Just like the courtesy of learning a few words of the language, for someone from the UK travelling to countries with different memories of WWI than ours, learning a little more about the scale and legacy of this truly global conflict can be invaluable in effectively navigating and building relationships of trust.
The backwaters of Kerala maintain their lurid greenness despite the overhanging grey, Soviet sky of monsoon season. They are deathly still, like a bath that has been run and then forgotten. Our boat - a sort of floating Family Robinson tree house - leaves little trace behind it as it ambles down river.
Climbing down the plane steps, Reunion has clearly pulled out all the stops. It's like one of those ridiculous Hollywood tropical islands, like Spooky Island from Scooby Doo, when you arrive to postcard palm trees, people flinging flower necklaces around your neck (this of course didn't actually happen) and with 'Pass the Duchee on the Left hand Side' playing as the soundtrack.
We will continue our cultural relations work well beyond the planned withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan next year; because we firmly believe that, along with the promotion of governance, security and development, the promotion of culture is a critical fourth foundation of Afghanistan's future.
This week I was a panellist at the launch event for the inaugural Ipsos MORI Top Cities survey - a worldwide poll that crowned London as the most popular city in Europe, but forced us to tip our bowler hats to New York as the global winner. But in amongst the data were a few fascinating phenomena...
There is still a huge challenge in delivering musical education to children in the Palestinian Territories. Limitations on financial resources mean that teachers' salaries are low, instruments are often of poor quality, and teaching resources can be basic - and it's also difficult for foreign teachers to get visas to work there.
It was enormously rewarding to be able to bring the British Council to work in partnership with the Society to bring the honoured Awardees to London to share their experiences with the UK and receive their awards. The British Council's mission is to build trust and understanding between the UK and the rest of the world through the sharing of knowledge, creativity and art.
There are a small number of universal human languages which are very widely understood. English itself is one, the arts are another, there is sport - especially football - and there is science. The language of science, underpinned by the Scientific Method, is one of humanity's purest languages - perhaps second only to maths.
An interesting social and artistic experiment has begun outside the British Council on The Mall in London. The artist Mark Wallinger has created a beautiful white horse -- a symbol of Olde Englande before it was even England (probably when it was Britannicus or just 'those pretty green isles' in Norse or French).
For anyone determined to perpetuate the myth that we don't need to learn foreign languages in the UK because 'everyone speaks English anyway', there's a clear wake-up call in this new research. Less than a quarter of managers in China and well under half in Brazil say their businesses use English on a daily basis.