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Friday 29 January 2010


Every now and then I get comments on Going Dutch from round the world (it's now been translated into 8 languages), either agreeing with me or putting me right. This one comes from an Italian called Marco, and I thought I'd share it. Coming from an Italian man, it may be the last word on Italian men:

I read your book while backpacking in Patagonia for a little more than 2 weeks. I spent most of my life travelling the world and so I found myself agreeing with you in almost everything, in particular when you talk about Japan and Japanese. I lived there for 4 years and for work I'm going back very often, almost too often sometimes.There is only a couple of things I quite disagree and I'd like to share them with you. I don't remember at what point of the book you mention something about Italians being just MAMA-BOY and to be helpless Playboy. First of all, even if was true that men stay with their family till their early thirties I don't really see what is wrong with that? Everybody is travelling the world to discover the different way people live their life but as soon as the italians don't show enough machisimo or we, I'm 100% italian too, we don't fit in the western's idea of when men have to live their family's homes...and so people call us MAMA-BOY. Plus if a man in a family is a MAMA-BOY trust me that the responsibility is more on the MAMA then the boy. I really don't know many of those MAMA-BOY in Italy but I swear I know lots of them in USA where it seems that the majority of the white-trash men are REALLY MAMA-BOY. Anyway, what I really want you to know that maybe Italians are playboy, maybe it's true that we flirt a lot...but you know what Mark? It works. It really does and women love it. In 10 days in Chile I slept with 4 girls. I didn't pay them, if that what you think and they are all attractive western woman. I'm proud of it? Not particularly, I'm sure that the same girls may have fallen for somebody else but they did for me because FIRST I tried, SECOND... I gave them attentions they won't get anywhere else. "Italians do it better" because we care more about a woman's pleasure than our own. That's the reason why women love Italian men.They love other men too but no one has our reputation and other men from other nationalities are always trying to make fun of us or actually embarrass us but they often do it because they know the difference. Mark trust me I'm not trying to convince no one that italian men are better, not at all, I wouldn't wish my sister to date an italian trust me, but is true that what we often do to seduce a woman is the what many women want.That's all, so maybe you can add a few lines in the new edition of your book. Or not!

Thursday 15 January 2009

australians are the most offensive ...

... in the workplace, a new international survey has found. Yet the most easily upset by offensive behaviour in the world - apparently - were English and Americans. Top 'offensive behaviours' were found to be: 1) not saying hello or good morning; 2) not offering guests a beverage; 3) speaking loudly across the room; 4) using swear words and 5) taking calls on mobile phones.

Can we really believe that? I don't know about Americans but I would have thought most English offices were pretty laid back - certainly able to deal with the odd foul-mouthed Aussie or two. In any case, these days we hardly have a culture that worries unduly about such things, see such fine examples of workplace good manners as chef Gordon Ramsay and tycoon Sir Alan Sugar.

The survey was by Servcorp, by the way - an Australian-based company!

Thursday 1 January 2009

the etiquette of overcharging in India

Last summer, taxi drivers in Beijing were one of several groups given etiquette training ahead of the international influx of the Olympics. (Among other tips, they were advised not to eat garlic.) Now autorickshaw drivers in Delhi are being given similar lessons in preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. As reported on ExpressIndia.com they are being encouraged to learn English, not smoke bidis (small hand-rolled cigarettes), and not overcharge foreigners. I particular like the frankness of driver Pankaj Singh, who says, 'While it's completely fair to behave well and not overcharge how much money do we make if we are fair? It's only with foreigners that we make some extra money by overcharging. At least we're not being unfair with our own people.' An attitude held by how many other taxi drivers the world over?


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 ...