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Cultural awareness- The phrase “Bon appétit” must exist in every language.

It’s the most normal thing to say, expressing simply your hope that someone will

Enjoy what he is about to eat. But English does not have a phrase like “Bon appétit”.


If you say, for example, to an British person, something like “I hope you enjoy the

Meal”then probably she would think one of two things: either there is an element of

Doubt about the meal, or there is an element of about her! The food perhaps is unusual

And she will not be enough of a gastronomic sophisticate to appreciate it.


Good business communication skills, especially listening (with eyes & ears), will often

Help to establish and maintain better cross-cultural understanding.




Most Britons are reserved by nature and often find it difficult to indulge in small talk with a complete stranger.Indeed, there are situations where idle conversation is actually frowned upon, for example when traveling on the London underground; in these circumstances, a newspaper will act as a defensive tool in public whilst also providing potential material for subsequent social intercourse in private.


On the whole northerners tend to be more immediately friendly than southerners, although true Scottish Highlanders will hardly say a word until you get to know them better and Welsh farmers can be especially taciturn. You should not be offended if people outside the “Home Counties”of southeast England address you in apparently familiar or overly affectionate terms such as ‘dear’ or ‘love’ (whether you are a man or a women).


For the most part, the British speak in low, moderate measured tones without raising the voice or gesticulating wildly for emphasis.They also like to maintain their own personal space and will shy away from those they find invasive.


Although not all Britons are particularly articulate, you should make an effort to speak in complete sentences; the British generally find the North American habit of trailing off in mid-sentence rather irritating. Nor should you interrupt someone; intonation conveys one has finished speaking and, in British English, the voice normally goes down at the end of an affirmative sentence.


Britons prefer to avoid animated discussions; if an argument does become heated, it is quite likely to have been fueled by alcohol and it may be time for you to make your excuses and withdraw. For this reason, unless you are desperate for human contact, it is usually best to avoid sitting or standing at a bar. Obviously, this is doubly applicable for women.In any case, a newspaper or some work to look at should again affords a degree of protection from bores and boors alike.

It is always advisable to try to initiate conversation with open questions rather than an assertion of a personal point of view. The British are largely tolerant and open – minded but every nation has its bigots and many Britons derive their opinions from the tabloid press, which typically expresses itself in black –and – white terms (the UK’s sometimes fraught relationship with the EU and continental Europe generally represents a prime example of the way in which opinion can divide into two extremely entrenched camps). This phenomenon is exemplified by the archetypal London taxi driver whose often extreme opinions should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Almost all Britons, however, are proud of their culture and heritage and this should be respected not mocked.

A major difficulty in effective communication can be the British predilection for self-

Deprecation, which manifests itself frequently in the form of irony and litotes Usage, reflects the level of educational attainment but everyone tends to understate everything, whether good or bad. A pensive ‘hum’ may convey enthusiasm or hostility – or indifference. This may forthright directness that Britons find embarrassing.




Humour is a vital feature of feel of all aspects of British life. In a society that finds it difficult to express genuine personal feelings, humour often acts as a defence mechanism but it is almost never out of place in a culture that is averse to seriousness in all circumstances.You need not strive to be interminably witty yourself, but you should be surprised by what you may consider coarse or inappropriate levity.


The British are much less politically correct than North Americans who may be offended by some of the natives’banter and ‘wit’.


The UK (especially, but not just, London) is a thoroughly multiracial and multiracial society. You should not make any assumptions about a person's background,

Nationality or origins


          Welcome topics of conversation


The weather (always a safe starting point)


Sport (particularly football/soccer)


Animals (usually safe- though bewares vegetarians if you like to eat them)


British history, culture, literature, art, and popular music


Current affairs


Your immediate surroundings and positive experiences in the UK


How good the food is (things have changed in recent years!)


Real ale (i.e. traditional British beer, drinking as a sport)


Topics to avoid


Northern Ireland


Religion (especially if you are in Northern Ireland, Glasgow or Liverpool)


The monarchy and the Royal Family


Partisan politics


The European Union,’Brussels’ and the euro


The Middle East


Personal questions about a person’s background, religion, occupation, etc


Class and the class system


Race and immigration


Sex (particularly homosexuality)




Irish generally prefer direct eye contact. People who avoid eye contact may not be perceived as trustworthy.


The Irish are enthusiastic conversationalists and debaters. A wide range of topics may be open to discussion, including religion and politics. The best policy, however, is to wait for your Irish companions to bring up these two subjects; be prepared to hear very strong and often confrontational opinions and be aware that both subjects are highly contentious in Ireland due to the country’s history of invasion (see Introduction to Ireland).


The Irish find arguments and opinionated conversation entertaining, so don’t hesitate to express your views if they are sincere and informed. If they’re not, you could be seen to be arrogant.The Irish are extremely proud of their history and expect visitors- particularly the English- to appreciate their years of suffering, conflict and victory as a Republic. If you are English, be prepared sometimes for a frosty welcome, though this can usually be overcome with sincerity and good conversation. The Irish do not stand for arrogance of any kind!


Your Irish companions will be quick to let you know if you have introduced a subject that ‘crosses the line’. Topics that are currently controversial in Ireland include the Catholic Church, the English and immigrants. It is advisable for visitors to Ireland to avoid these topics of conversation unless raised by your host.

Sport is a common topic of conversation in Ireland and the Irish tend to be receptive to sporting analogies.


Irish like to criticize themselves, but they are receptive to criticism from others. This can put you in a difficult position, especially if the conversation shifts to animated denunciations of Ireland and the Irish. Should you show any signs of agreement, abuse will likely be heaped upon you and/or your home country.


Don’t boast about yourself or your company’s accomplishments. Instead, the Irish prefer to judge your competence and abilities through your actions.


The Irish try not to draw too much attention to their academic qualifications or personal achievements - though if they have been to Trinity College or Blackrock College, it will likely come out in conversation at some point. It is perceived to be arrogant or ‘showing off ’to talk about your own accomplishments. People who make a lot of references to their education and other professional qualifications in conversation may be subject to teasing.




Almost all business is conducted in English in the United States.


Be aware that many Americans speak only English. Spanish is another common language due to the United States’proximity to Mexico and Central America and the large population of Spanish – speaking individuals in the country. However, English will still be used almost 100% for business deals.


Because many Americans speak only one language, they may not be sensitive to the difficulties of other individuals trying to speak English.They may speak fast or very loudly (as if this will help you understand them better).


American business language is also very idiomatic. Many Americans adopt sports terms in their business speech [“Touch base”, ”Ballpark figures,” “Call the shots,”

“Team players”, and  “Game plan” are a few examples]. Many Americans may not be aware that they are using these idioms because they seem so natural.


If language becomes a barrier, ask for clarification and seek understanding.If you are not totally comfortable speaking and doing business in England, hire a translator.


General Guidelines


Americans often ask, “What do you do?” [That is, “Tell me about your job and employer”] to start a conversation. This kind of question is not considered presumptuous, but rather is a way to show interest in the individual by showing interest in his or her job.


Compliments are exchanged frequently and are popular “conversation starters.” If you wish to make conversation with someone, you can compliment at item such as his or her clothing or a work or sports related achievement.


Generally, Americans like to laugh and enjoy being with people who have a sense of humor. Jokes are usually welcome, but be careful. In all situations, ethnic and religious humor should be avoided. Self – deprecating humor, however, usually goes over well.


Sports are very popular in the U.S., especially baseball, football,[not be confused with soccer], and basketball. Soccer [know as football in most other countries] has grown in popularity in recent years, but is not nearly as popular as these other sports.


Golf is another popular sport, especially among business people. It is often a venue for business discussions and deals, so be prepared to play golf and talk business at the same time.


  Topics to Avoid


Until you know a person well, avoid discussing religion, politics or other controversial subjects [i.e., abortion, racism, sexism].


Refrain from asking women if they are married. If a woman volunteers this information, however, you may ask a few polite questions about her husband and/or children.


Ethnic or religious jokes


Welcome Topics of Conversation


A person’s job/work-related matters


Sports / Travel




Music/ Movies (cinematic films) Books




Though they may indeed deny it upon first meeting, many Swiss business people speak English very well. Usually, they are a little shy and do not wish to appear arrogant.


The Swiss may initially seem reserved and ‘stand-offish’. Once you develop a rapport with them, however, you’ll generally find that they are an honest, responsible people, who will be loyal to your interests.


Whether in social or business situations, the Swiss are polite conversationalists who prefer to assume an air of detachment. They are good listeners, perhaps because they tend to be so reticent themselves. They are extremely attentive, rarely interrupt, and will remember practically everything you say to them. Sometimes they will even go so far as to take notes while you speak.


The Swiss tend to be conservative in their opinions and do not change their minds easily but it would be wrong to think of them as needlessly stubborn.


The Swiss are a very private people, so you should avoid asking personal questions.

For example, refrain from inquiries concerning their occupation, age, marital status, religion, and related matters. By the same token, your Swiss companions will not pry into your personal affairs in the course of a conversation.


The Swiss attribute their independence to their military preparedness, which includes universal military conscription. You should avoid mentioning this subject, as it stirs many passionate opinions and can lead to bitter arguments.


The Swiss can be rather earnest, so it is advisable to avoid making jokes until you are sure of your ground; it is only too easy for your gentle banter to be perceived as mockery.


German Swiss, in particular, say clearly what they think.


In conversation and debate, the French have a reputation for their rhetorical abilities and charismatic presence, yet these characteristics tend to be less apparent among the French Swiss.


The Italian Swiss are more open but, since they live in a very prosperous area, they can have an air of smugness that is not as apparent among native Italians.


Welcome topics of conversation


Word affairs;


Your travels in Switzerland;


Positive aspects of Switzerland


Winter sports;


Question about the Romansch culture;


Work [but avoid using the U.S. conversation opener ‘What do you do’].


Topics to avoid:


Switzerland’s role during World Wars


Swiss neutrality and its implications;


Any personal questions;


The Swiss military;


Money and Swiss banks;


Each participant will receive handouts

The fee for participation in the Open Program is 140 euro

The program can be conducted as In House Training for a particular company, in which case it will take into account the specific company activities. The training will be custom tailored to the specific needs of the client, stressing issues and topics from the content that relates to a particular interest.

In House Training meets the time preferences of the company.

The fee for In House Training is negotiable.




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