A top Russian travel website has released a decorum guide for foreign visitors, specifically drawing attention to Chinese tourists’ proclivity for bad behavior.
“Teaching Chinese tourists how to not embarrass themselves in Russia” read the headline on Russian news site Lenta.ru.
Among the travel tips are “Don’t touch strangers on the street if they are in your way. Instead, verbally ask them politely to move aside”; “Do not cut in line”; “Ask for permission before taking photos of strangers”; “Don’t haggle too much, as it isn’t customary in Russia”; and “After 11 in the evening, please keep your voices low.”
And “Don’t go bare-chested in public”—it tends to be cold in Russia, so local customs lean toward being fully clothed.
What are civil norms or common sense to many often seem to go over Chinese tourists’ heads.
The guide was developed with the help of Russian expats in China and guides working in China and Russia, not specifically for Chinese tourists, but for the Russian hospitality industry—so hotels and restaurants can display the tips and help customers avoid embarrassing moments, According to Russian media Business Pskov.
Russia has seen an influx of Chinese tourists in recent years. According to 2017 data by TourStat, a tourism statistics agency, China sent the most tourists to Russia after Ukraine and Kazakhstan, with about 552,000 visitors.
Popular Chinese travel agency Ctrip also named Russia among a list of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists.
This kind of bad behavior has its roots in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Chinese Communist Party’s Cultural Revolution espoused getting rid of the so-called Four Olds, including traditional culture. The abandonment of traditional morality is widely believed to have contributed to today’s dearth of civility in China.
Russian media have often reported on Chinese tourists committing faux pas while visiting the country.
In July, for example, the Siberian Times reported on poor behavior by Chinese tourists who visited Glass Bay, a cliffside beach on the Pacific coastline in Vladivostok City. The beach is known for the weathered and eroded glass pieces resulting from years of people dumping old bottles and jars there. But Chinese tourists began pocketing the glass.
Russian magazine Gorod 812 published a story in February, describing Chinese tourists urinating and defecating at storied cultural sites in Russia, such as the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, known to house works by Italian Renaissance painter Simone Martini; and the Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another article published in May addressed another key problem with Chinese tourists in Russia: tour groups are mostly handled by Chinese tour agencies, so they seldom contribute to Russia’s local tourism industry. They usually hire Chinese guides and drivers, stay at Chinese-owned hotels, and frequent Chinese-owned shops and restaurants.
“St. Petersburg tourist industry experts have already stated that travelers from China not only do not bring benefits to the Russian economy, but also actually destroy the tourism industry,” reported TourProm, a Russian website covering the tourism industry.
Bad behavior by Chinese tourists isn’t just limited to Russia. Just last month, three Chinese tourists in Stockholm made headlines for causing a ruckus at a local hostel. They thought they had made a reservation, but, in fact, had booked a room for the following night. When the receptionist informed them that the hostel couldn’t accommodate them earlier (the hostel was fully booked), they refused to leave. When local police arrived to take the tourists away, they began shouting and screaming.
The problem has become so severe that China’s National Tourism Administration had to issue a guidebook in 2013, instructing its citizens on social norms overseas. Rules listed include not spitting on the ground, not picking one’s nose in public, and tipping properly.