Chinese Tourist Tsunami Stress
You know you have adjusted to Japan when you get totally annoyed by visiting Chinese tourist’s behavior. This is the latest incarnation of the 1950s "Ugly American" and the bubble era "Ugly Japanese" phenomenon. The nouveau riche Chinese are now spreading around the globe, busily devouring the sights, sounds and tastes of different worlds. The OECD calculated 157 million middle class Chinese in 2009. They predict this will grow to over 1 billion in 15 years time. Multiply the numbers of Chinese tourists visiting Japan by at least a factor of six and we will "live in interesting times".
Shop entry points are favourite gathering spots for multitudes of wheeled luggage bearing continental tourists, especially when it is raining. On nicer days, sprawling out on the sidewalk in front of gorgeous Ginza boutiques seems natural when you are so tired from all that vigorous shopping. Get used to your calm conversation with the shop clerk being overridden by "34, 34, 34" as a determined shopper yells out the size they want in this item they are brandishing in front of your faces. Speaking of yelling, get used to lots and lots of yelling.
Japan went through the same tourist growth spurt as well, thanks to the 1985 Plaza Accord driving the yen to stratospheric strength and the rest of the world was one big tourist bargain. The difference this time is probably the sheer volume of people coming from China. In the depths of last winter, I was amazed to see so many Chinese tourists enjoying the deep snow in Shirakawago, way up in the backblocks of Mie Prefecture. Any place you care to name, with the exception of the Senkakus, is on the tourist trail now and we can expect to be bumping into this tourist horde more often.
You will most likely get annoyed, because like me, you are used to dealing with considerate, reserved, polite, quietly spoken Japanese who are refinement personified. Are we going to change the situation anytime soon? No, money talks and Chinese tourists really spend up big. They will keep coming in waves, as more of the wealthy get out and see the world.
So we had better change. Here is your handy stress management guide to dealing with the Middle Kingdom in your backyard.
Cooperate with the inevitable
The Chinese government are educating their tourists to behave better. This will take decades though, so just observe the phenomenon and don’t expect any relief any time soon.
Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more
Yes there will be regular annoyances, but don’t let them pile up and keep bugging you. Give yourself a time limit on how long you are going to allow these tourists to upset you, then just mentally move on.
Assume the product of such dense urban living, recently rediscovering capitalism, will be in a bit flummoxed by universal values. The moral compass has gone missing for many in modern China, so our own assumptions about how things are supposed to work are out the window. The language factor will reduce subtleties to the most basic, which by the way, won’t include "please", "after you" "thank you" or "I am sorry" in any language.
Count your blessings – not your troubles
Yes, rude tourist behavior is annoying but remember, we have so much going for us here. The focus should be on enjoying the great things about Japan and dealing with those few moments when we meet the upwardly mobile proletarian masses face to face.
Dale Carnegie’s classic "How To Stop Worrying and Start Living" is probably more useful reading than a Mandarin phrase book, so look for more stress management principles there if it all gets too much. Good luck!