This is an edited version of a story from a collection of unpublished anecdotes by Bernardino "Riri" d'AssumpçãoClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his ID number (3) to be taken to his personal page

China has some ancient customs which may appear odd to foreigners, but which they should respect. One unusual custom is to place an upside-down broom at the entrance of your house to put off an unwanted guest: its significance is that he is unwelcome and that you wish to sweep him away.

When eating a whole fish with a Chinese who is about to make a sea voyage, do not make the mistake of turning the fish over after you have eaten one side of it, as this would mean that you wish that the boat on which he is about to sail will capsize and sink. It is, however, acceptable first to ask his permission to turn it over or, better still, to invite him to turn it over himself.

Another strange Chinese custom is to wear old clothes and shoes to the funeral of a close friend as a way of showing love and respect for the departed.

Thus it was that the wealthy Mr Ho, director on the boards of several very large companies, had just attended the funeral of one of his good friends, when he decided to drop in at a high-class departmental store - of which he was also a director - to buy a present for his granddaughter.

When the English floorwalker of this store noticed Mr Ho's shabby clothes and shoes, he haughtily waved his hand and ordered Mr Ho out of the premises.

In his usual quiet and polite voice Mr Ho said, "But my good man, I am here to buy a birthday present for my granddaughter!"

"Out, out, out!", insisted the floorwalker rudely.

Mr Ho studied our floorwalker for a long spell and then quietly walked over to one of the Chinese salesgirls and told her in Chinese to fetch the manager.

The floorwalker repeated his order to Mr Ho and, receiving no response, became infuriated. He was about to eject Mr Ho forcibly when the manager appeared. Noticing the floorwalker's threatening attitude towards Mr Ho, he approached to offer his apologies but before he could say a word Mr Ho simply said, "Mr Harrison, this is a business concern and its main objective is to make money. And it cannot do so when you have such a rude fool for a floorwalker!"

"What happened, Mr Ho? You seem to be upset."

"Of course, I am upset, and with very good reason!"

"I am very sorry, Mr Ho, for whatever had happened. Can I do anything for you?

"Nothing much, Mr Harrison. I just want you to get rid of this useless fool. Let him have six months' pay in lieu of notice if you must, but get him off these premises within one hour."

"But, Mr Ho..." the manager started to object.

"Mr Harrison, Mr Harrison, if you wish to keep your own job, you just do exactly as I have asked you. You now have only fifty-nine minutes left!"

The manager rushed back to his office and, within a quarter of an hour, was back with a cheque and a receipt for the floorwalker who took his sacking without a peep, to the delight of all the other staff - European and Chinese - working at that store.