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  • Aug 28, 2014
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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 June, 2013, 11:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 August, 2013, 8:20am

Why are Chinese tourists so rude? A few insights

After almost every 'rude Chinese tourist' story, unfortunately, made SCMP.com's top-10 list, I decided to give the question some serious thought

BIO

Amy Li began her journalism career as a crime news reporter in Queens, New York, in 2004. She joined Reuters in Beijing in 2008 as a multimedia editor. Amy taught journalism at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu before joining SCMP in Hong Kong in 2012. She is now an online news editor for SCMP.com. Amy can be reached at chunxiao.li@scmp.com, or follow her on Twitter @AmyLiSCMP
 

They are seen as pushy, loud, impolite, unruly, and they are everywhere.

And although destination countries welcome the tourism dollars the Chinese spend, they loathe the chaos and hassle some mainland tourists bring upon their cities and other tourists.

“Why can’t they just behave?” people wonder, some aloud.

I have been asking myself the same question in the past months after reporting on the uncivilised, sometimes galling behaviour of some compatriots.

It seems that every time a “rude Chinese tourist" story is published on SCMP.com, it goes straight into the site's top 10 most read articles - one such article even managed to crawl back to the top months after it was posted. So I decided to give the question some serious thought.

I read up on the topic, talked to tourism experts and travel agents and chatted with some of these tourists who are now at the centre of public anger.

It soon dawned on me that the real question to ask is: “Why are the Chinese rude?”

Yong Chen, tourism researcher and post-doctoral fellow at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said most “bad” tourists don’t intend to be “bad” or “tourists”, they are just being themselves - they are being Chinese.

Education makes a difference

Not every Chinese tourist is a rude one, and educated people are usually better behaved than those who have had a lower standard of education, said Chen.

This could be why middle-aged or older tourists who have been deprived of or received little education during China's politically tumultuous times tend to act more unruly. Many of them do not speak English, and some are not fluent Putonghua speakers. Their knowledge of the destination country and its culture is often at best outdated or non-existent.

This might explain the behaviour of a "rogue” mainland couple who recently visited Hong Kong with a group. They called the police and demanded HK$3,000 yuan in compensation after being made to wait two hours for their coach. The travel agency later said the coach had broken down and accused them of “blackmailing”.

Disregard for customs and rules

Jenny Wang, a Beijing-based Maldives travel agent, said uneducated tourists usually turn a blind eye to local rules and customs.

A Chinese man who was recently vacationing at a Maldives resort flipped out after discovering that the restaurant where he wanted to eat was fully booked, Wang said. He yelled threats and slurs at Chinese staff until one member was in tears.

“You cannot reason with these kinds of people,” Wang said. “They think they can do anything with their money.”

But one thing many Chinese vacationers don’t want to do with their money is tip - a custom in some places which many have ignored, Wang said.

Though most travel agents in China would educate their clients about tipping in a foreign country ahead of their trip, most people ended up tipping very little or none.

Some are not used to the idea of tipping, and they fail to understand that staff working at the Maldives resorts, who usually earn a meagre salary, rely heavily on tips, Wang said.

This has created increasing tensions between the Chinese and their hosts. Staff would naturally prefer serving guests from countries with a tipping culture. Other staff have gone after Chinese clients and asked openly for tips, a rare thing for them to do in the past.

Lawless for a reason

Students at Ewha University in Seoul, known for its beautiful campus, have recently complained about an influx of Chinese tourists, said the school.

Apparently taking photos on campus was not enough. Some camera-toting Chinese would also stride into libraries and take photos without the permission of students, according to media reports.

“As much as we want to keep the campus open to the local community,” said a university representative, “we’d like to prioritise our students’ right to study in a quiet and safe environment.”

Ewha resolved the crisis by putting up multi-language signs advising tourists to stay clear of study areas.

It seems that thousands of years after Confucius admonished his students not to “impose on others what you yourself don’t desire",  the Chinese now act in quite the opposite way.

Such people, both overseas and at home, selfishly skirted rules for a reason, said Chen.

Living in China, where the rule-of-law doesn’t exist, means everyone has to look out for their own interest. It also means people have little or no respect for laws.

This is bound to happen when ordinary folk are forced to watch their laws being violated every day by their leaders, Chen said, citing the Chinese idiom, shang xing xia xiao, meaning “people in lower class follow what their leaders in the upper class do”.

How long do we have to put up with bad tourists?

China and its people are paying a price for the bad behaviour of their tourists.

A poll by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong recently found that the number of Hongkongers holding negative feelings towards Beijing and mainland Chinese is up by about 40 per cent since November.

Following that survey, SCMP.com conducted another online poll on Wednesday, headlined  “What makes some Hongkongers dislike mainland China and its people?”

As of noon, more than 50 per cent readers blamed the negative feelings on “ill-behaved tourists”.

“The Chinese government and travel agencies should take the initiative to educate our tourists,” Chen said, urging co-operation from both authorities and private sectors. 

While many argue that historically American and Japanese tourists were also criticised for their bad behaviour when they became wealthy enough and traveled abroad for the first time, Chen said the Chinese should not use this as an excuse.

In fact, the Communist Party's Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilisation and the China National Tourism Administration have recently issued a 128-character-long rhyme to remind tourists of behaving in a “civilised manner” on the road. The topic has also been a big hit on China's social media, where bloggers discuss and criticise the uncivlised behaviour of their compatriots.

But many are not optimistic that the situation will change any time soon.

“Chinese tourists have a long way to go before they will be respected by the world,” said Wang.

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This article is now closed to comments

roy.rosales.16
most RED chinese are rude because they have no freedom of expression,speech.they could not even communicate with others on what they think and opinion about their regimented communist goverment for fear of imprisonment.they have a miserable life.their standing order is to fallow,the orders of their superiors period..when lucky to go abroad,they unleash their hatred with their goverment by being rude to people belonging with a democratic countries.
likingming
raw rural behaviour vs city hypocrisy
twallison
This is not just a matter of "education" in the sense that most people would define the term education. This all boils down to the fact that inside of each and every human being is a thing called a conscience. When people treat their environment, including the other living things that also inhabit that environment, without respect (rudely) it's because their consciences are numb.
A person's conscience has to be educated and trained in order for it to work properly. I have lived in China since 2001 and I have never been able to understand how an individual can simply throw a piece of garbage onto the ground without the slightest thought about how that is going to affect the environment that he/she and many other people share.
There are certainly Chinese people who do not do such things and who care for the environment are are conscientious about keeping the environment clean and safe, but I must admit that, in general, most of the Chinese people I encounter on a daily basis, including many "educated" and successful Chinese, couldn't care any less for others or the environment surrounding them. In general, I would describe most people here as extremely lacking in self-awareness. They don't realize, nor do they care, how their behavior impacts other people, their own fellow citizens included.
This is not just a matter of Chinese tourists acting rudely. It's a matter of Chinese acting rudely in general, even at home.
jackinbox
There are signs everywhere in mainland warning people not to litter; wait for traffic signals; don't spit; etc. etc. which are generally ignored. It will take a few generations to get there.
China will have democracy when Chinese cross streets on "walk" signs. In the mean time, HK can learn some tolerance. Sending 500,000 people on to the streets to protest for democracy or some imagined infringement on freedom is rather foolish.
jgmoreno
Best comment so far
kenjabrie
It is because Chinese are simply uncivilized.. Hong Kongers should teach them, but most HKers are racist people..
draconianfederation
I'm a HKer, and I demand you retract this statement. HKers are NOT racists.
Oh, some idiots in HK said we should teach these mainlanders manners, but what happens when we remind these ****s what they should be doing? These mainlanders verbally abuse us, telling us to mind our own freaking business.
When law enforing authorities admonishes them they act like they are something else and demand special treatment. Facing these sort of barbarians, why should HKers continue to go out of our way to 'educate' them?
flytrapper
I recently watched a documentary about the London Underground transport system. (It is their 150th anniversary). Showing footage of a train being boarded about 50-60 years ago, I was struck by how badly behaved the passengers were as they struggled to board before the passengers had got out. The had to be retrained by LT staff. They all seemed well dressed with the men in jackets and ties and presumably reasonably educated clerical staff. I can recall seeing signs on buses in Spain in the 70s forbidding spitting. Nowadays London passengers need no restraining and are very polite if a little glum and Spaniards would not dream of spitting on a bus.
I think poor behaviour by "uncooth Mainlanders will soon disappear. We just have to be tolerant and wait.
charlie212
what does this have to do with the article ? obviously a lot of people here would have done poorly on exams in school because most of the comments here are completely irrelevant. chinese tourists are rude, arrogant, loud, selfish, environment non-friendly and the list goes on...all of the above have been experiences first hand in person
Janet Kwan
Not ALL Chinese tourists are like that. Those of us who are not like that feel the same towards the rude ones, and we get the short end of the stick because we get lumped into the same category. My friends and I are very respectful and considerate when we travel, and that is because we are all college graduates. Usually, uneducated people anywhere tend to be rude and inconsiderate. It's just that China has undergone such an economic boom that many uneducated people struck it rich in a short period of time, and they travel or immigrate out of the country, so the uneducated Chinese is more visible to other countries.

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