Thank you, that was a beautiful read! A lesson in empathy.
As the son of Romanian parents, raised in a predominantly Chinese neighbourhood in Toronto, and having spent a recent 3 years in Paris, this sparked a few thoughts.
First, I find many of the traits I saw stereotyped as Chinese traits here in Toronto to be readily applicable to Romanian immigrants (you can really notice the influence of a communist past), and to a similar degree, immigrants in general. I think the same thing applies to tourists. Many of the traits we associate with Chinese tourists can be seen in visitors from other places that are — or were until recently — repressed or less developed. This is particularly true of the obsession with luxury brand shopping. There are just more Chinese tourists, acting as a lightning rod for a bad rap. It’s fairly easy to understand some of the behaviour when you empathize, as you have. Unfortunately, that cultural awareness doesn’t always exist, and I think it goes both ways. Example: many tourists in Paris will have wandered into a small shop and received a lukewarm or sometimes even frosty reception. Traditionally, many of these shop owners live above the shop, so walking in without greeting them is akin to wandering into their home without politely saying ‘hello’. Tourists don’t know this, and simply assume Parisians are rude. A lot gets lost in translation, not just in our language, but by missing the stories that define who each of us are. Sometimes the stories are so very different.
Second, I always find it curious when others complain of these groups, particularly in the context of the thirst for the authentic. In my experience, very rarely are tourist groups flooding the places locals love. They are almost exclusively at a handful of “must-see” places or central areas that are evidently targeting tourists to begin with, places that locals rarely bother with anyways. It’s less about the tourists than the local businesses bringing them there (e.g. the Galeries Lafayette very actively targets the Chinese tour groups). I particularly find it ironic in North America, as so many of the places locals love are themselves a different form of cultural hijacking, in the form of neighbourhood gentrification, that is itself labeled as cool and authentic. In any case, on the rare occasion I spot some tourists who wandered into the local watering hole, I admire their adventurousness.
Again, impressively articulated perspective, thank you.