The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

We Welcome Your Money But Not Your Presence …
April 18, 2011, 6:16 am
Filed under: Comment

So I travel a lot.

And what I find amazing is that despite all the talk of being a ‘global economy’, a ‘connected World’, a ‘smaller World’ … whenever I go to Western countries, I tend to see road/street/office/airport signs in the native language whereas when I am in Asia, I generally see them written in both their native language and English.

OK, so you could argue that because not everyone speaks English they’re still being prejudiced, but I’d say you’re being a pedantic prick …

The fact of the matter is that the Asian market – be it for business or just tourism – has become one of the most, if not the most, important regions in the World and so while we are happy to sit back and take their cash, we do everything we can to make them feel uncomfortable or not welcome.

When I am overseas and getting on an Asian bound plane, the airport security do everything in their power to make the Asian passengers feel like they are guilty of something.

On the way back from Seattle, I saw immigration officers literally interrogating every Asian passenger and demanding to see how much money they were ‘taking back home’.

OK, so in places like the US, UK and Australia, the immigration and custom departments official policy seems to be anyone not from their home country [or from their home country, but black] is viewed as a potential terrorist, scam-artist or illegal immigrant and should be treated as such … but what I’m talking about goes way beyond just the airport experience.

I’m not denying Asian countries have their prejudices, hell they’re prejudiced about an incredible amount of things – many based on myth and legend – and I’m also not denying that Asian countries set themselves up to ultimately favour their home-grown companies [like every other country tries to do] however even if it’s just on a superficial level, the experience an international visitor gets in Asia is far more welcoming and considerate than they offer Asian people back home [and no, giving them a Chinatown doesn’t count] and so if Western markets really do want to attract Asian customers and business, making them feel welcomed and valued might actually go some way to making it happen.

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It’s only when you point this out that I realize how unwelcoming Europe and America must be to Asian travellers. Worse, the issue had not even crossed my mind despite having lived in Asia for a few years and seeing first hand how they had made sure English was fairly prevalent in it’s notification and signage.

Great follow up to your BRIC post.

Comment by Pete

Is it really that bad in Europe and America Rob? I thought they’d made some vast improvements over the past few years to address the inbound Asian tourist segment. Either way, I hope London gets it right in time for 2012.

Comment by George

Maybe there have been vast improvements George, but I’d say it came from such a low base that the reality is it’s still way behind.

Comment by Rob

I understand you’re talking about more than just the tourism audience, with that in mind there’s a lot more that can and should be done.

Comment by George

There are two groups being discussed here, tourism and trade. The former is much better catered for than the latter, however this is typically limited to the international travel portions of their trip and limited further to the routes generally arriving/departing from Asian airspace.

You raise an interesting point Robert, one I will discuss with the relevant parties.

Comment by Lee Hill

I’m going to sue you for not respecting my asian heritage.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I look forward to hearing the response.

Comment by Rob

i like going to a foreign country and thinking its foreign. i like getting lost, confused and paying way too fucking much for a drink and only realising it when i get home and look at my fucking amex bill. i dont want to fit in, i go away to get away and the last fucking thing i want is to feel im at home but surrounded by a load of funny sounding fuckers. its shit enough theres wifi on planes without the fuckers doing everything they can to make me feel im not afuckingway in the first place.

Comment by andy@cynic

You know what Andy, I agree with you …

I remember years ago having a row with a mate of mine on this very subject saying that if we follow this ‘cultural integration path’ to it’s logical conclusion, we should have a global plug and global power supply because this mass of different voltages and plug prongs is also painful [and expensive] for companies and people.

Not only that, but like you – the madness and mayhem of being in another country does add to the overall experience – however my point is, in this World of globalisation, tourism and even political correctness … it seems mad and pretty pathetic that one of the fastest and most dominant economies in the World [not to mention one of the most influential and dominant manufacturing bases in the World, let alone the massively growing tourism sector] is left out in the cold by most of Europe and America.

So yes, I agree with you, but I doubt that is the reason why Europe and America have done it. Well, excluding the French.

Comment by Rob

and its my fucking birthday next week so wheres my fucking presents? i leave on thursday for 2 fucking weeks so make sure i get your cheques before i get on my plane.

Comment by andy@cynic

We know. We know.

Comment by Rob

We’ve made you a cake like a broken down cottage.

Comment by Billy Whizz

if it was baked by the fucking builders im using, its not a fucking surprise its unfuckingfinished.

Comment by andy@cynic

The irony will save the world.
I think your country has the largest number of foreign people living together. I’m amazed about it.
However, I agree with you.

Comment by jim

When I read your headline I thought you were gonna talk about how some companies treat their clients.

I agree with Andy from a tourist perspective as the madness and chaos is definitely part of the experience. Not so much for trade however. Nice post Rob.

Comment by Rafik

Don’t shit on the US immigration guys Rob, we need as much money in the country as possible.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Good post.

I guess it’s not just about the immigration control guy / law enforcement person, it’s deeply rooted in culture, of how Asians are perceived to be, and therefore such behavior.

Comment by bhaskar

Funny you should say that as I’m writing another post on that very fact – something that has pissed me off immensely so god knows how angry my colleagues who have been affected by it, must be.

Comment by Rob

australia’s customs is a fucking embarrassment./div

i love melbourne and i know they’ve poured a lot into asian tourism recently, but they don’t even have the right kind of signage and traffic flow for their own citizens, let alone those who are only in for a night or two.

having said that, i’ve noticed that, when we do get it (by the banks, typically) we’re starting to also get the right kind of bilingual signage – the italian/greek/german/french cliche is finally passing and we’re starting to see signage that actually reflects: vietnamese, tagalog, mandarin/cantonese, korean, arabic and indonesian.

and thank you andy for your point about being a stranger in a strange town.

Comment by lauren

The banks get it because it’s the Asian communities that are keeping the cash coming in. Sure that’s a massive generalisation, but it’s also got more than a large dollop of truth associated with it.

Comment by Rob

not disagreeing with you there.

Comment by lauren

im a fucking genius arent i.

Comment by andy@cynic

and not to be too much of a ‘he said, she said’ shit. but china actually doesn’t have that great a record of dealing with its own citizens. so whilst china may welcome strangers, people who are critical of their own country are ‘disappeared’ at the border [see under Ai Weiwei]

Comment by lauren

Absolutely true Lauren – and while I would never condone that, I would also say there’s many countries who deal with ‘human threats’ in inappropriate ways, albeit not in as a destroying manner as some of China’s alleged actions.

Comment by Rob

also true.

Comment by lauren

What you have written about today is really close to my heart. When I was in America I had to face a few such situations and I kept thinking that smart country like their’s is pretty dumb when it comes to the basics. The behavior need not reflect the Law that you are trying to uphold.
More than devaluing others this sort of conduct makes you devalue your own country and its people. The traveller comes back but the story of the place and people travels with him.
I think it really depends on perspective, do you see people coming into your country as ‘guests’ or ‘immigrants’ – that will determine your behavior. And this by no means implies that you will let a unwelcome guest enter and disrupt your world but it just shift the focus, so the policy of enforcement need not change but the people enforcing it can realign their attitude.

Comment by swati

To be fair, the evil looks I got from old ladies in Shaoguan made me understand a bit more what it must be like to be treated differently because of your race.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

or it could have been your fucking mug.

Comment by andy@cynic

I wasn’t drinking coffee.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Also, I’m slightly disappointed Andy. I expected a better class of insult from you…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

thats because youre not worth putting in the extra fucking effort. nice come back though. you get points for that even if it does sound like a ken fucking dodd joke.

Comment by andy@cynic

That was closer…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

so youve slagged off western bullshit acronyms and signage. when do you start slagging off their views on asian birds, its only a matter of fucking time isnt it.

youre the germaine greer of adland. and you look like her too. just fucking bald/

Comment by andy@cynic

[…] you could argue that they could have got a proper translator in, but as I’ve said in the past, China makes more of an effort to welcome foreigners to its country than other countries do to make […]

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