Get Etiquette Tips from Going Dutch in Beijing

It’s always good to know something about the etiquette and customs of the country you’re going to travel to – and Mark McCrum’s newest book Going Dutch in Beijing: How to Behave Properly When Far Away From Home is an entertaining way to get informed.

Going Dutch in Beijing is divided into seventeen chapters which group tidbits of etiquette under clever headings according to different situations. That means there are chapters on eating, giving gifts, business trips, romance and to finish up, how to say goodbye. Each chapter features a number of short paragraphs about various cultures.

You can learn a lot from this book, including the fact that you shouldn’t cut bread with a knife in Italy or Estonia, and that you’ll get seven years of bad sex if you don’t look your drinking partner in the eye in Germany when you’re clinking glasses. In China, apparently, you absolutely must wear socks with your sandals (no bare feet are allowed) and if you see a single woman in Kyrgyzstan, she’ll never sit in a corner, because that would mean she’ll never marry.

But what’s missing in this book is a more coherent narrative or some amusing anecdotes to give living examples of culturally tricky (and sometimes embarrassing) situations. As it is, Going Dutch in Beijing is a nice book to dip into for a factoid or two, and its written humorously, but it doesn’t quite compel you to keep reading.