Business travelers abroad may get grilled on U.S. politics

Kevin Hartmann, a sales manager from Plano, Texas, says he is willing to enter into conversation with "a reasonable, curious person," but avoids "others that are seeking an inflamed argument to make a point."

Foreign colleagues' deep familiarity with the intricacies of U.S. politics can surprise some U.S. business people. "I was amazed at how much they knew about American politics, and they were very opinionated," says Alfaro, the etiquette expert.

Because Obama's father is from Kenya, some business travelers to Africa have noted particular excitement. James Lawrence Wilson, an IRS anti-money-laundering specialist from San Jose, says he was training in several African countries a year ago, and "participants (in) my classes were thrilled that Barack Obama had a chance of becoming our president."

"If Obama wins, the African countries will celebrate," he says.

Those who've had enough of political talk may take a cue from Hartmann, the sales manager. In August, he toured Munich, Germany, and stopped at several beer gardens. Each time, he was asked of his nationality and was bombarded with questions about the election.

"So when we stopped at the (next beer house), we sat down at a long table with (several) locals, my answer to the first question was 'Canadian.' I drank my beer."

TRAVELERS: Have you had any encounters with overseas clients wanting to chat politics. What etiquette tips would you share with other business travelers to avoid sticky situations?

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