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VisitBritain Issues Bizarre Guidelines for Dealing With Tourists

— Filed under: Breaking News, People & Culture
Tourists in London 3

Image by maistora via Flickr

In an effort to prepare the UK's hospitality industry for an influx of foreigners during the 2012 Olympic Games, VisitBritain has issued a comprehensive guide to dealing with difficult tourists. Although the tips were compiled by natives of those countries, and are likely intended to cement Britain's reputation as the politest place on earth, the sometimes-bizarre list may perhaps serve to reinforce stereotypes and even offend the very people they were designed to protect.

Among the gems of wisdom:

  • Don't pour wine back-handed for Argentinians - it indicates hostility.
  • The Japanese sometimes smile when they're angry.
  • Australians or New Zealanders might make offensive jokes.
  • When talking with Mexicans, don't discuss their 1845-6 war with America. Or poverty. Or earthquakes.
  • "Never imply Poles drink excessively."
  • My favorite: "Do not be alarmed if South Africans announce that they were held up by robots."
Crazy Spanish tourist

Image by drowcliffe via Flickr

Obviously insane Spanish tourist in London

Further tidbits culled from the guide by the Associated Press:

  • French people may be rude, and "notoriously picky in restaurants."
  • Americans "won't ever hesitate about complaining." (in this pdf)
  • "Indians are in general, an impatient lot, and like to be quickly attended to."
  • "Travelers from the Middle East are likely to be demanding with staff" and don't like being bossed around.
An American tourist in London

Image by kris_wotipka via Flickr

The general reaction thus far seems to be that the 'don'ts' outlined in VisitBritain's guide are ridiculously obvious. The Telegraph's Ed West thinks you'd have to be a moron to make most of these mistakes, and travel blogger Rory Boland sees a connection to hapless hotelier Basil Fawlty.

But what about the generalizations made about people of various nationalities? Are you from one of these countries? Do these recommendations offend you? Can you confirm or deny that these allegations are true? Should these guidelines be corrected and cleaned up, or should we perhaps just take a long breath and have a chuckle?

And finally, what tips would you give to hospitality workers of other countries who are catering to British tourists?

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MrShaw's picture


Are an offensive joke.  And Parisians are rude, and not very likely to eat in English restaurants, though I can't blame them. I've never met a nice South African...

Michel's picture

Are you serious or joking.

Are you serious or joking. What' do you mean you've never met a nice South African?

MrShaw's picture


Was just trying to prove not all English people are ridiculously polite...and the nice South African comment is a song.  The guy that made the video is from....wait for it....South Africa.

Harold's picture

Really shocking that England

Really shocking that England would come out with this kind of nonsense. I believe a "terribly sorry" is in order...

Ethan's picture


they forgot that the Kiwis like to have some sheep around and a pair of velcro gloves


timedesign's picture

Harold, who should they say

Harold, who should they say sorry to?

Harold's picture

To every country they helped

To every country they helped continue the stereotypes of. Just issuing blanket statements that the French are rude doesn't help anyone, snide jokes aside.

MrShaw's picture

In Stereo.

Would suggesting the English create stereotypes, be stereotyping?  I am listen to music and typing.  Would that be a form? For the record it was a Frenchman that invented the word, and an American who gave it the meaning that is used today.  It is also stated that stereotyping is unavoidable. Like getting stuck behind a Welshman who has no clue how to use the on ramps on a Dover-Calais ferry crossing.

timedesign's picture

British tourists

But the tips weren't written by Brits, "they were complied by the natives of each country" so people continued the stereotypes of their own country. Which sounds like an excellent bandwagon to jump on.

My tips for dealing with British tourists:

  • Try not to stare at our teeth.
  • Don't let us out in the sun for too long, we go a bit funny.
  • You can make jokes about the Royal Family, but not about the Queen. We get defensive about the Queen.
  • 'Liberal' is not a dirty word in Britain, in fact people will refer to themselves as a liberal quite, er liberally.
  • Waiters, you don't need to ask Brits if they are enjoying their meal. In fact you don't have to say anything. Or smile.
  • They will stare at their shoes if anyone starts talking about Jesus.
  • The Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish do not take kindly to being called English. Beware an angry Scotsman.
  • Same with the Union Jack. It's not the English flag.
  • Don't take it personally if they bring their own tea bags.
  • And you'll probably need more beer in the fridge.
MrShaw's picture

you forgot...

  •  The English don't take kindly to towels on sun beds, even if we have spent the whole morning in bed due to hangovers, and  WILL blame the Germans.
  •  Pint is a word the English believe should be Universal, in certain parts of Spain you can here sunburnt louts shouting "Big Pint Garcon"
  • Any self-respecting Englishman will have at least one pair of Union Jack boxer shorts, which he will match with a large, red gut at any given opportunity.
  • Spain is the most sophisticated holiday destination as you can buy Chips, and they spell it correctly on the menu, unlike the average holiday maker's tattoos.
  • Everybody outside of the England speaks funny, and so do people from Newcastle, Scotland, Wales, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.
  • Getting so drunk you turn into an a sexual/aggressive/morbid/regurgitating animal is fun.  No seriously it is.
timedesign's picture

Rude Frenchmen

Harold wrote:

 Just issuing blanket statements that the French are rude doesn't help anyone,

It might have helped the blokes who decided to put EuroDisney in Paris.

Dave's picture


Hey since when do Americans complain a lot?  I think British folks complain just as much

MrShaw's picture


We should be given a free pass to complain, after all we did invent the language....or perhaps not :)

timedesign's picture

Dave, are you complaining? :)

Dave, are you complaining? :)

prb65's picture

Last time I went to visit

Last time I went to visit family in Orlando the Brit lady sitting next to me at the pool did nothing but complain. Complained about the kids playing to close to her, complained the music was too loud. Complained it was too hot. I don't recall ever asking her what she though but she felt compelled to tell me, so I moved to another lounge chair

timedesign's picture

The nice sounding lady who

The nice sounding lady who did the public service announcements on the London Underground got the sack a while back for doing spoof announcements. My favourite was: "We would like to remind our American cousins that you are almost certainly talking too loud".

And everoney knows the French are rude anyway.

Anonymous's picture


Well whatever way you look at it, stereotyping's better than monotyping any day of the week, that said, with technology being as it is today I'd expect the government to go at least as far as dolby-surroundtyping.

violet's picture

Its in general true

In general what was written is true, I have traveled and worked in the hotel industry and these general stereotypes are correct of course not everyone from certain countries will be the same, but as a whole I can agree to them all. I wouldn't take offence, it is just one of the things that makes traveling so different,challenging and enjoyable, the different personalities of each country.

  --From Australia

Chris's picture

Yes, Complainers.

I work in the tourist industry here in the US, and yes, my fellow countrymen do complain a lot more than the foreigners, so much so that I'm more likely to give discounts to foreigners.  American customers believe that the customer is always right, and if you prove them wrong, they will sometimes even threaten to sue.