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LAST WORD: The Truth About Badly Behaved Tourists
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The Truth About Badly Behaved Tourists

By Andrew Smith

BT 201601 150 63 Last word 001In many Thai tourist hotspots there are even 'Chinese only' toilet facilities. They may not be happy about some of the ways in which their Asian cousins conduct themselves but they are extremely glad about the amount of money they are bringing in every year. Likewise the residents of Switzerland - where they have been assigned their own train carriages - London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul are very vocal about their ill feelings towards Chinese tourists but to some extent they put on a happy face in order to collect more cash.

Over the last few weeks there has been another wave of media coverage concerning the exploits of Chinese tourists around the world. Global travellers from the Middle Kingdom are now widely regarded as the worst tourists in the world. They are often accused of being rude, loud and disrespectful to the locals. Urinating in public places and queue jumping are two of the most commonly cited examples of their unruly behaviour.

While it is easy to see why some of the negative stereotypes exist, the truth is that many other nationalities could easily give the Chinese run for their money when it comes to being badly behaved abroad. In a recent survey by Triposo, the Chinese came in fourth place. While a large number of respondents gave unfavourable reviews of Chinese travellers, the Russians, Brits and Americans were seen to be even worse. Those three groups may know how to use Western toilets but they are by far more rowdy, drunk and generally difficult for the locals to deal with than all of their Asian counterparts.

Speaking from a great deal of personal experience, I would definitely have to admit that British holidaymakers can be an absolute nightmare. When the gangs of boozed up young Brits make their annual summer pilgrimage to the party capitals of Spain, Greece, Cyprus and other parts of Europe it is inevitable that carnage will ensue. Alcoholism, drug abuse, public sex acts and 'ladishness' are not only commonplace but are almost considered a rite of passage into adulthood. Package tours catering specifically to single 18-30 year olds and organised bar crawls add fuel to the fire, as do the TV shows which glorify unruly behaviour abroad. Having also holidayed with plenty Americans and Australians in recent years, I know that although they are don't tend to be as boozed up and wild as the Brits they are equally as fond of partying until the early hours and getting up to all kinds of mischief during their foreign adventures.

BT 201601 150 62 Last word HighlightOther groups of European travellers may not be as rowdy on the whole as their counterparts from the Anglosphere but they are known for causing stirs in other ways. The Russians and the Germans are notorious for being cold to other groups of tourists, rude to the locals and engaging in so called 'holiday resort colonisation' whereby they completely take over certain parts of a town and are very unwelcoming of outsiders (i.e. tourists from other countries).

Large groups of married middle class men from Japan, South Korea and the Middle East have been doing a similar thing in countries like Thailand and the Philippines, where they have turned certain areas into their own playground little private playgrounds. In almost every major city in the Philippines there are now 'Korean and Japanese only' bars, KTVs, massage parlours, restaurants and even shops that forcefully prohibit anyone of another nationality - even Filipinos - from entering. Not surprisingly this has also added extra layers of organised crime into these local communities.

Despite all of their flaws the Chinese tend to be tamer, easier to deal with and less disruptive than groups of holidaymakers from other nations. For a start they often travel in tour groups. This means that however excitable they get during their trips they are usual contained within one particular coach, restaurant or hotel. The Thai party town of Pattaya for example attracts tonnes of Chinese tourism, yet you seldom run into a big rowdy party of them unless you go to a bargain-orientated shopping mall or a lady boy show. Likewise in London they are more likely to be obstructing your view of Buckingham palace in the afternoon than vandalising monuments after the pubs close.

BT 201601 150 64 Last word 002And for all the negative press about Chinese overseas tourists there is very little recognition of the improvements that are happening. Let's not forget that a lot of Chinese tourists are still getting used to staying in a city in their own country, let alone one abroad. Many of their behaviours that Westerners would consider to be bad habits are simple a result of cultural differences and the fact that many of them are only just finding out about different versions of etiquette around the globe. On the whole the Chinese are very smart people who are eager to learn and be respected by others. In many cases it is simply a case of them needing to be better educated about what they should and shouldn't be doing when they go abroad. In that regard the Chinese authorities have openly admitted that more needs to be done. Even President Xi Jinping has weighed in on the situation, urging his fellow countrymen to behave overseas. "Do not leave water bottles everywhere. Do not damage coral reefs. Eat less instant noodles and more local seafood," he advised during an official visit to the Maldives in September.

People also need to consider the sheer size of the Chinese population relative to the number of incidents they are involved in whilst travelling. Whilst to say exactly how many Chinese people travelling abroad annually, it has been reported that over 5 million of them visited Thailand alone in 2015. Even if one percent of all of the Chinese visitors to that one particular country does something distasteful during their vacation then it is more than enough to cultivate a negative reputation for the group as a whole. As per usual the current hysteria about badly behaved Chinese tourists is the result of a (by Chinese standards) small group of uneducated, low income people who are taking advantage of the staggeringly cheap tour group packages that allow them to experience foreign travel for the first time in their life. The rest of the world should probably cut them a bit more slack and be grateful for the contribution they make to a number of otherwise much less prosperous local economy.


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