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Monday, 29 December 2008

George Bush and the size 10 shoes

'This is the farewell kiss, you dog,' shouted TV reporter Muntadhar al-Zaidi as he hurled two shoes at Bush during a farewell press conference in Baghdad. Some reports suggested they missed their target, but as you can see in the attached clip, Bush proved adept in his dodging, as the first shoe at least was pretty much on target. Subsequently, al-Zaidi has become a hero in his own country, even as he was allegedly beaten by security guards. The Iraqi parliament was then thrown into turmoil in a debate on his continued detention. Round the world, meanwhile, people have been fascinated by the power of this deeply considered breach of etiquette. Here is a link to a clip from the Brazilian Sunday night magazine programme 'Fantastico', in which I make a short appearance ...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

going dutch in budapest

I was at the ITIC conference in Budapest last week to give a talk on 'global etiquette' based on Going Dutch. The feedback afterwards from the variety of international delegates was extremely interesting. One told of a presentation at a conference in China not being as effective as it might have been because they used their normal blue balloons to decorate their stand. After a local pointed out that blue is the colour of mourning, the balloons were changed to red, the colour of good fortune.
Another delegate, an Australian doctor, told me that she'd been working in Jordan and found that as a woman some of the local doctors didn't want to return her proferred handshake. Puzzled and a bit offended by this, she mentioned this to some American colleagues in the evening, who were instantly up in arms: 'Which doctor? We need to have a word with him?' Truly a double-whammy of intercultural confusion!

Friday, 11 July 2008

bmi intercultural guides

I've been working with the airline bmi to produce a series of cultural guides to a range of new destinations they're flying to, from Almaty, Kazakhstan through Tbilisi, Georgia to Khartoum, Sudan. The idea being that business travellers can get up to speed on local customs and manners before they arrive. It's been interesting expanding my knowledge of global etiquette, and also fun being able to concentrate on individual places. Have a look at http://www.flybmi.com/businessguides Who knows where this kind of initiative may lead?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

use your thumb

Eating with your hands is one of the subjects I cover in the book. What would be frowned on in Finland is de rigueur in India. I recently found this take on the subject ...


the international office kitchen

Here's an intriguing piece, on the vexed subject of sharing an office kitchen. This comes from the US, but I wonder to what extent these frustrations apply in all cultures?


Thursday, 5 June 2008

indian manners

I was on a panel last night talking about travel writing. Afterwards a woman who had spent a lot of time in Goa came up to add her thoughts on Going Dutch. In her experience, she said, people generally don't go in for saying 'please' or 'thank you' in India. 'Sorry' would hardly ever be heard. And if you give someone a present, the custom is not to thank the giver, but to put it immediately away.
All this ties in interestingly with what I said in the book about 'please' and 'thank you' not being at so much of a premium in much of Africa as they are here in the UK (The Magic Words, p.50); also about presents not being opened in front of the giver in the Far East, particularly Japan, where there is always a danger of the receiver 'losing face' through disappointment (You Really Shouldn't Have, p.65).
Does anyone out there have similar experiences with 'please', 'thank you' and 'sorry', not to mention differences in ways of receiving gifts around the world...