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'Don't touch Indians. Be tolerant to them'

August 12, 2010 14:14 IST

Keen to extend a warm welcome to millions of tourists during the 2012 Olympics in London, Britain's national tourism agency has put together a list of cultural 'dos' and 'don'ts', including the advise to avoid physical contact with visitors from India.

VisitBritain, the tourism agency, has drawn up a comprehensive list of country-specific list of tips for everyone involved in tourism -- from hoteliers to taxi drivers -- to provide an even more efficient and helpful customer service that takes account of cultural needs.

For visitors from India, it says: "Avoid physical contact when first meeting someone from India. Being touched or approached too closely in initial meetings can be considered offensive, even if the intention is entirely innocent or friendly.

"Be tolerant if Indians at first seem impolite, noisy and impatient. This is partly the result of living in chaotic cities and environments. They usually appreciate orderliness when they see it."

The tips have been drawn up to help enhance cultural awareness, avoid misunderstandings and boost performance in caring for visitors, VisitBritain said.

Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive Officer of VisitBritain, said: "Overseas visitors spend more than 16 billion pounds a year in Britain, contributing massively to our economy and supporting jobs across the country. So giving our foreign visitors a friendly welcome is absolutely vital to our economy."

She added: "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 -- wherever they come from."

The tips include:

  • A smiling Japanese person is not necessarily happy as they tend to smile when angry, embarrassed, sad or disappointed.
  • Do not be offended by Argentinian humour, which may mildly attack your clothing or weight.
  • Avoid winking at someone from Hong Kong -- it is often considered rude.
  • Visitors from the United Arab Emirates can take great offence if you appear bossy.
  • In a social situation with a South African, do not place your thumb between your forefinger and your second finger -- it is an obscene gesture.
  • Do not ask a Brazilian personal questions, such as their age or salary.
  • When meeting Mexicans it is best not to discuss poverty, illegal aliens, earthquakes or their 1845-6 war with America.
  • Never call a Canadian an American. Some Canadians get so annoyed about being mistaken for US citizens that they identify themselves by wearing a maple leaf as pin badge or as a symbol on their clothing.
  • Do not take offence if an Australian or a New Zealander makes a joke about "Poms" -- it is more of a friendly endearment than an intended insult.
  • Avoid saying "thank you" to a Chinese compliment. Instead, politely deny a compliment to show humility.
  • Don't snap your fingers if you are with a Belgian -- it may be interpreted as impolite
  • Never imply Poles drink excessively. Despite stereotypes, Poles are not large consumers of alcohol and excessive drinking is frowned upon.
Prasun Sonwalkar in London
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