Culture Smart! France: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

Cinema is the youngest art form, just over a hundred years old, and France was its birthplace. France boasts the third-highest cinema attendance in the word after the USA and Japan, both in terms of admissions and revenues.

The success of French movies is partly due to state protection of the industry. A proportion of films must be in French and produced by French production companies (the same goes for music), and because programs cannot be released on DVD until six months after their theatrical release, France is still a nation of cinephiles and cinema-goers.

One of the most famous international film festivals is the annual Cannes Film Festival, and French films and actors also often receive awards internationally. An example was the 2019 historical drama Portrait of a Woman on Fire, which tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aristocrat and a painter commissioned to paint her portrait. Unlike the UK, foreign dramas on French TV tend to be dubbed rather than subtitled.

Delve deeper into what makes the French “different”. Charming, challenging, uncooperative, questioning, and doing things their own way and to their own advantage are all distinctly French traits. But what is it that makes the French so distinctive? And how do you get through to them?

Culture Smart! France will give you insights into the essence of the characteristically strong French national identity so you can make the most of your time in France and better understand the people who have had such historical and cultural influence over Western civilization.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787029088
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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Culture Smart! Bhutan: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

Discover the last true Shangri-la – no longer hidden within the folds of the mighty Himalayas.

In Bhutan, mask dances, called “cham”, are performed during a “tshechu” (a religious Buddhist festival), depicting and describing, through movement and music, the teachings of Buddha and the dharma. They are broadly categorized into three distinct themes: dances with moral stories; dances that purify and protect from destructive spirits; and dances that celebrate the triumph of Buddhism and glorify Guru Rinpoche and his deeds.

The dances are a powerful way of bringing Buddhism closer to the people, who largely depend on the clergy for guidance on the spiritual path. The Bhutanese believe that the mere act of watching the “cham” allows the spectators to gain merit and receive a special blessing.

“Atsaras” (clowns) are an interesting feature of the festival ground, frolicking around and entertaining the crowd with their antics, and often brandish a large wooden phallus. Each dance is meaningful, but some, with their dramatic narratives and visual splendor, are particularly popular with the audience.

The “Raksha Marcham”, or the Dance of the Judgement of the Dead, is one of the most interesting mask dances performed at the “tshechus”. The drama unfolds with the dance of the Rakshas, the aides of the God of Death, “Shinje Choekyi Gyalpo”. It is Judgement Day, and the first to appear before the God of Death is a sinner, dressed all in black. His sins outweigh his good actions, and he is sent to hell. Then comes another person, dressed in white, and again, the God hears his deeds. He is found to be virtuous and led to the pure land.

Culture Smart! Bhutan gives you an insight into the country’s history, values, customs, and age-old traditions. It describes the historical circumstances that have shaped the Bhutanese people and their way of life. It debunks some myths and helps you to discover this fascinating country for yourself. It highlights changes in attitudes and behavior as the country modernizes, while offering guidance on how to develop a rapport with the Bhutanese and forge meaningful friendships.

Delve deeper … travel smarter.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787029088
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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Culture Smart! Finland: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

“We are no longer Swedes, we do not wish to become Russians, so let us be Finns.”

The Finns have fought long and hard for the right to their own uniquely Finnish cultural identity. To understand this identity, one must understand “sisu” — an important word for Finns, and one that is notoriously difficult to translate.

It means something like grit and strength, and the ability to stick to something in the face of hardship, all while remaining calm and stoic.

You’ll see a bit of sisu in action when someone throws a little more hot water onto the stones of a sauna before finally jumping into the snow or a nearby lake. You’ll notice it in winter, when the temperature is -22 ° F (-30 ° C) and there are scores of Finns skiing and ice skating,

In fact, you’ll see it all around you as you explore modern Finland, the result of two hard-fought wars for independence.

Finland isn’t all grit and stoicism though. If you spend some time here, break ruisleipä (rye bread) with them, and perhaps learn a word or two in Finnish, you’ll learn that there’s a lot more to be discovered: humor, fair-mindedness, resourcefulness , and generosity among them.

The Culture Smart! guide to Finland describes the historical, geographical, and cultural influences that have shaped the Finnish psyche, and guides you through the working and social lives of the Finns today, offering you a deeper, more rewarding experience of this beautiful land.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787029088
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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Culture Smart! Korea: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

Over the centuries, Koreans have shown themselves to be particularly adept at assimilating new religious beliefs and practices. Whether it was Buddhism in the fourth century or Catholicism in the eighteenth century, Koreans have been quick to take up and adapt to new doctrines. In the case of Confucianism, a set of precepts for conducting public and private life, the Koreans so took to it that they would eventually claim to be more correct practitioners than the Chinese, who had developed the practice in the first place.

Korea’s rich religious inheritance has greatly affected its customs and traditions. For example, whatever the religion, most Koreans observe some form of Confucian ceremony to mark auspicious occasions. These include the celebration of one hundred days after a baby’s birth—a child that had survived so long was likely to live—and the celebration of the sixtieth birthday.

In South Korea, believers and nonbelievers alike incorporate Christmas and Buddha’s birthday into their informal calendar, and even in the North these dates do not go wholly unnoticed.

Do you want to get to know the Koreans better? Culture Smart! Korea shows you how Koreans think and act and provides a real insight into Korean thinking and behaviour. It describes the cultural pitfalls to avoid if visiting or interacting with Koreans, and introduces some of the other delights of the peninsula. That way, when you arrive in Korea, you will be better able to understand and take part in the cultural life around you.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787028883
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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Culture Smart! Ghana: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

“You cannot tie a knot without using your thumb” – Ghanaian proverb.

In Ghana, relationships are the most valued of possessions. The idea that you can live next to a neighbor for years without knowing their name, as can happen in the West, is entirely alien to Ghanaians.

Rather, mutual help, collective responsibility, and reciprocal obligations are all regarded as important, and observers of Ghanaian life often remark on the strong sense of community found there.

A babysitter is never needed; people work together on communal farming projects, wealth is shared, and the elderly are never left to become lonely or isolated. So valued are relationships that a man will forego half of his evening meal and even his wife’s place in his bed should he receive an unexpected guest.

These communal values are extended to all, locals and visitors alike, so on your trip be prepared to receive numerous invitations to meals, parties, and even distant hometowns. If you have time to accept the invitation, it is a great opportunity to become more acquainted with Ghanaian culture and, more than likely, will mark the start of a new friendship.

Ghana is highly recommended for those seeking a different kind of vacation; a visit to this country can be both eye-opening and life-changing.

Visitors are warmly welcomed, but Ghanaians require them to be sympathetic to their customs and beliefs, and will have no hesitation in saying, “We don’t do that here,” should a faux-pas be made or a taboo broken.

It’s important for Ghanaians that they, and their guests, observe certain cultural rules and codes of conduct. Culture Smart! Ghana describes these rules, explains where they come from, and offers the reader an opportunity to get under the skin of Ghanaians and enjoy all that this beautiful country has to offer.

Show Ghanaians and their culture respect and you will, without a doubt, be made to feel welcome. Akwaaba!

For more on the culture and customs of Ghana, read our guide.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787022720
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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Culture Smart! Spain: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

The Spanish are confident, open individuals with a zest for life, and for living every moment to the max. If they invite you somewhere it is because they really want you to come. They do not want you to go home because you are all having such a good time. Who cares about tomorrow? Now is what is important. While there is a good time to be had, no one will leave quickly. People meet between 10:00 and 11:30pm for dinner, which is followed by relaxed and enjoyable conversation, coffee, and some alcoholic drinks. This is known as ‘la sobremesa‘. During the weekend, night stretches into the morning, and you have some breakfast before you go home! You need stamina in Spain, especially if it is fiesta time. If there is time, the Spanish will snatch a brief siesta to prepare themselves for the next night. Partying in Andalusia also requires some training. It never feels like the right time to have a last drink. Instead, someone will suggest ‘la penultima‘, ‘the last but one’, because nobody wants to refer to the end of the evening.

Our guides don’t include things like hotel listings or travel itineraries. After all, that kind of information is already freely available online. Instead, our guides help you get to know the people whose country you are visiting so that your time spent abroad is richer and more meaningful.

Each guide tells the story of a country and its culture, describes its customs and traditions, and is packed full of practical information to help you navigate the situations that you are likely to encounter with confidence and sensitivity. Whether on a weekend away or a longer stint abroad, travel smarter with Culture Smart!.

For more on the culture and customs of Spain, read our guide.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787028647
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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Culture Smart! Indonesia: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

It is practically impossible to avoid witnessing some aspect of Balinese ritual life during even a short stay in Bali. Apart from the performances put on for tourists, you may come across a procession, a celebration, or votaries offering gifts at a shrine. Hinduism on Bali is distinctly Balinese, with pre-Hindu beliefs, spirits, and rituals incorporated into it. It is also capable of embracing new deities and forms of worship so that it remains a living system of belief, in the same way that Balinese art, drama, and dance subtly adapt without losing their distinctive style or becoming outdated.

Balinese life is guided by ritual. The religious calendar and observances structure the day, the year, and life itself. The traditional Balinese house is itself a religious structure in which the family shrine to the ancestors has a central role. Family members live in pavilions around the common courtyard and share a common kitchen and the family temple, which houses the shrine to the ancestors and those to the other deities.

Balinese life is communal. Ritual is subsumed into daily living, within the home and in the village community. A village (desa) is divided into smaller cooperative neighborhood groups known as banjar, whose members are obliged to support each other during festivals, marriages, and funerals. Each banjar has a bale or communal hall, a drum tower from which meetings are called, a communal kitchen for preparing the feasts accompanying celebrations and performances, a gamelan orchestra, dance costumes, and a communal temple.

Read our guide for more on traditions and ritual life in Indonesia.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781857333435
    • Author: Graham Saunders
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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Culture Smart! Peru: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

There is so much to see and celebrate in Peru in June. Inti Raymi, in Cuzco, marks the winter solstice on June 24. It is now one of the major national festivities attracting thousands of Peruvians and foreigners to a series of events throughout June culminating on June 24 in a procession from Qoricancha palace, in the heart of Cuzco, up to the ramparts of Sacsayhuaman. Several hundred citizens dress up in fine costumes as the Inca, his attendants, and pilgrims from the suyos (quarters of the Inca empire) to enact ceremonies that include a speech by the Inca, in Quechua, to the Sun (Inti) and those present. It is possible to stand atop the ruins to view the ceremonies from a distance, but the best view is from the stands.

Dia del Padre (Father’s Day, on the third Sunday of June) is just as important as Mother’s Day in Peru and is similarly celebrated with reverence. San Pedro y San Pablo (Saints Peter and Paul, June 29) is celebrated on the coast as these are the patron saints of fishermen. Flotillas of fishing boats carry images of the saints out to sea for a “floating” service.

Qoyllur Rit’i, 50-58 days after Easter Sunday, is celebrated in a remote high Andean valley at 15,400 ft. close to Mount Ausangate 95 miles southeast of Cuzco. Once marking the reappearance of the Pleiades constellation, the festival was Christianized in 1780 after a shepherd boy had a vision of a white Christ child. The weeklong festivity is no longer a small local celebration but attracts thousands of people each year. The area’s Campesinos are still there singing, dancing, making offerings to the apus (mountain gods) and other spirits, and hacking ice from the glacier high above the valley to take home to prepare the ritual chicha beer, but they are now joined by a multitude of onlookers.

For more read our guide to Peru.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787022805
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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Culture Smart! Germany: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

Ask people what the center of the household is, and you’ll get different answers. For most, it’s the living room, for some the terrace, for many the kitchen. For the Germans it’s around a table, talking. The table, be it in the living room or in the kitchen, is the place where life and communication happen. As in the home so it is outside. Germany is very much a pub culture. People go to drink and socialize in beer gardens and beer halls, where they sit around tables, sometimes as whole families, and drink and talk – and sing. It is a popular and recognized meeting point. “Stammtisch” is a word that you should learn. German pubs and beer halls often have a table that is set aside for regular clients. If you as a stranger sit at it, you may be asked politely to move because you aren’t Stammtisch – a regular at the table. In a German household you’ll know that you are really part of the furniture when, instead of relaxing in the deep, comfortable chairs of the living room, you are huddled around a table in the kitchen or living room on a hard chair, a drink in your hand, arguing about the issues of the day. Don’t be surprised if, when invited to dinner, you find yourself sitting around the table for an hour after dinner is over, happily chatting over coffee and drinks.

Culture Smart! Guides are written for people who want more than just the nuts and bolts of where to stay and what to see. They deal with the richly rewarding human dimension of travel by telling you about the beliefs and attitudes of the people you will meet, and about situations you may encounter. They help you to understand what makes people tick, the values they live by, and the kind of behavior that will be reciprocated with goodwill and hospitality. When we are able to get back out there, let’s make the most of our time abroad and enrich our understanding of the many cultures that make up our beautiful and diverse planet.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787028845
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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Culture Smart! Botswana: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

One of the many wonders of traveling are the chance encounters, the magical moments of human connection with people who come from a different place, a different culture, and speak a different language. Reading our guides gives you the chance to make the most out of those experiences. So you can be comfortable stepping into the unknown and trying to see a place through the eyes of your hosts.

Landlocked Botswana is a country of contrasts. More than 80% is referred to as a desert – the Kalahari Desert – yet it is not a desert at all. Despite the endless distances of thorn trees and scrub, the red sand of the Kalahari contains substantial woodland and other vegetation and conceals boundless wealth in the form of coal, methane, copper, and diamonds: Botswana is the world’s biggest producer of gemstones.

There are no perennial inland rivers and no lakes, yet there is the Okavango Delta, said to be the largest inland river delta in the world.

In a world where one measure of national wealth is the time for which a country can afford foreign imports out of reserves, Botswana’s time is measured in years. It is also true that the gap between rich and poor is growing ever wider, so the visitor will encounter obvious examples of both wealth and poverty: expensive cars and big houses, excellent roads and modern buildings, yet high unemployment and rural villages with dwellings built traditionally, of natural materials, without sanitation, electricity, or water.

Culturally, the people are overwhelmingly Bantu-speaking, but they are by no means a homogeneous group, except by classification in the broadest ethnic terms. In Botswana there are more than twenty tribes and twenty different, though sometimes related, languages. In the years since independence, the country and its economy have made extraordinary strides, and Botswana is rightly seen as a model of democratic, planned development. But, for all that, traditional values lie close to the surface, often barely concealed beneath a veneer of modernity. This serves to explain the range of responses and behaviour that a visitor might encounter. Many older people are intensely conservative in outlook, while the educated young seem indistinguishable from their peers around the world: enthusiastic, bright, innovative, and utterly modern. All are kindly, welcoming, and above all, forgiving.

Our guide to Botswana introduces you to the lives of the people. It looks at the history that has shaped its society and shows the importance of traditional customs and values. It describes how Batswana live, work, and play, and how to avoid the pitfalls of cultural misunderstanding. You don’t have to wait until you travel there to dive in!

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787022560
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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