Documentary: How To Be A Chinese Tourist

Filed Under: Videos

I randomly stumbled on a documentary yesterday on YouTube from Al Jazeera, called “How to be a Chinese Tourist,” which was published just a few weeks ago. Here’s how the video is described:

From setting fire to curtains inside an aeroplane cabin and hurling scalding noodles over a flight attendant to urinating in public places, Chinese tourists have gained a bad reputation.
One in 10 travellers world-wide is from China.
Outside of Asia, their destination of choice is France.
Despite complaints from locals, officials in Paris want to double the number of Chinese visitors to five million a year.
101 East asks what it will take to turn the plane loads of first-time travellers from China into well behaved sightseers.

Here’s the video:

When I first saw the name and description, I sort of assumed this would be poking fun at Chinese tourism. But then I realized it was from their 101 East show, which I usually find to be quite interesting and insightful.

Chinese tourism is booming globally, and there’s no doubt this leads to a lot of insane stories, many of which leave those from the west shaking their head (and perhaps even some in China, like this lady).

I try to take a slightly less negative approach, because I recognize what’s considered to be acceptable behavior in China is very different than in the west, and in many cases Chinese travelers are abroad for the first time.

Anyway, that’s why I found this documentary so fascinating. It takes place in Paris (the biggest foreign destination for Chinese tourists), and first talks about general trends, then follows a Chinese tour guide who has been living in Paris for 14 years teaching new Chinese tour guides how to act, and then follows one guy in particular who is on his first trip to France. Hearing his perception of things is fascinating, like when they show up at a landmark only to find that it’s closed due to a strike, or his disappointment when he finally sees the Mona Lisa.

It’s much more interesting than you’d expect. If you have the time, I highly recommend checking out this very cool show.

  1. Someone should make one about commenters on Lucky’s blog. I have found them to be ignorant generalizers.

  2. Someone should make one about Lucky. A boy who knows the redemption price for everything and the value of nothing.

  3. @YHM

    Completely unprovoked and rather rude though your comment was…

    That sounds like a good movie plot. I would watch that.

  4. The whole thing is about Chinese tourists in Paris, not in China…”and then follows one guy in particular who is on his first trip to China” That particular person is quite wealthy and could afford to take is whole family to Europe for 3 weeks. But I do agree that his insights are interesting.

  5. @YHM are you just jealous or what? Lucky’s just passionate about something and turned it into a paying job. We should all be so lucky.

  6. @ David “Fanboy” – Lucky is also so emotionally stunted he goes to a funeral and finds it an opportunity to blog about the local Hilton; so culturally obtuse he barges into an onboard prayer room to take pointless pictures and on and on …

  7. The whole world will sell their souls for money.

    Why is Chinese money any worse? Be more Chinese. Their manners are the right manners because they have money. The book of how to behave had been written by the rich aka whites (and others that have been westernized.) Now it’s being re-written by non whites and they are having a hard time adjusting.

    If we don’t do it it’s boorish behavior.

    No judgement on any choices or behaviors of any people. But clearly the “I am right and they are wrong” mindset is very interesting to watch.

  8. Chinese tourists left an indelible impact during my honeymoon in Paris in August 2013. When walking around the city at night, some parts of the city became a shanty-town of Chinese tourists camping on the sidewalks instead of getting a hotel room. A typically slow-paced Parisian dinner was besmirched by Chinese customers waving their arms for faster service (and in one instance, waving their arms while standing on top on the chair).

    I like Chinese culture, and enjoy their “unique” behavior when visiting China. However, when I’m in France, I want French culture. As a silver lining, American tourists look good by comparison and are now welcome visitors to the French.

  9. David / snic – because it’s fun to rile up the fanboys. I mostly read this blog to know which airlines / hotels to avoid (read: those that allow ‘aspirational’ redemptions to uncultured yobs).

  10. @ YHM Lucky didn’t barge into the onboard prayer room – he took pictures from the side. There’s nothing culturally offensive about this. I was given a tour of a large mosque here in Saudi Arabia. Nobody minded my taking photographs.

  11. Comments section is particularly dirty today. I don’t love The Points Guy all the time, but… I’m here aren’t I? Let’s try to be civil.

  12. I wonder if Gérard Depardieu shook his head at all the silly ill-behaved Chinese tourists when he famously decided to pee onto the floor of the First Class cabin. If you go to B&H photo in NYC, you can see europeans going bonkers over cheap prices. Chinese tourists notice that many Parisian streets smell like urine, the streets in Chinese cities don’t. I think readers might be more interested in some of your actual experiences in China if it’s a topic that interests you. To do so requires investigating the city beyond the buffet at the hotel or a tour because that’s what elderly and milquetoast tourists do. Journalists are outgoing people who learn foreign languages as best they can, ask lots of questions and gather actual elements of interest or new information to educate their readers. I think readers would benefit more from a primer on the magical wonders of Lao Gan Ma than advice on what to order for brunch and a news digest of platitudinous stereotypes. The commenters suggestion of the new yorker article is the only good blogging here.

  13. I was in Paris last year and the city was still “recovering” from an interesting event. A Chinese billionaire decided to award his employees for a great year with a trip to Paris. Apparently he rented airplanes and hotel rooms and had tours booked for the entire crew. He brought over 3,000 people to the city at the same time. You can only imagine how it was like.

  14. @Malc – Go back to his completely pointless post: 1) he took a picture of a sign the expressly asks that no one but people praying should be in the room; 2) the whole post had the undertone of sniggering about those ‘novel’ Muslims and their airline habits.

    This form of ‘mild’ trespassing for the sake of page views, snark and voyeurism is a far cry from a well-ordered and culturally-thoughtful tour of a mosque.

  15. @YHM

    So are you keeping cool in your mom’s basement? Summertime is the best time for trolling from down there. Nice and cool.

    You know, it’s funny, wealthy people who can afford luxury as opposed to “aspirational travel” financed by miles and points don’t usually find the need to troll travel blogs. But I’m sure a troll would lie about it to put themselves up.

    See you in the Côte d’Azur with the Russian billionaires.

  16. @ YHM, fair enough – I thought it was more from the side. But regardless, it’s still not culturally inappropriate. I’m always amazed by how relaxed the Muslims I meet are about such things – and living in the Middle East I meet a lot. I’m sure there are many Muslims who haven’t flown Saudia who are curious about the prayer room.

  17. Malc – I am one of those ‘relaxed Muslims’ and I still find Lucky’s antics objectionable. This has nothing to do with Muslims vs. [insert other religion] but whether one approaches other people’s designated prayer spaces with respect and genuine curiosity vs. using them as fodder for not well-concealed snark.

    Lucky, as is his habit, chose the latter approach and I highly doubt he has the intellectual aperture that would allow him to properly engage in the broader questions that you no doubt had when you had your mosque tour.

  18. This is a travel blog. The rising Chinese middle class is the most fundamental landscape shift in global tourism right now, possibly ever.

  19. Thank god last time when I was in Paris that didn’t run into these shit on the last day.
    No appropriate foul words could describe These shitty unruly around the world .
    To call them names is kind to these monsters.

  20. Oh no, YHM’s fedora is getting ruffled…

  21. A lot of nasty comments on a free travel blog today. Dont like it – dont read it!!

    Anyway, thank you Lucky for sharing this – I really enjoyed it. Certainly a fairly ‘cute’ look at Chinese tourists in Paris. The video points out that many Chinese tourists dont know about european/french customs and practices hence being ‘fish out of water’ when they are there. I dont pretend to understand chinese customs (or many foreign customs) – when I was in china I was very much a fish out of water but I was keen to learn their way of life/what was acceptable because I was visiting their country. My issue with chinese tourists is they dont seem to WANT to understand and follow the customs and practices of the places they visit. They have the opportunity to learn/be taught but they dont seem to have any interest in it. I think its a globally accepted rule that if you are visiting someone elses country on tourism you follow their way of life, not your own. This is where the problems have sprung from.

  22. @Ben – have you ever encountered German tourists?
    They clearly don’t WANT to understand that not all countries are populated by loud, sneering, pushy rude people in ill-fitting clothing.
    You can always tell the German tourists. They are the ones with the red, blotchy faces barking out one-word commands at people.
    Completely gross…

  23. @Malc – I am but I imagine you now you fancy yourself an expert after a mosque site visit? Parody-defying.

    @Mommy but I paid for my fedora with valuable SPG points!

  24. Well from a European perspective the rise of first Russian and latterly Chinese tourism has gradually rendered American tourists more palatable. Sorry to be blunt but there you have it.

  25. Still waiting for the documentary on ‘relatively affluent’ (read: debt-ridden) US tourists who insist on ‘documenting’ every aspirational experience to ‘share’ on social media … doubtless to impress on their less fortunate (but equally indebted) buddies back home.

    This curious tribe’s photographic habits include, but are not limited to: F/J boarding passes (#avgeek, #anotherday); highly-stylized ‘gourmet’ food; any pretty much all other forms of social posturing that can be hashtagged with #thishappened.

    When not incessantly photographing to the annoyance of those around them (see F cabin above), this tribe can be spotted ‘asking to speak to the manager’ for the smallest inconvenience, often with concrete demands for compensation.


  26. Of course France wants more Chinese tourists: the decline in total numbers has cost €750 million in Paris alone. One in five jobs in Paris is tourism related.
    I don’t find the Chinese offensive at all. Some minor amusement at Printemps and Galleries Lafayette when the tour groups arrived….and they were buying.
    They don’t affect me in any way at all: unlike the boorish, loud-mouthed, LOUD Americans in restaurants and hotel lounges: turning up for breakfast in sweaty gym clothes, uncontrolled children running riot, conversations at double what is an acceptable volume, cell phone conversations , Skype conferences. Not all but MOST are American. Easy to point the finger at the Chinese but look a bit closer to home for some ‘ugly’ tourists. And NO, most Americans are NOT like that but neither can Chinese be lumped together. It’s called racism.

  27. I live in Hong Kong, which sees something like 70 million visitors from the mainland a year (many of those are parallel traders who cross the border to buy up milk powder and other goods, but that’s another problem altogether). The behaviour of many mainland tourists is really something else, which even irks Hong Kong Chinese people. There have been huge tensions here. Those commenting politely about the effects of receiving so many first time travellers who don’t seem interested in adapting to or even just being aware of local customs clearly haven’t had to put up with them much. When was the last time you were waiting for a train and saw a mainland Chinese tourist hold their kid up so he could pee in a bin? I found the 101 East documentary to be a little too nice about the Chinese tourists!
    I now actively plan my holidays around where the big tour groups don’t (yet) go. Maybe I have them to thank for visiting some really cool, out of the way places.

  28. @YHM No, just a good BS detector. It’s actually pretty funny that you’d even try and pretend. I guess for those readers who don’t have any Muslim friends they might not realize how absurd a claim it is. I wasn’t so much challenging you (what would be the point – you know the truth) as pointing out to others not to believe it.

  29. @Malc – the M in YHM stands for Mohammed which last I checked it’s a Zoroastrian name. That said, you sound like one of many expats I met over the year’s who declare themselves an expert on the culture/religion after a mosque tour and a round of sheesha.

  30. Malc – I’m aware of that and I also wrote “it’s” where I meant “isn’t” … which I suppose deflects from the absurdity of your initial ‘point’.

    I’m still equally amused and nonplussed by your ‘Muslim detector’ – perhaps you can lend your valuable skills to the Republican dear leader?

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