There has been an unprecedented surge in the number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad in recent years. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, China will become world's largest source of tourists by 2020, with 100 million people traveling abroad.
"The sharp increase in numbers leads to high visibility for Chinese tourists," as the China Daily puts it. The inappropriate behavior of Chinese tourists overseas is increasingly becoming a focus of the official media and social networks in China and abroad, triggering heated debate, even fierce criticism.
In response, the Chinese tourism authority has issued etiquette guidelines to "help travelers prepare for and respect other cultures."
Many people have criticized Chinese tourists for "scrawling on cultural relics," "cutting grooves" and "talking loudly in public places." There has indeed some misbehavior (even illegal actions like fighting on a plane) which has worsened the image of Chinese tourists. However, when considering this matter, cultural difference should be taken into account.
For instance, Westerners often complain that Chinese tourists do not leave tips even though they spend lavishly on luxury goods. The truth is that although tipping is no longer illegal in China as it was in the 1980s, it is still not part of Chinese culture, especially for the common people. This may be the reason for this "misbehavior."
Another example is that Chinese restaurants are usually bustling with noise and excitement (traditional Chinese "hotpot" is perfect to represent a Chinese restaurant.) People speak loudly and toast all round, creating a warm and happy atmosphere in which Chinese people enjoy themselves. On the contrary, restaurants are normally quiet places in many Western countries where people tend to talk softly. When noisy Chinese diners meet quiet Western ones, they are accused of "misbehavior".
So, in many cases, much of the "uncivilized" behavior is in fact caused by cultural differences. Normal behavior in one culture may be considered "uncivilized" in another.
So how can we solve misbehavior caused by cultural differences? I think the solution lies in mutual respect and better communication.