Are the Ugly Americans, Now the Chinese?

When we got aboard the cruise ship, I begin noticing a recurring theme.  I am getting very annoyed with fellow passengers who don’t  let me off the elevator before they start to push into it, physically shove me at the railings to get a photo, talk loudly during announcements and blatantly cut in front of me in lines.  There were passengers from all over the world on the cruise ship, but the rude ones were, consistently, Chinese.   Having taught many children of Asian families in San Diego, I was incredulous regarding the behavior that I was now seeing.  Trying to recall of those polite, hard-working and respectful Asian kids whom I taught, how many were Chinese?  I was wondering if this was a travel thing? Was I the only one seeing this?  Am I a bigot?  My husband, and son and especially my darling daughter-in-law confirmed my feelings.  They too were getting pushed around, or witnessed rude behavior of Chinese tourists.

Barry and I continued to see this phenomenon on shore excursions, when busses full of Chinese tourists would push their way though the crowds of other tourists.  At Peterhoff Palace in St. Petersburg, Barry and I arrived early and got spot by the railing to see the show.  As we waited for the fountains to be turned on for the musical water show, two Chinese ladies pushed me, hard, trying to get in between me and the railing.  OK, don’t fuck with this grandma, I pushed back harder, stepping back on a group of toes.  They backed up all right!  At the time, I was too pissed off to worry about an American-Chinese incident taking place in Russia.

Even when we were on our own, Barry and I rerouted our touring of Frederiksborg and Kronborg Castles because there were so many very loud and nasty Chinese tourists in front of us. In Frederiksborg they shouted over an organ performance,  didn’t move so that we could take a photo of a fountain after we moved for them.  At Kronberg Castle there were some Shakespearean actors doing an improvisational act in character.  The actors were costumed and they were interacting with people in who were visiting the castle.  A group of Chinese kids were going up to them and pulling on their clothing, talking loudly over them and the adults with them (parents?) did nothing, totally insensitive to the situation.  The actors stopped and walked away to try again.  These same tourists were touching everything in displays and kids ran wild.

In an Edinburgh woolens shop, I hummed and hawed about getting a cashmere scarf, too Scottish thrifty to make the purchase.  A group of Chinese school children pushed past me.  Most of these preteen kids had hand baskets full of cashmere, probably spending many hundreds of pounds each.  SO, I can understand why the shopkeeper put up with them pushing and shoving each other and making the store so loud that I had to leave.  Adult chaperones? They were yelling too over their full baskets.

Again, is this a “thing”?  When I got home I googled “rude Chinese…and then “tourists” popped up.  I got 163,000 links and read the first few articles.  I am absolutely not alone in experiencing what is considered loutish Chinese tourists,  it is a phenomenon.  The “ugly American” tourist, considered to be culturally insensitive, loud, demanding and pushy has been replaced by the Chinese.

It has become such a phenomenon that the Chinese government has a new tourism law:  “Tourists shall observe public order and respect social morality in tourism activities, respect local customs, cultural traditions and religious beliefs, care for tourism resources, protect the ecological environment, and abide by the norms of civilised tourist behaviour.”  Additionally, China’s National Tourism Administration published a “Guide for Civilized Tourism”, 64 pages on how to get along.

Rude Awakenings:  Chinese Tourists Have the Money, but Not the Manners

“Too Loud, Too Rude”:  Switzerland Introduces Separate Trains for Chinese Tourists

For Chinese Tourists Behaving Badly, A Government Blacklist

Bad Chinese Tourist are Earning A Reputation As The New “Ugly Americans”

When you travel, you are a guest of the country that you are visiting.  I hate to see fellow Americans asking for ketsup in a French restaurant, complaining that there aren’t any 4th of July celebrations  when visiting England, which I have seen.  I am guilty too, quite embarrassed to say that in 1973, when I visited a church in Italy, a nun whacked me on the feet when I lay on a pew to see the paintings on the ceilings. Geez!  It is the responsibility of a tourist to follow the social norms of the county where they are a guest and to be sensitive to the culture around them. Perhaps aggressive behavior is the best way to get along in China?  It isn’t working well in Europe though.

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