I was under the impression that "Japanese tourist" had a meaning more than just a tourist who happens to be from Japan.

For example, TV Tropes has an entry on Japanese Tourist, and French fashion boss offends Chinese over elitist Paris hotel describes the reaction when "Chinese tourist" (which I assume is the same as "Japanese tourist", but updated for the new century) was interpreted literally (tourists from China) rather than figuratively (mass tourism).

However, others seem to be skeptical of this. One person commented

I don't think there is a special term - just as in English, "Japanese tourist"/"Chinese tourist" could be a neutral descriptor in many contexts. It's more a stereotype than a figurative meaning.

Does "Japanese tourist" have any meaning other than merely a tourist from Japan, like "Polish plumber" means something other than just a plumber from Poland?

  • The term brings to mind packaged tours and compulsive picture taking to me and I would say Japanese rather than Chinese. No offense meant to either of course, I know these are just stereotypes.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 5:46
  • In the US, especially in California, "Japanese tourist" is a stereotype for someone traveling in a tightly-managed tour group -- off the bus, tour the museum for 15 minutes, back on the bus and off to the next stop. (Though perhaps the stereotype is not as strong as it was 20-30 years ago.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 11:59
  • I think he's after connotations rather than strict meaning, as the connotation of "Polish plumber" is someone who takes British jobs, and no one cares that the individual before you might actually be Lithuanian. So yes, I think we are meant to think, not merely of packaged tours, everyone has those, but of couriers with flags leading groups wearing colour-coded hats and jumpsuits (they do this at home as well), and not merely compulsive picture-taking, but ditto with selfie-sticks.
    – David Pugh
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 11:59
  • @HotLicks: Your bus-museum-bus thing I associate just as much with, guess what, Americans as with the Japanese. We Europeans satirise them with the line, "If this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium". Same reasons: it is expensive to get to Europe, and everyone at home will ask you why you didn't catch XYZ. I was once going to take a Singaporean around Switzerland, but pulled the plug when she insisted on a side-trip from the peace and air of the high Alps to summertime Venice, lest she lose peer kudos.
    – David Pugh
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 12:06
  • @DavidPugh - I was about add that the same image probably applied to US tourists in Europe. However, my understanding is that the Japanese-run tours of 20-30 years ago took this to the extreme. (I mean literally 15 minutes in the museum -- no American tourist would have tolerated this.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 12:09

1 Answer 1


Some of these kinds of nationality/noun things ARE intended as pejoratives. Most seem not to be, however.

I think that "Japanese tourist" is a slight slam. I believe it has to do with going places dressed fairly wildly for the venue, carrying two or three cameras and taking shots of everything. Like I did last week at my granddaughter's wedding.

Didn't they used to call American tourists "the ugly American"? Sure they did.

I am originally from California, and am reminded of something called a "Chinese Fire Drill" or sometimes "Mexican Fire Drill", where a car full of young people stop at a red traffic light and everyone exits the car and re-enters it using a different door from the one they exited at, frequently including the driver. This is amusing to watch, and probably a scream to do. It works only on 4-door cars, though. It is possibly offensive to Chinese or Mexican people, and surely not PC, but I doubt it is intended as a great insult. Best to give it a different name, I am sure.

Then there's a Dutch Date, which is where a man and woman go on a "date" and instead of the man paying for everything, they each pay half, or for their own expenses. Dutch refers to Holland, or the Netherlands, of course. This has to do with thriftiness, I suppose and I don't know if any Nederlanders would be offended by the term.

And how about someone who is counted thrifty being referred to as being Scotch? Which is a misnomer, since it should be Scot, or Scottish. The legend being that Scots are very thrifty. My own Mom used to say of my father spending money on something she didn't approve of, "That just gets my Scotch blood all riled up!" Any Scots offended by this?

And let's not forget "That's White of you!" This is an oldy; it is meant to imply approval for some favor. A variant when supplicating another for a favor was "Oh, be a White guy and [do this thing for me]." The last time I heard it was in 1968 in high school in Toronto, Canada when a friend and fraternity brother of mine used the former phrase to commend another one our fraternity brothers for something he had done.

Ironically, the particular frat brother he was addressing was Colored -- you know, the old Apartheid term for someone who was part white and part black -- and this is appropo to mention because he was in fact from South Africa. Now THAT was very offensive, something the frat bro in question didn't seem to realize, but I did, and I cringed like a sonuvagun. The frat bro on the receiving end of this was, fortunately, a very laid-back and patient man, so there was no contretemps, but I was horribly embarrassed.

The first written records of an outbreak of syphilis in Europe occurred in 1494 or 1495 in Naples, Italy, during a French invasion. Due to its being spread by returning French troops, it was initially known as the "French disease." Ouch!

I can't think of anything else at the moment. Fortunately.

  • "Dutch" because the ethnic English discriminated against the Dutch in the state of New York after the American Revolution and saw them as "cheap". The Dutch ethnics were pushed further upstate by the English. Hence the Dutch town names in upstate and mid-state NY. Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 11:59
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    Believe me, American is indeed used as all sorts of different insults and slurs outside the US. Depending on the country it can mean any or all of stupid, unsophisticated, uneducated, fat or loud. :)
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 15:13
  • Related questions about "Dutch date" and the like: english.stackexchange.com/q/8511/1420 and english.stackexchange.com/q/110497/1420
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 12:32
  • @BlessedGeek and more generally, England and Holland were strong rivals on the seas and had several wars, and some more objectionable terms such as Dutch wife or Dutch widow for a prostitute came from that time. I'm not convinced that "Japanese tourist" is comparable, but simply applies to the fact that in the 80s and 90s groups of tourists from Japan who acted in ways that seemed strange to the locals (part of which being cultural differences, and part from the logistics of group travel) were a new phenomenon.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 11:05
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    I know, @terdon, but since you brought it up in the first place, I felt compelled to defend someone whom I supported and thought was being unjustly criticized. If I were to make the unnecessary comment here that Hollande of France is a presumptuous, overbearing, and undiplomatic leader, would I not expect a supporter of his to just let it pass without defending him? One should not assume that everyone in the world shares one's political opinion, and state it as if it were the default position -- with words like "understandably enough" -- at least not in this venue. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 19:32

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