British Villagers Are Baffled by Flocking Chinese Tourists
KIDLINGTON, England — The Chinese visitors fanned out of a tour bus, and suddenly stopped, transfixed, as if marveling at the Venus de Milo or the Eiffel Tower. Then they began photographing an unremarkable 1970s suburban home, an oak tree, a rosebush and a garbage bin.
“It’s beautiful,” Liu Jingwen of Guangdong Province said as one of her travel companions crouched with his camera on the edge of a lawn and took a selfie in front of a small red brick bungalow. A porcelain schnauzer smiled from a nearby window. An angry passer-by yelled: “No photos! We’ll call the police!”
Ever since busloads of Chinese tourists began arriving in this sleepy, nondescript English village this summer, the 13,723 residents of Kidlington, about five miles north of Oxford, have been variously baffled, annoyed and delighted.
The sudden influx of Chinese has also grabbed headlines and spawned a national mystery.
Why, for example, do the Chinese tourists ignore the village’s handsome 13th-century church and its thatched-roof cottages, preferring instead to peer through windows, film parked cars and traipse on the lawns of Benmead Road, a humdrum and modern residential street? One tourist asked a stunned resident if he could help mow her lawn. (She politely declined.) Another jumped joyously on a child’s trampoline in the front yard.
One theory, reported feverishly by the British news media, is that Chinese tourists had been told by a rogue tour operator that the village was the location of 4 Privet Drive, the childhood home of Harry Potter, the fictional wizard. (In fact, it is in Bracknell, Berkshire,) The Sun asked if supernatural forces had delivered the Chinese to Kidlington.
英国新闻媒体热衷报道的一个理论是，中国游客被一家恶作剧的旅行社告知，这个村庄是小说中的法师哈利·波特(Harry Potter)童年时的家女贞路4号的所在地。（实际上，那个地方在伯克希尔郡的布拉克内尔。）《太阳报》(The Sun)怀疑，是不是超自然的力量把中国人送到了基德灵顿。
Others suggested that the Chinese had been drawn by Kidlington’s claim to being one of the largest villages in the realm. Or perhaps they wanted to see the Kidlington mansion previously occupied by Richard Branson, the shaggy-haired billionaire?
Such is the interest in the enigma that the BBC dispatched a camera crew to Kidlington, along with a questionnaire in Mandarin to ask the Chinese why they were coming. On a Facebook page devoted to the village, solving the conundrum became a popular parlor game.
“They don’t know of a monarch buried under your streets do they?” asked Rosie McCarter of Leicester, referring to the discovery of the remains of Richard III under a parking lot in her Midlands city.
“他们是不是以为你们的街道下面埋了一位君主啊？”莱斯特的罗茜·麦卡特(Rosie McCarter)说。她提到的是在自己所在的中部城市的一处停车场下面发现了理查德三世(Richard III)的遗骸。
The Mirror newspaper listed the village alongside other unlikely global tourism attractions like Chernobyl, Ukraine, and the Hair Museum in Turkey. “The world’s weirdest attractions now count a sleepy Oxfordshire suburb among their number,” it mused.
《镜报》(The Mirror)将该村庄同全球其他不太可能成为旅游景点却成为了景点的地方相提并论，如乌克兰的切尔诺贝利和土耳其的头发博物馆(Hair Museum)。“现在，牛津郡一个宁静的郊区让全球最奇怪的景点多了一个新成员，”该报若有所思地写道。
Ask a Kidlington resident why anyone, nevermind someone from as far away as China, would want to come here, and you will be invariably greeted with a look of dumbfounded amazement.
“Why the Chinese come here is one of those unfathomables,” said Liam King, 73, a telephone engineer who was raking leaves in front of his house on Benmead Road.
“There is nothing wow-wow here,” added Sanjay Aslam, 43, a driver, noting that Kidlington had long lived in the shadow of Oxford University.
“这里没什么了不起的东西，”43岁的司机桑贾伊·阿斯拉姆(Sanjay Aslam)说，并指出基德灵顿长期处在牛津大学(Oxford University)的阴影中。
“It’s just a regular village, quite a nice place, no riffraff walking around,” offered Polly Bonney, a hairdresser.
Kidlington has had its moments. A history of the village notes that in 1937 three Siberian wolves escaped from the local zoo, causing great panic. And in 1987, the chairman of the parish council touched off a revolt when he tried to turn the village into a town.
But until now, that was about it. A slice of middle England, Kidlington contains, among other things, a public library, seven pubs, two cafes, four restaurants, a main shopping street with a Domino’s Pizza outlet, an immigration detention center and a Baptist church with a sign outside saying, “Try praying.” A three-bedroom semidetached house sells for about $430,000, local real estate agents say.
On a recent day at The King’s Arms, a popular local pub, several Kidlington natives feasted on $8.55 plates of lamb, mushy peas and mint sauce, and puzzled at the town’s newfound fame, as Millie, the pub’s one-eyed dog, padded by. The pub is haunted by a resident ghost called Martha, who worked in the pub in the 1950s, and who is sometimes seen knitting, said Christine McGrath, its jovial manager. A “grumpy old men’s club” sign hangs over the spot where three regulars sit weekly and grouse.
前不久的一天，在当地备受欢迎的酒吧“国王徽章”(The King's Arms)里，几名基德灵顿本地人花8.55美元享用着羊肉、豆糊和薄荷酱。他们对村子新获得的名气感到不解。酒吧里的独眼狗米莉无声地走过。开朗友好的酒吧经理克里斯蒂娜·麦格拉思(Christine McGrath)说，这家酒吧闹鬼，鬼的名字是玛莎(Martha)，就住在这里，在50年代曾在酒吧里工作，有时会有人看到她在做针线活。一个“脾气暴躁的老男人俱乐部”的标志挂在三个常客每周坐下发牢骚的地方。
The consensus at the pub was that the Chinese guests had unintentionally helped the anonymous village gain international attention, and were good for the local economy. Ms. McGrath said Chinese tourists occasionally entered the pub, ordered Guinness, pulled a face and left. “The Chinese have put us on the map,” she said.
Fran Beesley, 74, an occupational therapist, said she was startled to walk out of her house one day and find a Chinese man photographing her front yard as his family waited nearby. “I’d like to organize cream teas and welcome them,” she said. Other residents have been less amused and have called the police.
In point of fact, there is a perfectly logical explanation for why droves of Chinese tourists are coming to Kidlington, and it is hardly going to burnish the local reputation.
Sun Jianfeng, a 48-year-old tour guide with Beijing Hua Yuan International Travel, said guides were routinely depositing in Kidlington tourists who did not want to pay an extra $68 for an optional Chinese language tour of nearby Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s majestic ancestral home.
北京市华远国际旅游有限公司48岁的导游孙建锋（音）说，导游通常会在基德灵顿放下不愿额外花68美元，去附近的布莱尼姆宫(Blenheim Palace)享受中文讲解参观服务的游客。雄伟的布莱尼姆宫是温斯顿·丘吉尔(Winston Churchill)的祖居，去那里参观不是旅行团的必选项。
He added that some wily tourists had figured out that buying tickets at the palace would cost only about $25, and were secretly sneaking there on foot, irking other tourists, who had already paid full price. As a result, he said, those who opted out of the Blenheim tour were being dropped in Kidlington, which is not within walking distance.
Mr. Sun said Kidlington was also a convenient stop on the way to Bicester Village, a must-go discount luxury retail destination for Chinese shoppers. The Chinese are big spenders, and European countries compete hard for their business.
Mr. Sun stressed that the Kidlington phenomenon was also an outgrowth of modern China and globalization. Many tourists are a part of China’s rapidly growing middle class, many of whom live in anonymous concrete tower blocks in huge cities, he said. They are enchanted by the village’s tranquillity and intrigued by daily life in the English countryside.
“The environment in the countryside in China isn’t so great,” he said. “In Kidlington, the environment is great. You see farm fields and ranches here. Also, many newly built houses here have brick or brick-and-wood structures, which you no longer see very often in urban China.”
As a tourist bus pulled out of town, a group of Chinese visitors waved from their windows, smiling widely. The Kidlington tour had lasted about 15 minutes, but that was more than enough for Ms. Liu.
“It’s so romantic,” she said, looking dreamy eyed. Then the bus sped away.