Last month, when American multibillionaire Bill Gates shook the hand of President Park Geun-hye of South Korea with his other hand jammed in his trouser pocket, many Koreans were offended. A few years back, when Barack Obama greeted Emperor Akihito of Japan, some Americans thought their president had bowed too deeply.

Negotiating the minefield of another culture's manners can be tricky, but I believe it boils down to being considerate and using common sense.

For most of its history, China was known as "the nation of rites and manners", but for a host of reasons it has lost most of its traditional etiquette.

Whereas many cultures retain their own forms of greeting - the Japanese bow, Indians and Thais press their palms together in front of them, and so on - the Chinese have ditched their traditional yi, which is now rarely seen outside of period dramas. Basically, it involved raising one's arms and joining both hands in front. The height to which the arms were raised and how the hands were joined - in a fist, palm on fist, palms crossed facing inwards, and many other configurations - depended on factors including the setting, levels of intimacy and the respective social status of the parties. The yi would often be accompanied with a bow, but not always. Many Chinese wouldn't know how to yi nowadays because the country's charm schools only teach Western etiquette - the only manners worth acquiring, of course.