BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 12 February) — While waiting for our host while newly arrived on a recent trip to Nice, we had an encounter in the street with a local Frenchman. A car screeched to a halt and reversed a bit, the driver rolled down his side window and shouted out, “Ni Hao!” Then he drove away with a grin and another screech.
We were amused because that was the first time we had received such a greeting anywhere in Europe. This was in Golfe de Juan, a small district in Nice known for its yacht port and pricy seaside restaurants.
That only shows how much the Chinese have impacted on world tourism and business. When I arrived in Switzerland some twelve years ago, there were only a few shops catering to Chinese tourists. Now, in Interlaken- a major tourist spot that is the gateway to the Berner Oberland mountains – there are already many Chinese-speaking shop assistants catering to their countrymen. And the local McDonalds restaurant posts on its walls instructions in Chinese, where before it used to be only in Japanese.
But the Chinese tourists keep arriving in Switzerland, and in large numbers. And while they are earning a reputation as big spenders, the massive influx has also resulted in unpleasant incidents with the locals. Many are unhappy with the crowds in the mountain tourist spots, and not a few Swiss probably think the Chinese tourists as rude and uncouth.
I recall reading a news item on a daily free newspaper about a Swiss hotel-restaurant giving out cards at breakfast asking their guests to take only what they needed from the breakfast buffet table. The frugal Swiss manager, when asked about this unusual measure, said it was such a pity to waste food. The measure was prompted reportedly by the behavior of guests — mainly Asian and likely Chinese — who left uneaten food on their breakfast plates. It seems that the Asians are curious about Swiss food like cheeses but ultimately found the taste too foreign.
This leads me to the upsurge of Chinese arrivals in the Philippines since the Duterte government started cordial relations with China. There are an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Chinese working in offshore gaming operators and outsourcing firms that mostly service clients in China. This excludes yet the Chinese tourists who arrive in the thousands.
As I have pointed out in the Swiss experience, the massive tourist arrivals are likely to result in a few unpleasant skirmishes between the visitors and the locals. Are these incidents unavoidable because of the sheer mass of newcomers who crowd out locals from their daily routine? Are these run-ins “non-issues” that are simply attributable to differences in cultural or social behavior? Only time will tell.
But the reports of abuse by Chinese tourists in the Philippines are rising. The most highlighted case was that of the Chinese woman who was arrested after she threw her drink at an MRT cop who was enforcing an MRT rule not to allow liquids or drinks in any form inside the trains.
Last February 8, a 19-year-old Chinese man was also arrested and charged with acts of lasciviousness charges for reportedly molesting three Filipinas–all 18-years old–while they were inside a theme park in Pasay City.
A few days later, a 24-year old Chinese man was arrested in Muntinlupa City for creating a public scandal at a restaurant. The foreigner was involved in a heated altercation with another customer and later threw objects inside the restaurant, injuring some of the other customers. He was charged with alarm and scandal.
Unlike the Swiss experience however, Philippine officials are brushing off these incidents as trivial “non-issues.” This sends the signal that guests should be treated differently and always with leniency and patience. This is unlike the Swiss, who are gracious hosts but are always firm on how their guests should behave. (Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their thoughts about their home country and their experiences in their adopted countries. Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao and also for the SunStar Cagayan de Oro. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps)