You have probably heard a story or two of the ill-mannered behavior of some Chinese tourists abroad. But why do they behave this way, and are they the worst offenders in the world? Is it common sense that these Chinese tourists lack, or is it only the sheer size of tourists coming from Mainland China that make these occurrences impossible to avoid?
The backlash of news condemning the behavior of Chinese tourists, hotels threatening not to welcome Chinese visitors, and even publications from Chinese bloggers and social media have highlighted this particular problem of disrespecting cultural practices abroad. And while the Chinese government has taken action on this subject, the rest of the world is still left wondering why this is such an issue to begin with.
Why the Bad Rep?
The complaints of Chinese tourists’ behavior around the world are numerous, from minor offenses such as spitting in public, pushing, and line cutting to more severe offenses including screaming and threatening wait staff and airline hosts, defecating in public, and carving their names into historic sites.
In Switzerland, complaints about footprints on toilet seats or loud, unruly behavior on public transportation became such a headache that tourists from China were provided separate trains. Not to be outdone, a Japanese hotel produced a “Do’s and Don’ts” article for its Chinese residents to stop burping and farting in public, after flatly refusing customers from China. Japanese media has also called for specific Chinese-only zones in particular tourist areas to segregate the perpetrators.
But is this kind of behavior acceptable in China? The answer is yes and no. Yes, you will find people who spit in the street, a general preference among for squat toilets over Western-style ones, pushing on the metro and line cutting on the street. But several Chinese citizens will plead you to avoid generalizations. You will find a large majority – particularly a younger majority – who do not spit or push or cut lines in China; just so, you will find that not every American travels with a fanny pack, and not every Parisian corrects foreigners’ French pronunciations.
image via dailymail.co.uk
Who’s to blame?
It’s impossible to point a finger at one particular cause for the poor behavior of Chinese tourists, but there are a few factors that influence the poor actions of Mainland tourists abroad more than others – namely, Chinese history. During the political turmoil of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, China was isolated from other world cultures. This isolation led to a lack of understanding or realization of different norms and acceptable behavior in other countries that can still be seen today.
During this time education standards were lowered as well, almost completely erasing education of other countries and beliefs while preaching a communist movement. Not only did education decline, but also it was frowned upon and even persecuted – as were other practices that seemed too “bourgeois” such as proper etiquette. Now, there is an entire generation of Chinese citizens with new opportunities to travel the world who have been raised without an education on different cultures and with a negative regard toward social etiquette.
The Chinese government has not let this go unrecognized, however, and has taken some action as to educate its outbound tourists on correct behavior while travelling abroad. They have run publicity events with celebrities to urge Chinese people to behave well in other countries, and published nationwide brochures on how to act while visiting other countries.
Not only has the Chinese government taken action on curving this problem, but Chinese citizens as well have taken up the mantel. Tired of their entire country being associated with the wrongdoings of a few Chinese tourists, citizens have openly criticized their peers on social media and blogs for their disrespectful actions abroad. Begging foreign countries not to “judge the many by the few”, Chinese citizens have encouraged each other to respect the rituals and customs of other nations while travelling there. In an instance where a young Chinese student carved his name into a temple in Luxor, Egypt, backlash on Chinese social media was so strong that his parents were forced to publically apologize for their son’s actions.
Reality of Tourism
The reality is that Chinese tourism is not going away, nor are Chinese tourists the first to receive a bad reputation as tourists. In the fourth quarter of last year, travel agencies organized almost 14 million Chinese visitors to foreign countries, an increase of 29.19% from the same time period in 2014 [travelchinaguide.com].
This trend is expected to continue and to become the fourth biggest source market in the world. This means more first-time travellers from China, as well as experienced tourists heading to new destinations. Nations are welcoming this trend as Chinese tourists tend to be big spenders. In Europe there is even a company designated to helping tourism service providers to market to Chinese tourists and Chinese tour operators.
Interestingly enough, a survey conducted by Triposo – a popular travel guide app – found that Chinese tourists are ranked only as the 4th worst tourists in the world, beaten out for the title by Russian, U.K., and U.S. tourists for a spot on the podium. Russians were considered the most difficult and rudest at third place (42% of Russians believe their own country is the worst), with the U.K. edging it out for second place for the “worst behavior” and infamy at bars. The U.S. received its golden trophy with 33% of the total respondents ranking Americans as the worst tourists in the world, with 44% of American respondents agreeing to the same.
cover image via latimes.com