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Dear Miss Manners: More often than not, when I have to communicate with suppliers or companies that have customer service centers in other countries, I just can’t understand the representatives I’m talking to. I have difficulty with foreign accents and have to ask the person on the other end to repeat the information several times.

It’s embarrassing for me, and surely frustrating for the other person. Is there a polite way to ask someone who speaks English without an accent?

I admire people who learn a second language and I understand that it is my fault, but I am afraid of losing important information when I try to understand what they are telling me.

The problem is not the nationality of the representative, but if you can understand what is being said. There are native English speakers who, because of regional accents, cannot understand each other at all, and many people who learn English later in life have significantly better grammar than those who were born into it.

But that is not why Miss Manners formulates the problem in this way. She does this to avoid the insurmountable etiquette problem of requiring someone’s citizenship as a condition of doing business. If the requested number of repetitions is unbearable, blame the connection and ask if the representative can speak very, very slowly so you can understand.

Dear Miss Manners: I have, on several occasions, invited my fiancé and his best friends to dinner. In addition to preparing the meal, the evening usually includes some kind of activity that requires planning.

I like to organize and plan parties. However, two of his friends (a couple) often ask me when they are due to arrive, only to tell me that they will arrive at a different time because it is more convenient for them.

The main excuse is that they have to feed their dogs at a certain time. I find it infuriating that my party is planned around the dietary needs of their dogs. But also, I feel very disrespected, being told when my party is going to start. I have my own reasons why I want to start the evening early – and I’m the host. Why should their reasons override my party start time?

They are very good friends of ours, so I don’t want to create any rifts or problems with them. However, I feel hurt that they think it’s okay to treat me this way.

If you are in search of the rule of etiquette, Miss Manners is happy to oblige. As a host, you are allowed to specify the start time. As guests, your friends can accept or decline.

When they try to negotiate, you can say, “I’m so sorry, I completely understand — of course you have to feed the dogs. But this party was planned around this start time because of everyone’s schedule. We will miss you, but let’s find something we can do together some other time.

As correct as that may be, it doesn’t solve your problem. This will force them, or you, to compromise in the name of friendship.

New Miss Manners columns are published Monday to Saturday at You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.