SANDS: China’s ambassadors

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The first week of October marks the celebration of a “Golden Week” of public holidays in China, during which millions of Chinese people take vacations, many of which will be taken abroad. Prior to this holiday week, China’s National Tourism Administration publicized on its website a 64-page “Guidebook for Civilized Tourism,” intended to instruct those traveling abroad on how to be “civilized” tourists.

The guide contains an illustrated list of dos and don’ts, including the following: Do not give a handkerchief in Italy as a gift because it is deemed inauspicious. Do use shower curtains in a hotel. Other notable guidelines include advising Chinese nationals not to pick their noses in public, urinate in pools or steal airplane life jackets. The guide also urges tourists to refrain from such (common mainland) behavior such as smoking in nonsmoking areas, discarding trash carelessly and shouting in public. The detailed guide even goes as far as to advise travelers to keep their nose hair neatly trimmed.

The guidebook includes other gems, such as the requirement for women in Spain to always wear earrings in public, or be considered effectively naked, or that when visiting Japan, one should not fidget with hair or clothes in restaurants.

While we could all use a little brushing up on our travel etiquette, the Chinese have traditionally had little practice outside of China. Long a closed and poor nation, the recent accumulation of wealth and increasing list of approved destinations has made the image of the country bumpkin worrisome to Chinese authorities. Other travel tips include the following:

Do not:

Discuss the royal family in Thailand.

Touch people’s belongings in Nepal with the foot.

Ask for pork in Islamic countries.

Call Africans “Negros” or “black.”

Use the left hand to touch other people in India.

In general, touch antiques or draw graffiti on heritage structures.

Expose the chest or back, or look dirty in public areas.

Eat a whole piece of bread in one mouthful or slurp noodles noisily inside an aircraft.


Keep quiet when waiting to board a plane.

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