Etiquette Guide: What Not to Ask Olympics Visitors

July 23, 2008 - 8:04 AM
Posters in central Beijing list eight questions residents should not ask foreigners who come to the Olympic Games.<br style="mso-special-character: line-break" />
Beijing (AP) - Questions about salaries are out. Ditto queries about the age of a foreigner visiting Beijing for the Olympics. And an inquiry about someone's love life? Forget it.

These are part of the "Eight don't asks" displayed on posters in a central Beijing district that give conversational etiquette guidelines to residents for when they meet foreigners or disabled athletes during next month's Olympics.

The advice on Chinese-language posters was put together by the propaganda department of Dongcheng district to educate residents on how to properly welcome visitors during the Olympics, a spokeswoman for the district said.

Dongcheng includes Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It is also the location of the Beijing Workers' Gymnasium, the boxing venue for the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

One poster focuses on "etiquette when communicating with foreigners." Locals are instructed not to ask foreigners personal questions about their age, salary, love life, health, income, political views, religious beliefs or personal experiences.

"It's normal for Chinese to ask people they just met such questions, but foreigners respond negatively to such questions," Beijing municipal government spokeswoman Wang Zhaoqian said Wednesday.

"By educating locals, we hope that they will become more socially sensitive when communicating with visitors," she said.

Another poster gives advice on talking to disabled people. Locals are told not to use phrases such as "It's up there," or "It's over there" when talking to anyone who is visually impaired, and to avoid phrases such as "It's behind you" to physically impaired athletes.

Instead, locals are recommended to use phrases such as, "You are really great," or "You are wonderful."

In May, Beijing organizers apologized for a training manual issued to thousands of Olympic and Paralympic volunteers following complaints about inappropriate language used to describe disabled athletes.

The posters are part of wide-ranging measures the government has taken to clean up China's image during the Olympics. China's communist government and Beijing Olympic organizers have been conducting sweeping campaigns to get citizens to wait patiently in line, stop spitting and improve their driving habits.