Thursday, August 27, 2015

No burping or farting in the store!

tourists at the Forbidden City, photo by Kim W
One thing I've noticed during the ten years I've lived in China, Chinese people love to travel. As the economy has grown, allowing more and more people have disposable income, the number of Chinese travelers has risen markedly. Domestic tourism is a huge industry in China, and I find that the Chinese tourist industry does a lot to cater to their countrymen, while surrounding countries go out of their way to cater to foreign travelers. Catering to foreign tourists usually means have English signage, English-speaking tour guides, and pizza on the menu. But in many places, that's changing. More and more countries are implementing tactics to attract Chinese travelers and their money. Hot drinking water, free tea, noodles for breakfast, and luxury shopping excursions along with Chinese-language menus and signs, it's all becoming the new standard in many travel hot spots.

But how do people feel about this new influx of Chinese tourists? The feelings seemed to be mixed. Some welcome them with open arms, as they appreciate the money Chinese tourists spend while on holiday. Others are annoyed, unable or unwilling to understand Chinese habits. I can speak to this firsthand, as I'm often mistaken as a Chinese tourist due to my last name. When I check-in to my accommodation, I am often met with interesting comments. One time, in Indonesia, I arrived at my guesthouse and the owner looked at me.

"Your name's Zhao, but your not Chinese?" she puzzled.

"No, I'm not, but my husband is," I explained.

"Well, I'm glad you're not. Those Chinese, they make such a mess, and sometimes they even bring rice cookers and use them in their rooms," she lamented.

I was a bit offended on behalf of all Chinese, not to mention I had just told her that my husband was Chinese. I realize there was some truth to what she said, after having run a hostel myself, I know that Chinese people generally leave a room messier than guests from many other countries. But I felt torn. How much do we expect foreign guests and tourists to bend to our standard when visiting our city or country? And how much should we cater to them as they spend their hard-earned cash and help fuel our local tourist industry and economy?

I was discussing this with one of my Chinese friends recently. She lives in Germany, so she is used to seeing the world from two different perspective's--as a person who grew up in China, but has spent much of her adult life in the west. I told her about a picture that I saw posted on WeChat. It was taken at a German shop and listed a number of rules, clearly directed at Chinese visitors. I've translated it into English below:
list of rules for Chinese tourists

Please don't eat or drink in the store!
The store is not a rest stop!
Please don't clip your nails in the store!
Please don't use toothpicks in the store!
Please don't spit in the store!
We politely refuse to haggle, but you can have receipt for duty free!
Please don't talk loudly, in order to avoid disrupting other customers shopping.
Please, no burping or farting in the store!

We both agreed that this was over-the-top and a tad offensive. I can understand asking customers not to eat and drink in the shop and I think posting a sign not to spit is, unfortunately, still a needed reminder for many older Chinese tourists. But I so rarely see Chinese people using toothpicks (especially outside of a restaurant) or hear them letting one rip in public (elderly men excluded), I don't think it needs saying. If I were Chinese and saw such a sign, I think I would kindly move on to the next shop.

What do you think? Do you try to adapt your habits to local culture when on vacation? Do you think we should afford some leeway to how foreign guests act when they visit our country?


Anonymous said...

I think the notice is there for a reason. They wouldn't have bring this up, if such incidents have not happened before. If you travel abroad you should adopt the rules and behavior of this country. I wouldn't sunbath topless in Indonesia , for example I do this back home. Just because you have money to go somewhere doesn't mean you have the right to behave like a jerk.
Some German Hotels hand out little notes to Non-Chinese guests to warn them of the Chinese having breakfast and what disturbances to expect because of that.
I also can see a relive from the faces when my asien-husband is telling his not from China.I think western tourist who come to China are usually ok. China is strict so a mingle-mangle of weird people like in Thailand is less common ... but here is a totally difference story if it comes t western people who live in China. There are really a lot of jerks.

rosieinbj said...

I agree, to a point. I think we should try to respect the culture of the country we are in, but I don't think we can totally abandon our personal habits or beliefs. There are things I do in China, such as address a problem directly, that aren't really inline with how locals would usually behavior. Another example is that I call people out who don't stand in line because it drives me crazy. But should I really do that? Who am I to teach Chinese people etiquette in their own country?

I also think that some people really don't realize they are doing something wrong or inappropriate. Perhaps a gentle reminder is enough. Or in the example I posted (the rules in the German shop) the shopkeeper could have had the sign in both English and Chinese so the rules aren't directed at one nationality, but to all tourists. Of course, they can do whatever they want, but to attract customer's it's better to seem welcoming.

Autumn said...

I think with a lot of Chinese tourists in the US, the problems are exacerbated because there are literally BUSLOADS of them. It's like a mini-China in a motor coach. So not only are they shoving each other and completely ignoring the lines for tourist attractions and gift shops, they're shoving Americans and other International tourists. And while in China, that's acceptable, here it ticks off everyone. As does the spitting!

I've read an article saying that the Chinese government has started a programs to educate their tourists in avoiding intercultural rudeness, though, which is more than America ever did.

But, personally, I have to admit I'm kinda like, Yay! Another country's people have finally surpassed Americans as the "Ugly International tourist!"

Betty has a Panda said...

I think that sign is there for a reason... But I consider it very rude. I've also stumbled across many of these signs in Japan with very bad English were I didn't even get what I should not do. But I still felt offended a little bit when the sign was only Japanese/English and obviously directed to Western tourists.

Nontheless I am hacked off by Chinese tourists. They are rude, push people around, push into the train before anyone could get out (I mean seriously? How are you supposed to get into a full train before you let anyone out???), they talk so so so loud on the train, they smack so loud... and why do they eat at crappy Chinese restaurants when they are on a trip abroad? It just doesn't make sense to me. Do I eat Wiener Schnitzel every day when I am in HK?

Oh and I trounced a Chinese teenage boy in Xiamen when he threw his garbage on the floor. I spoke in German so he didn't get what I said, but what I meant. He picked up his waste and threw it into a garbage bin.

Cat said...

Interesting post.

My (Chinese-born Australian) fiance and I worked at a ski shop in Japan for a few months - the most intense time was during Chinese New Year when large Chinese groups came to the shop. My fiance was often given the task of serving them and he definitely found it easier than the Japanese workers and I (I am Australian) did. While sometimes there were misunderstandings and some were rude or loud (as were some customers from other countries) I think the hardest thing was the massive groups they came in - it is just difficult to serve that many people at once. I did notice that they were pretty patient though - I guess you would have to be to travel as part of such a big group).