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Dear Heloise: In a recent letter, a reader talked about certain English words having different meanings in other countries. I thought I would add some other hints:

• The "OK" symbol: In America, it usually means you're content or everything is fine. But in France, Turkey, Venezuela and Brazil, it's considered very rude slang and will offend those around you.

• Tipping: In some countries, tipping is considered improper, because serving the customer is a group effort, not an individual performance, or it may imply that the restaurant doesn't provide decent wages. It's considered rude in Japan, South Korea, China, France and Italy.

• Spitting: It's considered rude and unsanitary in any country, but it might earn you a fine in some places, such as Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.

• Blowing your nose in public: In China and Japan, blowing your nose in public or even the appearance of a handkerchief is considered disgusting. Never, ever blow your nose in a restaurant. It's considered rude and revolting in China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and France.

• Smiling at a stranger: Extended eye contact and smiling at a stranger can make some people in foreign countries very uncomfortable. It's considered rude in South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

— Natasha D. in Georgia


Dear Heloise: Valentine's Day is coming this month, and I'd like to do something a little different (and not too expensive) for my husband of four weeks. Any hints to make this a happy occasion? — Jill J., Burlington, Wis.

Jill, how about a homemade dinner of all his favorite foods, a nice card and tickets for two to a movie, sports event or play? Or maybe make a nice dinner and something special for dessert, then give him a DVD he might enjoy. It's less about the gift and more about the thought that goes into a gift. — Heloise

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Dear Heloise: As crazy as it may seem, some people lend their credit card to a friend or relative. It's not a good idea. A borrower may overspend or not pay the lender back — or not return the card at all! Advice to the wise: Don't lend your credit cards to anyone! — Brice R., Washington, D.C.


Dear Readers: When someone steals your personal information to commit a fraudulent act, such as applying for a loan or credit card, filing taxes, etc., be sure to report it to This service also might be able to help you develop a recovery plan. — Heloise

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