In the run up to the 2012 Olympics VisitBritain has issued cultural tips to help the tourism industry better welcome overseas visitors.

 ‘Market profiles’ on the VisitBritain website have been written by staff who are natives of the countries featured.

Advice includes:

A smiling Japanese person is not necessarily happy – they tend to smile when angry, embarrassed, sad or disappointed.

Don’t be offended by Argentinean humour which may mildly attack your clothing or weight.

Avoid pointing at someone from Hong Kong as this is generally used only for animals, winking is also considered a rude gesture.

Do not be alarmed if South Africans announce that they were held up by robots – they mean traffic lights.

Avoid saying ‘thank you’ to a compliment by someone from China, instead, deny the compliment politely as this shows humility. 

The information can be found here.

VisitBritain says some of our key competitors for most welcoming countries include Canada, Italy and Spain. The UK is currently ranked 50th.

VisitBritain Chief Executive Officer Sandie Dawe MBE said: ”Overseas visitors spend more than £16 billion a year in Britain, contributing massively to our economy and supporting jobs across the country. So giving our foreign visitors a friendly welcome is absolutely vital to our economy.”