Culture Shock! A Guide to Customs and Etiquette in China,

by Kevin Sinclair and Iris Wong Po-yee

(Kuperard, pounds 8.95)

This series - which now covers more than 40 destinations, ranging from Switzerland to Syria - aims to explain what countries are all about in a general kind of way. Don't buy this book for hotel addresses, but do buy it if you want to know (in a matey, anecdotal sort of way) how the Chinese fall in love, or why they spit, or what their toilets are like, or what their names mean.

One caveat: it is a curious irony that any book these days on the subject of the oldest surviving country in the world runs the risk of going out of date almost instantly. I would not quite agree with the author, for example, that "there is little or no mugging" in China at the moment.

On the other hand the book does dispel some of the more tedious things that people still believe about China, such as that the people are "inscrutable", or even that China is still a Communist country. They aren't, and it isn't.

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