Scots to learn how to avoid offending foreigners

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SCOTS ARE to be taught lessons on how to avoid offending foreign visitors in the run up to the busy tourist season.

Retailers and hospitality staff will be taught how to hand over receipts to Chinese tourists, as well as how to shake hands with a Russian.

Staff will also learn how to give change to Arabians with their right hand, rather than their left.


It is polite to shake hands firmly in Russia while making eye contact 

Eager to please staff will also learn common phrases and “foreign humour” in a bid to boost trade.

Stevenson College and Harvey Nichols will offer the lessons in Russian, Chinese and Arabic culture in a bid to make international visitors feel more welcome in Scotland.

Staff from Harvey Nichols and jeweller Hamilton & Inches will take the course, which begins on May 15.

Sarah Donno, senior specialist English lecturer at Stevenson College in Edinburgh will be running the course.

She said: “With events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup taking place in Scotland in 2014, we are going to see even more tourists flocking to the Capital.

“It’s therefore vital that those working in customer-facing businesses know appropriate customs and traditions from countries around the globe.

“The sessions will cover an introduction to cultural awareness; looking at visitors’ experiences in Scotland as well as how to use gesture and body language in the right way. For example, in some Arab cultures it is not appropriate to look women in the eye, or give change back with your left hand.”

Chinese, Russian and Arabic specialists will during the lessons, teaching pupils about the correct etiquette to use when serving their cultures.

Videos featuring international tourists who voice their opinions on their experiences in Edinburgh will also be shown.

According to Visit Scotland, over 1.34 million overseas visitors come to Edinburgh each year and spend £538million.

Visits from Middle-Eastern tourists are also soaring and have increased by 68 per cent from 2004 to 2009.

Russian tourists are also starting to visit the UK more often.

Visit Britain predict trips to the UK will rise by 24 per cent by 2014.

And China has become the fifth largest market in the world in terms of money spent on money spent abroad.

Debbie McKernan, jewellery manager and buyer at Hamilton & Inches, and one of three employees from the company to take part in the sessions, said it was important to take into consideration, cultural differences.

She said: “We are getting a huge amount of foreign people coming through the door, and one has to be aware of how to treat each client differently.”

The course will be held at Harvey Nichols’ training centre in Edinburgh.

1 COMMENT

  1. This is a terrific initiative that more UK businesses would do well to follow.

    Speaking from experience, in a business (Arabian Coffees – http://www.arabiancoffees.co.uk/) that culturally has one foot in the UK and one foot in the Middle East, we know first hand how important respecting regional custom is. Obviously, the fact that we are an Arabic family run UK business means we have a head start on most others, but we would recommend businesses, both large and small, to consider training that helps them understand the customs of these rising and lucrative overseas markets.

    Our advice, if you’re seeking help with this, is be sure of the credentials of the person/people giving the training – there are a lot of “fly-by-nighters” out there!

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