A Different Point of View: Chinese Traveling in the USA

by Joe

Summer is upon us and in many world cultures, this is the season for vacation travel.  In previous blogs on this website, we have written extensively about the experience of being an American traveling to China and cultural differences to prepare for and be aware of.  For an interesting change of pace, we thought we’d help you gain an understanding of what it’s like to be a Chinese visitor to our nation; to understand what it’s like to be ‘on the outside looking in’!  Sometimes its only by understanding how other people understand us that we can begin to understand ourselves.

According to the Department of Commerce, China lags only Mexico and Canada in the number of foreign visitors to the United States,.  As of 2015, over 100-million Chinese have traveled to the US.

Several factors have made this possible.  Increased affluence in China is certainly one reason.  Another reason for the increased travel to our shores has been an extended US-China visa agreement that encourages an increase in Chinese business travel and tourism in the US.  And of course, there is the natural inquisitive nature all people have to visit new and interesting places.  As Hansi Men, a Chinese investment immigration lawyer was quoted in Business Insider, “Many Chinese parents want their children to visit America.

The Chinese government takes steps to prepare their citizens for successful journeys.  One example of this is a 64-page book published by China’s National Tourism Administration called “Guidelines on Civilized Travel Abroad”.  The book instructs the Chinese not to force locals to pose for photos, leave footprints on toilet seats, cut lines, pick their noses, or take more than they can eat at buffet tables.  Beyond a long list of ‘don’ts’, the handbook also provides a strict set of ‘do’s’ including using shower curtains in hotels, being punctual if taking part in a tour group, arriving at a banquet hall 15 minutes early and adhering to formal dress codes.  Not just an ‘ettiquette book’, this is actually legal code and travel companies whose clients break the rules can actually be subject to fines as high as $49K!

A number of Chinese websites also provide advice on how to socialize with Americans during their trips to our nation.  A few of these observations were translated by writers of England’s Daily Mail newspaper and are summarized here:

  • Encouragements to address people by their first names
  • Americans ‘deliberately’ do their own laundry and other household functions and are proud to do them.
  • Don’t be bothered by the fact that Americans don’t know anything about China
  • When Americans are in conversation, the expectation is to give the person speaking your complete attention
  • Keep a physical distance of four-feet from other people while in conversation so you are not struck by hand gestures
  • Compliment people on ugly hair cuts or bad photos and seem sincere
  • Americans have few or no social customs. If you do something that is not the norm, people will think you are ‘doing a good job in your own way’.


The Chinese are more like us in the places they like to visit when traveling in America.  See if any of these top ten destinations are not also on your list of favorite spots or maybe on your ‘bucket list’!


  • The Grand Canyon
  • Hawaii
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • New York, NY
  • Niagara Falls
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Universal Studios; Hollywood, CA
  • Washington, DV
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Yosemite National Park


Whether or not any of these are on your family’s travel itinerary this summer, don’t be surprised if you happen to meet more than a few Chinese visitors.  The prevailing trend suggests you’re very likely to.  Be sure and extend to them your warmest personal version of American hospitality.  Just think – new information suggests the Chinese may have actually been here first!  In fact, recent discoveries at Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, NM show evidence that ancient Chinese explorers ‘discovered’ America thousands of years before Columbus ever reached the West Indies.  But this is perhaps information for another blog….

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