Many people around the world have a bad impression of Chinese tourists due to the way they behave when visiting foreign countries.
In the past few years, these tourists have really earned a really bad reputation worldwide. You can read these articles from South China Morning Post, The Economist and the Huffington Post.
Even those of Chinese descent in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are unable to tolerate such behaviors.
For instance, in Hong Kong, there were instances where Chinese mothers allowed their children to urinate in public which made several HK residents extremely unhappy. When confronted by HK people, the mum slapped one on the face and rammed another with the pram.
In fact, in response to a poll by the SCMP.com headlined “What makes some Hongkongers dislike mainland China and its people?”, more than 50 per cent readers blamed the negative feelings on “ill-behaved tourists” believing that they have money but not the manners.
The Chinese government has recognized this problem themselves. In a bold move to crack down on rude China tourists, the officials have begun adding the names of the above offenders to a new blacklist which may affect their freedom to travel.
The Communist Party’s Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilisation and the China National Tourism Administration have also recently issued a 128-character-long rhyme to remind tourists of behaving in a “civilized manner” on the road.
Many Chinese nationals also frown upon the bad behavior of their fellow country men. The topic has been a big hit on China’s social media, where bloggers discuss and criticize the uncivilized behavior of other Chinese tourists.
1) Scarcity and lawlessness in their country has resulted in the need to prioritize one’s interest to survive
Some common examples of such behaviors include actions like cutting queues; pushing other tourists; taking photos with flash when it is prohibited; or kicking up a big fuss over small things.
What makes people to “put their own interest and survival first at all times”?
The first reason is due to the scarcity and immense competition which exists in the country. There has been a long recent history of 150 years of non-stop violence and political and social chaos. Things in China have only started to stabilize in the recent decades.
For many Chinese, it’s not a distant past when they lived their lives in scarcity every single day. So, whenever there’s a little bit trace of a shortage, their survival mode is on.
This poverty and instability was worsened by the breakdown in social order from 1967 to 1976. In a communist society, there cannot be religion or anything that is above the state.
As a result of the Cultural Revolution (無產階級文化大革命), people spied on each other, were sent off to work camps, children turned on parents, students turned on teachers etc. There was a lot of distrust in society and people competed for everything.
These days, China is richer and stable, things have improved. However, attitudes remain. Furthermore, their society is even more competitive than before. Population has grown to be so huge and there are hardly sufficient resources for everyone.
In fact, over one-third of students taking “gao kao” (Their version of our GCE A levels) reported having psychosomatic symptoms at least once a week. (You can read all about their education system here).
Just like how competitiveness in Singapore has led to the whole ugly kiasu culture which we have here, I believe that in a society like China, the social impact would be worse.
2) The crowded living environment of the urban poor in China
Another key contributing factor of uncivilized behavior would be the living conditions of many of the poor people in China which results in them having almost no concept of personal space, modesty and privacy.
This point was raised by Miss Chen who is from Tianjin. Chen explained that not too long ago in China, there was a Hukou system which inhibited migration from villages to cities.
Since the 1990s, this system has been abolished and people were free to move around. As such, several young people travelled from the rural areas to cities like Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Many of them end up working in factories and live in terrible conditions such as crammed dormitories. As such, there is little concept of personal space and privacy.
3) Not everyone had a chance for good education
Yes, China is now getting richer and many people are educated. However their social inequality is also very high which means that there are many people who are deprived of the opportunity to further their studies.
Furthermore, during the period of 1960s-1970s, China was going through a politically unstable period. Many of the people who were born or young during that time were deprived of proper education. As such, many don’t speak English or even standard mandarin well. They end up not understanding several social norms.
Thus, if you observe closely, not every single Chinese tourist or immigrant is rude. Usually, the educated people have better behavior than those who are less educated.
I would think that the quality of education in schools and poor public education is one of the main reasons why Chinese people are not as environmentally conscious as the rest of the world. China’s prosperity has increased demand for things like animal fur, Tiger, Shark, elephant and rhinoceros products leading to a huge decline in these endangered animals.
In fact, during my recent trip to the Maldives, the resort had specially started a compulsory lecture that everyone had to attend before snorkeling. The course was in two languages – Mandarin and English. When I asked why, the staff told me it was due to the rise in Mainland tourist who were unfamiliar with how to protect our oceans and coral reefs. I also noticed that the slides were in Chinese and English but not in other languages.
4) Many lack exposure to foreign cultures
China has only recently become rich and it is the first few times that many of the tourists are actually travelling out to visit foreign countries.
As such, even the adults are often inexperienced and unfamiliar with overseas rules and norms. This is according to Liu Simin, researcher with the Tourism Research Centre of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
You can argue and say things like “So, it is also my first few times travelling but you had the luxury of your parents going with you on your first trip and socializing you into proper tourist etiquette, these people don’t.
Just like the Chinese, criticism of bad behavior has in the past been leveled at American, Japanese and Taiwanese tourists, when they were also enjoying new wealth and going abroad for the first time.
Experts believe that such negative behaviour will fade over time. According to Wang Wanfei, a Tourism Professor at Zhejiang University Besides lacking the travel experience physically, many Chinese people are ignorant in the sense that they are monocultural and monolingual. It is not like in Singapore where we are exposed to the whole racial tolerance, adapt to other people cultures and have the option to develop ourselves as bicultural individuals or people with tons of international exposure.