The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

August 24, 2007

Book review: Series offers guide to international travel

‘Culture Smart’

We have recently added about 40 titles from the “Culture Smart” series. These are small guides to customs and etiquette in countries around the world designed to help travelers, whether for business or pleasure, to get the most out of their trip.

Unlike most travel books, these are not sightseeing guides and give only a few pages of information on places to go and things to see. The books are generally organized into chapters on “Land and People” (geography, history, language, politics, etc.), “Values and Attitudes” (gender roles, attitudes toward foreigners, social mores, religious tolerance, etc.), “Customs and Traditions,” “At Home” (lifestyles, education, acceptable conduct), “Socializing” (dining out, entertaining), “Time Out” (the sightseeing bits), “Food and Drink,” “Business Briefing” (negotiating, business customs), and “Communicating.”

The books are packed with interesting information and tidbits. For example, it is customary in many Swedish homes to remove your shoes when you enter, so make sure you don’t have holes in your socks if you visit there. Poles tend to say “yes” to avoid confrontation, so maybe the answer is really “no.” Also in Poland, even numbers of flowers are reserved for funerals, so if you take a hostess a gift, make sure it’s an odd number (and not chrysanthemums, which are also funeral flowers!)

Jaywalking is much frowned upon in Germany, and don’t casually use “We should do lunch” or similar phrases. Germans take such words seriously, and will be quite offended if you don’t follow up. There’s a handy guide to the various types of beers widely drunk in Germany, too. In China, leave the room to blow your nose, and bare feet are frowned upon. If you wear sandals in China, wear socks with them to avoid offending people. Avoid stretching or yawning in public in Brazil, and definitely don’t make the “OK” sign with the thumb and forefinger making a circle. That’s an obscene gesture there. If you’re planning a trip, or are just curious about the manners and mores in different countries, I recommend these books to you.

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