Chinese… tourists from hell?

They travel in large packs, barking angrily at one another and take over whole tourist spots leaving a trail of litter, spit and dirty toilets in their wake… no it’s not a pack of crazed Thai street dogs, it’s the dreaded plague of Chinese tourists that descend on Thailand at this time each year.

As the nation of China celebrate lunar new year they make the most of extended holidays to travel, with tens of thousands choosing Thailand as their destination of choice.

Anyone who has travelled in Asia will have experienced it – when you are in the vicinity of a group of Chinese tourists you certainly know about it.  The Chinese are very fond of coach tours and will often convoy around in trains of three, four or five coaches with hundreds of tourists in each travelling group.  Donning matching coloured hats or t-shirts, they traipse around in the heat en masse, blocking pathways and filling shops and blocking out views.  Good luck getting a serene snapshot of your day off if you happen to be sharing your venue with a Chinese tour group – and now with the addition of the selfie stick it is practically a health and safety hazard!

News stories have been cropping up of underwear being washed and dried in the airport departure lounge, purposeful damage to heritage sites, fights on planes and even one temple banning all Chinese tourists due to poor hygiene in the toilets (trust me, I’ve used a public toilet in China – it is not nice).

But it looks like Thailand has had enough.  Initial reports claimed that Chinese tourists were going to be banned, but before that extreme measure comes into place it looks like an official Thailand etiquette for Chinese tourists guide is on its way.  I can’t wait to have a read of that.

Below, Channel 4 news report on some of the bad behaviour being carried out by Chinese tourists:

DISCLAIMER: I have nothing against the Chinese.   In fact, Koren tourists are just as loud and large in number.  And let’s not forget some of the shocking behaviour us Westerners have got up to in Thailand in the past…

Top Tip: don’t walk into a temple in your bikini…
We’ve all slept on Khao San road but most of us opt for a hostel…
No, just NO.

I plan on writing a guide to tourist etiquette in Thailand very soon.  Will put a linky here when I do.  But for now, please just at least use your common sense!

 

 

 

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Video virals: Thai student swears at foreign teacher

This video has been doing the rounds on Thai news websites and a number of TEFL teaching groups I’m in. Watching it, I was taken back to many a moment in my own time TEFL teaching in a Thai government school!

A loose translation of what the boy is saying, courtesy of Bangkok Post:

“They’re hiring you to teach. Why the &*$@ do you scratch your foot? Do your work! This is my country. Understand? I’m scolding you and you still don’t look at me. Animal! Monitor Lizard? Look at me!

“You’re wearing black. Are you going to your father’s funeral?

“You’re scratching your foot again. You have no manners.”

Although these words might not appear hugely offensive, cultural differences need to be taken into account.  For example, you do not want to be called a monitor lizard (or a dog, or buffalo equally) in Thailand.  The Thai word for monitor lizard, เหี้ย – hia (sounds like ‘here’) – is a very insulting name reserved for the worst of the worst.

He is clearly highlighting the fact that she has no idea about his country, referencing the fact that she is wearing all black (very much reserved for funerals only) and her foot scratching (feet are the dirtiest part of a person and should not be exposed or touched in public).

Thailand is still very traditional in its hierarchy, with regards to age and social standing.  A person who is older than you, and who is your teacher, should be respected – unfortunately the fact that the teacher in this video is foreign means that this basic social rule is turned on it’s head and is captured on video for all to see.

In fact, it’s not the fact that she’s foreign at all, it’s the fact that she clearly doesn’t understand a word of what he is saying.  But even if she can’t understand, part of me hopes that the mannerisms of the boy, the way he is talking at her, sneering and laughing – all of these things would have made me as the teacher realise that he was more than likely being rude.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with what the teacher did.  I’ve done my own fair share of ignoring the negative behaviour to try and not give it the attention it so desperately seeks.  But if she had just looked up from her marking, had taken in the situation, perhaps she could have reacted in some way.  It’s not always about knowing what is being said; the way it is being said and the reactions of others can often be enough to understand.

When I was fresh in the TEFL game my old trick was, if I got the impression that a student was being rude in class (whether about me directly or not) I would pretend that I understood, would looked shocked and would let them know that I wasn’t happy with that happening in my classroom.  Nine times out of ten the student would be guilty and would apologise, the odd time I was met with huge protests and realsied that I had probably got the wrong end of the stick, I listened to their explanation and let it go (even if I still had no idea what was being said!).

The sad fact is that this video is not an isolated event.  The Thai government classroom (at least at high school age) is full of students shouting unknown things either at the teacher or across the room.  If I were to play devil’s advocate I could say that this is a natural reaction of a teenage boy who has a foreign teacher who doesn’t know the first thing about his country or his language.  Perhaps TEFL teachers should be better prepared during training to be able to spot this kind of behaviour, or should understand enough Thai to be able to listen out for insulting or rude language.  But the fact is that this would categorically never happen in a classroom with a Thai teacher.  Was it her lack of knowledge?  Or a lack of manners on his part?  Wherever the blame lies, it shouldn’t be happening in any classroom in any country.

Have you been in a similar situation?  How did you react?  How would you have reacted if you were the teacher in this video?  I’d be interested to know – please share in the comments below.

 

A month of mourning in Thailand.

บรรยากาศประชาชนรอส่งพ

Image source: Bangkok Post

Thailand has entered a month of mourning following the death of His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch, Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana Mahathera.  The Supreme Patriarch is the head of the order of buddhist monks in Thailand – the most important monk, as chosen by the King (wikipedia.org).  The usual period of mourning for a highly ordained monk is 15 days, but in this case it has been extended to the full 30 days usually reserved for the death of a royal – showing how truly important he was to the King and the nation of Thailand.

So what does that mean for us foreigners?  How will this period of mourning affect us?

Firstly, today we were informed that we should try to wear black at school, or at least to avoid bright colours.  I say informed, it was more of a by the way…  as we left for lunch.  It would be nice to be told these things properly, as I really don’t want to offend anyone!  Stood there in my fuschia pink shirt and floral skirt I started mentally thrashing through the rail that holds all of my teaching clothes.  Pink, orange, green, red, orange, pink, purple… I need to get myself some new mourning teacher clothes it seems.

Local bars have shortened their opening hours (in Hat Yai that means closing at 1am as opposed to 4, 5 or 6am).  Sales of alcohol will be limited and probably further affected as the funeral preparations take place (a standard funeral in Thailand is 4 days long so you can imagine that the head Monk’s funeral will take up most of the month ahead).  A big party that a lot of foreigners were going to this weekend has been postponed until the end of next month – the organisers may not be Thai but they have common sense and cultural sensitivity.  Big shows that had been planned for Loy Kratong celebrations (see this post for what I did last year) in the middle of the month may be toned down, fireworks cancelled and all generally excessive activities are to be avoided.

It is difficult to find ourselves in the position of being in a foreign land at a very sensitive time.  I don’t want to make any mistakes or come across as disrespectful so I am google searching as much as I can right now.  Bangkok Post have some details but no one can seem to agree the official dates of mourning, so I guess I will just play it safe for the whole of November.

Sorry if it’s a bit of a gloomy post but it is interesting to see how differently things are done here to how they are back home.  We might get a token bank holiday so that everyone can watch the funeral being televised on BBC (who here remembers watching Princess Diana’s service?) but I reckon a month of mourning would interfere with the economy too much for the UK government to give it a second thought!

A quick thought (rant…) on negativity…

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.
~ an excerpt from The Twits by Roald Dahl http://www.quotegarden.com/attitude.html

roald dahl 2(Image source: Google images)

Negativity breeds negativity.

Don’t accept a job abroad in a different culture of your own if you are going to be negative.

If you are looking for negativity; seek and ye shall find.  There are a zillion things that I could think of if I wanted to.  But that’s the key – I don’t want to.  I came here to try my hand at a potential new career path and to experience a completely different way of life.  I knew that things would be different from what my western mind is accustomed to.  I wanted that.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when the geographical distance between this world and your own is half of the actual planet that the cultural differences are going to be vast.  And that sometimes, those differences don’t sit so well with what I am used to.

So the next time the cook gets your order slightly wrong,

or you have to take your shoes off to go into the local shop,

or you have to cover your shoulders,

or the food doesn’t ‘taste the same’,

or something just doesn’t make sense to you or ever-so-slightly inconveniences you…

REMEMBER; YOU chose to come here.  YOU chose to enter this culture.  You more than likely won’t be here forever.  Cherish the experience.  If you want to walk around with ugly thoughts all over your face then that is all you will see reflected back at you, and your experience will be an ugly one.

I’m much happier spreading sunbeams.

roald dahl quote(Image source: Google images)