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Hero Doug

Opinions on Laowai

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Hero Doug

Just came across this article, wondering if I could have some feedback from others about it.

http://asia.elliottback.com/archives/2005/05/03/waiguoren-vs-laowai/

I've personally never come across the term myself, I always hear waiguoren.

I've been told it's a very contexual word like Nigger (Not to offend anyone). It can be extremly rude, or not, depending on how, and mainly who uses it.

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dalaowai

I think that foreigners in China are very sensitive to the term "laowai", especially when the laowai is living in a rural area.

I remember living in rural Zhejiang and feeling very discriminated against on a daily basis. To add insult to injury, in most cases where I was being discriminated, the term laowai flew about quite freely.

I no longer feel offended by the term, as I will quite bluntly refer to those individuals as "xiangxiaren" or "waidiren".

But yeah, a lot of foreigners hate the use of this term, as it's often used to stereotype or discriminate against non-asian foreigners.

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xichg

i am wondering which is worse, being call 'laowai' in china and being called 'alien' in the states.

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Qcash3

When I was in China I never heard the term Laowai, but then again I didn't know what it was at the time so I probably didn't pay attention to it. In my case, the locals were so shocked to see a black American :shock:, that they spent their breath wondering aloud if I was really from America or Africa, and forgot to throw LaoWai out there :mrgreen:. Since I am going back in a few weeks I will keep my ears open for the term, but I don't think it will bother me too much.

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daxia

I live in Southern China and I guess the people here are especially rude. Being called LaoWai is nothing. 鬼老 is allot worse and I hear it everyday.

Allthough, I have started to reply with "东亚病夫" which the Chinese DON'T like to be called. This has almost gotten me into 3 fights recently, and it's not very smart to start a fight on the street in China because you can be sure that the chinese guy you are fighting with will have 20 friends nearby that will help him.

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roddy
i am wondering which is worse, being call 'laowai' in china and being called 'alien' in the states.

Or indeed in China. Did you have a point?

I've heard laowai used with nothing but respect, and waiguoren used with a mouthful of contempt. As far as I'm concerned it's the attitude of the speaker that counts. Neither, for me, are loaded terms. The use of 外国朋友 though . . .

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woliveri

I hear LaoWai all the time here in Shanghai and it doesn't bother me a bit. In fact, when I hear it I sometimes just reply back in Chinese, "wo bu shi laowai, wo shi zhongguo ren" with a smile and be on my way.

What pisses me off way, way more than being called Laowai is people cutting in front of me while I'm politely waiting in line. For that I've nearly been ready to confront someone.

But I don't and just put it with it realizing that it's done to everyone here regardless of race.

So for the most part, I'm getting over the line cutting now too (I think). :mrgreen:

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gato

老 (Lao)-something is usually used as a term of endearment, such as in 老张、老李 (or at worst as a kind of joke, i.e. referring to Mao Zedong as 老毛). I agree it's a bit xenophobic to focus on the 外, but then 外国人 is no better in that regard.

A really derogatory term would be something like 鬼子, or 小日本 which is often used against the Japanese.

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Long Zhiren

There are derogatory terms as mentioned before.

However, the 老 terms aren't exactly derogatory, more endearing as said before. If you think that 老外 is a problem, you need to address all of these other informal terms (they're all used like tongue-in-cheek nicknames):

老头 old guy

老婆 wife (I rib my wife with this all the time.)

老公 husband (My wife ribs me all the time with this.)

老白 white guy

老黑 black guy

老黃 yellow guy

老中 Chinese guy

老大 oldest sibling

老幼 youngest sibling

米老鼠 Mickey Mouse

唐老鸭 Donald Duck

Exept for the wife term, I've only encountered these terms applying to males. Females don't get 老...

Now if you replace 老 with 肥, 豬, etc then you've got problems... Then, once the 蛋 words start showing up, you've got more problems.

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bhchao

Laowai is used commonplace in the states where there is a mixing of Asian and Caucasian residents. I hear it used often in the presence of the latter, with no negative effect.

大佬粗 used to be a compliment during the Mao Zedong era. Of course that could be less so today.

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gougou
Allthough, I have started to reply with "东亚病夫" which the Chinese DON'T like to be called. This has almost gotten me into 3 fights recently
Way to go. After almost getting into two fights, you still continue using it? :roll:

And just what are you trying to achieve? I don't think that insulting Chinese who for the most part don't use the term laowai in a deprecatory manner is going to make them show you any more respect.

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[欧阳江]

Would someone please fill me in on the background of 东亚病夫?

I have had people calling me 老外叔叔 as well as 老外傻子. I think 老外 alone is quite neutral, although I dislike being referred to, not least being addressed to as a 老外. I makes me feel differentiated.

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889

Check "Sick Man of Asia" on Wikipedia.

There are deep historical and cultural echoes in the phrase, both in English and in Chinese.

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self-taught-mba

I don't think it is polite.. Just like pointing at an asian in the US and shouting foreigner would not be. When they do it I like to point back and shout lao3 nei4 (with a smile of course). Most of the times it is kids that say it too me (my school is in an area in Beijing with relatively few foreigners).

It is not considered polite and I've even heard parents tell the kids so. I think it is a matter of ignorance for many people though and I don't really care. Like someone else said, it is more about the attitude and feeling behind it. Occasionally, I walk past workers and I'll hear the term (not knowing I understand them), my neck snaps to look in their direction and from the expression on their face you know they feel they should refrain from saying it. I often refer to myself as lao3 wai4 simply to elicit a smile but also when I am pointing out price discrimination etc. I generally don't care since I kind of expect it. The kids never mean something bad by it and for many I am the first lao3wai4 in the area so it is kind of a title; instead of "laoshi hao" they say "la3wai4 hao3". How can I possibly take offense to that? But sometimes the parents correct them.

As for the argument about lao3 being used as a nice thing. I don't think that is a valid point. The same can be said of xiao3, also often used as a term of endearment. However look at the xiaojie3,xiao qing2 ren2 and xiao mi4.

Educated Chinese seldom will say the term b/c they know it is not considered polite. With others it could be ignorance (or naivety for children), education level, and attitude. I don't mind the first two; the last one will get me fighting too :mrgreen:

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[欧阳江]
老头 old guy

老婆 wife (I rib my wife with this all the time.)

老公 husband (My wife ribs me all the time with this.)

老白 white guy

老黑 black guy

老黃 yellow guy

老中 Chinese guy

老大 oldest sibling

老幼 youngest sibling

米老鼠 Mickey Mouse

唐老鸭 Donald Duck

Not to forget my favorite: 老兄, as in "老兄啊" when meeting you best 胡同-buddy for a game of mahjong.

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self-taught-mba

Ok so now I actually read the article. commented first because just general opinion about the word.

I liked the article. Especially this quote "My final verdict is the same as it would’ve been in 2002 had I been put on the spot: not derogatory, but impolite."

Exactly.

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roddy

I wouldn't even go so far as to say it's impolite - I'd be inclined to say it's informal, and so can be impolite in some circumstances - like if you turn up for a job interview and the receptionist tells her boss on the phone that 'that bloke's here' or something. Failure to use formal language when it would be reasonably expected makes it impolite, but the word itself is harmless.

As for people looking guilty when they are caught using it - I'd be inclined to say it's more talking about someone they thought couldn't understand them, rather than the language they're using.

Allthough, I have started to reply with "东亚病夫" which the Chinese DON'T like to be called. This has almost gotten me into 3 fights recently

Learn some insults aimed at the person, rather than the nation, and you'll come across as much less obnoxious with the same chance of a fight. 双赢!

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self-taught-mba
Learn some insults aimed at the person, rather than the nation, and you'll come across as much less obnoxious with the same chance of a fight. 双赢!

I agree with this. However, I think if a Chinese insults your race or whatever first they should be prepared for the same dished out at them. However, why subject innocent bystanders to it? Consider others may not condone what he says so may be better sticking with personal insults rather than subject others to it who may be thinking bad of him. (If you do the same then they just think bad of both of you) Now if he's alone... then dish right back at him (if you must). Not b/c you actually believe it but just to give him a taste of his own medicine.

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gougou
if a Chinese insults your race
But do they? Like many pointed out, there are no evil thoughts behind using the term laowai, so if you respond by insulting them, it will appear as if you, out of the blue, started swearing at Chinese. Not a good impression to give your "hosts".

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pazu

Like I was cycling, kids kept coming and hello me, "hello", "hello" and "hello", it's not bad but just admit it, it's a little bit annoying, not quite indeed, sometimes I enjoyed it, but sometimes I was a bit annoyed especially the only response you got after replying "hello" is still another "hello".

"Laowai" is a funny term because I heard a kid asking an American guy to buy a rose in Lijiang (Yunnan), the girlfriend of the American guy was a Chinese girl ("was" because they separated already but that's another story). The flower girl said, "Laowai, Laowai, buy a rose from me please!" The American's gf was annoyed, told the little girl that "it was impolite to address a waiguoren as laowai."

I was surprised because from what I've learnt during my Putonghua classes, "laowai" wasn't a derogatory term. I asked that lady later, was "laowai" it a bad word to say? Not to my surprise, she said no.

I'm a Chinese but I probably looked like a "laowai" when I was cycling in China. Kids kept coming and said, in a rather exciting tone, "Laowai!!! Laowai!!!" As if this is something very funny, I would then cycle slowly, cycle nearer, and suddenly shouted, "Ni cai shi laowai a!" (你才是老外啊! It is YOU who are laowai!) They were shocked, and laughed out so loud that I could still hear they were echoing, "Ni cai shi laowai a... wo cai shi laowai a..."

Just because you don't like to be called "laowai" doesn't mean this is a bad word, but a bad word doesn't mean that it was annoying... it's funny in a funny land.

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