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China offers its tourists cultural sensitivity lessons. India could use some too.
Once again, the Chinese have beaten us to it. They have produced something that many Indians, Americans and notoriously ill-behaved tourist groups need — a "Guidebook for Civilised Travelling". It was issued at the beginning of the Golden Week holiday, when many will flee the smog hanging over Beijing, which has triggered a serious health alert. The cash-rich among them will join the stream of tourists from all over China and travel vast distances to irritate the natives in foreign lands. In May, China passed new legislation to protect the national image, which, the Party believes, is being damaged by the 80 million-plus tourists who travel overseas every year.
A spin-off of that law, the 64-page guidebook is detailed, exhaustive and surprising. It prohibits excruciatingly specific crimes like stealing life jackets from aircraft, expectorating and urinating into water bodies, probing the oral and nasal cavities with a finger, leaving footprints on toilet seats and pointing out objects with a toe. There are baffling country-specific warnings, too. The English may be enraged by questions about their digestion while the Hungarians become unpredictable if the Chinese break their mirrors. In India, Chinese visitors may not touch other people's heads. In Germany, they may not attract the attention of human beings by clicking their fingers. That's only for dogs.
The prohibitions are so specific that obviously, they cannot be enforced. They are only suggestions on how to get started making friends internationally. However, since many of the excesses committed by the Chinese abroad are also committed by Indians, we should consider making an etiquette guide ourselves. But given India's indolence, the Chinese could beat us to that too.
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