Donkey Friends in Europe: A Mobile Ethnographic Study in Group Orientation of Chinese Outbound Backpackers

  • Wenjie CaiEmail author
Part of the Perspectives on Asian Tourism book series (PAT)


‘Donkey friends’ (驴友 lü you) have been increasingly popular – Chinese backpackers who look for travel companions online and form a small travel group for overseas journeys. To investigate various cultural influences of this group orientation, mobile ethnography as the research method combining multisited ethnography and netnography was adopted to follow Chinese outbound backpackers’ behaviour corporally and virtually to create a ‘thick description’. Data were collected through three Chinese backpackers’ journeys in Europe between June and November 2014 by participant observations and in-depth interviews. The finding suggests that besides budget sensitiveness and loneliness avoidance, Chinese collectivistic culture and high-risk sensitivity are main motives for small group travel. Both Chinese Communist Party’s policies and traditional values influence the trend of looking for travel companions online. In addition, the finding argues that weighing the paradoxical risk concerns that Chinese backpackers tend to take against the risk of travelling with strangers they met on backpacker forums alleviates to avoid the risk of cultural uncertainty. Three findings of this study from various dimensions reflect hybrid cultural influences of current Chinese society onto younger generations’ daily practices. By investigating cultural influences of Chinese backpackers’ group orientation, this study contributes to the understanding of Chinese current hybrid culture as well as its influence on tourist behaviour. It also contributes to backpacker literature responding to the ‘paradigm shift’ of the mobilities beyond the Eurocentric perspective. Furthermore, this paper explores the popular phenomena of Chinese backpackers’ group orientations in Europe.


Chinese backpackers Mobile ethnography Group orientation Hybrid culture Chinese values 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marketing, Events & Tourism, Business SchoolUniversity of GreenwichLondonUK

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