The Visit Britain guide to tourist etiquette

VisitBritain has issued a list of cultural ‘dos and don’ts’ to help the hospitality industry avoid offending tourists when thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the UK during the 2012 Olympic Games.

Winking, giving the thumbs up and pouring wine the wrong way could all mortally offend foreign visitors to our shores.

VisitBritain hopes workers, including cab drivers and hotel managers, will master the cultural tips in time for the 2012 Olympics to ensure overseas visitors receive the warmest possible welcome and unfortunate misunderstandings that could cause offence are avoided.

The guide named Delivering a First Class Welcome, was written by natives of the countries featured who work for VisitBritain who said they favoured insider tips on where the best restaurants and pubs are, which are not usually listed in travel guides.

Britain comes 14th out of 50 in the Nation Brands Index for the quality of welcome would-be visitors believe they will get.

Sandie Dawe, VisitBritain’s chief executive, said: ‘Overseas visitors spend more than £16billion 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.’

The cultural advice includes:



Hong Kong Winking is often considered rude, also pointing with an index finger is not advisable as this is generally used only for animals, point with your hand open.

India Avoid physical contact when first meeting someone.

Belgium Don’t snap your fingers as it could be interpreted as impolite.

Argentina Pouring wine backwards into a glass indicates hostility. Don’t be offended by Argentinian humour, which may mildly attack your clothing or weight.

China Avoid saying ‘thank you’ to a compliment. Instead, politely deny it to show humility.

Japan A smiling Japanese person is not necessarily happy. They tend to smile when angry, embarrassed, sad or disappointed.

United Arab Emirates Visitors from the UAE can take great offence if you appear bossy. They appreciate being looked after by staff who understand Arab culture.

South Africa Do not be alarmed if South Africans say they were held up by ‘robots’, to them it means traffic lights. Don’t place your thumb between your forefinger and secondfinger, as it’s seen as obscene.

Brazil Don’t ask a Brazilian personal questions, especially about age, salary or marriage. And don’t talk about Argentina – it’s Brazil’s fiercest sporting rival, especially in football.

South Korea When accepting thanks Koreans will typically say ‘No, no’. This means ‘You are welcome’.

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