The behavior of Chinese tourists abroad has been something of a sore spot for Beijing in recent years.
Following a number of incidents that went viral on the Web last year (including the defacing of the 3,500-years-ago old Luxor Temple in Egypt by a Chinese teenager and photos of Chinese tourists washing their feet at Louvre in Paris), state-run China Central Television (CCTV)'s flagship political show ran a series of videos that aimed at making Chinese tourists more polite – and less embarrassing.
Now Xi Jinping, China's president, has waded into the debate with a request: Chinese tourists, please stop eating so many instant noodles.
“Let me interrupt and say something here," Xi was reported to have said during an official visit to the Maldives, according to Bloomberg News, “We should also educate our citizens to be civilized when traveling abroad. Don’t litter water bottles, don’t destroy their coral reef. Eat less instant noodles and more local seafood.”
Xi's comments were lighthearted and reportedly provoked laughter. However, as the Wall Street Journal's China Real Time blog points out, they were prompted by real-life events. The Maldives have become a premier destination for wealthy Chinese tourists in recent years, but some of these tourists apparently had trouble with the local cuisine. Last year, the South China Morning Post reported that a number of luxury resorts in the Maldives had began limiting the hot water available to Chinese tourists, in a bid to stop them from eating instant noodles instead of room service.
According to the Hong Kong-based paper, the move had sparked a backlash from Chinese travelers. “My parents have always had a hard time with western food when travelling overseas,” a Chinese Weibo user wrote in response, “so hot tea and cup noodles always came handy.” One popular resort denied removing the kettles from all rooms given to Chinese tourists, instead telling the South China Morning Post that it had only removed kettles from rooms after they were "were damaged by guests by cooking food."
According to the World Instant Noodle Association, Chinese consumers ate more than 46 billion packets of noodles last year, more than 43 percent of the total consumed worldwide.