In the past few years, Chinese tourists seem to have become the bane of our existence. We make fun of them. We complain about them. We stay away from them. We even tend to be pre-emptively rude toward them.
Chinese tourists have quite the reputation worldwide. It’s become so severe that Chinese government has issued a handbook explaining to its citizens how to be good tourists.
They are infamous for their loudness, impatience, eating habits, inappropriate public manners (spitting, nose picking, scratching of private parts, shoving, queue-cutting) and — for want of a better phrase — general rudeness. They travel in large groups and sometimes seem oblivious to others around them.
Thailand has become one of the most popular destinations for the Chinese, so it’s common to run into groups of them. Personally, I don’t mind them so much. I’m half-Chinese, so I understand bits of their culture, even if I don’t condone them. My late grandparents came to this country by boat and I sometimes see fractions of them in these tourists. They wouldn’t have taken their behaviour as far as some (spitting on the dinner table, taking a dump in the Chiang Mai canal), but things like unreasonable loudness and cultural aggression are not exactly new territory to me.
Then again, tourists of all nationalities and races are usually perceived as sources of annoyance. I think when a large group of people travel together to a foreign country, they tend to overcompensate for language barriers, the absence of a sense of direction and that hollow feeling of loneliness by acting extremely childish and amplifying their bad behaviours because they think no one will understand them anyway.
But before we start targeting Chinese tourists, we mustn’t forget that we, too, are sometimes tourists. And sometimes we can be even more annoying.
I went on a work trip to Tokyo about a week ago. It was my first time to Japan since they’ve begun allowing Thais to enter without a priorly obtaining a visa. Such generosity has made it much easier to travel to the country — I feel like everyone I know does, as I see posts on my Facebook’s news feed on what seems like an hourly basis. I’ve been to Japan almost 20 times in the past decade, and I can honestly say that I understand why Thais are taken with the complicated country, which perfectly blends the old and new. I mean, we all grew up bingeing on Japanese manga and porn, didn’t we?
Statistics show that Thai travellers are now flooding Japan. I noticed it as well during my recent visit, which was in no way a high season for Thais to visit Japan. I kept running into large groups of Thais wherever I went; I’d never seen so many on the streets of Tokyo.
I’ll tell you, we are no better than Chinese tourists in Thailand. Thai tourists in Tokyo are loud, fidgety and nagging, without any regards to quiet, extremely organised culture of Japan. We cut queues. We sit where we want to sit. We complain loudly because we think no one will understand us. We curse at Japanese service staff who fail to understand our broken English. We take group pictures with the most mundane objects. We call out for our friends from three streets over. We lust after Japanese girls loudly, like desperate hoodlums.
Sound familiar? If I didn’t understand Thai, I would have immediately, discretely — with bias — thought they were from China.
I’ve asked several Thai expatriates living in Japan and my younger sister, who earned her bachelor’s degree there, about the general consensus on Thai tourists after the “no visa” policy took hold. They said the same things — Thai tourists are “undesirable” due to their lack of “manners”.
So, yes, we’ve become what we’ve been complaining about — and it is just sad.
It’s not my place to lecture on good tourist manners, as I think they’re not hard to figure out. You basically observe your destination country’s culture, do a little research beforehand and try to be as considerate as possible. If all else fails, try not to shout unless someone is actually dying.
Maybe it’s because I don’t know their language, but I somehow never feel insulted by Chinese tourists. At least they don’t hang out in clubs and bars, trying to pick up women, throwing sneers and jeers at the locals. At least they don’t boast about knowing Thailand like the back of their hand, as they’d rather spend time cutting toilet queues. It’s not just the Chinese who are bad tourists.
Onsiri Pravattiyagul writes about music and contemporary culture for Life.