VisitBritain produces tips on how not to upset tourists

A view of London from Piccadilly Circus
Image caption Cabbies can get tips on topics of conversation to steer clear of

Britain's hoteliers, pub landlords and cabbies have been given tips on how to avoid cultural no-nos with the Chinese and faux pas with the French.

Tourism agency VisitBritain has come up with online advice to help give foreign visitors a warmer welcome ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.

It advises against hugging an Indian straight off, implying Poles drink a lot or calling Canadians "American".

It also warns against mentioning the 1845-6 war to a Mexican.

VisitBritain says that, while visitors see Britons as honest, funny and kind, some would like a more exuberant welcome.

It says research has shown overseas visitors anticipate a fairly good welcome when coming to Britain.

The UK is ranked 14 out of 50 in the Nations Brands Index for the quality of welcome behind Canada, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and others.

The guide, written by VisitBritain staff who come from the countries featured, is aimed at enhancing cultural awareness and avoiding misunderstandings.

Image caption The British welcome is not considered to be one of the warmest

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
  • Avoid physical contact when first meeting someone from India
  • 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, the guide says

Sandie Dawe, VisitBritain's chief executive, said overseas visitors spent more than £16bn a year in Britain so giving them a friendly welcome was vital to the 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 - wherever they come from," she said.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites