Tourists and locals

One might say that tourists are the same everywhere in the world. Armed with cameras and guidebooks, they marvel at historic relics and modern wonders, eager to explore everything they perceive as typical or original. Tourism in China is not that different a thing, but there are some spot able differences.
For example, while you find hordes of Chinese travel groups in front of major sights in Paris, Vienna or Rome, the tourists in China are mostly Chinese themselves. This can be explained by the size of a country, making the several parts so diverse from each other that one does not have to leave the country to encounter different lifestyles. On the other hand it is true that it is more difficult to go abroad than to stay in your own country, especially if you are Chinese. Us basically being able to travel through Europe without a passport is a privilege we sometimes fail to notice. (Many Chinese are very surprised when I tell them, either because they thought Europe was one country altogether or because they never thought crossing a border could be so easy.)
The result for a Westerner is that even going to the Forbidden City or the Great Wall; one does feel alien and sticks out from the rest. Also, it leads to quite funny situations when you become a tourist attraction yourself as people coming from the countryside want to take a picture with “Their foreigner”.
The way famous sights are treated also is quite different here – while in Europe people rather look at some stone ruins, Chinese would build up the old temple in old glory and according to their needs, not caring that the ancient wall they walk on was only build 5 years ago.
Also, while most travelers in Europe go for “the real thing”, meaning they thread the hordes of tourists and avoid the tourist-trap restaurants right in front of main attractions, it can’t be too kitsch for a Chinese. Dancing figures of Sissi or dolls wearing Dirndl with mountain sceneries on them are welcome souvenirs for those Chinese who can travel to Europe and thus have some money to spend. It is okay if something is fake, as long as it is impressive and one can show off with it at home.
But actually who can blame them? I certainly can’t, admiring and posing in front of all China’s treasures – Diving  into a culture so different from your own, you certainly want to make the most of it.
Write you soon,
PS: This week’s pic is from the Drum tower, the building where drums would announce the Chinese dusk every day with the setting sun. (It’s counterpart being the Bell tower, waking people at sunrise)


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