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How ugly row involving Chinese tourists in Sweden could have been avoided

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A Chinese family, including a man and his elderly parents, went to Sweden for a holiday and ended up being kicked out of the hostel they had reserved, and left near a cemetery in Stockholm. Later, a Swedish TV host mocked the Chinese and China demanded an apology.

So far, the Swedes are becoming more defensive and Chinese are getting angry. No one is willing to yield and conspiracy theories abound. A minor matter that could have been easily resolved has grown to become an international incident. However, if both sides understand each other’s culture better, the outcome could be very different.

The trio arrived at their pre-booked hostel at midnight, almost a whole day early due to an error by the son. He also claimed the bus they had intended to take was cancelled. They had to take a later one and that’s why they arrived at such an awkward hour.

This all sounds vaguely familiar to those who travel a lot and are frustrated by missed connections, lost luggage and accommodation bookings. Nothing unusual, so why did it deteriorate in such a fashion?

The son made the wrong booking and should take responsibility for that. Also, in principle, the hostel staff could tell them to come back the next day, and if they created a public nuisance, the police would be called. This is what happened and it was done by the book. But doing things by one’s own book is not always the best policy in a multicultural world.

Chinese tourists claim mistreatment by Swedish police

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Some have speculated that the family did this intentionally to save on a day’s charges. This is implausible. Of course,........

© South China Morning Post