How to Act

I can’t believe I forgot the funniest part of the whole, potty-training-when-the-world-is-your-toilet story…in most of these buildings, the guards who do not look at all intimidating, walk with dogs who look even less intimidating. Part of the reason, is that they (the dogs) look like old, retired farm dogs and the other reason is…wait for it…are you ready…they wear diapers! Ha! The dogs wear diapers! Priceless. (I got yelled at when I tried to take a picture so you’ll have to take my word for it, but I promise you, it’s true.)

But I have been wondering, am I too hard on the Chinese? After all, I am the stranger here and if you want to let people pee in gutters, bushes and on the floors of popular shopping malls, who am I to say, that’s grosser than gross? They do excessively clean the streets. And Shanghai is quite shiny, so I’m sure the human urine inside the mall was mopped up lickety split.

And then I came across this.

If you are too lazy to click and read the link, the story explains that the Chinese Ministry of Tourism published a “Guidebook for Civilized Tourism” for its Chinese citizens. It’s actually part of a new tourism law (not really highlighted in the NBC article) to protect (mostly domestic) tourists from fraud and unfair practices within the tourism industry. But the other part, that seems to be getting more press, is the guidebook – suggestions on how to behave while in foreign countries. Having recently gotten some bad press about Chinese tourists abroad acting…uncouth…the government is on a PR campaign to polish the image of China. (Go on, just skim the article.)  A few of my favorites are not taking life jackets from the airplanes, spitting and urinating in pools, shouting, and forcing people to take your picture. The guidebook then gets country specific, detailing helpful hints about navigating specific countries. I would love some more details into who and how the guidebook was actually written. In my head, its a big roundtable discussion with a decent number of people on Wikipedia and frequent travelers exchanging anecdotal stories. “This one time, I was in Madrid and a woman who wasn’t wearing earrings and…” Or, “it says here German’s snap their fingers at dogs so…”

Makes the Chinese seem a bit, well, “uncivilized.” But then again, I’m not sure Americans are the gold star of world wide travelers. Perhaps we, as a country could benefit from something similar. Ours might be titled, “Guidebook for Not Being a Totally Obnoxious, ‘Ugly American’.”

1. First and foremost, it should caution, “you are not the center of the universe.” What is it about our society that makes us believe that we are THE most important people in the room? “But I’m American! Of course I will get a spot on this train!”

2. Stop being so loud. Sure, the Chinese have precautions about shouting but this is different. The Chinese language is one of tones. They are expressive in their speaking. They do sound like they are shouting at times but there is an ebb and flow of their diction. Americans are just…loud. We walk loudly, talk loudly, move loudly, laugh loudly…we like to consider it charming and infectious but others often don’t.

3. Don’t assume that everyone speaks American and deals in dollars. And by the way, “American” is not a language. And if you do find someone who speaks English, don’t use it as your opportunity to casually mention all the ways U-S-A is better. When you are a guest in someone else’s home, do you make a point of pointing out how much better you do things at your home?

4. And can we stop already with the shorts and white sneakers?

We, Americans, are pretty great though, so these four points are pretty much it. Am I right? Of course, I’m American! And remember, we know we’re better than everyone so there’s no need to point it out and make them feel bad. That’s just mean.

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