Adoption of the "communicative competence" approach to foreign language teaching has shifted the focus from purely linguistic skills to the much broader field of teaching language within its socio-cultural dimensions. As a consequence, conversation classes are no longer based on parrot-like learning of dialogues but on a more sophisticated practice of free-form expression, appropriate to communicative situations clearly defined in terms of: speech event, participants, purpose of communication, setting, topic, message form and channel. However, as most, if not all, foreign language teaching in Australia takes place within the confines of the classroom, students’ exposure to the appropriate norms of interaction is achieved mainly through role-playing and accompanying explanations. This paper addresses the effectiveness of role-playing in transmitting the necessary socio-cultural knowledge. It reports selected findings of an ongoing research focused on acquisition of Japanese socio-cultural norms by tertiary students of Japanese. The discussion, based on data derived from tape-recorded conversations between examiner/s and individual students in oral test situations is focussed on the cultural appropriateness of students’ opening turns.