G20: Being a Good Host

As we prepare to welcome the world this week, there are many disappointed they won’t be able to get close the leaders of the world due to restrictions, protests, etc. However, for those who will interact with the leaders – or really anyone from these countries – there is a protocol involved.

Visit Pittsburgh has come up with a rather interesting read on how to interact with our guests, some of whom have never been to our country. The guide  “Pittsburgh Welcomes the World” is a hospitality guide to not only make our visitors feel welcome, but makes us feel comfortable as well.

After going through the book, I found the most interesting part was the rundown of the 19 countries in the G20 was the country-by-country breakdown of  Customs and Courtesies, including what is “accepted” and what is considered “offensive” in that country. By far, what was “offensive” really got my attention. Let me share with you the things you should probably not do when speaking or interacting with someone from a G20 country. My commentary in italics.

Argentina: Backing away from an Argentine who stands too close to you or puts his hand on your shoulder during conversation. Why would you? If someone feels that close to you, that’s a good thing.

Australia: Raising one or two fingers in the air; it is considered rude.

Brazil: Referring to the U.S. as “America” ( Brazilians consider themselves “Americans” ). Remember, North and South America were once known as “The Americas”. We don’t have the exclusive on that term.

China: Putting a business care in your back pocket, even if your wallet is there. That would be rude in any country as far as I am concerned.


France: Giving the North American “OK” sign; it means “zero” in France.

Germany: Speaking with your hands in your pockets.  

India: Touching anything or anyone with your left hand ( the left hand is considered unclean ). Certainly makes life difficult for left-handers offering to shake hands.

Indonesia: Touching anyone’s head; the head is considered the seat of the soul. I don’t know why you haven any occasion to touch anyone’s head during a conversation.

Italy: Stroking your finger tips under your chin and thrusting forward; considered vulgar.

Japan: Touching other men ( if you are male ). ’nuff said.

Korea: Blowing your nose in public. I tend to think the alternative is a whole lot worse.

Saudi Arabia: Inquiring about the health of Saudi’s wife or daughter. Keeping things on a professional level is probably the best plan.

Spain: Judging bullfighting – its seen as an art; derogatory marks are inappropriate. No, I’m not kidding. This is written on the list of offensive things.

South Africa: Saying anything derogatory about rugby, the most popular sport among white South Africans. Keep this is mind, Steeler fans.

Turkey: Crossing your legs while facing another person – of you are a woman.

United Kingdom: Considering the British as European.

Well, as you can seen, one man’s nose blowing is another man’s offensive gesture. That got me to thinking. When people around the world meet an American, how are they told to act — or rather not to act. Here’s what the hospitality guide says about how to handle us:


* Responding to the rhetorical question “How are you?” with a detailed answer.

* Being within two feet of someone’s personal space.

* Discussion religion, finances, politics, abortion and race. Now I see why small talk was invented in this country.

I’ll be sure to keep my guide close to me. It seems after reading this, maybe the only thing I can do and not offend anyone is shake hands with someone – with my right hand. Then again, I think during a week like this we all are given a little slack. Believe me, if people from around the world were this touchy, we wouldn’t get anything done.

Just hope one of our world leaders doesn’t give out an impromptu backrub to another leader ( remember a few years back when President Bush gave one to German Chancellor Angela Merkel ).

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