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Your International Guests – Avoiding Verbal and Written Confusion

There are so many possible pitfalls when corresponding or speaking with international colleagues, guests, and customers. You might not anticipate some of the potential hazards listed below:

Day, Date and Time

When speaking with your global guests and clients, consider that the world has different ways to communicate concepts of time (18:00 hours versus 6 o’clock P.M.), and dates (August 23, 20 or 23,8,20, or August 23, 2020). Address time in a way that is easily understood by your global visitor. Consider this in both written and electronic communications.

Be considerate when telephoning, e-mailing, instant messaging, or texting your international friends and guests. Remember that the globe is divided into twenty-four time zones. Could your international client or guest be sleeping?


The world also uses different measurements. There are liters versus gallons and meters versus yards. Consider this before addressing your international guest or client on matters related to measurements.


 Do not use abbreviations or acronyms. An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word, such as “msg” instead of the word “message.” An acronym is a word that is formed from the first letters of other words, such as “CEO,” for “Chief Executive Officer.” Play it safe. Using unfamiliar abbreviations and acronyms is inconsiderate because your guest or client may be embarrassed to tell you that he or she cannot understand what you’ve said.


Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not standard in the user’s language. Never joke or use slang. Slang is sure to be misunderstood. When you use slang, you are implying that the listener understands what you are talking about. An example of slang would be to use the term “Cab” instead of Cabernet Sauvignon when speaking about this excellent red wine.


Jargon is the vocabulary of a particular profession. It may be appropriate to use jargon when speaking to a group people who are all members of the same field. Check with a knowledgeable professional before using jargon when speaking with your foreign guests. An example of restaurant jargon is using the term “seaboard,” instead of saying that you want to take your dinner order home.


An idiom is a word or a group of words that when translated from one language to another fails to convey the correct meaning. You cannot translate an idiom literally because it is an expression that is not literal. Examples are “kick the bucket” (to die) and “knock your socks off” (to impress). Use terms that are clear and that everyone in your international audience will understand.


Be certain to leave a professional greeting on your voice mail. Humor is not easily translated electronically or in person. Do not make jokes. Do not take the chance of being misunderstood and insulting your guest.

Interacting well in writing and verbally with your global visitors will assist you in presenting yourself as a polished and knowledgeable representative of your brand. Developing excellent relationships with guests, clients and colleagues is the very heart of hospitality.


Excerpts of blog or article may have been taken from the book: Hospitality Management – People Skills & Manners on and off the Job. Copyright © 2015 Lyn Pont, Ph.D.

“Pont’s book is a must-read for anyone considering a career in hospitality.”

 — Isadore Sharp, chairman and founder, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

See the book at: www.HospitalityManners.com

Visit Lyn at:  www.MannersForBusiness.com

Lyn Pont, Ph.D. – World’s Top 30 Hospitality Professionals, Global Gurus

#hospitality #international #etiquette #tourism #hotels #guests #language





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