Chinese comedy spurs rise in visitors to Thai city

14/10/2013 | Hayley

A record-breaking Chinese comedy has helped boost the number of tourists visiting a city in northern Thailand. However, some locals have complained that the visitors have bad manners and are behaving poorly.

Comedy classic

Ren zai jiong tu: Tai jiong (Lost In Thailand) has been called China’s The Hangover and, following its release in 2012, it became the highest-grossing home-grown film in the country’s history. It premiered in December and by January 2013 it had become the first Chinese film to bank more than 1 billion Yuan (£102.5 million).

The plot is a classic comedy caper that centres on a businessman from China on a mission to find his vacationing boss in Thailand and convince him to back his investment idea, rather than that of his colleague. On his way over, he meets a free-spirited traveller who is visiting Thailand to achieve his life’s dreams, and through a series of coincidences, the two end up becoming travelling companions.

When in Thailand

Much of the movie is set in Chiang Mai, a city in the north of Thailand. Thanks to the film’s success, the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports reveals that visitor numbers from China have increased by 93 per cent in just a year.

However, according to the Bangkok Post, not everyone is happy with this influx of tourists. Indeed, the news provider claims that local business owners have been upset by the tourists’ bad manners, despite the substantial financial boost they are bringing to the area. The disgruntled Thai people complain that some of the tourists push in when queueing, speak loudly in public, fail to flush the toilet, or spit in the street. They also claim the visitors argue over the cost of products and services on sale in the city, or try and save money in restaurants by only ordering a drink, or getting one dish to share between a whole group.

While this type of behaviour has resulted in complaints, there are those who argue that it is part of the culture in China and that the tourists do not realise they are doing anything offensive. Chinese graduate Cherry, who revealed she was visiting Chiang Mai because of the movie it features in, told the news provider that some older people in her country may behave in a way deemed disrespectful by outsiders. She added that people her age were more aware of cultural sensitivities and that she did not believe her generation could be accused of being disrespectful. Meanwhile, Wenyu Zhou, who recently moved from Shanghai to Chiang Mai, said not flushing the toilet was a “very Chinese thing”, as many people in China grew up with a toilet that did not require flushing.

Yet not everyone in Chiang Mai is angry about the tourists coming from China. Tour owner Anchalee Vittayanuntapornkul noted that the Chinese market is a “priority” because they have purchasing power and are starting to travel more frequently. She believed they will remain the major driver of the Thai tourism sector. Rather than judging the visitors harshly for their behaviour, Ms Anchalee suggested Thai people attempt to understand China’s culture and acknowledge that the Chinese are “inexperienced tourists” due to the relatively recent opening of the country’s borders.

The rules of holiday etiquette

At the start of this month, China’s National Tourism Administration published the Guidebook for Civilised Tourism. The resource contains 64 pages of tips for Chinese holidaymakers planning to travel abroad on how they should behave. The publication came after Vice Premier Wang Yang said in May that the behaviour of Chinese tourists was damaging the image of the country and its people, which had a “vicious impact” on China’s reputation.

Among the guidelines holidaymakers from China are expected to follow are to not swear at locals; refrain from picking their noses; ensure their handshakes are firm; avoid urinating in the swimming pool; and ensure they never leave footprints on the toilet. In addition to these pointers, there are also rules that have been tailored to the country being visited. For instance, if travelling to the UK, visitors are advised to avoid asking those they meet where they are going or what they have eaten. They are also told not to attempt to buy stones as a souvenir when they go to Scotland.

Travelling can always be a culture shock, and it pays to be aware of the traditions and expectations of the country you are going to. This is particularly the case when visiting somewhere on business as failure to correctly understand the culture can result in a faux pas that damages your reputation.

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