HONG KONG — There's been a lot of buzz in the last year about Chinese tourists behaving badly — refusing to tip, writing graffiti on ruins, letting babies defecate on the floor at the airport — but the complaining is probably excessive. (Americans, of all people, should understand what it's like to be unfairly tarnished as the world's "worst-behaved tourists.")
More than 35 million mainland Chinese come to Hong Kong every year, and most of them follow the rules and fit right in. Moreover, they are a tremendous boost to the economy in Asia as well as the rest of the world.
But then, there are still reports that make you shake your head a little. Today, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (which has a whole section devoted to Chinese tourists) published a report finding that a third of Chinese travelers admitted to stealing furniture — yes, furniture — from hotels.
A survey of vacationers from 28 different countries, conducted by travel website Hotels.com, found that mainland Chinese stood out from the rest of the world in their willingness to steal things like clocks, lamps, paintings — apparently just about anything that can be fitted into a suitcase.
That said, overall Americans and Chinese were tied in their rates of hotel thievery: at 23rd on the list, only five other countries had more kleptomaniacs. (Colombians pilfered the most, according to the Post, though they "only seemed to remove books and magazines.") Americans, for their part, seemed to prefer linens.
To its credit, the Chinese government is responding to all the criticism — justified or not — of the hordes of tourists now leaving China. This month, the Chinese National Tourism office published a handbook offering travelers a list of dos and don'ts while abroad. Among them: do trim your nose hair; don't pick your nose, urinate in pools, or steal lifejackets.