“Nihao, huzhao dai le ma?”
At a number of the Tokyo stores of Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo over the last week, the words coming out of cashiers’ lips are not Japanese, but Chinese.
The occasion was the Lunar New Year, a celebration in China that is supposed to be all about family and spending time at home. But increasingly, Chinese tourists have been flocking overseas – mostly to Asian destinations – to spend their yuan in a migration of an annual rite that has been dubbed China’s Golden Week.
Bolstered by a strong currency and greater wealth, more Chinese than ever before are traveling abroad for their not-so-Chinese New Year compared to those staying home, with South Korea, Thailand and Japan leading the top picks this year, according to the China National Tourism Administration.
In the case of Japan, staff at big shopping destinations like Uniqlo said they brought over Chinese-speaking staff to deal with Chinese tourists during the period. The question in Chinese that the cashier was asking China Real Time translates as: “Hello, do you have your passport?” Some Japanese stores offer tax-free shopping for tourists – lopping a generous 8% off the tab – if they can produce a foreign passport. Uniqlo didn’t immediately respond to a message for comment.
For this week at least, destinations like Japan have rolled out the welcome mat for visitors who raid foreign stores for everything from luxury handbags to sophisticated toiletry. Staff in even the most traditional of Japanese restaurants have learned to say “xiexie!” – Chinese for thank you.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal.