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  • Dec 25, 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

HiggsSinglet
Hey, it has nothing to do with westernized. taiwan of today is different from taiwan of the 70s and 80s. taiwan is definately less confucius minded today than in the 70s and 80s.
bao.shuxiong.90
It's force of habits. I've seen a post-graduate student huck & spit in public. She's in her 20s. She's like "What?" when people around her dropped their jaws in disgust. They do it back in their village / town / city / province, so they do it wherever they go (esp. when their economy is doing so well).
Just like white tourists drop their jaws to witness the crowded MongKok night scene w/o crowd control.
Tour guides need to do better job informing tourists what they can expect from locals & what they're expected during their visits.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Right?!
pslhk
To white terror!
-
Naively,
I like your experimental style of writing
Reminds me of "White on White" of the Russian suprematism,
and WW…
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
(several readers have urged me to visit the Chairman)
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety
pgrath1
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.
rainer
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.
apdld
What I'm missing is another reason why Chinese tourists are so rude and misbehaving. My wife is from the mainland and follows quite some news(blogs) from the mainland. It seems from those blogs that also the "normal" and "average" person on the mainland are disgusted by their fellow countrymen tourists, because most of them seem to be either government officials or closely related to the government and happen to think they can do just about anything and get away with anything. And come to think of it, it really is government officials and those closely related to them who can travel abroad more easily. Ofcourse not the really big guys from the central government, but those smaller guys trying to be more important than they really are... those less visible but more corrupt ones.
Hell of a theory don't you think? At the least will explain A LOT of the misbehavings.
req
Ever hear about the english soccer fans? They pick fights everywhere.. Must be a wiki on that....
yty07
With a free media I think things might not turn so bad, as Chinese would know they were being criticised and received some level of civil education from TV and newspapers. Now, they are just living in their own way, still thinking they are welcomed everywhere because they can bring money to other countries to save their economic crisis. Behind the back, they are being laughed at. So I think government's strict control of the media contributes quite a lot to this.
sienna.lai
EXACTLY!!! Americans .. in the 1920's .. LONG AGO outgrew that cultural mentality.
sienna.lai
impatience causes the rudeness, and many other destructive things .. they cant get anything right the first time .. or even the second time .. nothing matters to them.
I have been told often how proud the Chinese are of their pragmatism and patience. But I find neither of these in their character currently, but quite the opposite. sorry.

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