Thai model Duangjai Phichitamphon was waiting in line at a South Korean airport when, based on her account, a swarm of Chinese tourists overwhelmed the orderly queue she was standing in.
Instead of taking a deep breath, Phichitamphon decided to produce a video rant. Her March 12 video on Chinese tourist behavior has since gone viral – the latest black eye for the country’s travelers, who, rightly or wrongly, are gaining a bad rap overseas.
“Everywhere they (the Chinese) go in the world makes people disgusted by their manners,” the model gripes in the video. “Didn’t their parents teach them any manners?”
Travel etiquette has been a hot topic in China for several years, especially in 2013, when a 15-year-old Chinese tourist was caught etching graffiti on part of a 3,500-year-old temple in Egypt. Repeated incidents continue to attract attention, prompting bouts of national soul-searching:
– In February, a Chinese tourist in Thailand was caught airing out her underwear on chairs in the Chiang Mai airport. That followed in incident in Chang Rai, where a temple temporarily banned Chinese tourists after they left restrooms in an unwelcoming condition.
– In December, a Thai AirAsia flight was forced to return to Bangkok after a Chinese passenger threw hot water at a flight attendant.
– Since December, Chinese airline passengers have been involved in three incidents where they were accused of opening emergency exit doors, causing flights to be delayed. The latest occurred Saturday, when a passenger in China’s far-western Xinjiang region opened an emergency door, reportedly because he thought it was a handrail.
In Phichitamphon’s case, she encountered a crowd of what she said were Chinese tourists at a tax refund booth at Jeju Airport in South Korea. She said some in the crowd pushed her, pulled her hair and stepped on her feet. As of Tuesday, the Thai version of her video had been viewed more than 800,000 times.
Whether Chinese are less mannered than other tourists is a matter of debate. Over the years, German, Australian and American tourists have sometimes wracked up loathsome reputations, especially when traveling in large tour groups, as many Chinese do.
Part of the backlash has come from the vast numbers of Chinese now traveling. In 2014, more than 100 million Chinese traveled abroad, according to the China National Tourism Administration. A favored destination is Thailand, where more than 4.6 million Chinese visited in 2014, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Within China, there’s a recognition that travel etiquette is lacking. In 2013, the China National Tourism Administration published a 64-page Guidebook for Civilized Tourism, offering advice on everything from queues to bathrooms.
While visiting the Maldives last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered this advice to his countrymen: “Do not leave water bottles everywhere. Do not damage coral reefs. Eat less instant noodles and more local seafood.”
Earlier this month, a Chinese woman named Tiara Lin published an essay in China’s Global Times newspaper on what she called “insufferable” Chinese travel habits. Lin suggested that some Chinese, such as her mother, are less than sensitive because of their early experiences in life.
“She grew up in a big family with seven siblings, and worked in a state-owned restaurant serving hundreds of comrades at a time during busy services,” she wrote. “The only way she could make herself heard was by shouting over the din, so her ‘normal tone of voice’ would be considered a few decibels too loud overseas.”
Lin said she appreciates the government’s efforts to encourage better manners but doubted the effectiveness of the recent 64-page guidebook. Such an approach “is sure to miss its target audience, if my mother is anything to go by,” she wrote. “A guidebook would only put her to sleep.”