A Brits’ guide to greeting foreigners

Who you trying to kiss, Londoners? Certainly no one of Indian descent, I hope.

Good news! Britain’s national tourism agency has released etiquette guidelines for dealing with foreign visitors who will be journeying to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

You read that right. Etiquette guidelines. For dealing with foreign visitors. You can read about it here.

Hoping to help its countrymen (and women) become more welcoming of its guests, VisitBritain has updated the advice it provides to those likely to work with international travellers arriving from overseas.

Here is a sampling of the advice/suggestions/observations:

  • Don’t ask Brazilians personal questions.
  • Don’t be alarmed if the French are rude.
  • Do not imply to Polish tourists that they drink excessively.
  • French are notoriously picky in restaurants.
  • Brush off common Argentine jokes about a person’s clothing or weight.
  • Belgians take offense at people snapping their fingers.
  • Australians are fond of coarse language.
  • Japanese people consider prolonged eye contact impolite and smile to express a range of emotions, not simply to show happiness.
  • Be extra patient when dealing with guests from India or the United Arab Emirates.
  • Indians don’t like being touched by strangers and may be suspicious of the quality of British food (although something tells me they may not be the only ones re: the latter).
  • Middle Easterners are likely to be demanding with staff. Also, they do not like being told what they can’t do, so, don’t be bossy.
  • Guests from China and Hong Kong may find winking or pointing with an index finger rude.
  • Chinese visitors may be unimpressed by landmarks just a few hundred years old.
  • Do not discuss poverty, immigration, earthquakes or the Mexican-American war with visitors from Mexico. Instead, converse about history and art.
  • Canadian tourists are likely to be quite annoyed about being mistaken for Americans. Look for maple leaf pins or badges on tourists’ clothing to indicate nationality.
  • Americans can appear informal to the point of being very direct or even rude and won’t ever hesitate to complain.

Ha. Americans who complain. That’s a good one.

Sandie Dawe, chief executive officer of VisitBritain, was quoted for the story, saying, “Giving our foreign visitors a friendly welcome is absolutely vital to our economy. With hundreds of thousands of people thinking of coming to Britain in the run-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, this new advice is just one of the ways that VisitBritain is helping the tourism industry care for their customers.”

The frank etiquette tips were written by agency staff about their own native countries. Which makes me think that the majority of VisitBritain’s employees are anything but British.

Anyway, good luck, Brits. You have two years to memorize the stereotypes and prepare to welcome everyone with kisses on the cheeks and open arms. Except Indians. They hate hugging.

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2 thoughts on “A Brits’ guide to greeting foreigners

  1. kaimoana says:

    Australians are fond of coarse language?

    Oh that’s wonderful advice. Can’t go wrong with that generalisation :S

    (Hi! I’ve started following your blog)

    • jilladuling says:

      No kidding. Whatever happened to trying to eliminate stereotypes? Other than the fact that it’s easier to just use them…

      Thanks for following!

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