Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Medaling in Etiquette for the Olympics

Staying out of hot water: The 'Public bath pointing guidance manual' includes important do's and don'ts for non-Japanese visiting public bathhouses in Tokyo. Image from the Tokyo Sento Association

Cities which host the Olympics are becoming more and more savvy about the etiquette their citizens display when the world's spotlight is on them, and the etiquette of the foreign visitors arriving for the festivities. And Tokyo is no different:

Foreigners to get info on 'sento'etiquette ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

Tokyo’s “sento” public bathhouses are making an effort to become foreigner-friendly by printing multilingual brochures and posters to explain Japan’s communal bathing etiquette ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. 
“We know some foreign travelers have shown interest in the bathhouses as a unique aspect of Japanese culture,” Katsutoshi Kuromasa, a section chief at the Tokyo Sento Association, said Friday. He added that member bathhouse operators in popular tourist spots like Asakusa in Taito Ward have recently seen more foreigners trying out the mass baths. 
“We expect an increase in the number of travelers and those who would like to bathe at bathhouses as the Olympic Games come to Tokyo in 2020,” said Kuromasa, who expressed hope the brochures and posters will help foreigners learn more about the cultural experience. 
Written in Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese, the recently published pamphlet explains the history of public baths and communal bathing in Japan. 
The posters, which are to be put up in all of Tokyo’s public baths from mid-October, outline all the steps, from taking off one’s shoes before entering the facility and paying the fee to making sure one washes thoroughly before taking a soak. 
The association has also distributed a pointing-based manual to all public bathhouses in the capital that helps staff communicate with foreign guests who can’t speak Japanese by simply pointing at the desired questions and responses in the manual. 
A total of 20,000 brochures will be provided for free from mid-October at public baths and the three Tokyo Tourist Information Centers, at Tokyo City Hall in Shinjuku Ward, Haneda airport in Ota Ward and Keisei Ueno Station in Taito Ward. 
Public bathhouses served as community gathering places in the past, but their numbers have fallen over recent decades as more dwellings include their own bathing facilities. As of the end of September, Tokyo had 710 public bathhouses, according to the association. The bathing fee in Tokyo is ¥450 for those 12 and older, ¥180 for those 6 to 11, and ¥80 for children under 5.

Tokyo is hardly the first city to go to such measures.  Most cities want to put their best foot forward in welcoming their guests.  Notably, China started early etiquette classes for their citizens, prior to the 2008 Olympic Games.

My etiquette class students were terribly confused by this idea: "Imagine," I said to them, "If suddenly you, and your whole family, were instructed by the government to go to the shopping center or mall, on the 11th of every month, to practice standing in line politely. Would your family go?"
This seemed much more "doable" to me.  Classes in etiquette are always a good idea for that added bit of polish, and one doesn't have to stand in line for an hour or so.
I'm onboard with, "It's civilised to queue, it's glorious to be polite." But "Hundreds of people gave clenched fists salutes to pledge their allegiance to the campaign ...?" sounds a like a scene right out of one of the History Channel's specials on Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s. 

London moved in the opposite direction of China, by handing out some rather stereotypical sounding etiquette advice to their citizens on the foreigners who'd be invading their city, for the 2012 Olympic Games: "Hold off from hugging an Indian, don't be alarmed if the French are rude and never mistake a Canadian for an American"? 

What if it is a Canadian of Indian descent, who has moved to the U.S.? Or what if a person is someone like myself? I don't particularly like being hugged by complete strangers but am not Indian. I am also alarmed by utter rudeness, will always hesitate to be rude, but I often do get mistaken for a Canadian. I am from a city in the U.S. founded by Canadians, which is why my mail often winds up in Ontario Canada, instead of Ontario California.

Britain's national tourism office published a guide to international etiquette ahead of the London 2012 games. Advice to Londoners includes, "Indians don't like being touched by strangers and may be suspicious about the quality of British food."  

Hold off from hugging an Indian, don't be alarmed if the French are rude and never mistake a Canadian for an American. 
Britain's national tourism agency issued guidelines Wednesday on the etiquette of dealing with the hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors who will be coming to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. 
Seeking to help the country's sometimes snarky citizens offer a warmer welcome, VisitBritain has updated its advice for anyone likely to work with travelers arriving from overseas — from hotel staff to taxi drivers. 
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. "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 16.6 billion pounds ($26 billion). The 2012 Olympics is likely to bring in an additional 2.1 billion ($3.3 billion) in tourism revenue, according to a government estimate, and about 320,000 extra visitors from overseas during the games in July and August 2012. 
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 offense 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. 
Tourism workers are advised to show extra patience when dealing with guests from India or the United Arab Emirates. 
"Indians are in general, an impatient lot, and like to be quickly attended to," the guidelines claim. "The more affluent they are, the more demanding and brusque they tend to be." Indians also don't like being touched by strangers and may be suspicious about the quality of British food, the guide said, without noting the latter might be a common concern. 
Travelers from the Middle East are likely to be demanding with staff and "are not used to being told what they can't do," the guide warns. 
Guests from China and Hong Kong may find winking or pointing with an index finger rude, while "mentioning failure, poverty or death risks offense," the advice claims. Chinese visitors may be unimpressed by landmarks just a few hundred years old, tourism staff are told. 
Workers are advised against discussing poverty, immigration, earthquakes or the Mexican-American war with visitors from Mexico — who prefer to chat about history and art. 
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. 
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.

Compiled by contributor Maura Graber, who has been teaching etiquette to children, teens and adults, and training new etiquette instructors, for nearly a quarter of a century, as founder and director of The RSVP Institute of Etiquette.  She is also a writer, has been featured in countless newspapers, magazines and television shows and was an on-air contributor to PBS in Southern California for 15 years. 
Original articles from TIME Magazine, the BBC News, and Sento Etiquette from The Japan Times, by Masaaki Kameda