The “Japanese Tourist” Phenomenon

Here's how living in Asia has made me the western version of a “Japanese tourist”.

As soon as I moved to Beijing, everyone was asking: “How is it? Do you like it? How’s life there?”

My short and sweet answer has been “I love it!!! It is so interesting and different! I enjoy every moment!”

Despite the excitement that the multiple !!!exclamation points!!! show, I realize that I’m not exactly answering the question, especially for someone who has never lived or at least visited China.

Now I will try to answer in a more unorthodox way but hopefully illustrating my point more clearly 😉

We all know and innocently joke about the stereotype of the Japanese tourists taking photos of anything and everything they see… (well, that’s probably true of all Asian tourists but let’s go with it).

So, I’m sure as you are reading this you immediately imagine the big camera hanging around the neck prepped to snap a photo of the most common thing on the street. You laugh and you think to yourself: “Why? Who cares about that?!”

Well, now I know “why” and I know “who cares about that”! I know, because living in Asia has made me the western version of a “Japanese tourist”.

Here’s why…

I walk around and take photos of almost everything I see on the street:

The storefronts, displaying the most weird things, arranged in the most unthinkable way to the outstanding traditional yet modern and simple design of a gorgeous tea house.

The ugly looking building with huge brightly lit colorful neon signs (which I can’t read) but once inside, an unthinkable gorgeous patio with flowers, romantic seats and traditional decor opens up and you think: “Really?! I would have never imagined this!” So you sit, order some great food, enjoy the atmosphere, snap some more photos… until exactly at 9:30pm you are told – “Sorry. We close. Have to leave.” – followed by loud clean up noises and lights shutting off to show you they are not kidding and they are not planning on waiting for you.

And don’t even get me started on the “special” traffic rules (I should probably say: the lack of them)… or the shopping experience… which creates very comic situations which I’ll leave for another time.

Anyway, that is how things change from weird to ugly to beautiful, back to weird, to funny, again to beautiful… But overall, absolutely and throughly fascinating! How could you not take photos?!

That is why I am constantly amazed, amused, surprised and even sometimes speechless…

So I take pictures – a lot of them – just like the Japanese tourists we all know and love. However, I don’t do it with a big camera hanging around my neck. No! I do it with an iPhone in my hand… more discreetly… or so I think… but it comes out anyway and I feel those same weird looks of the local people silently saying “What is she taking a picture of? Why? Who cares?!”… yeah, that’s right – exactly what I used to say back in the USA.

But don’t just take my word for it… Let me give you some simple examples raging from #fascinating to #genius to #x-rated to #wtf to #delish… so you know what I mean:

#fascinating – the sheer beauty of ancient China
#genius – “Lock up your phones, focus on food”
#x-rated – I’m sure they meant “no smoking”
#wtf – Is he holding a corndog or something that was supposed to be under his armor skirt?! 😉
#delish – I’ve never been much into taking pics of food but here I just can’t resist

In conclusion, I hope I shed at least some light on why I love it here so much… and… why the Japanese tourists take so many pics of ordinary things. Don’t judge them because one day you may be one of them! I know, I already am 😉

P.S. Learn as much as possible about the Chinese culture and traditions – it is fascinating and will make your life here so much more exciting!

1 comment

  1. marian85

    Excellent article Tanya:)

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