Manners: The Big, Ugly Mirror of China

Jan 20, 2019 | 360, China, Culture

 Are manners now dying in China, where economic competition and social statuses remain top priorities?

An irate Thai citizen once posted a YouTube video of tourists from Mainland China breaking the queue at an establishment and pushing out people who have already formed nice, orderly lines before they arrived.

A copy of the video that was originally from Facebook but has since been taken down by the original poster shows a large flood of Mainland Chinese tourists shoving and pushing, and being generally rude to people.

The Thai woman in the video states: “We are Thais, and stay in line like this. Look at them, not only did they cut before us, not only did they step over our feet, not only did they pull my hair, now they also push us out of our queue.”

In 2019, a quick search on YouTube for “rude Chinese tourists” would reveal almost an endless stream of amateur videos shot with mobile phones, allegedly highlighting the misbehavior of other Mainland Chinese tourists in the United States, Thailand, and other international destinations. From uncouth train riders to being thrown out of a US restaurant, there seems to be no end of records of Chinese tourists offending natives when they visit other countries.

It seems that in a country with literally hundreds of modern etiquettes for tourists, Mainland Chinese tourists are falling far behind in terms of keeping their end of the bargain when they travel abroad.

An endless list of Chinese etiquette

China is known for having the most precise lists of do’s and don’ts, especially for tourists. Tourist website China Highlights reminds tourists that at every turn, certain modes of behavior are expected of tourists, most especially if they are not from China.

Among the common etiquette expected of guests are: addressing seniority first, using “nin hao” when addressing older people, removing shoes when entering someone’s abode, and even bringing small gifts when visiting the house of a friend or acquaintance.

There are also more specific etiquette aimed at ‘refining’ how you eat in front of Mainland Chinese residents, like: leaving chopsticks upright on food, tapping the bowl with your chopsticks or using it to point at people, using one’s own chopsticks to take food from serving plates or bowls, and not taking the last piece/s of food from the serving tray, unless you ask others if they are full first.

However, there appears to be a lot of backlash online when people talk about Chinese manners. Even residents from Mainland China are saying that basic social graces and manners have gone kaput, and international tourism is becoming a big, ugly mirror of how modern Chinese manners have drastically changed in recent years.

“Big ugly mirror”

Beijing’s recent grapple with mountains of discarded and impounded bikes in the city has also shown how manners have gone down the drain in one of China’s busiest and densest cities.

In a place where smog gets so bad that local city officials frequently send out air quality warnings to residents, people are discarding rented bikes by the thousands wherever they please, simply because they can. Some say that the problems like this one are a “big ugly mirror” of what modern China has become.

As China became an economic superpower, manners seem to have gone out the window. People are exhibiting an “every man for himself” mentality to get ahead – with disastrous results in modern culture and social relations. But there is still some progress, however small, in trying to reform how the Chinese are behaving at home and abroad (especially).

Ctrip, one of China’s largest travel agencies, is now providing training to Chinese tourists in an effort to improve the reputation of the latter abroad. Jan Jie Sun, who runs Ctrip, says that they are able to provide etiquette training to Chinese tourists through email dispatches, personal training sessions, and through tourist bulletins through the WeChat app.

As Bike-Sharing Brings Out Bad Manners, China Asks, What’s Wrong With Us? 

China’s Biggest Online Travel Agency Is Teaching Etiquette to Bad-Mannered Tourists