Whenever you travel, you are bound to encounter some strange local customs. In my travels I have seen some very weird things, but nothing prepared me for what I would experience in China. People spit. All the time. It is completely acceptable for men to go to the bathroom where ever and whenever they like. Men, women and children push and shove you to get where they want. However, since I’ve been here I have learned to be patient. I am, after all a guest in their country and should adapt to (or at least be patient with) their customs, no matter how revolting I may find this behavior.
The Chinese government, on the other hand, is losing patience with this type of behavior when its’ citizens are guests in other countries. Officials in Beijing have just launched a program that encourages people to take photos of Chinese tourists behaving badly abroad. People would then upload these photos to a public forum as a way to shame said tourists for being rude.
While there are mixed feelings about how tourists will be called out, the general consensus is that Chinese tourists need to change their behavior, especially while visiting other countries. This proposal has come about after several horror stories have been reported in the Chinese media. These behaviors go beyond the annoying hygiene issues mentioned above, though. Some of these stories are down right horrible which you might have heard of in the news recently. There was the report of Chinese tourists defacing ancient Egyptian artifacts. A couple enroute to Thailand poured boiling water on a flight attendant after a confrontation about changing seats. Most recently a man on a Chinese airline was tired of waiting to take off, so he opened the emergency exit door to “get some air.”
These problems are arising in China in particular due to the major increase in passport holders and more opportunities for travel. As a result of the rising middle class, Chinese citizens are making more money and have the time to travel. Improved international relations are also encouraging for prospective tourists. Since many tourists are brand new to travel, many assume that other nations operate just like China.
I haven’t seen the public forum set up to shame tourists, but maybe it is what the Chinese need in order to improve behavior abroad. Or maybe the government should invest in teaching cultural awareness to all citizens. Either way, the fact that the government cares about the image of their tourists is a step in the right direction!
When visiting China yourself, be respectful of their culture and customs. Things may not seem “right” to you, but it is their way. When not only the Chinese, but anyone, comes to visit our own country, we want the same in return.
Stay updated with the news as this can go both ways possibly and travelers coming to China might begin to get shamed also if we don’t respect their culture.
Have you witnessed any bad cultural behavior in the world?