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The Caterer

How to treat non-foreigners

02 September 2010 by
How to treat non-foreigners

With the Olympics set to bring an influx of tourists, Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels, offers his guidelines for operators on how to deal with native British customers without giving offence.

VisitBritain recently published guidance for the tourist industry on dealing with visitors from different countries in preparation for the Olympics.

Sensible advice includes not snapping your fingers at Belgians or pouring wine backwards into a glass in front of Argentinians, since both of these acts may cause offence. There was also a warning that winking is considered rude in Hong Kong and that Brazilians are especially reticent about discussing their personal lives.

All of this will be helpful, I'm sure, but what about dealing with visitors who were raised here in Britain? I would like to offer these alternative guidelines for anyone working in hospitality who wishes to stay on the right side of their native customers.

Families with small children are sometimes a little tired and emotional on arrival at a hotel and should be treated with caution. Any suggestion that the husband did not confirm the booking may compromise his personal safety.

Customers in threadbare tweeds with mud on their shoes are invariably landowners and should, therefore, be made to feel at home by turning off the heating in their room.

Please remember that same-sex couples will not automatically be attracted to every member of staff who shares their gender.

Guests who are advanced in years may find some technology challenging. If your TVs have complicated controls, please pre-set them to show Countdown or Antiques Roadshow when possible.

Special care is needed when serving teenagers. Although highly intelligent, some youths can communicate only by text, so do not expect their meal orders to be given verbally.

Visitors from the North of England may sometimes ask if you are having a laugh. This is not an enquiry into your happiness but an allusion to your alleged rip-off prices. Visitors from the South-east are more likely to convey the same sentiment by asking if you can really be serious. The correct answer in both cases is, of course, "Yes".

And finally, do not assume that a badly behaved guest is drunk. There may be a perfectly rational explanation for their condition - such as writing restaurant reviews for the Sunday Times.

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