Mingling in the international community

A friend of mine wrote this:

In international environments, such as Geneva, you will encounter people from many different cultures and backgrounds. Without proper precautions, encounters with people so different from yourself might quickly go awry. Having observed interactions between many people for a while, I was able to compile the following list of tips to ensure smooth sailing in a sea of sensitivities. Note that this list only contains only genuine items – techniques tried in practice. All of them have been observed, not made up, it all really happened, and I was lucky enough to be present to bring you these gems of diplomacy.

Tips for people from …

Check your passport to see if any of these tips apply to you.


  • Cook and eat like in you’re in China, preferably while other people are trying to eat.
  • Explain that Falung Gong members are involved in politics and not just religion. Proceed to say that therefore it’s logical that they’re being persecuted.


  • Ask someone for his or her nationality. Remind them how many days it took the Nazi’s to conquer that country.


  • Make sure your presence is noted. Use your accent to alert a whole room or train at once.
  • Mix in “y’know”, and “like” when speaking a language other than English to make things clear.
  • Act surprised whenever somebody has never heard of something only found in the US.

Upon encountering people from…

Once you’ve figured out the nationality of whomever you’re talking to, use the following tips to get a conversation going.


  • Girls only: Ask why they’re not married yet. Advise to forget their career and just get married. Ignore answers and insist.
  • State your respect from India’s cultural heritage. First of all, mention the Kama Sutra.


  • Ask about the Jewish gold thing.
  • Put mustard on your St-Galler sausage.
  • Argue that the divisions in cantons is stupid and as Swiss people should be all the same.
  • Say that you love Switzerland. Proceed to say you intend to live there forever. Proceed to say you’ll be bringing more people from your home country.


  • Ask why their English is so bad.
  • Ask why there are no white people in the national soccer team.
  • Kiss women upon first encounter.
  • Do not kiss women upon first encounter.

The Netherlands

  • Say frequently: “Oh, just like in Germany.”
  • Make it clear that the Dutch language is just a mixture between German and English.
  • The capital of “Holland” is The Hague. If a Dutch person says it’s Amsterdam, be sure to correct him or her. Insist.
  • Ask about the drug thing. Ask why they came to wherever you are when they can use drugs at home.
  • Remind them of the link with South-Africa, slave-trade and racism. Try saying “Oh, you’re the worst.” if they don’t get the message.


  • Mention the large Turkish community in your home country. Add that they cause a lot of trouble.

Unites States

  • Talk about US foreign policies. Add liveliness to the conversation by stating your opinion clearly.
  • Ask if whomever you’re talking to is also a racist.


  • State that you love Rammstein. Ask if they are fans too.
  • Mention the War.


  • Ask about the Ukraine. Act surprised whenever anything appears to be different from Russia.


  • Recount all acts of Berlusconi you can remember.
  • Show your interest in the Italian culture. Make it clear you know all about it after watching the “Godfather” series.


  • Call Robert Mugabe “the kind of man that Africa needs”.

Common opportunities for blending in.

  • Publicly state your dislike for people from a particular nation because of their stereotype behavior. The US is a safe target. Do not check whether anybody present is from that country.
  • If you have any compatriots in mixed company, bond with them by talking to them in your native language. Explain to people with puzzled faces that this is your native language so it’s normal that they don’t understand.


These items are unfortunately fictional…

  • A typical EU Official is said to have the organising capacity of the Italians, the flexibility of the Germans and the modesty of the French. He tops all that off with the imagination of the Belgians, the generosity of the Dutch and the intelligence of the Irish. Finally, for good measure, he has the European spirit of the English. (paraphrased from Yes Minister: The Devil You Know)
  • Europe would be heaven if only the police were English, the cooks French, the car mechanics German, the Swiss ran the government and the lovers were Italian! Now, imagine that the police were German, the cooks English, the French were the car mechanics, the Italian ran the government and the lovers were Swiss…

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