You can call me fat just don’t call me Chinese
We were talking to Eric, a flamboyant gay man in his late 50’s who had happened to be sitting across from us at the restaurant. Eric had his eye on a younger Thai man who would sometimes get up to have a smoke outside. “Sawadee krap”, or ‘hello” he would purr to the Thai man as he would pass. The man didn’t seem interested, his lover was sitting at a table further in the restaurant.
We were still talking to Eric an hour later when the lovers made to leave the restaurant.
Eric to the man (ignoring the other Thai man who had his arm around him): “Sawadee krap, you come often to the restaurant? I never see you here”.
The Thai man looked at him, no interest in his eyes. “We come here sometimes together”. They made as if to leave.
Eric: “Are you Chinese?”
Thai man: “No, I am Thai man.”
Eric: “You look with your features like you are Chinese. You have fat face.”
Thai man: “NO, I am THAI” getting upset…
Eric, provoking him: “ When you bow, do you bow like this (simulating deeply bended Thai bow) or like this (simulating Chinese bow, elbows out)”.
Thai man: “I’m Thai, why you say I’m Chinese!? I’m not Chinese!!”. He is clearly agitated and his partner is now holding him back.
We thought it was a good time to get up and leave: “Ok, time for us to go. Nice meeting you Eric”.
Eric got up and shook our hands, the two Thai men leaving while this is happening.
We are in the car with Mr. Chim, our favorite taxi driver. Mr. Chim had recommended that we eat in Bangkok’s Chinatown. “Chim” sounds Chinese to me so I put the two together and assume he is Chinese. I decide to ask him if there was a lot of Chinese influence in Bangkok. He misunderstands my question.
“Chinese are bosses, have money but no culture. Thais are tuk tuk drivers, have stalls, less money. Chinese loud and spit everywhere”.
This seems to be the prevalent opinion about the Chinese amongst Thais. I frequently get updates of the latest Chiang Mai news from my mom. Most have to do with the influx of Chinese tourists to the city which have made local Thais upset over the last few years. They jump queues, are loud and pushy, they can’t drive, they put 5 people to a hotel room, they litter, they let their kids defecate in public pools, they spit. These are all common complaints against the Chinese. This photo of a presumed Chinese tourist pooping in a Chiang Mai canal earlier this year especially inflamed anti-Chinese sentiment.
More here from a Chinese newspaper on Chinese behavior in Thailand. The article and comments are actually, for the most part, sympathetic to Thai complaints. The Chinese seem to be conscious of their faults and seem to be open to improvement (the Chinese government has even issued a ‘Guidebook for Civilized Tourism’ – quite the eye-opener if you have a chance to look at it).
Related: Tourism…and when the locals hate you
Other foreigners get criticized at times. Russians are not well regarded (the Russian mafia supposedly taking over Pattaya) and ‘farangs’ (Western travelers in general) are pointed out for their lewd behavior (whether it be drunk/stoned youths going to full moon parties or old ‘sex’ tourists). The Chinese however are the most heavily criticized – not a surprise though considering they make up the largest constituent of tourists entering Thailand.
The counter-argument to all this; Thailand is heavily dependent on tourism. Although even Thai officials have complained publicly about Chinese tourists they have changed their position in recent months due to a dip in Chinese tourists (caused by the recent military takeover). Since last month tourist visas for Chinese citizens are free. A necessary evil?
I find the love/hate relationship towards tourism in different places interesting. In Montreal locals complained about all the American tourists coming in the late 90’s because of the cheap Canadian dollar. Then they lamented the fact that we received less when the dollar rose to par. In Prague locals complain about British louts coming for cheap holidays.
My thoughts? Whether we like it or not it is the changing face of tourism that we are seeing as previously poor countries develop and its citizens get richer. We’ll only see more of it in the future. Hopefully a) we become more open and tolerant of them as visitors to our country and b) they get more sophisticated and educated as tourists as a whole.
Related: Are Eastern Europeans unfriendly?
Related: What are Croatians like? The Good and the Bad
Related: Nationalities on the friendliness scale. Case study: Germans and Czechs.
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There are Kymer ruins in Phimai and Burilam. Barely a foreigner in sight and you can enjoy. When I visited Pham Rung there was a Thai festival on so they had food plus locals enjoying it. Sure beats tripping over thousands of foreign tourists and those big groups of rude tourists. Not as big as Angkor but still impressive.
Yes, we almost went to Phimai. That part of the country doesn’t get many people.
Will have to go see it next time.
Something like 12% of Thais are mixed race with Chinese. Chinese are known to be kii niaw (tightwads) which is why they are disliked. They are often rude selfish people. I find Chinese tour groups to be strange. They fly overseas then hang out in packs during the day then eat Chinese food at night. Why go overseas? To take photos of themselves hanging out with other Chinese. Then to top it off then buy tourist items made in China.
We were in Angkor and ran into a group of really rude Asian tourists: shouting, almost knocking Lissette over in their rush to take a selfie. Coming back to the Tuktuk I asked our driver who the worst tourists were. Without hesitation he said ‘South Koreans. Then Chinese’.
A couple months later we were in Croatia where we encounter, you guessed it, packs of Korean tourists. It seems Croatia is a popular destination with Koreans because they had a reality show filmed there. They even have Korean restaurants. Awful. I need a few months to recover from the Koreans and thankfully haven’t seen too many here in Budapest.
Having said that, I hear exactly the same about the Chinese.
Kristin of Yesnomads.com
We had to laugh quite a bit about this. The article about the “Guidebook for Civilized Tourism” is also hilarious. They should not steal airplane life jackets?
Wonderfully written. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the comment Kristin. Exactly, I couldn’t believe the stuff I found when looking for some background information on this post. One of the common complaints among Thai hotel owners is the Chinese allowing their kids to defecate in swimming pools. Can you imagine?
Very interesting post. I haven’t come across too many Chinese tourists yet on this trip, but we definitely heard lots of complaints about “The Russians” in Phuket. Since I’m well-traveled enough to be interested in things beyond the Full Moon Parties, people often are surprised when I tell them I’m an American. I’m never sure how to take it when they compliment me by saying “Oh, you aren’t like most Americans!” Um, thanks?
Since English is the only language I’m conversant in (dumb American) of course I gravitate to other tourists who also speak English. So I don’t really have an opportunity to socialize with many Chinese or Russian type of tourists. But I tend to believe that things some people find offensive are many times just cultural misunderstandings. I certainly experienced the lack of interest in proper queuing when I lived in Taiwan! But just because I was taught to be polite in public, calling one way better or worse is just a judgement call.
That said, I REALLY hope that I don’t see any public pooping here in Chiang Mai.
So you’re in Chiang Mai Robb? We’re still planning our next step but may be heading there soon. If so really hope to meet you guys!
Carol - west coast of Canada
Human nature staring us in the face. Doesn’t almost everyone hate everyone who isn’t like them? Except me, of course – and I’m serious about that. It’s never occurred to me in my life to hate people. What a waste of time and energy. I had a mother who hated everyone and I vowed as a 5 year old never to be like her.
In my very limited traveling experience I can say I’ve had nothing but positive times.
As a kid in my early teens in the late 1960s in “beautiful-scenic-major-humungo-four-season-tourist-town” Penticton, British Columbia (favourite place I ever lived) “nestled between two lakes” I can remember all the adults in town speaking disparagingly about the ‘damn tourists’. Especially those ‘damn Americans’. “They’re so damn loud and full of themselves’. ‘The damn price of food goes up every summer because of the damn tourists coming to town’. ‘There’s so much damn traffic in the summer, it takes me FOUR minutes to drive to the bank instead of THREE AND A HALF.’ On and on and on…
Of course, I didn’t get it. Why were they complaining? Even as a twelve year old I understood that tourism was the life blood of Penticton.
In later years, as friends began traveling abroad, they always made sure to buy a big Canadian Flag pin to wear every day while they were away, lest they be thought of as ‘arrogant loud-mouth know-it-all’ Americans while in foreign countries. They still do this. As Canadians, the majority of them say they’ve had nothing but kindness and positive experiences while on holiday.
However, I’ve been seeing prejudice against tourists for 46 years now… most people love to complain about everything… look for the negative aspects rather than the positive, and it’s my opinion that nothing will ever change.
“We” will never become open and tolerant. And “they” will never get more educated and sophisticated. Some will, most won’t. The way people are raised seems normal to them, so they see no need to be any other way. This is a very negative thing for a positive person to say. It’s also a realistic thing to say. History just continues to repeat itself over and over and over……….
I LOVE the picture at the top!! Always look forward to your blog.. Cheers! 🙂
I always love the time and thought you put into your comments Carol. And you’re absolutely right, I’ve seen that attitude by locals (including our own Montrealers) first hand in many places.
Ha! Yes, I was one of those Canadians wearing a Canada flag – when I first started travelling my mom thought it would be safer and bought it for me and sewed it on my backpack…Everyone used to love us Canadians and it saddens me to see our place in the world as peacekeepers and intermediaries has fallen by the wayside. Its my biggest gripe with our present conservative government. I remember as a kid when we were in Zambia, my dad having taken on an advisory role for CIDA, how locals love us. Everyone was proud to be Canadian at the time.
Yes, I was probably overly delicate/optimistic in that last paragraph. Most generalizations persist over time and don’t change within our lifetimes.
You’re the greatest Carol 🙂
Oh yes, you reminded me of my little brother whenever he went traveling .. always having the Canadian flag sewn (by our mom) onto his backpack too! I used to worry about him because he’s so nice and was quite naive. He assumed everyone in the world was as nice as he was. Thank goodness he was only taken advantage of in small ways while traveling.. nothing major.
Reminds me of the fact that he had some very unusual summer jobs while in University.. he was already a carpenter and had built many houses. A friend hired him to go to Norfolk, England to do renovations on his house for the entire summer, except for two weeks. The friend gave him a students rail pass for Europe and told him to take the 2 weeks and go explore Europe! The friend was in Dubai all summer.. he was an engineer working on some project – seems to me it was to do with the airport there.
Anyway, I do remember the pride of being Canadian back in the 70s, 80s… couldn’t agree more about the Harper government.
We’re not in Switzerland.. I mean Kansas.. I mean, Canada, any more it seems. But I still think we all won the lottery of life being born here. I often thank all four of my late grandparents for immigrating here in the late 1800s – early 1900s.
Don’t know if you heard, but the guy who murdered those 3 RCMP members in Moncton, and attemped to murder the other 2 who survived, was sentenced yesterday to five, 75 year concurrent sentences! Won’t get out til he’s 99. They’re saying it’s the harshest sentence since the death penalty was abolished in Canada. I’m so pleased he got what he deserves rather than the usual Canadian slap on the wrist.
Alright, I’ve taken up too much of your time with my rambling… looking forward to your next blog! Bye for now! *waves*
Always nice to hear from you Carol 🙂
I was not aware of this and find it very interesting and am thinking that you raise many valid points. We have a lot of Chinese visitors to Australia and I haven’t heard of any issues, but that may be because so many Chinese live here.
Australians have a bad reputation in Bali and many deserve it but it is the same catch 22; the Balinese need the tourist dollar. We try and avoid any Aussie enclaves when we go there. We don’t like our own country men when we are away. I think that if you travel to another country you really are an ambassador for your own country. I do not want to be associated with a pack of wankers.
I thing the future is interesting, meaning I am a not sure how this will work. I would like to see others respectful of others … but then I am idealistic.
Actually you’ve brought up a good point Paula; our own countrymen. I find that Canadians for the most part good travellers, we try to be respectful of others and are mostly a pretty tolerant bunch. EXCEPT the all-inclusive package tour bunch made up of mostly French-Canadians in our case (having lived in Montreal for over 25 years). I don’t know how many ignorant, loud drunk Quebeckers I’ve seen over the years in places like Cuba or the Dominican Republic, people berating or mocking locals for not speaking French. French!? There are lots of classy Quebeckers – but like the cheap Aussie wankers that make it to Bali there are just as many ignorant, stupid Canadians travelling the world.
As bad as the Chinese though? Hmmm…I’ve heard some pretty bad stories.
Whilst I’ve seen first hand the very different manners and travelling style that some Chinese have to my own and what I expect from the Western part of the world that I’m from, part of me wonders if the real question is that some nationalities are in need of being more like us and not pooping in the canal, or if we need to stick our noses up a little less. Maybe it’s us that need to relax a little?
Agree as far as allowing for other culture’s idiosyncrasies…what I have more of a problem is when travellers, doesn’t matter where they come from, intentionally pollute, steal, or lie. There are certain things that all people know are wrong but will do when they’re on vacation because the think they can get away with it. I’m glad governments are stepping in to educate or legislate what kind of behaviour is permissible abroad.
Interesting read. I don’t mind the Chinese tourists in CM. Having said that I avoid the tourist traps like the plague.
Hey Stephen – haven’t been spotting them pooping in your local canal?
Yeah, my mom’s retired up there and says there’s a real anti-Chinese sentiment among the Thais. Lots of stories.