My coworkers were getting fired up about the Mainland Chinese again.

“One of them got caught defecating in the moat.”

“They also got in trouble for shitting in the hallways at a kanatoke (Thai dancing show).”

“I almost ran one over! They just stand there waiting to get hit!”

“I was in an airplane with mostly Chinese tourists. They were so loud! How do they live with themselves?”

“Oh, I know!” I piped up, “I’m half Chinese and I have to live with myself every second of the day!”

The movie that started it all…(it’s like the American movie Hangover, but instead they wake up in Thailand!)

Ahhh. The Chinese. Topical.

Every Chiang Mai expat likes to have their say about the Chinese tourists invading the Rose of the North (including me). Everyone has a story of a run-in, a sighting, an experience of the rude and “situationally unaware” Chinese tourist defecating here or there, driving (or weaving) like this and like that, standing in the middle of the roads, causing traffic problems, and paying outrageous red truck prices so the driver unloads all of his previous passengers to accommodate his better paying customers.

And if you are an expat who lives in a guesthouse? Oh, ho, ho! Then you’ve already experienced the door slamming, the non-stop knocking and yelling that the Chinese are famous for doing.

I’ve heard a couple of well-meaning folks warn against racism towards the Chinese, but this latest conquest has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with behavior.

As an American, I think we take for granted (and easily forget) just how much of a “melting pot” the US is. Sure, some places are rather white, but overall, the United States has an ongoing tradition, a background, nay, a backbone built on diversity, and more diversity.

China, on the other hand, is a ridiculously massive country of one culture – one people. It’s a monoculture. Add to that, the Great Firewall of China (China’s Internet Censorship aka the Golden Shield Project), and you’ve got yourself a very, very, insulated country, culture and people. So it is of little wonder, they are making the news with their “acceptable over there, but what the hell are you doing over here” behavior.

I remember asking my students, “What is the biggest problem Thailand faces today?” Politics was the most popular answer, but the Chinese was one, much to my amusement. Apparently their special way of driving was driving this particular student right off the cliffs of insanity.

Yet today, as I was combing Warorot for a mosquito killing racket, I encountered a different reaction. First of all, I was getting discouraged, I had no idea where I could find one of those stupid things, but I knew it could be found here. CM Plastics was out of stock and then this kind woman asked in Thai, Can I help you? I quickly spied the holy grail of mosquito killers and as I made my purchase, she asked if I was Chinese. I said, My father is Chinese. (I am often asked about my nationality and ethnicity.) She pointed to herself, a big smile on her face, as if to say, Me, too.

The thing about all this What Did The Chinese Do Now chatter and chinwagging, is it reminds me that the Chinese live in a protected, insulated and cut off world. This doesn’t make what they do okay or right. I’m not making an excuse here. Instead, I’m suggesting we use the Chinese behavior as a red light warning against our own instances of insulation.

When we believe that all Chinese are this way, when we tout our over-bloated knowledge from our small corner of our expat city, when we believe we are automatically right, and whenever we forget to use our senses for more than seeing, we have become insulated.

The Chinese tourists feel justified in what they do because it’s all they’ve ever known. I just hope to remember to not feel so smug, justified and self-righteous in my everyday life, because chances are someone is watching, sharing it with their friends, and asking, “How does she live with herself?”

17 replies on “The Chinese in Chiang Mai

  1. I do enjoy your candor! And you are so correct about putting all Chinese in a lacquered box! After our trip to Japan we were invited to a co-workers home for dinner along with the 3 Chinese Dignitaries she was hosting for a week. She requested we bring a slide show of the pictures we took in Japan. One of them spoke very little English so you can imagine an evening of charades.

    We made our way to the living room and started the slide show. After 10 minutes or so they all quietly left the room and went back to the dining room. Being naive about the ways of the cultural world I didn’t understand why they did this. Vince explained to me that China and Japan have major political and religious rifts with each other. So I had unknowingly offended guests to our country.

    The evening progressed with dessert and we were all laughing and smiling as they pulled out bags of silk cord, beads and larger embroidered charms. We were shown how to make friendship bracelets and given gifts from them. I was touched beyond words and still wear my bracelets and have my charms on my travel backpack. My words to describe them would be Kind, Gracious, and HUMAN!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right. It’s funny because whenever we have a person to person contact with somebody, whether they are from Canada or China, we usually have a positive, if not neutral, interaction. If it is negative, we feel bad or try to talk it out with a friend. But!!! Whenever, we are driving or we see and judge folks from a distance, it’s soooo easy to be negative. Of course, these are sweeping statements, but I think there is some truth in them, and that’s why I’m saying these things. Thanks Lin 🙂


  2. When I was growing up in Los Angeles, some of my best friends were Chinese. We played ping pong and Chess during summer playground, which is why I’m still good at ping pong. Much later I lived in China and had some wonderful students. However, I was also subjected to corrupt bosses constantly trying to rip me off, and overt racism from the locals. I should mention I lived in what one might call backwater China. Towards the end of my stay in China I heard “Lao wai fok Yuu” or “Wai guo ren fok yuu” on an hourly basis, if I was walking around the city. It became a test of my tolerance to attempt to go to the market. How many “fok yuus” could I endure without getting pissed off?

    In the teacher’s building where I lived on the university people littered on the stairs and left it there for days. Once a child shat on the stairs, and that stayed there for days. Children pissed on the steps of KFC, and I even saw a child pee in the corner of a restaurant. People spat on the floor in restaurants, and chain smoked in restaurants with posted “no smoking” signs. Business men would light up in elevators. If you confronted them, they could become antagonistic. Men would beat women in the street.

    Traffic was insane. One dare not attempt to cross a street, even in a crosswalk with a green light, because if you were on foot your were chattel. Obviously, if one had a car, one used it, and if one walked one was an inferior peasant. Thus, cars would barrel down on me, even accelerating and leaning on the horn, while I was crossing streets.

    If one could speak Chinese the comments they would make about foreigners were over the top racist, sexist, and nationalistic. They would assume “lao wai” couldn’t understand Chinese, so openly talk about if they’d fuck the foreign girl, or if she was too fat.

    On the other side of the coin, I was invited to countless lunches and dinners, and made good friends among my colleagues. For every asshole telling me to “fok you motha” there were smiles and “hellos”, though more than 90% of those hellos had at least a touch of mocking in them.

    I suspect mainland Chinese (as opposed to those from Taiwan, Hong Kong, or those who’ve immigrated to other countries) have become a little rough since the “cultural revolution” attempted to eradicate all culture. Taoism, Buddhism, and all but the more repugnant elements of Confucianism were squashed. In their place, after the failure of Mao’s megalomaniacal attempt to revolutionize the universe though hard labor, has come the most virulent and predatory strain of unfetterecd capitalism. Nationalism is encouraged on a degree that might only be topped in North Korea. While the people themselves, genetically speaking, are fine, intelligent, and as good as it gets, the culture is itself far more rude and racist than the mere criticism it is getting when it stampedes roughshod over places like Chiangmai (which in no way excuses other cultures from doing the same in their own ways).


    1. It’s amazing, really. And I don’t mean that in a good way. The more I hear about China, the more I’m convinced it is such an unhappy place. I know people are afraid to sound ‘racist’ but I hope they will remember to call out bad behavior when it is simply about the bad behavior. In our efforts/attempts to be “politically correct” we don’t allow ourselves to simply say, “That’s wrong.”

      People love to say, “Oh, you don’t know their culture, etc. Or they don’t know any better.” But there is no excuse for name calling/bullying a minority, or someone different than you, or beating women or…

      The Chinese tourists around the world are getting a bit of a reality check-wake up call, but I’m not sure when they are going to change…after all, in their own country, what they do is the norm, even if many are unhappy about it.


      1. Just hours ago a sign appeared in my guesthouse in English and Chinese saying “No Loud Noise”. Formerly there was just one in English and Thai. Apparently a desperate need for one with Chinese arose, which is no surprise considering all the racket lately from the Chinese guests.

        Also, my perception of China is a bit mixed. Of all the places I visited, the city I lived in was the least touristed and thus the least experienced in dealing with foreigners. This was a curse, but also a blessing, in a sort of way.

        I was probably too hard on contemporary Chinese culture in my last comment. There are lots of good things, like all the old folk out doing their Tai Chi in the mornings and evenings; the giant meals around round tables; the fact that most people are now getting educated; and that their culture also produced it’s own outspoken critics and excellent film-makers. But, just as we can talk about the “Ugly American” because of too much arrogant and insensitive behavior overseas, we can similarly find fault with Chinese because of their version of the same behavior.

        If they’d just be one their “good behavior” and be more conscientious, the problem would go away.


      2. Well, it’s a damn big country. You’ll get all kinds…just like America or Russia or where ever. But we do like to stereotype, cause it’s easier to “categorize” and “understand” that way. Thanks for sharing your other experiences with China. It’s a mixed bag – agreed. The irony, I’m finding as this topic has spurred a nasty debate on fb, is the Chinese display their insular ways through their actions (outside), but the rest of us seem to be insular in our thinking.


  3. Pooping about the place….sounds like children not properly all. Or raised in the country/rural areas. But anyway… I agree insularity makes a person very unaware and seemingly stupid in behaviour.

    Imagine what a shock immigration is for some folks to North America. Changing spitting, washroom behaviours, etc. Of course, it depends on social-economic class…well sometimes.


    1. The Chinese travelers reminds me of when the Americans first started to travel, and how our ways seemed foolish and unsophisticated. I think it has gotten better, as far as Americans reputations are concerned. Every country seems to inherit some sort of “touristic stereotype” as they make their presence known in the world. On the one hand, it is fun, and on the other, we have to be careful not to pigeonhole others and ourselves in to a binocular-way of seeing.


  4. I read that Lost In Thailand is the second highest grossing movie of all time in China, and that it alone made Thailand a faddish destination for Chinese tourists. I’ll have to view it on Netflix to see what it’s all about.


      1. Lani,

        I watched Lost in Thailand on Netflix yesterday and it’s a rather fun movie. It’s a lot like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the old Steve Martin film. A callous sophisticate stuck with a goofy companion on an unexpected road trip with a sweet ending.

        What I don’t get is why it’s became the 2nd biggest grossing picture, and number one picture in ticket sales, in China!

        It’s all filmed in and around Chiang Mai so you’d find that interesting. There are scenes of Thai vs. Chinese mentality that relate to your topic here.



  5. Oh, this made me giggle: “I almost ran one over! They just stand there waiting to get hit!” Because seriously, in China, my taxi driver would stop (not pull over) in the middle of a road to check his phone. People walking around would do the same on the sidewalk, and sometimes you just can’t dodge fast enough. And eventually you stop caring and just walk into them. The amazing thing is, no one cares or gets angry. If someone ran into an American like that on the street, there’s an even chance of yelling.


    1. Yeah, it’s definitely a whole new world over there. Based on what I’ve heard, they are very aggressive drivers, and walking is risky 😛 I suppose when you live in such a heavily populated place, it’s natural to have a me-first mentality, the reasoning being, if you don’t go, no one else will let you go. I feel this way when I drive here – if I yield, then I might be waiting for a long time in traffic. Ug.

      But seriously, they aren’t exactly the most situationally aware folks when travelling, which seems odd considering they might get hit by a car or bike!


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