If you travel, particularly to places off the tourist trail, a sense of cultural disorientation will often overtake you. You’ll find yourself in situations where the rules are totally different and making a string of faux pas is all too easy. At a barbecue in rural Australia, I remember thinking I was doing fine, standing at one end of the garden bantering with the women. It was only when the shouts of, “Hey, are you trying to chat up my missus?!” were repeated several times that I began to understand that Down Under, in the sticks at least, you talk to the fellers.
In the West of Ireland one Boxing Day, I expressed a rather shocked surprise at the enthusiasm with which the old guys at the bar were awaiting the arrival of the “rent boys”. It was only when a bunch of young men dressed up as birds turned up that I found out about the fine old Irish tradition of the Wren Boys.