Some tips for casual Friday night conversation in a bar or pub:
- Have a few politician stories to share, from personal scandals and fashion faux pas to early promises, mottos and soundbites that came back to haunt them. Oxford students eat this up.
- Know something about the financial state and organisational culture of the national broadcating companies of a few countries.
- Be prepared for the introduction or premise to a story to be argued about. For instance, if you want to talk about how something was embarrassing because...someone might well interrupt you and question the sincerity of your embarrassment given that you're telling the story.
- You simply must understand or at least be able to talk about a few aspects of the current financial crisis, corporate governance and renewable energy. It's preferable to have been to a conference on one of these that week.
- Take along your husband or wife as back-up (yours or someone who can stand in as one), someone who is ostensibly unaffected and even unpolished that is until you're intellectually challenged by someone at which point he/she will automatically turn into a fiercely erudite lion/lioness and paw your challenger to the floor. Two is better than one.
- Don't underestimate the coward factor. People very rarely check anyone for poor, unkind or distasteful behaviour here partly because they fear the transgressor may rule them one day in some form or other. Of course, certain behaviour is discussed behind the transgressor's back, but very carefully and only after several qualifications and other acts of due diligence.
- If you want to get a cheap laugh then say something saucy and cute, but remember: no matter how much they laugh and seem to enjoy your drollery, you're probably actually going backwards in the overall approval ratings. Being funny = one step forward, two back. Think medium-term.