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London Trip - Advice Needed

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  • User profile image
    footballism

        I am about to go to London for a business trip, my job there is to act as an interpreter for my CEO, and I reallly need some advice on how to become a qualified interpreter , what kinda things I need to pay attention to? and how to communicate with British people more successfully, is there any cultural or language gotchas I need to know beforehand, how can I behave appropriately at the dinner table?

    Sheva

  • User profile image
    Ian

    Cobbled this together from http://ukstudentlife.com (just in case you can't see that URL)

    SOCIALISING

    - British people don't like to be embarrassed. They fear that they may not be able to make conversation with you, or to understand what you say to them. They probably don't know much about your country (if they can guess where you are from) or culture, and fear they might say something that offends you. They think you won't understand their jokes (you won't!) The easiest way to avoid this is if they don't go up and start speaking to you.

    - British people like to have a lot of their own personal space. They want their own privacy. Some people may worry that if they make friends with you, you may not understand their social customs. They may also worry about interfering with your own personal space. If you are a woman, a British man may worry that you will feel threatened if he starts speaking to you.
    If there are several spare seats in a public place, most people will sit away from other people. People don't touch others very much, and will usually apologise if they touch someone accidentally. It is rare for people to go to someone's house without having arranged it first.

    - Do not call Welsh, Scottish or Irish people "English"


    SMALL TALK

    Which topics are safe for small talk?

    - Introductions, eg "Hello. May I introduce myself? My name is Mark"
    - Travel, eg "Did you manage to find here OK?" or "Did you have a good journey?"
    - Family, eg "How is your family?" (but only if you already know about the person's family)
    - Hospitality, eg "Can I get you something to eat or drink?"
    - The weather, eg "It's a lovely day today, isn't it?" (British weather is always exciting!)
    - Holidays, eg "Are you going anywhere this weekend?" or "Are you going anywhere on holiday this year?"
    - Nature, eg "Those roses look really beautiful, don't they?" (British people love gardens)
    - Pets, eg "What a lovely dog. What is his name?" (British people love dogs or cats)
    - General news, eg "What do you think about the recent floods?" (but safer to avoid gossip and politics)
    - Films, eg "Have you seen the film Bridget Jones's Diary?"
    - Television, eg "Did you see that documentary about foxes last night?"
    - Music, eg "Do you like pop music?"
    - Books, eg "Have you read any good books recently?" (but only if you know the person likes reading)
    - Sport, eg "Have you been watching Wimbledon?" (actually, British men often talk about football)
    - Hobbies, eg "What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?" (if you think the person has some spare time)
    - Business, eg "How's your business going?" (but only ask if you know the person has a business)
    - Studies, eg "What are you studying?" (but only ask if you know the person is a student)
    - Work, eg "What sort of work do you do?" (but only ask if you know the person has a job)
    - Food, eg "I had a lovely Chinese meal last night - do you like Chinese food?"
    - General matters about the person you are talking to, eg "Have you lived in this area long?"
    - General matters on subjects that you know that interests the person you are talking to, eg cars, film stars etc

    Which topics are best avoided for small talk?

    You should be careful about who you talk with about these things, and what you say. You need to be more careful with people that you've only just met, people who are older than you, people who appear to have strong religious or political views, or people who may have some personal problems or sensitivities.

    - Age, eg "How old are you?"
    - Children, eg "Do you have any children?"
    - Appearance or weight, eg "You seem to have put on some weight"
    - Gossip about somebody (you may be talking about the person's friend or favourite person)
    - Jokes that might offend (especially sexist or racist jokes)
    - Money, eg "How much do you earn?"
    - Complicated subjects, eg philosophy
    - Sex (some people have strong religious views about this, or are embarrassed by the subject)
    - Previous or current relationships, or marriage ("Do you have a girlfriend?", "Are you married?")
    - Politics
    - Religion
    - Crime
    - Criticisms or complaints


    TIPPING

    When should I leave a tip?

    There are a number of situations in which it is common to leave a tip (sometimes called a gratuity), although you should not feel that you have to do this if you cannot afford to do so or if you were not happy with the service provided.

    - Restaurant or café
    Usually people only pay a tip in a restaurant or café when there is a waiter service (not for takeaway meals or self-service meals).
    Check the menu and the bill to see if a service charge is included in the price. For example, it may say: "A discretionary 10% service charge has been included" or "service is included", or you may just see that 10% has been added at the bottom of the bill (you can refuse to pay this part if you were unhappy with the service).
    If the service charge is not included the bill may say "Service charge not included" or "Gratuities are at the customer's discretion". Normally people add about 10% to the bill and make the amount a whole number of pounds.

    - Hairdresser's
    It is common for people to leave a small tip (maybe one or two pounds) as a tip.

    - Taxi
    It is common to add 10% to the taxi fare.

    - Hotel

    You may want to give a small tip (perhaps 1 or 2 pounds) when a member of hotel staff gives you a special service. For example, a tip may be appropriate if a porter carries your baggage to your room when you arrive, if the concierge helps you (for example by helping you to buy tickets, book a restaurant or plan your shopping or sightseeing, or by keeping your bags safe before check-in or after check-out) or if a doorman finds a taxi for you. It is more polite if you do not show the money when you are giving it - put it in your hand, say thank you, shake the person's hand and press the money into the person's hand.

    FOOD ETIQUETTTE

    Drinking tea
    Do not pour the tea from a teapot as soon as it has been made; leave it for a minute or two.
    If the teapot contains loose tea, place the tea strainer onto the cup before pourring.
    Milk should be added to the cup before pourring the tea (but many British people pour it afterwards).
    Once the teapot is half-empty, or if the tea is too strong for you, pour the hot water into the teapot.

    Eating scones
    Use a knife to cut the scone into two halves. Put jam on each side (there is no need to add butter first), then spread clotted cream on top carefully. Eat the top and bottom halves separately (do not try to make them into a sandwich).

    Understanding the menu
    "Could you explain what ____ is please?"
    "Could you tell me what the soup of the day is, please?"
    "Could you tell me today's specials, please?"

    Using cutlery and plates
    In general, if there are several pieces of cutlery, use forks, knives or spoons on the outside first
    If there is a side plate for eating bread rolls, use the plate on your left-hand side. Put some butter on the side of the plate. Tear bread from the roll, then add butter just before eating it.
    Eat soup quietly, without lifting the bowl off the table (you can tip the bowl towards you when you are finishing it)

    Eating peas
    To be very polite, you should eat peas by squashing them against the reverse side of your fork

    Asking for more
    If at someone's home, you shouldn't ask for more unless your host offers it by asking, "Would you like some more?" or, "Would you like seconds?"
    Possible answers include "Yes please", "Just a little bit, please", or to say no, it is best to say something like "That was lovely, but I'm full, thank you"

    Dinner parties
    If you cannot eat a certain type of food or have some special needs, tell your host several days before the dinner party.
    Arrive on time, but try to avoid being early in case your host is not ready.
    Take a bottle of wine or some flowers or chocolates to give to the host as soon as you have arrived.

    Going to the toilet
    "Excuse me. Could you tell me where the toilet is, please?" (in someone's house)
    "Excuse me. Could you tell me where the ladies / gents is, please?" (in a cafe or restaurant)

    Asking for the bill
    "May I have the bill, please?"
    If the bill says "service not included", it is usual to add about 10% to the bill.
    In some restaurants, a 10% service charge is automatically added to the bill


    Also see:

    http://www.executiveplanet.com/business-etiquette/United+Kingdom.html

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    Ian wrote:
    Eating peas

    To be very polite, you should eat peas by squashing them against the reverse side of your fork

    ...I eat them by spooning them into my fork, how can you eat them by squashing them? They'll taste disgusting that way.

  • User profile image
    Tensor

    Agreed. If I wanted my pees mushy, I'd ask for mushy pees.

    Other wise, very comprehensive and good advice Smiley

  • User profile image
    Tensor

    From my limited, third hand knowledge of politness at the Chinese dinner table, it is expected that to be polite, you should elave a little bit? and that eating all on your plate is a sign that you want more. At least I believe so. That doesnt apply here. You may be offered more as a result of clearing your plate, but it is perfectly acceptable to say "no, thank you".

    Is it possible to buy a guide for chinese people visiting the UK? Im sure you can get them te other way around. It might be worth it because people here are not going to explain all details as we will be not fully aware of what is polite/impolite for you.

  • User profile image
    Unoriginal​Guy

    You have to compress them a little otherwise they'll roll off your fork.
     
    This topic made me laugh... Are we really so predictable that all of that stuff can be true?

    Although I must admit there is a ring of truth to all of that... But I don't pay attention to all the little nuances of our day to day lives. 

    It is certainly good advice not to sit next to someone else in an empty room... That does tick some people off (e.g. Me) a lot. If there are so many seats give me room to breath people!

    But adversely to that advice I often complain to complete strangers... It is a good conversation starter, assuming you both agree... And it being England most of us having something to complain about... (e.g. " Me: Damn the trains are never on time
    Them: Yeah tell me about it. I was stuck at the station for 30 minutes yesterday").

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    Well if it's work related, rather than social

    1) Refer to people by their titles by default, Mr Smith. People will give permission to use their first name.

    2) Dark suits, not light ones for business.

    3) Shirts for business should not have breast pockets.

    4) Lace up shoes, not slip ons.

  • User profile image
    footballism

    blowdart wrote:

    4) Lace up shoes, not slip ons.

    Shoes without laces are quite pupolar in China, why is it not appropriate in your country?:O

    Sheva

  • User profile image
    Tensor

    It looks like you are unable to tie your own shoe-laces Smiley

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    footballism wrote:
    
    blowdart wrote:
    4) Lace up shoes, not slip ons.

    Shoes without laces are quite pupolar in China, why is it not appropriate in your country?

    Sheva


    For formal work clothing, especially with a suit it's just not the done thing.

    Casual, well yes, if you want to look like a 1980s Miami Vice throw back Smiley

  • User profile image
    Unoriginal​Guy

    Tensor wrote:
    It looks like you are unable to tie your own shoe-laces


    I wonder what people will think if you show up with slip on shoes and a clip on tie? Tongue Out

  • User profile image
    Tensor

    UnoriginalGuy wrote:
    
    Tensor wrote: It looks like you are unable to tie your own shoe-laces


    I wonder what people will think if you show up with slip on shoes and a clip on tie?


    They'll point you at the broken photocopier Wink

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    Oh yes business cards. I don't know if China puts the same emphasis on business cards as Japan (i.e. they should be treated as precious objects, and put away carefully). Just be aware that's really not a European thing, they might simply put your card in the wallet, which goes into their back pocket.


  • User profile image
    footballism

    blowdart wrote:
    Oh yes business cards. I don't know if China puts the same emphasis on business cards as Japan (i.e. they should be treated as precious objects, and put away carefully). Just be aware that's really not a European thing, they might simply put your card in the wallet, which goes into their back pocket.

    Nice tip, more nice tips are needed, omg, it's the crash course time:(

    Sheva

  • User profile image
    Simo

    Warning ... Some english-english words have different meanings to the american-english version and quite often the popular term for something may be different.

    So if you learnt american english you may have to adjust a little.

    Like the old sidewalk - pavement thing.

    A cell is called a mobile. And even 'moby', but that wouldn't be used in business context.

    I guess the more of these differences you can pick up on and use, the more slick the translation will be. Washroom - Loo, etc.

    When I'm in the US I like to think of american english has a really easy to learn foreign language. It'll be a little rude to refuse to try to speak the local language to the best of my ability.

    So I use words like washroom, dumpster, pronounce network router and tomato the american way, etc, etc, etc.

    Customs....

    Don't tip the barman/barmaid 66 pence when they pour you a pint of beer at the bar. Their wages are included in the cost of the drink.

    Sitting down to a meal, their may be a lot cutlery. Cutlery is never re-used between courses.

    Don't ask for the remains of your meal to be scraped into polystyrene boxes for you to take home.

    Remark about the weather at every opportunity. It'll be different every day anyway so there's plenty of opportunity to compare it with yesterday's weather. If the weather appears to be the same as yesterday just agree when the locals point out it's different.

    Say Please, Thank you and Sorry all the time, repeatedly. In fact, to be safe, just say one of the three every sixth word you utter.

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    Simo wrote:
    


    Don't tip the barman/barmaid 66 pence when they pour you a pint of beer at the bar. Their wages are included in the cost of the drink.



    But at high end bars in London which serve spirts and cocktails do tip.

    If you do go to a bar in London, or clubbing you may find a strange man in the toilets handing out paper towels, soap etc. He will have aftershave etc on hand as well. You will be expected to tip him, 50p-£1 for just the towels etc, more if you use the toiletries.


  • User profile image
    Tensor

    A few years ago, when I went to London for the first time in ages, that man in the toilet thing was a real culture shock. I felt so provincial.

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    Deactivated User

    Comment removed at user's request.

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