Britain’s tourism agency has released guidelines for how residents should treat visitors to the 2012 Olympics in London. Among the tips that apply to Canadians: We get angry when people jump the queue, we don’t smoke, though “This may be different in Quebec,” and we hate being confused with Americans.
When first you spot the foreigner, do not point. That’s bad – if he’s from Hong Kong.
He may be smiling. Don’t be fooled. If he’s Japanese that doesn’t mean he’s happy.
Stop snapping your fingers (Belgians).
Don’t wink (Hong Kong again).
Don’t say thank you (Chinese).
Don’t make the OK sign (Brazilians).
And for the love of God, don’t touch him (Indians. And just about everyone else).
These are among the guidelines released Wednesday by the U.K.’s national tourism agency, Visit Britain, advising natives on how to deal with visitors during the 2012 London Olympics.
Canada? Visit Britain has put its finger on 11 potential flashpoints whenever you cross our collective path.
The Canadian believes in the first-come, first-serve principle while waiting in line “and will be angry if you push ahead.”
We don’t smoke. So don’t try.
“However,” the guide notes drily. “(T)his may be different in Quebec.”
Other British insights into our national character: We’re on time. We like shopping and nature. We shake hands and use first names.
Most importantly, we are not Americans. This is so vital that Visit Britain repeats the idea twice.
“Many in Britain treat Canadians as Americans even though they are quite different from their American neighbours,” the guide advises, possibly with pen trembling over paper. “Canadian may take offence if labeled as American.”
Canada’s the easy one. Some of the other directives are as inscrutable as Aramaic. Parse this piece of advice about Argentineans.
“Don’t pour wine (for an Argentinean). The whole process has a number of social taboos and unless you understand them you could insult someone. For example, pouring wine backwards into a glass indicates hostility.”
Taboos? As in, forbidden fruit? Is this how Argentineans hit on each other? And how, exactly, do you pour wine “backwards”?
“What? What?!” says Daniel Karlin when told of this advice. Karlin is the founder of a Buenos Aires-based wine club called Anuva Wines. He’s lived there. His wife, Lourdes, is Argentinean.
“That’s bizarre,” said Karlin. “I’ve never heard of such a rule. I’ve poured wine for literally hundreds, thousands of Argentines. And not one has ever made a comment about any strange or uniquely Argentine etiquette with respect to pouring wine.”
Well, then. This certainly casts other Visit Britain tidbits in a different light.
Do I really have to ask a Japanese person if he needs help three times before he will accept?
Is it true that New Zealanders don’t tip?
Is it really wrong to call a Korean a “guy”?
Do Russians truly think that meat is “more prestigious” than fish?
Maybe not. Or maybe Daniel Karlin has thousands of enemies in Argentina he doesn’t know about.
Here’s some advice, Britain. Stick to your strengths – a brisk handshake and an impenetrable cloak of ennui.
And stop touching me.
EXCERPT FROM VISIT BRITAIN BROCHURE
Section on Canadian tourists from Visit Britain brochure “Delivering a first class welcome”
Social practices – not laws – govern many types of behaviour in Canada. Some traditions are well established and are politely but firmly enforced.
• Lining up, or queuing: People normally line up or queue according to the principle of ‘first-come, first-served.’ They will be angry if you push ahead in a line-up instead of waiting your turn.
• Not smoking in private homes: Most Canadians do not smoke.
• When you are in people’s homes, you should always ask their permission to smoke. However this may be different in Quebec.
• Being on time: You should always arrive on time. People who are often late may be fired from their jobs or suspended from school. Many Canadians will not wait more than 10-15 minutes for someone at a business meeting. For social events, it is expected that you will arrive within half an hour of the stated time.
• Respect for the environment: Canadians respect the natural environment and expect people to avoid littering.
• Bargaining: Bargaining for a better price is not common in Canada, but there are some exceptions. People who sell things privately may also bargain.
• Smart shopping: Stores compete on price with one another to attract customers. Note: the price marked on goods in stores does not include taxes, which add from 7-15% to the cost of an item, depending on the province.
• Shaking hands: It is customary that you always shake hands at a first-time meeting and always in business situations.
• First names: Canadians are always on a first name basis; especially in social situations and informal business environments.
• Not Americans: The Canadian visitor to Britain is not an American.
• Many in Britain treat Canadians as Americans even though they are quite different from their American neighbours. Canadian may take offence if labeled as American. Canadians often identify themselves as Canadians by wearing a maple leaf pin, or a maple leaf on clothing, etc.