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Belarus - Culture Smart! The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture Paperback – Illustrated, 7 Oct 2008
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"Culture Smart! has come to the rescue of hapless travellers, Sunday Times Travel -...the perfect introduction to the weird, wonderful and downright odd quirks and customs of various countries, Global Travel -...full of fascinating, as well as common sense, tips to help you avoid embarrassing faux pas, Observer -...as useful as they are entertaining, Easy Jet Magazine -...offer glimpses into the psyche of a faraway world, New York Times."--Various
Don't pack anxiety in your suitcase! By reading "Culture Smart! Belarus" before you go, will ease your travel, help you to make friends and avoid confusion. "Culture Smart! Belarus" will help you to understand Belarus manners, customs and laws. "Culture Smart! Belarus" goes the extra mile to help you brush up on your cultural small talk and will make you confident in leaving your comfort zone far behind. Walk hand in hand with a "Culture Smart!" guide and avoid misunderstandings that could cost you valuable time, money and enjoyment...With "Culture Smart! Belarus" you will learn about daily living, historical perspectives, taboos, business etiquette, eating and drinking and much more, allowing you to experience name like a native. Be responsible, be "Culture Smart!"See all Product description
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The book is much shorter than other, more traditional, travel guides are yet it fills the gaps they often leave open. It does not attempt to explain absolutely everything about the country. Instead it prepares one for meeting people with their distinctive ideas and customs. It is full of DOs and DON'Ts explained with plenty of well observed humour. Being a Belarusian I certainly could recognise myself on many of the pages.
The author spent three years in the country. It was enough to understand some confusing and contested aspects of Belarusian history, culture and politics. Pages about the political situation are probably the most difficult to comprehend; however, the author is very straightforward which helps to keep a sense of the story among a huge number of dates, names and events.
Belarusians' attitudes to authority, money, Russians and other foreigners, as well as minorities, work, nature etc. are offered in a concise and appetising style. Proportionally a lot of pages given to festivals and customs which will certainly be very useful; Belarusians hate to miss an opportunity to throw a party for foreign guests. The author, helpfully, demystifies local drinking culture; this will have you enjoying Belarus and meeting new people safely.
With sightseeing the author has limited herself mostly to Minsk. The book gives select information about open spaces, museums, nightclubs and eating out; these pages do not lack opinion and in this case it is definitely helpful. If your stay is short, this will be enough to decide as to how to spend your time and money best.
The book is not without shortcomings especially when it comes to spelling Belarusian names and explaining some traditional notions and customs. It is a pity that a publishing house just a stone's throw from the Belarusian Centre in London did not get advice from someone with decent knowledge of Belarusian language and culture. However, it is still the most accurate travel book about Belarus I have seen.
I would certainly recommend the book as I enjoyed it a lot. You may want to supplement it with Nigel Roberts's travel guide which is more extensive on history, politics and sightseeing - in Minsk and beyond - but lacks Anne Coombes's down-to-earth observations and critical eye about the people who live there.
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