Lifestyle

Saturday 2 August 2014

Why you should never say no to a Japanese tourist

French tourists Emeline, Maena, Raphael and Orane at the Gravity Bar in the Guinness Hopstore. Photo: Ronan Lang

When it comes to committing cultural faux-pas, it would be nice to imagine that Ireland ranks somewhere in the middle.

As a small country on the periphery of Europe, we're highly sensitive about being dismissed as a mere appendage of larger nations -- 90 years from independence, the wider world's continued reluctance to accept that, actually, we have NOTHING to do with the UK continues to flummox -- and it flatters us to think that we show others the respect we ourselves wish to receive.

Guidelines issued to the British hospitality industry urge hotels staff not to mistake German directness for bad manners, to understand that Indians like to change their minds and to never mistake Canadians for Americans (they might consider extending the privilege to Irish people who'd rather not find themselves listed as UK citizens when checking in).

With visitor numbers on a healthy upward curve, can the Irish tourism trade learn anything from such recommendations?

Here, based on the UK tip-sheet, are some suggestions.

* Americans don't mean to be offensive -- they just don't get out much. Sightseers from the US may try to pay for their drinks in dollars.

* If a visitor is from Hong Kong, try to ascertain if they are superstitious. In the event that they are, do not book them into a room with a four-poster bed. According to VisitBritain, Hong Kong citizens associate such beds with "ghostly encounters".

* Avoid eye contract with guests from France if you do not know them. VisitBritain implies that this may be interpreted as rude or confrontational.

* Try not to take umbrage when guests from across the water refer to "the Mainland", "Southern Ireland" and so on. Chances are they are not actively trying to be insulting.

Visitors will have never heard of hurling or football and may be at best only vaguely aware of the Irish language (or wish us to call it 'gaelic'). Don't be offended. Travellers from certain foreign parts -- specifically Cork -- may have an innate hostility towards Dublin and will consider every moment spent in the "capital" a heinous waste of time.

That's okay -- they'll be scuttling back down the M8 to the promised land of Beamish, Tanora and Barry's Tea, at first opportunity.

Irish Independent

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