Choosing the Right Seattle Hotels for You

Seattle hotels offer a good range of choices and styles. Choose luxury hotels like the Fairmont Olympic which has long been the Grand Dame of Seattle hotels, or a boutique or “theme” hotel like Hotel Andra which incorporates lots of wood, water, and stone with Scandinavian influences. There are hotels near the sports stadiums, waterfront hotels, and even pet-friendly hotels downtown that are first-rate.

If you stay in downtown Seattle, which you’ll find has one of the most livable downtowns in the U.S., you’ll be in the Ride Free Area of the Seattle Metro Transit bus system. So if you’d rather ride than walk, just hop on the bus. You can also ride the Monorial at Westlake Center to get to Seattle Center and the Space Needle for a reasonable fare.

You’ll appreciate the closeness of the downtown Seattle hotels to the waterfront, great restaurants, downtown shopping, and major attractions like Pike Place Market, home of the home of the famous “flying fish” vendor you may have seen on the Today Show.

Downtown Hotels

The downtown Seattle hotels are those that fall within the city’s core. The area is bounded by E. Yesler Way on the south, Denny Way on the north, I-5 on the east and Elliot Bay on the west. Hotels within the downtown area are easily within walking distance of all downtown attractions and restaurants. All are within the Ride Free Area with the exception of the Edgewater and the Pan Pacific, which are just two blocks away.

Boutique Hotels

If you’re interested in boutique hotels, Seattle has several to choose from. From historic to ultra modern, trendy to themed, these hotels make your stay unique and fun. You’ll find several boutique hotels in Seattle, downtown and close to all the major attractions. What makes a hotel a boutique hotel? First of all, most are not part of a major corporate hotel chain. They are more intimate and individualistic, each with a unique character and atmosphere. Investigate the funky and modern Hotel Max, billed by one review site as one of the “Top Sexiest Hotels in the U.S.”

Hotels near Pike Place Market

Most of the hotels in downtown Seattle are within walking distance of Pike Place Market. But if you want to be right next door, check out the Inn at the Market, the Four Seasons, and the Moore Hotel.

Hotels near the Mariners, Sounders and Seahawks Games

There are three hotels near Safeco Field and Qwest Field. All of the hotels in downtown Seattle are easily accessible from both stadiums via bus line. But if you want to stay really close to the game, two good choices are the Courtyard by Marriott and the Silver Cloud Hotel – Stadium.

Seattle Airport Hotels

You’ll have plenty of choices if you’re looking for hotels near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, or Seatac, which is located 15 miles south of downtown. A bonus is these will be less expensive than downtown, and the location is smart if you are flying to Seattle on business or have an early morning flight to catch. A few to consider are the Radisson, Doubletree, and Red Lion, all located along International Blvd.Most have complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport, and the new light rail train provides transportation to and from downtown. The light rail system runs from the airport to Westlake Center on Fifth and Pine.

Seattle Luxury Hotels

If you’re celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary, or you just like being pampered, four and five star Seattle luxury hotels will make your stay memorable. Choose from classic elegance to historic charm to sleek modern. One you should definitely consider is the “W” Seattle, which is two blocks from Benaroya Hall and the Seattle Art Museum. Another interesting place to stay for art lovers is the Alexis Hotel, which has original Northwest art displayed throughout the rooms, hallways, and lobby.

Health Food Stores Battle Food Allergies

At health food stores, customers are complaining about food allergies more often now with statements like, “I can’t eat this”, or “I can’t eat that.” Why do so many people, especially those who frequent health food stores, believe they have food allergies? It’s funny, I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m allergic to coffee, cookies, cakes, popcorn, pizza or candy”, and yet these are things that people ingest regularly without a second thought. So, what’s up with all these health food store shoppers who have food allergies?

Food allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a protein molecule in the offending food. This can happen even with those who stick to food from health food stores. The body is unable to break down that particular protein molecule, so it reacts by trying to “get rid of it”. It produces a chemical called ‘histamine’ and symptoms appear in the form of rashes, hives, itching, wheezing, breathing problems, and lots of mucus being expelled through the mouth, nose, ears, lungs, or sexual organs. More serious reactions from food allergies are: vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness, drop in blood pressure, or even death.

Intolerance to certain foods is different than true food allergies, and this is a more common complaint at health food stores. With food intolerances like lactose intolerance, where a person has difficulty breaking down the sugar in the milk, the symptoms are much milder. One may have some bloating, excess gas, cramping or diarrhea. While food intolerance is unpleasant, it is not life threatening like food allergies can be in some severe cases. The usual distresses are intolerances to wheat, soy, dairy and anything at health food stores that the shopper feels is too expensive.

The question that customers at health food stores ought to ask is not, “What food am I allergic to?” But rather, “Why is my immune system reacting to what should be health food?”

When determining specific food allergies and intolerances, some factors to consider are:
1. What is the trigger food?
2. When am I eating the trigger food?
3. Am I improperly combining fruits and vegetables or grains or meat and dairy?

The list can be quite exhaustive to hunt down the offending trigger food and how it is being consumed. In fact, most food allergy experts will tell you to keep a diary of everything you eat, and when you find the trigger food to just avoid eating it. Well, that sounds simple, but if you react to many things, including those that should be health food, it’s not so simple? Of course, you can eliminate the most common triggers to food allergies like: corn, wheat, eggs, dairy, and peanuts, but if that doesn’t work, then what? The truth is, your immune system can overreact to many substances. The best way to address food allergies is to strengthen your immune system and get in balance with all the systems of the body. Shop health food stores for specific foods to feed your 5 main systems equally: immune, endocrine, digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems. This may be difficult at typical health food stores, but searching online will produce results.

When you feed all your body parts with healthy, whole food nutrients, and eliminate the fake, processed foods in your life, your 5 systems can come into a perfectly natural balance. Then you can eat what you know you should be eating. It is better to strengthen the body’s systems with properly combined health food and ward off illness and disease the natural way. When you consume the right nutrients, the body operates at optimum levels for a more relaxed, healthy life. You have access to so much good nutrition at health food stores and plenty of options for avoiding food allergies or intolerances that it’s a shame to limit your choices unnecessarily.

Destination Weddings – Pros and Cons

So is a destination wedding right for you? Destination weddings over the past few years have spiraled into being one of the most popular marriage trends

Destination weddings allows the couple being married to combine the best of a honeymoon with a more traditional ceremony in a destination such as the Caribbean, Mexico, Bermuda, Hawaii, Alaska, or some other venue, and sometimes save money in the process. Traditionally with this type of wedding the bride and groom pay for the hotel, food, and most of the guests’ expenses. Guests on the other hand pay for their own airfare. This alone can set a couple back if the guest list is huge. However, if the bride and groom keep the wedding list to a minimum then the savings can be huge.

Also, you don’t have to feel committed to invite that uncle to your wedding if you haven’t spoken or even seen each other in years. If you have a friend that likes to stir up trouble and you do not want that person attending your wedding. Then you don’t have to invite them because of it being a smaller and more intimate event. However, if you have someone who insists on being at the destination wedding you can have this person book directly through the travel agent and explain that you will not be paying their portion of the travel, hotel, food, and other costs, but would be happy to have them added to the event and have the travel agent collect the costs from the add on guest directly.

Some destination weddings just involve the eloping couple and are very small and intimate event, but still are able to offer traditional wedding arrangements such as wedding cake, florists arrangements, photography services, for a flat fee or an additional add on to an already booked honeymoon or romantic getaway vacation.

Destination Weddings also include your honeymoon travel. You can plan on staying longer then your invited guests so that you can have that intimate and romantic alone time after your guests leave or you can arrive earlier to take care of any last minute planning of your destination wedding such as marriage licenses, or specific details you want included in your wedding.

A con to having a destination wedding can also include gripes from the guests, especially guest who are seniors and don’t particularly care to travel. They may bulk at the idea and try to persuade you to have your wedding in a more traditional venue.

Understanding Cultural Differences in Offshore Outsourcing

In a recent Accenture study, cultural issues were listed as one of the main reasons for problems in offshore outsourcing deals and over half of National Outsourcing Association (NOA) members surveyed recently also said cultural differences are still an issue in offshore outsourcing deals.

Two factors that are rarely present in any domestic projects, but cannot be avoided when going offshore, are geographical distance and cultural differences.

Geographical distance might be a factor in terms of unfavorable time zone differences but today most of the offshore service providers ensure that their business hours are adjusted to ensure that you have several hours of overlap per day in common.

However the impact of cultural difference is something that should not be ignored when going offshore. Depending on the location you are offshore outsourcing to, cultural differences can vary from minor if you near shore, for instance in Ireland or Eastern Europe to a real cultural clash if you offshore to low cost countries in Asia such as India or China.

So far India has been the most favored offshore outsourcing destination and continues to be a dominant player in this field. The Indian service providers have matured over the years in providing offshore outsourcing services and are able to manage cultural differences when working with clients across different geographies. However, one area that has so far not received significant focus is educating their clients on these cultural differences. Unless the clients understand these cultural differences, it is hard for them to understand and appreciate them. For example, if you are in a meeting with an Indian service provider, you will observe that the most senior person in the team from the service provider will lead the discussions and his sub-ordinates would only speak when his / her boss asks them to do so. In UK business culture sub-ordinates can interrupt a conversation at anytime if they have a valuable contribution, but if this etiquette was followed in India it would be considered disrespectful.

Another typical observation with Indians is that they are never comfortable saying “No”, especially if you are a client. For example, if you go to a store to buy a shirt and realize that the shop is about to close, you can still walk in (even after the till is closed) and the store will ensure that your needs are being served, even it means that they have to keep the store open for another 30 minutes. In IT project scenarios, project members will not mind compromising their family commitments just because they cannot or do not want to say “No” to their clients.

Most Indians are not comfortable giving bad news. They believe that they should give people good news and when it comes to giving the bad news, they are either very quiet or find alternative ways to communicate the bad news. This is an important aspect to understand as many clients get “surprises” about their project related issues at a very later stage and keep wondering why the issue wasn’t highlighted during the weekly review meeting.

So the key in offshore outsourcing is not just finding the right projects and the right people to deliver them, but building capability within your team to work with in a culturally diverse environment. Though this may sound very difficult, the solution is simple. Most client organization can successfully “bridge” the cultural gaps by implementing the following tips.

  1. Training – Most of the offshore service providers have special “western cultural orientation” programmes for their team members working on offshore projects. These training programmes help them to understand the culture of a specific country including business culture. On similar lines it is important for client organizations to build a training programme for their own staff to educate them on the culture of the offshore destination. This can be achieved by
    • Identifying an internal team member who has experience with both the cultures. For example an organisation may have a person of Indian origin who has spent considerable time in India and then moved to your country. Usually a person who has worked in India for a couple of years and then relocated to your country (and spent about 5 to 6 years there) would be the most ideal candidate. This person would be able to educate your team on the cultural differences and can act as a lead trainer.
    • Seek the services of an offshore advisory specialist. Offshore advisors have vast experience in working with different cultures and have a culturally diverse team who can impart the relevant training to your team members. Most of these offshore advisors understand the cultural differences at different stages of outsourcing and hence are an ideal choice for such training programs
    • Request that your service providers carry out training programs specifically tailored for your teams. This could also prove useful to a certain extent and has its own limitations based on the vendor’s experience of doing business in that particular geography. Also ideally the cultural training should be carried out prior to engaging with a vendor so that from day one of the interactions, your team is able to leverage their knowledge regarding the business culture of the vendor organization.
    • Since the business culture of each company is different, it is important for you to educate the service providers about your company’s culture – the attitudes, thought patterns and behavior norms. Many companies ignore this aspect, but this is an opportunity to improve the productivity and experience of their onshore-offshore teams.
  2. Visiting the Offshore location – This is very helpful and provides your team members an opportunity to experience what the offshore location is like and how people communicate, behave, work, socialize, etc. However, it is not possible for an organisation to send all their team members to the offshore location as it would be an expensive proposition. But sending different people (wherever possible) each time there is a requirement for someone to travel would prove useful. Also ensure that people who have visited the offshore location share their experiences with their colleagues and are made a part of the training programme to make most use of their experience.
  3. Organizing Cultural Events – As mentioned above, most of the offshore service providers have training programs for their staff. Also, most of the offshore service providers today celebrate events such as Valentine’s Day, Independence Day (US), Halloween Day, Christmas, etc to educate their teams. On similar lines, clients can organize events (with the help of the offshore advisors, vendors) that are important in the offshore location. This will give the client team a learning opportunity.
  4. Movies as a training guide – English movies are seen across the globe and as result, many people worldwide educate themselves, besides entertainment, from these movies. Companies can also adopt a similar learning approach by encouraging their people, who are involved with the offshore projects, to watch local movies / documentaries (with English Subtitles) from the offshore locations.

The tips mentioned above is not an exhaustive “To do” list to bridge the cultural gaps, however it is a guide to help your team members understand and enable them to appreciate the cultural differences that they would come across while working on a day to day basis with the offshore teams.

To summarize, offshore projects have special aspects that managers must be familiar with, such as cultural diversity. The long-held belief that technical qualifications are sufficient to ensure project success has proved to be wrong from everyday on-the-ground experience of global multicultural teams in the offshore outsourcing environment. To ensure the success of the offshore project a multi-skilled, collaborative approach to bridge the cultural gaps is very useful. By learning from others experience, bridging the cultural gap at an early stage can help you avoid the cost in terms of cross-cultural communication blunders, project delays, team conflicts and overall productivity.