Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The key to change perceptions about China: Seriously train its tourist guides!

My return journey from Wuyishan, a world heritage site famous in China for it Dahongpao tea, had to done in two flights – a Xiamen Airline flight from Wuyishan to Hong Kong and a Cathay Dragon Airline flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur. The Xiamen Airline flight was not accorded apron convenience. The aircraft came to a stop somewhere in the tarmac; passengers were then ushered into two buses to go to the airport terminal for Immigration and Customs clearances.

Many of the passengers were Mainlanders. Managing the tarmac transfer must be a very frustrating task to the ground crew. Younger passengers spread out to try to take selfies and pictures of one other. Older ones tried to disembark, and some did, from the first buss when they saw that their tour guide was not amongst them. But the ground crew had to fill the first bus before they allow more passengers step down the ladder or go into the second bus. It was very much a chicken-first-and-egg-first situation! You could literally hear the ground crew’s frustrations!

This, to me, is another classic example of “There you see, all these Mainlanders!” We hear these day-in-and-day-out. But it also speaks volumes about China’s inability to exercise commonsense despite their political clout!

Don’t Chinese always pride themselves to be or civilized people? And the rest of the world are either (barbaric) or (native, but with a tinge of uncivilized connotation)?

China has not been quite successful with its soft power endeavours, even in countries where Chinese largess is an everyday necessity. I personally think Chinese don’t quite understand what is real soft power!

Soft power is not about setting up of Confucius Institutes to teach Chinese or to showcase Confucian culture to foreigners, or about handing out goodies. Soft power is about earning empathy with strangers. Only exemplary behaviours practised en masse can change perceptions, not isolated cases of good deeds. Take Japan for example, I don’t think anyone can dislike Japanese tourists, can you? Caucasian Americans, Europeans and Australians don’t quite go in organized groups like what we do in East and Southeast Asia. Of course, some can turn rowdy once they have a drink one too many. But generally, they do not lose respect.

Outbound tourists are a country’s soft-power ambassadors. In China, where millions and millions of internal tourists throng sites within China, they are also reflectors of the country’s behavioural norms. Tourism holds an important key that can help China change others’ perceptions about its people.

Seriously train the country’s tourist guides!

Train them to INSIST on a few things from their charge before they even embark on the journey:

1.     Don’t shout, Don’t jostle, Don’t spit, Don’t stare. Don’t pick nose publicly.
2.     Don’t behave like hungry ghosts in restaurants.
3.     Don’t throw rubbish anywhere they like.
4.     Don’t hog pathways at airports, public places, etc.
5.     Queue up for food, drinks, tickets, toilets, public transport, etc.
6.     Don’t climb, Don’t walk on grass, Don’t feed animals if there are signs to say so.
7.     Don’t smoke if there are no smoking signs displayed.
8.     Don’t over- or under-dress.
9.     Don’t behave like Liu Laolao (country bumpkins) in museums, palaces, etc. or towards foreigners.

 I am sure with this in place people would see Chinese as Cinderellas in no time!

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