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.
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 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.
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.
Xin Nian Kuai Le, Gong Xi Fa Cai! If you didn't understand that, you've just missed out on the chance to make friends this week. And you're not alone. The Mandarin Chinese language is becoming more and more important for the UK because, quite simply, China is becoming more and more important on the world's stage.
As the global elite don snow boots for Davos, those of us tramping through the slush at home will wonder 'what's Davos got to do with me?' I say two things: 1) the UK has always been a great trading nation and, 2) the UK is a modern day cultural superpower. We're up to our boot-tops in the global economy and our language, education system and creativity are in massive demand to drive global growth and prosperity. And we all have a stake in that. Because what our politicians and business leaders are discussing on our behalf is a near universal need to tighten our belts.
Against all previous form, I took part in a round of the X Factor this week. It was the familiar mix of competing styles and contingent emotion, followed by measures of first kind then merciless appraisal. My group didn't win: our blend of British "existential angst" with bold Brazilian overtones lost out and we were sent home.