Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The world's turn to invade Britain

See this article from

LONDON - Are Canadians easily offended?

New guidelines from Britain's national tourism agency ahead of the 2012 London Olympics warn that Canadians can be overly sensitive, especially about their national identity.

Seeking to help the country's sometimes snarky citizens offer a warmer welcome, VisitBritain has updated its advice for anyone likely to work with travellers arriving from overseas — from hotel staff to taxi drivers.

The advice says Canadian tourists are likely to be quite annoyed about being mistaken for Americans, the guide suggests — urging workers to keep an eye out for Maple Leaf pins or badges on tourists' clothing.

Hold off from hugging an Indian, the guide says, and don't be alarmed if the French are rude.

Other tips: Don't go around asking Brazilians personal questions and never be bossy with visitors from the Middle East.

"Giving our foreign visitors a friendly welcome is absolutely vital to our economy," said Sandie Dawe, chief executive officer of the agency. "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."

About 30 million people visit Britain each year, spending about 16.6 billion pounds (C$27 billion). The 2012 Olympics is likely to bring in an additional 2.1 billion (C$3.4 billion) in tourism revenue, according to a government estimate, and about 320,000 extra visitors from overseas during the games in July and August 2012.

VisitBritain said research it had conducted found tourists believe Britons are honest and efficient — but not the most pleasant. Britain is ranked 14th out of 50 in the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index on the quality of welcome offered to visitors, the tourism agency said.

The frank etiquette tips were written by agency staff about their own native countries.

Polish tourists are likely to be hurt by stereotypes that imply they drink excessively, while the French are notoriously picky in restaurants, the guidelines claim.

U.K. workers are told to brush off common Argentine jokes about a person's clothing or weight. Belgians take offence at people snapping their fingers while 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.

Tourism workers are advised to show extra patience when dealing with guests from India or the United Arab Emirates.

"Indians are in general, an impatient lot, and like to be quickly attended to," the guidelines claim. "The more affluent they are, the more demanding and brusque they tend to be."

Indians also don't like being touched by strangers and may be suspicious about the quality of British food, the guide said, without noting the latter might be a common concern.

Travellers from the Middle East are likely to be demanding with staff and "are not used to being told what they can't do," the guide warns.

Guests from China and Hong Kong may find winking or pointing with an index finger rude, while "mentioning failure, poverty or death risks offence," the advice claims. Chinese visitors may be unimpressed by landmarks just a few hundred years old, tourism staff are told.

Workers are advised against discussing poverty, immigration, earthquakes or the Mexican-American war with visitors from Mexico — who prefer to chat about history and art.

And Americans? They can appear "informal to the point of being very direct or even rude" and won't ever hesitate about complaining, the guide says.

(end of article)

How insightful! Good for Britain, figuring out all the stereotypes that can be commonly applied to certain groups based on their nationality and doing a polite finger waving at all of their employees so that they should handle all of these weirdos from other nations with kid gloves so to speak and be sure not to offend their various odd sensitivities.

While known as not being the most tolerant or open-minded of all nations, it's a refreshing step forward to see that Britain is taking responsibility for playing a good host for the Olympics and putting on its best cheeky face. It's also refreshing to know that Britain wants to make this sort of effort, and not just to bring in badly needed tourism dollars that they are so lacking. But they have a real desire not to offend the visitors from around the world as they watch their athletes compete at an international event.

And a round of applause should go to the International Olympic Committee, who embraced their traditional roots of supporting lesser-known destinations in the world to host an international event that will bring them instant recognition and inject much-needed funds into their uneven economies. Hurray for such sportsmanlike and courteous behavior, upholding the less fortunate countries in the world and foregoing such luxuries as four star treatment by potential host candidates and making a real decision based on fairness and integrity rather than commercialism and greed.

This is all quite practical advice to be sure. One would not want to be seen as a rude, ignorant jack ass in front of guests by doing something as untoward as mentioning poverty to a poor dirty Mexican. And one would not want the shock of an outraged impatient Indian who is not tended to in a timely manner, therefore putting a big black eye on the entire British nation, never mind the history of vicious colonization that may have harboured some of that impatience in the first place. It's also quite unpractical to mention poverty, failure or death to Asians, especially considering how every other nation on the planet considers those to be the preferred small talk items over tea. Nothing says polite company like a long, frank discussion about death.

Perhaps it would have been more practical to send out a pamphlet to organizers for the Olympic Games in London with 2 words on it: Be Nice. It's a fairly standard practice to attempt to be nice to people who aren't from your country and to treat them with basic respect, tending to their needs when you can and looking for help when you can't. And I'm not sure that grown adults need to be told to stick to neutral topics when talking to other adults, save for those precious few unbalanced people in the street who love to reveal stark, intensely personal details about themselves to random strangers for no apparent reason. And those people have no particular nationality, they're just that crazy part of the human rainbow that exist in every country.

Last, but not least, Canadians don't like being mistaken for Americans, no more than Welsh or Irish people like to be mistaken for Britons. But we don't expect Britain to be sensitive to this either, considering that they haven't shown the same consideration to either of these nations in the past. And Canadians aren't that different than Americans in the last sense: Americans will complain without hesitation, but Canadians will do the same. They just won't complain to you.

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