Smooth Operator

  1. You are, no doubt, a smooth operator in all climes. See if you can match the tasteless question with the country where it would be offensive.
    A. Where do you live? 1. Qatar
    B. How's your wife? 2. France
    C. What did that cost? 3. England
  2. In Belgium, which has the most complex legislation regarding language in Europe, your Flemish, French, and German skills may be exercised. True or false: Flemish is a variety of Dutch.
  3. You are hosting a meeting in Wisconsin for Chinese executives. Which is not a blunder?
    A. Holding the meeting in room 444
    B. Passing out green caps (perhaps from the Green Bay Packers!)
    C. Staying out late entertaining your guests
    D. Serving Wisconsin cheese at every meal
  4. True or false: Chileans think diamond-studded gold jewelry on men is uncouth.
  5. True or false: It is a social gaffe to arrive on time for a dinner party in Mexico City.
  6. Citizens of which country revel in "cutting down the tall poppy"(their phrase for deflating pompous people)?
    A. Uruguay
    B. Jamaica
    C. Australia
  7. Suffering from a miserable cold, you travel to Japan. True or false: It is appropriate to use a handkerchief as discreetly as possible during your meetings.
  8. Which of the following behaviors are not mal éléve (ill-mannered) in France?
    A. Going to the bathroom during a meeting
    B. Asking whom one voted for in the last election
    C. Feeding your dog from the chair next to you in a restaurant
  9. Translation blunders often occur even among English speakers. True or false: The 1993 Warner Brothers' film Free Willy left many Londoners helpless with laughter.
  10. Your elegant business card, which contains a great deal of red, draws peculiar looks from some international clients. This is because:
    A. Some belief systems (like Buddhists) traditionally write the names of those who are condemned to death, or are dead, in red.
    B. Some Mexicans find a name in red offensive.
    C. Red is the color of mourning in parts of Africa.
    D. All of the above.


  1. A, 3; B, 1; C, 2 One's home is a personal affair for the English. In Islamic countries, wives are not an appropriate topic for conversation. Discussions of money - but not sex! - can make the French uncomfortable.
  2. True.
  3. C. The number 4 is inauspicious in Chinese (it sounds like death); a green hat means you are a cuckold; cheese was not a traditional food in China, and some Chinese are lactose-intolerant.
  4. True. Chileans interpret a man's ostentatious display of jewelry as proof that he is in business to amass personal wealth, and has the poor taste to show it.
  5. True. Guests commonly arrive an hour late for dinner.
  6. C. Australians value modesty, and may sit in the front seat in taxis to avoid appearing pompous.
  7. False. The Japanese find the custom of preserving mucous in a carefully folded handkerchief to be grotesque. Use disposable tissues.
  8. C. Traditionally, dogs have been welcome in many French establishments.
  9. True. In England, the word willy is slang for penis.
  10. D.

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