It is Austin’s third year to host Formula 1 and the Austin Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. We have learned much as business owners about intercultural awareness over these past few years since F1 came our way, and have improved our international visitor hosting skills considerably.
300,000 visitors are expected from Friday, October 31st to Sunday, November 2 – more than SXSW (South by Southwest) and ACL (Austin City Limits Music Festival) combined! With the exception of the Olympics and World Cup, there is no sporting event with more viewers. F1 weekend is viewed by over 600 million people – more than 5 times the most watched Superbowl of all time!
For those of us planning to enjoy the Austin Grand Prix and F1, here are a few helpful websites for race weekend:
A few reminders for hosting international customers:
- 1. Greetings: In the service industry, be prepared with “good morning” or “good afternoon” as opposed to “hi” or “hey” with greetings. It is wise to use appropriate titles and last names when conducting a transaction, returning a credit card, or presenting a check. It is best to use “Mr.” “Ms.” or “Dr.” until invited to use a first name. Avoid the familiarity of calling global citizens by their first names when presenting a check or bill. Latin Americans, Europeans and Asians use titles when greeting and introducing each other and expect us to do the same. Many in the USA and Australia are bothered by class distinctions and people appearing snobbish; however, using Mr. or Ms. is appreciated.
- 2. Restaurant Service: Dining customs differ around the world. Be prepared for international diners to linger over their meal, order dessert and savor coffee for lengthy periods of 2-3 hours. In certain Latin American cultures coffee is king and enjoyed after every meal regardless of the outside temperature. In Mexico, the main meal is midday between 1:00–4:00, typically starting at 2:00 pm. In Spain, the main meal in the evening begins at 10:00 pm.
- 3. Personal Space & Distance: While serving global customers, be aware that various cultures maintain different standards of personal space and distance. During a discussion with a global citizen, do not be surprised or caught off guard if someone stands very close to you. If you step back or away, they may take offense and terminate the sale or relationship. In the USA if you stand too close, you may be perceived as pushy or aggressive. If you stand too far away, you may be seen as disinterested. For reference, in The Hidden Dimension by Edward T. Hall, personal territory for the USA may be broken down into several categories. Intimate distance is 0-18 inches, personal distance (good friends, family members) is from 18 inches to 4 feet and social distance (acquaintances) is 4–12 feet. One option is to allow the customer dictate the proximity.
- 4. Tipping & Gratuities: Tipping customs vary around the world. In some areas of Europe and in certain countries, including Australia and Japan, the gratuity is built into the cost of the meal and tips are not added. It is not the custom in all countries to tip; so do not be surprised if there is no tip. Experience and global etiquette guides reflect that in Japan, if a tip is left for a server, the Japanese are offended. A 5-10% tip is the custom in some countries. In 2013, some restaurants, including III Forks, placed tasteful tabletop signage advising patrons of an automatic 18% gratuity during FormulaOne Grand Prix weekend, with successful results.
Let’s continue to expand Austin’s global presence, encourage intercultural understanding and show our wisdom. If we act in the Austin friendly way we’re known for, aware that we may be serving a customer from another culture, Austin will continue making great impressions on our visitors. You never know, you may be the first impression an international visitor has of the USA!