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...or their 1845-6 war with America.
August 11, 2010 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Do not be alarmed if South Africans announce that they were held up by robots.
Aimed at warming the welcome for the 2012 Olympics tourist explosion, VisitBritain, has released a number of helpful tips on being social, internationally. Prepping for Serious Business? You can visit Executive Planet and learn all about being courteous across the world. And here are some reasonable solutions for your 112 gripes about the French (Previously).

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posted by griphus (24 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like how the VisitBritan list reinforces the British worldview that every new incident in life is an opportunity to commit some kind of horrifying gaffe that'll haunt you forever.
posted by The Whelk at 10:01 AM on August 11, 2010 [9 favorites]


You'd have the same worldview if your head of state was married to Prince Philip.
posted by kersplunk at 10:09 AM on August 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Funny how one of these is to avoid using stereotypes about Poles when almost all of the other ones embrace stereotypes "Remember Arabs are not used to being told what to do."

Though I do like the idea of a Mexican storming off in rage at the mere mention of James K. Polk.
posted by ghharr at 10:12 AM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


For example, it is culturally insensitive to ask an Emirati whether they want bacon with their eggs or to include a half bottle of wine with the table d’hote menu.

Really? I understand the whole "host to the world" thing, but some of these tips are just a bit insane. Is it so hard for said Emirati to say, "no thank you, bacon is haraam."? Trying to guess each visitors' ethnicity and remember the ins-and-outs over-complicates it.

The South African tips on the other hand, were a bit closer to actually useful tips. Much better to know and be aware of cultural quirks or differences than to have to dramatically alter your service depending on where people are from. They're coming to London for the English experience, no? Funny that we're called "Ugly Americans" when we expect American service, but visitors from other places can expect Londoners to bend over backwards?
posted by explosion at 10:18 AM on August 11, 2010


What nothing for Germany: no "don't mention the war"?

For shame, VisitBritain.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:19 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


It would be easier to learn to say "sorry" in each of those languages than memorising all the rules.

Especially the one where you don't ask a Brazilian about marriage to a Brazilian.
posted by droolshark at 10:23 AM on August 11, 2010


This is clearly insane (for people visiting Britain surely the natives acting natively is a desirable thing to see), but it does make me wonder if other countries have similar guidance about us. Perhaps "When an Englishman mentions the weather, it means he feels he should be talking to you but cannot think of a topic", "may become offended if confused with a German", "don't stare at their teeth" or similar?
posted by dickasso at 10:24 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"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."

Er, this is really patronizing, no? It's not just me?
posted by maryr at 10:29 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can anyone explain wine pouring in Argentina? I've googled, but the most I've found is stern advice not to even attempt it.
posted by papercrane at 10:36 AM on August 11, 2010


Executive Planet says to only pour with the right hand. It may have to do with the "left hand used for wiping your ass" thing that's common across a number of cultures. Here it also adds to "never pour it by holding the neck of the bottle and rotating the hand backward so that the palm turns upward."
posted by griphus at 10:40 AM on August 11, 2010


Never call a Canadian an American.
Canadians may take offence if labeled American.


Interesting to see this, since I hear all the time on MetaFilter that we Americans have taken over the word that allegedly, other North Americans would like to use. Except that they don't want to use it because (oddly enough!) people associate it with citizens of the US, who they (quite rightly) don't want to be confused with. Can't say as I blame them. We're like the big slobbering dog of the world who doesn't realize that no, you DIDN'T ask for your leg to be humped and aforementioned slobbering is totally non-consensual. But hey. At least we have apple pie.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:51 AM on August 11, 2010


Er, this is really patronizing, no? It's not just me?

Nah. All it implies is that when exposed to the proper manner of living, they'll learn to behave civilly and show due respect to their betters. I've heard the British have developed a "joint-stock" company based on this hypothesis.
posted by griphus at 10:53 AM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Don’t be offended by Argentinian humour, which may mildly attack your clothing or weight.

Whereas British humour, as Diego Armando Maradona will tell you, will carefully avoid both subjects.
posted by Skeptic at 11:13 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Never call a Canadian an American.
Canadians may take offence if labeled American.


I'm not offended by it per se; I've been all over the US and people there aren't so different from people here. I do make this distinction though out of fear someone might spit in my food or rip into me about George Bush or something.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:28 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


* Americans literally cannot be offended.
And even if you somehow do manage to offend one, they are so fat and lazy they will never be able to catch you.

* Germans also cannot be offended.
They won't ever hear a damn thing you say. Just spout gibberish at them, they won't notice the difference.

* A French person is already offended.
All of the UK is inherently offensive to the French. Our food is disgraceful, our manners are servile, and our customs are ridiculous. They are right in all of this, of course. If only we could be more like them. Oh well. Your normal behavior will be no more offensive to them than anything else you could do, at any rate.
posted by rusty at 12:18 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do make this distinction though out of fear someone might spit in my food or rip into me about George Bush or something.

Except the Americans have got Obama now. And you've got Harper...
posted by Skeptic at 12:30 PM on August 11, 2010


* Americans literally cannot be offended.
And even if you somehow do manage to offend one, they are so fat and lazy they will never be able to catch you.


This is true. It's mostly because we're too dumb to catch on to offense. Pass the Cheetos!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:33 PM on August 11, 2010


OMG, the book about the French written for US soldiers is killing me. It paints quite a picture of the soldiers' experience in and opinions of France. Also fascinating how it rigorously argues against prejudice from a really limited standpoint ("don't be prejudiced against the French because they're on our side") and doesn't really facilitate much real understanding… which I suppose is anyway beyond the scope of such a book, or perhaps most books. But it has that scary war perspective where facts are contingent on national identity, and where that identity itself becomes a fact, impossible to disown or ignore.

It's just so deliciously functional, is what I mean. Most of their arguments are "well, yes, some French things, and some French people, are bad, but heck, so are some Americans" but it doesn't go even a small logical step farther than it needs to to win this damn thing. I like this clever authoritarian bit in the forward:
"The purpose of the present publication is to present facts and judgments which even the well-intentioned may tend to overlook.

There may be those who will consider this booklet a catalogue of (( excuses )) or (( justifications )). To them it can only be said that the truth is not denied by giving it a derogatory label.

There may be others who will seize upon the questions with triumph - ignoring the discussions entirely. That kind of reader will ignore the truth anyway - in whatever form it is offered.

This booklet may not convince those who are hopelessly prejudiced, but it may help to keep others from being infected by the same lamentable virus."
I imagine it must've worked for some soldiers. As for the gripes themselves, I can't help reading the whole list in the voice of Eddie Izzard doing an exaggerated American accent. Because it really does paint a picture of American morality, doesn't it? So self-centered, so utilitarian, so judgmental. Lacking self-awareness. All in all, quite deserving of French eye-rolls. :)

Thanks for the post!
posted by mondaygreens at 12:48 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny that we're called "Ugly Americans" when we expect American service, but visitors from other places can expect Londoners to bend over backwards?

To be fair, that's only the press release. They have a 39 page (PDF) country profile for the USA, which gives similar, and more detailed, advice for American travelers. (More country profiles here).

Interesting to see this, since I hear all the time on MetaFilter that we Americans have taken over the word that allegedly, other North Americans would like to use.

I honestly don't think that the majority of non-American MeFites use "USAian". I hope not, anyway. Obviously, it's still annoying/offensive even when a minority do it, and I wish they wouldn't.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:56 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's mostly because we're too dumb to catch on to offense. Pass the Cheetos!

Hey! Waitaminute! ...where'd you get Cheetos?
posted by griphus at 12:58 PM on August 11, 2010


Man those tcm profiles that Infinite Jest linked are weird. Just looking at the Canadian one's first (real) page:

he US Census Bureau puts the population of Canada at 33.2 million
Why in the world would you use the US Census Bureau? English writer, Canadian subject.

English is the official language in all the provinces and territories except Quebec...
...and except New Brunswick, which has both English AND French.

The next legislative elections take place in 2013
I'd expect the Brits to understand the concept of a government falling. We're very likely to have an election well before 2013.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:16 PM on August 11, 2010


This Canadian wouldn't necessarily take offense at being labeled an American. I would either ignore it, or if it mattered, just state that I'm Canadian. I will say to my American friends, that touring Europe wearing a NASCAR cap, Jack Daniels wife-beater, and camo shorts is probably ill-advised. But some still did...

Last Word...
posted by Artful Codger at 2:43 PM on August 11, 2010


As a Canadian, married to an American, I dislike being called an American unless the speaker is assuming that my wife and I are both American (I admit I've picked up a bit of her Alabamian accent).

If they say it because Canada is in "the Americas" then it's perfectly reasonable for me to call Venezuelans "American", right? I'm sure THAT would go over well.

The term "American" might literately mean "from the Americas", but by that token perhaps we should still be measuring liquids in "aams" and distances in "ells".
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 4:19 PM on August 11, 2010


I remember an awesome/depressing (depending on your sense of humor) guide to foreigners that a Japanese government agency distributed for (I think) the World Cup in 2002. There was definitely something about calling the police immediately if more than one black person came into your place of business at the same time.
posted by Wantok at 11:17 PM on August 11, 2010


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