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MAIL OPINION  By Shana Kongmun


The Chinese are here and boy do we know it!

The clash of cultures that one usually sees in Thailand has been between the local Thai residents and mostly European, North American and Australian visitors. The locals have learned over the years that Western ways are not the same as their own and tend to cope slightly better with the Westerners who unwittingly cross cultural boundaries.
However, there is a new wave of tourists in Chiang Mai and a new set of different cultural mores for the local Thai people to adjust to. Chiang Mai people are famous for their more gentle ways and polite behavior and it’s true. People are in general far more polite than elsewhere in Thailand and definitely more relaxed and soft spoken.
However, the latest wave of tourists to inundate Thailand is also coming to Chiang Mai. The Russians have tended to flock to the beaches, and who can blame them? If I lived in a place with such a long winter I would long for sandy beaches and hot, sunny climes as well. The Chinese however, are here for the nature, for the culture and what better place than the North? By now most of us are aware of “the movie”. Lost in Thailand was filmed in Thailand and set largely in Chiang Mai and was a blockbuster hit in China. So, tourism related businesses have seen a good high season with a regular and steady stream of Chinese tourists. However, the Chinese are a very different kettle of fish from the Thais and from the Western tourists who have preceded them.
It is important to remember that what is polite (or rude) in one culture does not make it so in another. One example is queuing, de rigeur in most Western nations; it is practiced in Chiang Mai albeit on a slightly more relaxed basis and not at all in China. It is not considered rude to push to the front among the Chinese, in fact it is expected. It is a very difficult concept to grasp that cultural mores and manners are just that, confined to one culture. The Chinese tourists will need to learn to adapt to the country they have chosen to visit, just as the Westerners do. However, like the Westerners, I am sure many will not be so successful, especially when there is no real knowledge of what is acceptable and what is not.
It is easy to get annoyed at people who don’t seem to grasp what seems basic to us but it is important to remember that those basics are not necessarily universal. So, for everyone we need to remember that a smile and some patience and perhaps a gentle word or two will help our Chinese visitors and they will go home and tell people of the nice treatment they received in Chiang Mai. And maybe the idea of queuing will rub off and spread throughout China eventually!

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The Chinese are here and boy do we know it!