24 April 2019
A guide for Chinese tourists shields himself from the sun. The US World Tourism Organization estimates that  Chinese nationals traveling abroad will reach 100 million by 2015. Photo: Reuters
A guide for Chinese tourists shields himself from the sun. The US World Tourism Organization estimates that Chinese nationals traveling abroad will reach 100 million by 2015. Photo: Reuters

The new Ugly Americans are Chinese

Bad behavior knows no bounds, and it has come down to this: China’s Communist Party tourism chiefs have warned people traveling abroad to not pick their noses, pee in pools or talk about pork.

These and other “don’ts” are included in a new 64-page guidebook entitled “Guidebook for Civilized Tourism” issued last week to coincide with the start of the week-long public holiday commemorating the 1949 Communist takeover.

China’s economic boom has led to an international scramble to attract growing numbers of cash-flush tourists, wrote the National Post. The United Nations World Tourism Organization says 83 million Chinese tourists spent nearly US$102 billion overseas in 2012.

But the poor behavior of many first-time travelers, the Post noted, has spawned a global image problem, party leaders fear.

In May, Beijing approved legislation designed to improve the country’s “national image” and Wang Yang, a vice premier, warned that vulgar and impetuous tourists had “damaged the image of Chinese people and caused vicious impact” on the country’s reputation.

The Chinese are seen as a bunch of spitting, littering, vandalizing, jay-walking and line-cutting buffoons — conduct, perhaps, grudgingly accepted in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, but certainly not cool in Washington D.C., Los Angeles or even New York.

The Chinese are also infamously known for epic airport meltdowns when things don’t go their way and for letting their children defecate in the middle of airports, not to mention the subway and Apple stores.

Among the most bizarre travel tips: don’t leave footprints on the toilet seat, do not steal life jackets, and don’t snap your fingers at Germans.

Other country-specific advice includes: don’t talk about the eyes of an Iranian baby; do not touch people in India with your left hand; do not use your foot to touch others’ belongings when in Nepal; and do not ever talk about the royal family of Thailand. Curiously, the guidebook doesn’t include (but should): “don’t throw candy at Koreans.” Perhaps they’re saving that tip for the next edition.

There are also directives “rejecting behaviors” such as doodling on, or carving characters into, ancient relics, this no doubt in response to the 15-year-old boy who scratched “Ding Jinhao was here” in Chinese on a 3,500-year-old temple wall in the ancient city of Luxor in Egypt last May.

The Wall Street Journal correctly points out that overseas travel by Chinese was heavily restricted and it wasn’t until 1997 that Chinese people began to venture abroad purely for tourism. “With such a short history of globetrotting, it’s not surprising that many Chinese commit faux pas on their foreign voyages,” WSJ said.

Netizens across the board thought many of the travel tips are just plain weird. My favorite examples: “Wherever you dive in the ocean, don’t catch and take away any marine life,” and take care not to “dry your handkerchief and underwear on the lampshade”.

The crackdown on rowdy Chinese travelers also includes standard etiquette recommendations that reflect common sense and general courteousness, for example, don’t take more than you can eat at a buffet, do not force others to take a picture with you, flush the toilet after use, and cover your mouth when you cough. A very good tip that I hope all Chinese travelers take to heart is judicious use of “please,” “thank you” and “sorry.”

Regardless, general etiquette just became law, noted CNN. Tour guides and agencies that don’t keep individuals in their tour groups in check can face fines of up to US$49,000. How exactly uncivilized tourists in countries far and wide will be monitored, however, is anyone’s guess.

The Chinese government had previously issued pithy, one-page guidelines telling tourists how to behave, but the latest booklet elaborates in far more detail, complete with illustrations.

According to the US World Tourism Organization, Chinese nationals traveling abroad will reach 100 million by 2015. God help us.

Ray Kwong is a China commentator. He writes on China for Forbes. He is also a China business development strategist and marketing consultant.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]


A strategist and marketing consultant on China business

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe