Question: What do you do when you’re in another country and one of the local citizens wants to talk American politics with you? This happened to me constantly in pubs in Scotland and Ireland.
Answer: Either talk with them, which, while I’m not a huge fan of talking politics with strangers, can sometimes lead to intriguing insights, or politely deflect the question. "Oh, that’s an issue I’ve always meant to do more homework on but am really not prepared to discuss. What is this on the television? Darts?"
Q: I found out my co-worker is going to France. They have the most amazing line of perfume there that I’ve never been able to buy in the United States. Is it OK to ask my colleague to bring stuff back for me? I would pay her, of course.
A: How well do you know her? If you’re pretty close friends, I think it’s OK to ask, as long as you give your colleague a chance to say no. For example, "Could I ask a huge favor of you? Last time I was in Paris I bought some incredible perfume that I can’t find here. If you happen to see a little bottle of Perfume X, could you possibly bring it back for me? I’d pay you back, obviously. If it’s too much of a pain, though, no worries — I just thought I’d ask." That way, she can say, "Oh, I’ll try, but can’t promise anything — we’ll be pretty tight for space as it is." And you have to accept that.
However, if this is a mere casual work acquaintance, like if all you know about her is that her name is Linda, she’s blond, she works in bookkeeping and she’s going to France, I don’t think you should ask her to be your perfume courier. (Have you tried looking online, perhaps on eBay?)
Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.