World

Canadians overly sensitive, Brits warned

Canadians are easily offended when mistaken for Americans, according to Britain's national tourism agency.

Are Canadians easily offended? They are when mistaken for Americans, according to Britain's national tourism agency.

New guidelines from VisitBritain ahead of the 2012 London Olympics warn that Canadians can be overly sensitive, especially about their national identity.

Seeking to help the country's sometimes snarky citizens offer a warmer welcome, the tourism bureau has updated its advice for anyone likely to work with travellers arriving from overseas — from hotel staff to taxi drivers.

The advice says Canadian tourists are likely to be quite annoyed about being mistaken for Americans, the guide suggests — urging workers to keep an eye out for Maple Leaf pins or badges on tourists' clothing.

Hold off from hugging an Indian, the guide advises, and don't be alarmed if the French are rude.

Other tips: Don't go around asking Brazilians personal questions and never be bossy with visitors from the Middle East.

"Giving our foreign visitors a friendly welcome is absolutely vital to our economy," said Sandie Dawe, chief executive officer of the agency.

P.O.V.:

Canadians: Do you take offence if you're mistaken for American? Take our poll.

"With hundreds of thousands of people thinking of coming to Britain in the run-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, this new advice is just one of the ways that VisitBritain is helping the tourism industry care for their customers."

About 30 million people visit Britain each year, spending about $27 billion Cdn. The Olympics, in July and August 2012, are likely to bring in an additional $3.4 billion in tourism revenue, according to a government estimate, and about 320,000 extra visitors from overseas.

VisitBritain said research it had conducted found tourists believe Britons are honest and efficient — but not the most pleasant. Britain is ranked 14th out of 50 in the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index on the quality of welcome offered to visitors, the tourism agency said.

The frank etiquette tips were written by agency staff about their own native countries.

Polish tourists are likely to be hurt by stereotypes that imply they drink excessively, while the French are notoriously picky in restaurants, the guidelines claim.

U.K. workers are told to brush off common Argentine jokes about a person's clothing or weight. Belgians take offence at people snapping their fingers while Australians are fond of coarse language. Japanese people consider prolonged eye contact impolite and smile to express a range of emotions — not simply to show happiness.

Guests from China and Hong Kong may find winking or pointing with an index finger rude, while "mentioning failure, poverty or death risks offence," the advice claims.

And Americans? They can appear "informal to the point of being very direct or even rude" and won't ever hesitate about complaining, the guide says.