DEAR HARRIETTE: I am an American female, and I recently went abroad to a country where women are not respected nearly as much as they are in the United States. There, women are treated as second-class citizens and as though they could never be as talented as men.
In restaurants, I always received worse service than men, and I was quick to go up to the waiter directly when he was taking too long with something. But when in a country such as that one, how should a visiting female behave? Should we conform to the standards of the country or act the way we would in America? -- Culturally Correct, Shreveport, La.
DEAR CULTURALLY CORRECT: I can understand your dismay at the way women were treated in the country you visited, but I would caution you about your reaction. Have you ever heard the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do?" Well, that applies here.
It is unrealistic for you to believe that the mores of a country should change to accommodate your lifestyle, needs or beliefs. When you visit another country, you should respect its basic codes of conduct. While the waiter may have been slow to respond to you, there's a good chance he may have just been slow. If it is not customary for a woman to complain about poor service, it's likely that the service did not improve after you said something. You have to pick your battles.
Many countries have dress codes that are different from the United States. For example, in Islamic countries, it is usually preferred that women cover their heads and dress modestly. American women have run into uncomfortable situations in such countries when they have worn shorts, sleeveless shirts, low-cut tops and uncovered heads, because it is seen as disrespectful.
I would never want you to be harmed or mistreated wherever you are, but when you travel, one of the best ways to figure out how to be in that place is to observe closely. It may not make you feel good that women are not seen in the same light as they are in America, but you cannot change that in one trip. Your travels may help you to have a greater respect for the gains we have made in our own country.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I work at a cheese store, and we often deliver cheese platters to people who are having special events. Recently, we delivered a platter to someone who lost a loved one. We like to follow up and receive feedback from our clients, however, in this circumstance how do we approach it? -- Treading Gently, St. Louis
DEAR TREADING GENTLY: You can follow up with a note saying that you hope the platter comforted the family and guests during their bereavement.