• Mon
  • Oct 20, 2014
  • Updated: 4:40pm
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


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 Their knowledge of the destination country and its culture is often at best outdated or non-existent.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

I'll present an urban renewal analogy to explain the existing society in China. In urban renewal, 1st part is the demolition, then followed by part 2, the rebuilding. Present day Chinese society completed the 1st phase from 1949 and was 90% destroyed on purpose by the Cultural Revolution. Then, like how ineptly the CCP does everything, the Part 2 never happened, Mao died, and Deng XP came along, "Money is everything" and that was what rose to the top in today's society in China. The result are pushy people who don't give a darn about anyone not family, with no social conscience nor ethics, nor sense of morality, driven by greed. Rape the land, steal from the weak, anything to get enough money to buy citizenship in AU or Canada, then leave the poisoned land behind for the peasants
Marxism destroyed culture in China, and destroyed the bonds between people of society. Everything is politics and everything is materialism. Nothing was allowed to exist for people outside of the reach of the state. It became extreme in the 60's and 70's, but people are still living the consequences today.
For the least educated of society, those without any perspective, they are just living out as society has taught them.
Hail to the "rude Chinese" tourists. Tourists destinations especially such as Hong Kong deserve it entirely often because of their snobbiness and imperial attitude. As to tips, European tourists ( mainly Germans) don't tip. Nor do the Japanese simply because they claim that they don't accept tips. As to the Koreans, please look at the mirror yourself, they are one of the rudest people on earth.
Need to adjust your statement = Germans will tip for GOOD SERVICE ONLY since any regular service is already covered by the 10% service charge in the bill.
May be in HK but not in the USA where there are no 10% service charges in general.
Is it just tourists?
Super comments. The Communist Party ripped the soul out of the nation and left its moral cupboards bare.
Personally, I think the bad behaviours of Chinese tourists are evident when riding the MTR. Most Mainland MTR users lean on the hand-pole. Here's a personal experience: One time i was holding on to the pole and this Putonghua-speaking rider was leaning on the pole knowing that my hand was there (to secure my balance). His action is disgusting. I'd experienced this several times on different occasions. I think this is one of the main reasons why Mainland Chinese tourists have such a bad reputation.
I think people just like to belly ache. I bet most people dislike mainlanders just because newspapers like apple daily like to show some photos of kids going to the washroom in weird places. These are just a minority. Millions of tourists come and about 1% behave badly.
Americans go to Mexico and get drunk and get wild and crazzy.
Honestly I live in
HK and the tourists I see are all pretty good. No real complaints. The only bad comments I see are in scmp.
When I hear people in the office say they hate mainlanders I always ask why. They always quote some article. When I ask for a real life example I always get the same one - mainlanders always push in lines. Not a very good reason to hate a whole group of people.




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