerar said a postponement "would probably make the most sense right now, but not for too long, since the matter is becoming unbearable".
Responding to Tuesday's rejection of the exit agreement by the British parliament, Cerar said an extension would still be better than a no-deal situation.
He repeated that an extension would need to be reasonably short, since all the cards have been on the table for some time.
"It is truly only about the UK government having to find some kind of path as soon as possible; things have been finalised enough on the EU27 side," Cerar said.
While stressing this was his personal opinion on a situation that still needed to be coordinated at government level, the minister said Slovenia would also be ready to back a reasonable extension should other member states do the same.
In any case, it will be first necessary to wait for a final decision by the British parliament, which will be deciding on a possible no-deal Brexit today, Cerar pointed out.
If this option gets rejected, a vote on an exit deadline extension will follow on Thursday.
All our stories on Slovenia and Brexit are here
Ex-Yu Aviation, the best site we know for flight information in the area, reports that British Airways is set to increase its capacity this summer on flights between London and Ljubljana. By switching from an Airbus A319 to A321, the carrier will be able to carry 76 more passengers, up to 220, on a service that’s scheduled to run from 15 July to 2 September (2019).
There are two services a week on the timetable, operating on Monday and Friday. The flights leave London Heathrow at 17:20 and arrive at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport at 20:35. In the other direction, passengers can expect to take off from Slovenia at 21:20, and touchdown in the UK at 22:35.
All our stories on air travel and Slovenia can be found here
STA, 13 March 2019 - The story of a young woman who cut off her hand with a circular saw to get insurance money has shocked Slovenia, as reported here, and shed a different light on a shooting that happened four years ago. Police now suspect that the 29-year-old who allegedly persuaded the woman to cut off her hand did not shoot his girlfriend by accident four years ago.
After it transpired that the 21-year-old and her boyfriend had intended to trick several insurance companies into paying for the injury the woman inflicted on herself, the 29-year-old has found himself in the spotlight.
The media have reported that the young woman had been allegedly persuaded into the bloody act by her boyfriend and his parents. Reportedly, she has been living with them since she was 18.
Police also said that the 29-year-old man already had a criminal record and that he had been involved in what was considered an accidental shooting four years ago in which his girlfriend at the time was killed.
According to the Celje police department, the investigation of the shooting in which the 24-year-old girl from Žalec died had never been closed.
Her boyfriend had initially been investigated for negligence, as the death was considered an accident, but now new circumstances emerged, suggesting her death might have been premeditated, police say.
The 29-year-old, who was 25 at the time of the shooting, was never charged with the death that he allegedly caused while cleaning his gun.
Now he is in custody together with the 21-year-old suspect of the insurance fraud. The pair, who have been in custody since 7 March, face a prison sentence of one to eight years for fraud.
If the police had not interfered, the 21-year-old would have received EUR 383,400 in damages for the arm injury and potentially several thousand euros per month in annuities until her death.
Investigators assume that the suspects were hoping for her to be declared 100% disabled to collect significantly more insurance money, but doctors managed to sew the hand back on after police brought it to the hospital.
For losing her hand, the woman would get EUR 1.2m in damages and several hundred thousand more over her lifetime in annuities.