Stereotypes of Chinese mainlanders go too far
Remember your mother advising you to behave decently when out in public?
A group of tourists who descended on the Shanghai Formula One circuit forgot this piece of advice and are now the target of ire in the blogosphere. After the race, they had to get their coach to stop so they could answer the call of nature. Perhaps they had been keeping pace with the drivers' laps in downing their beers. But they were in the middle of a highway - and someone photographed them in the act of relieving themselves. The photo has evoked a lot angry responses and police are now on the case.
The incident must have rankled with many mainlanders, conscious of complaints often made about them when they head overseas. Spitting, littering, smoking in prohibited areas, queue-jumping - the list of offences is fairly long.
Even here in Hong Kong, mainland tourists are often the butt of criticism for their perceived lack of finesse, though an infamous video of a tour guide berating a group of tourists for not shopping enough puts the boot on the other foot. In Singapore, too, another city where mainlanders should not feel out of place, chat rooms echo with criticisms similar to those heard in Hong Kong.
Many mainlanders feel they are discriminated against in foreign countries. In one recent case, some high-end hotels in the Maldives stopped the supply of hot water to rooms to prevent mainlanders from preparing instant noodles. Though why you would book into a five-star facility and stay up in your room eating instant noodles is a bit baffling.
A recent influx of mainland tourists to the Thai holiday town of Chiang Mai, on the back of the popular movie Lost in Thailand, has seen a spike in complaints there. But a look at some tends to support the idea that mainlanders are the victims of stereotyping. One reader writing on the Bangkok Post's website wanted mainlanders prevented from visiting Thailand during the water throwing festival. Her reason? They would go back home and start a similar festival of their own to lure visitors away from Thailand.
The mainland is often rightly accused of making copies without proper permission, but to think they would also manufacture fake festivals is going a tad too far.
Alex Lo is on leave