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How many kisses on the cheek should one give in Mediterranean countries? / Peter Panteli, Beat The Brochure

Peter  Panteli writes ….I have just come back from my summer holidays with the kids and they say ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’, but what happens if half of the Romans are not from Rome? They might be just as lost as you are. And they won’t have a clue about local customs and what those born and bred in the eternal city consider the obvious dos and don’ts.

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Arguably the most basic rule to learn for any stranger in a strange town is that each place has its own unique timetable.

Things that one takes for granted chez soi – opening hours of public places, whether they are bars and restaurants or libraries – can differ enormously. Changing money at a bank in Paris or Bordeaux cannot happen at lunchtime, certainly in the British understanding thereof, because between midday and 2 pm, a lot of businesses close while French office employees sit down to enjoy their three-course meal. To interrupt that ritual would be to risk a full-scale diplomatic incident.

Every country has its own particular rhythm and it can be a shock to the system for any new visitors who are sadly not in the know.

Although British licensing laws changed a few years ago, there are still many pubs that close around 11 pm and for an Italian or Spaniard who is used to socialising much later, it can be totally disconcerting to see Brits downing the last of their pints as soon as a bell is rung by a landlord with an eye on the clock. Conversely, British tourists in Spain for the first time may find it hard to adapt to local dining habits which don’t see Barcelonans or Madrilenos go out to eat until after 11pm, the time by which last orders are being called back in dear old Blighty.

Eating and drinking can be problematic in various European countries simply because of differences in lifestyle that can be as much about climate as it is deep-rooted traditions. There is also what is called ‘behavioral norms’ to take into account: a handshake is assumed to be a universal greeting but each country in the world has a wide range of gestures that can be easily misinterpreted by foreigners. Two fingers in the air could be an encouragement rather than an insult; a hand stroking the underside of the chin could mean disapproval or annoyance; the shrug of the shoulders contempt rather than bemusement; the rubbing of the hands fear rather than glee.

Even more confusing is etiquette. How many kisses on the cheek should one give in Mediterranean countries? Should it be 2 or 4? Is it appropriate for men to kiss men? How low should one bow when in Japan? Is it necessary to look the other person in the eye or keep the head firmly down? Will a smile be perceived as a lack of respect? For all of you in media and marketing that awkwardness with your international colleagues can be avoided by a quick Google on local norms.

Culture is one thing, but religion is another. In Islamic countries the dress code is specific and it is also crucial to realise that people have a completely different pace of life to Christians during the fast period of Ramadan. People organise their day very differently as a result.

Ultimately, today’s traveler must recognise that to be a true global citizen you have to glean up-to-date knowledge of local culture. With that in mind there is no substitute for learning about how as well as where other people live, especially when on an idyllic Roman holiday.

As many of us who work in media and marketing return to work from our summer holidays we might want to still bear in mind the local nuances, cultural differences etc we have to bear in mind if we are having to market products across the global, at least it should keep you in a holiday mode for a little longer.

By Peter  Panteli, Beat The Brochure.

Beat The Brochure’s mission is to supply the best priced travel services to customers – by maintaining excellent and exclusive relationships with suppliers – delivered with the best possible service.

The company has been beating brochure prices for over 5 years, providing customers with the very best priced travel services available for many destinations worldwide. The company has launched an online booking service offering customers the chance to build their own holidays online. This will allow Beat The Brochure to continue to provide customers with bespoke holidays, with all the benefits of a package, at the very best prices available.

Beat the Brochure’s unique search software has multiple suppliers ‘plugged-in‘ and allows  the user to make searches across destinations and these suppliers in one simple search, effectively putting the tools of a travel agent in to consumer hands.

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photo credit: Devar via photopin cc

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