The Olympic Etiquette guide

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Last week, the British tourist board released an international etiquette guide in anticipation of the imminent Olympic tourist influx set to descend in 2012

Featuring a range of remarkably specific cultural instructions we imagine Prince Philip would do well to examine, the guide is a fascinating insight into the little known elements of foreign societies. Who'd have thought, for instance, that people from Hong Kong hate to be winked at?

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We'd be fascinated to read a similar guide from overseas, if only to discover more about our own curious social customs. No doubt people would be discouraged from interfering with our stiff upper lips and the pole jarred between our bottom cheeks.

Either way, it’s good to discover a little more about  weird and wonderful customs from across the globe. Here are a few of our favourite tips from the guide.

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1. A smiling Japanese person is not necessarily happy.
The Japanese tend to smile when angry, embarrassed, sad or disappointed. They may think it rude if you talk to them with your hands in your pockets. Avoid staring, as eye contact isn’t generally considered polite. While sitting, try not to show the bottom of your shoes. Avoid being late for things and blowing your nose in front of someone is also likely to be considered rude.

2. When meeting Mexicans it is best not to discuss poverty, illegal aliens, earthquakes or their 1845-6 war with America.
Polite topics of conversation would be Mexican culture, history, art and museums instead. When demonstrating the height of something, be aware that holding the palm face down is reserved for animals. Burping out loud is considered very rude.

3. Do not be alarmed if South Africans announce that they were held up by robots.
To a South African the word robot means traffic lights. ‘’Takkies’’ means trainers, a barbecue is a ‘braai’, and ‘’howzit’’ is an informal way of saying hello. When 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.

4. Never imply Poles drink excessively.
Despite stereotypes, Poles are not large consumers of alcohol and excessive drinking is frowned upon.

5. Don’t snap your fingers if you are with a Belgian. It may be interpreted as impolite.
And avoid discussing personal matters or linguistic and political divisions within Belgium between Dutch and French speakers.

For more from the guide visit www.visitbritain.org

Words by Fernando Augusto Pacheco