On the eve of my relatives returning to Canada, I took them to one of my favorite northern Chinese cuisine restaurants in my neighborhood, a place that offers great variety and succulence. No sooner had we seated ourselves than a burst of laughter and loud conversation emanated from a table behind us. So intense was the noise that all three of us turned around to look. Throughout the meal, the same ear-splitting talk would shatter the otherwise calm ambiance in the restaurant, prompting our kind waitress to apologize profusely.
When I paid the bill, the lady said, rolling her eyes: Dui bu qi, tamen shi zhongguo ren. “Sorry, they’re Chinese.”
Indeed. Loud, disrespectful and chauvinistic. In our three weeks of travel, we ran into many of them. At the National Palace Museum, making it a point to touch every object bearing a “do not touch” sign or putting their hands on the windows, forcing a poor museum employee to follow them like shadow with her cloth and Windex, often shaking her head in dismay. At Sun Moon Lake, busloads of them careening down the narrow roads, roaring as if the world belonged to them.
Before returning home this evening, my aunt wanted to go to a Duty Free shop in Minquan Road, a spot that I know is a favorite of tour operators. Sure enough, a whole group of Chinese was there, their ID cards — and thick Chinese — identifying them as such. Again, they were loud, loud as if they’d never seen a shopping mall in their lives. In their haggling with vendors, they were aloof and often impolite.
As the good taxi driver told me in Kaohsiung last week, we like their money. But what an unpleasant experience it is to be around them. Is it worth it? What will it be like if — and when — they are allowed to travel alone rather than in groups? What if, at some point, they were allowed to rent cars? Would they bring the same type of chaos to Taiwan that drives my good friend Steve crazy whenever he travels to China for business?
I have nothing against Chinese per se, no underlying aversion to their people based on genetics. Rather, my problem with many of them is their social behavior, which is very revealing of the society and system in which they are brought up.
The diplomat in me usually wins over the temptation to turn to them and scream a good Taiwan jiayou! or Yi bian, yi guo at them. I don’t. Steve would have. Maybe I will.