Why do Chinese tourists abroad refuse to sample local cuisine?
Global Times 2015-02-27 10:57:00
Research shows a large number of Chinese travelers bring Chinese foodstuffs, such as instant noodles and soy sauce, with them when traveling overseas. (Photo: GT/Li Hao)
By the fourth day of her trip to the US during last year's National Day holidays, 25-year-old Shanghai healthcare worker Joyce Yao was champing at the bit for Chinese food.
With her friends in tow, she scoured the streets and alleys of Las Vegas one by one, desperately hoping to find a Chinese restaurant to sate her hunger.
Eventually, they found a Chinese fast food restaurant.
"It tasted like heaven," said Yao, who added that she was almost reduced to tears upon finding somewhere that served Chinese food. "I ate so much!"
To savor the memory of the meal, Yao took a photo of the simple rice and vegetable dish she had that night as a memento.
From that evening on, she and her friends agreed that they would eat Chinese food for at least one of their meals each day for the rest of their trip.
Yao's insistence on eating Chinese food is not atypical of Chinese travelers abroad, with the issue again attracting media attention in recent weeks.
On February 10, Reference News published a photograph of several middle-aged Chinese women squatting in front of a luxury brand shop in Italy while eating instant noodles.
Many Net users commented on the absurdity of eating instant noodles on the street while having enough money to travel overseas and shop at luxury stores.
The photograph also reignited discussion on China's social media and microblogging platforms about the insistence of Chinese people on eating food they are accustomed to while traveling abroad.
Last September, the Chongqing Morning Post reported that a large number of Chinese travelers choose to bring foods they are familiar with while abroad.
In a survey conducted by the newspaper of more than 1,000 Chinese people who had traveled overseas, 44 percent of the respondents said that it was essential for them to take some Chinese foodstuffs with them when they traveled, and 33 percent said they would always bring instant noodles.
Other favorites included pickles, soy sauce and Chinese-style buns.
Respondents were allowed to give more than one reason for their unwillingness to try food abroad: 72 percent said they could not get used to the food abroad, 61 percent said it was to save money, as local food could be expensive, and 42 percent said that they had difficulties buying local food due to language and cultural barriers.
Wang Jianmin, a research fellow with the Tourism Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that he was not surprised by the findings of the survey, nor with the social media outcry over news reports and Internet posts about Chinese people having instant noodles on their overseas trips.
"The media likes to sensationalize things," said Wang. "And Net users are fond of topics where Chinese tourists are arguably shown to have poor manners."
Wang said that most Chinese people attributed their dissatisfaction with foreign cuisines to their "Chinese stomachs" - a popular way of saying that Chinese people simply have different tastes when it comes to food. He dismissed the idea as nonsense.
"The fact is, we have the same 'stomachs' as anybody else in the world. What's different is our mindset and attitude," said Wang. "We place too much emphasis on the 'Chinese' characteristic of our cuisine."
Wang said that such an attitude was juvenile, and that it led many travelers to miss out on positive culinary experiences.
He gave the example of a young Chinese traveler he witnessed at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, who was requested to open his suitcase by quarantine inspection officers.
The entire suitcase, said Wang, was crammed full of Chinese sausages.
"It was puzzling and interesting why he would do this," said Wang.
"There are a large variety of sausages sold in the US, that are of a better quality and for a lower price."