Is it ever acceptable to inform a shop assistant that the item of clothing they are trying to sell you is "trashy"?
-- Natasha, by email (to The Guardian, UK)
It depends on what country you're in, Natasha. If you're in America, of course, they're all about blunt honesty. If you're in Paris, the sales assistant will look at you as if you're crazy as she certainly wasn't talking to you, let alone helping you. If you are in Italy, they will be delighted, as "trashy" is a compliment of the highest order there. And if you live in the UK, the shop assistant will have a heart attack in shock that you didn't just smile and nod in embarrassment at the attention and then feel obliged to buy the damn thing out of awkward politeness. National stereotypes: as Homer Simpson says, they're funny because they're true.