How does the “rude Chinese tourist” stereotype affect those of us who “look same”?

chinese louvre tourist

This photo of a Chinese tourist using a Louvre fountain as a foot bath has been making the rounds on Chinese social media.

A few weeks ago in Taipei, a Taiwanese American friend and I had finished dinner and hailed a cab to take us back to her apartment. We told the driver in Mandarin where we wanted to go. Upon hearing our vaguely non-local accents, he asked us where we were from.

“Beijing? Shanghai? Hong Kong?”

No, we said. We’re from the United States.

“Ah. Overseas Chinese. You’re just like Jeremy Lin.”

He then told us that he thought we were mainlanders because “Mainlanders, Hong Kong people, ABCs. You all talk the same. I can’t tell the difference anymore.”

I do wonder how he would have reacted if we had said we were from China. Chinese tourists have created a terrible reputation for themselves lately. For example, a Chinese teenager scratched his name into an Egyptian temple. In North Korea, Chinese tourists are throwing candies at local children as if they were ducks in a pond. In Taiwan, their bad behavior is compounded by regulations stipulating that Mainlanders travel in large tour groups, making them stick out on the streets and in tourist attractions.

To be fair, Chinese tourists are likely no more rude than American tourists. Most of the complaints lodged against rude tourists stem from the visitors’ lack of foreign language ability and knowledge of and respect for other cultures. This is something that Chinese and Americans unfortunately share. I’d hypothesize that the novelty of their increasing presence just as China is beginning to assert itself on the world stage is breeding a sense of resentment and xenophobia in countries that are receiving them. (Taiwan, of course, has its own reasons to fear an influx of Chinese tourists, even as its tourism industry increasingly relies on their renminbi.)

How does the rise of the uncouth Chinese tourist affect other Asian people traveling around the West and other parts of the world where “all Asians look same”? Have any of you ever been confused for a Chinese tourist and treated rudely (or otherwise differently) as a result?

  1. I can understand your pain, in HK some of the people literally shit on the street. Like there was not enough shopping malls in HK with free toilets. Or cut in the lines, they always carry their luggage with them to Chow Tai Fook or buying milk powder… I don’t know why becasue most of the Mainland Chinese people I met, friends of my husband, coworkers are really nice well educated and well behaving people so how come all the rednecks come to behave like that. That kind of people, no matter what nation, should be forbiden to travel because that kind of people make other think that all nation behaves like that. argh >.<

    • Wouldn’t not letting them travel just make the problem worse? I would hope that all travelers return home with a better understanding of the world around them.

  2. Well, I live in S.E. Asia between the two most populous countries on the globe. So, we’ve not lack of Indian or Chinese tourists. I think the behaviour has something to do with living in crowded countries where you don’t get nowhere if you don’t push and shove. It needs years of living in a more spacious, more plentiful environment, to get that out of your system (if ever). Sigh … we’re just gonna have to get used to it Bro.

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