VisitBritain spells out stereotypes and Olympic etiquette
Don’t ask a Brasilian personal questions, be prepared to be interrupted and women dress “sexy” in all situations. These are but a few “Top tips” about Brasilians for Londoners courtesy of VistBritain, the national tourism agency, in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics in order for British businesses to provide a warm welcome to foreign visitors and avoid causing offence.
The guidelines, compiled by VisitBritain staff native to the respective countries included, set out a comprehensive code of etiquette as part of its campaign to help cultural awareness, avoid misunderstanding and boost performance in customer care. What is intended as valuable cultural insight could, however, be considered unashamed stereotyping.
For Brasil, the list of advice is extensive. The guide informs that Brasilians pride themselves on dressing well; appearance counts. Brasilian women dress “sexy” in all situations, whether business, formal or casual. It is a good idea to wait to bring up topics related to politics, poverty, religion, or the Rainforest until trust has been established. Brasilians are expressive and passionate conversationalists, so be prepared to be interrupted. And certainly don’t ask personal questions, such as questions about age, salary, or marriage.
The online compendium’s advice for other countries is no less varied in its list of “dos” and “don’ts”. Never imply poles drink excessively. A smiling Japanese person is not necessarily happy, as they tend to smile when angry, embarrassed, sad or disappointed. Never call a Canadian an American. Be careful how you pour wine for an Argentine as the process involves a number of social taboos, for example pouring wine backwards into a glass indicates hostility. And don’t mention the war! That is the 1840s U.S-Mexican war, though no reference is made of being wary of mentioning the war to German tourists.
London is already a diverse multicultural melting pot, well accustomed to receiving foreign tourists, with Britain coming 14th out of 50 in the Nation Brands Index for the quality of welcome would-be visitors believe they will get. So why does VisitBritain feel the need to tell Londoners how to behave? According to the guide, tourists believe Britons are honest and efficient- but somewhat standoffish, and some visitors would like a more exuberant welcome. Sandie Dawe, chief executive officer of the agency, perhaps provides the answer, “Giving our foreign visitors a friendly welcome is absolutely vital to our economy”.
Top 5 foreign etiquette tips from VisitBritan:
Find out more at the VisitBritain website: media.visitbritain.com