According to a report conducted by China Tourism Academy, an estimated 130 million Chinese citizens traveled abroad in 2017, spending around $115.29 billion worldwide, thepaper.cn reported in March. As more and more Chinese choose to spend their holidays abroad, how do people of other nationalities perceive Chinese tourists? What are some common stereotypes of Chinese tourists in other countries?
The road most traveled
Many interviewees agreed that Chinese travelers prefer to stay together and move around in big groups. Italian Daniela Romani, who is presently traveling in Shanghai, said Chinese tourists in Italy seem to always be in a group. “Not in a compulsive way, but they like to stay together,” she said.
Romani is impressed by the huge number of Chinese tourists in Italy. “They are everywhere. They know what to do and what to see in Italy. They are well-prepared. And mostly, they want to go shopping,” she added.
German nationals Christine and Christian said their impression of Chinese travelers in Germany is that they usually arrive in big groups and visit the famous sites in a rushed way. “They don’t have enough time to see everything. They try to do Europe in two days. It is like doing China in one day,” they told the Global Times.
Daniela Romani(right). Photos: Lu Ting and Xiang Jun/GT
Some foreigners we interviewed pointed out that Westerners rarely travel in huge groups, prefer to travel individually, and take their time seeing the sites. They also said that Chinese travelers tend to take many photos and selfies during their travels.
“They are more interested in taking pictures of places than actually trying to understand the culture or enjoying the culture of that place,” Mexican Patricio Suarez said. “I think they prefer places over people,” Suarez told the Global Times.
Malgorzata and Bartek from Poland told the Global Times that common stereotypes of Chinese travelers in Poland are that they prefer to stay in large tour groups and take many photos, but he said such habits are understandable.
Malgorzata, for instance, said it is always easier to move in groups while traveling abroad, and it is common for people to take pictures while visiting a new country. “If you go to the other parts of the world, it is cool to have lots of pictures. You can show them to your friends and family,” Bartek added.
The two added that, compared with tourists from other countries, Chinese generally respect Polish culture and tend to behave properly in Poland. “They won’t do something improper compared to other people who come to Poland just to drink and party,” Bartek said.
Another interviewee, Linda from the US, who has been working in China for a few years, said that Americans tend to stereotype all Asian travelers as rich and carrying a camera around their necks. She said this was an ironic stereotype, as she did the exact same thing when she first arrived in China in order to share her overseas experiences with friends and family back home.
Shout-talking and spitting
Due to different social customs and cultural backgrounds, when Chinese are traveling overseas, sometimes their behavior is misinterpreted by foreigners as improper or rude.
Christine said that, compared with travelers of other nationalities, Chinese tourists generally talk very loudly. “They are so loud. Everyone is talking loudly all at once, and for us [Westerners] it sounds like they are stressed out,” she told the Global Times.
Christine (left) and Christian
Romani pointed out that she, too, has heard Chinese tourists talk loudly and also seen them spitting on to the ground. “But now they are changing,” she added.
Similarly, Suarez and Linda pointed out that spitting seems to be a common trait of Chinese tourists. “I know here [in China] it is okay to spit. But in Mexico it is not okay,” Suarez said.
Linda likewise said spitting on the sidewalk is a Chinese habit she frequently sees in China, which few Americans do back in her country. Nonetheless, she said Americans also tend to be quite loud and obnoxious in restaurants and public areas, which is not perceived as a polite habit in many other countries.
“I don’t think that Chinese people behave improperly when they are traveling. I think it is just that we don’t understand each others’ cultures very well. What is common in China maybe is not so common in the US, and vice versa,” Linda said. “We have some habits that we bring to China when we come from the US that are probably considered rude here.”
To help Chinese become more sophisticated global travelers, our foreign interviewees offered different suggestions.
Suarez, for example, said it is important for Chinese travelers to first understand the local social customs of the foreign country they wish to visit. “Try to understand it and act with respect to that culture,” he said. “For example, when I come to China, I try to behave in the Chinese way.”
“I think for Chinese travelers to act more sophisticated in the US, it is very regional specific. I would suggest they look online to see what is proper in each area of the country and be more adaptable,” Linda said, adding that, in cities like New York, people are expected to be pushier and louder, while people are expected to behave more reserved and quiet in the mid-west US.
Bartek (left) and Malgorzata
Christine and Christian suggest that Chinese travelers take more time while visiting Germany. Malgorzata and Bartek encourage Chinese travelers to try Polish traditional food and not feel afraid to ask local people for help in Poland.
In terms of the benefits that Chinese travelers bring to other countries, most interviewees pointed out that the increasing number of Chinese tourists helps with cultural exchange. Malgorzata said Chinese travelers enrich Polish culture.
Linda said Chinese travelers in the US contribute to a mutual understanding of the two cultures. “It is a global world now, so we really need to understand each other and be able to do business together. I think it is very important that we understand what is important for Chinese and what is important for Americans,” she told the Global Times.
“And of course there are economic benefits. Our economy has improved from all the Chinese tourists,” Romani told the Global Times.