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Opinions on Laowai

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jeffofarabia

living in japan i was always called a gaijin. after three years on the jet program i returned to the states. when i ran into some japanese people at an amusement park i pointed at them and said "gaijin." i know it was mean, but i felt it was fair play. they just seemed confused about the whole affair.

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jeffofarabia

a friend of mine had the laowei coming and going tee shirt. he wore it all of the time.

a saw a better shirt a couple of years ago in egypt. it read: "my brother went on jihad and all he got me was this stupid tee shirt." talk about a brave tee shirt.

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necroflux

I think that for most people in Asia 老外 is not equivalent to "chink" or "nigger". That is, in Asian society, I don't believe the word has anywhere near that degree of negativity. I say this because I have a number of lifelong friends who are native to Taiwan, all of whom were very strong in their insistence that the word is not negative in nature, but rather a term of endearment.

Certainly that doesn't mean it can't be used in a negative way. Any word can be used to emphasize a particular difference, and depending on the tone and exactly what is being said, along with the person's attitude as a whole, its meaning could vary from adulation to utter hatred.

The cultural moreys of Asian society are fundamentally different from those of the West, so I think we just have to take a step back, completely reset our expectations, and start with a fresh mind. Judge people based on their intent and their intent alone, and save semantics for the natives. :)

As an aside, does anyone else think it's strange that half of the shows in Taiwan introduce women with their height, weight, and bra size? And then talk about it for the entire show? Wow, you're a B cup?? 看不出來啊! I thought A for sure!

It's a totally different set of rules out here.

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dalaowai

In my experience the term 老 is often used as a form of endearment, such as 老婆,老公,etc.

I've been here four years and 90% of the time I heard 老外 directed towards me, it was usually it attached to some negative or childish comments. It was also used when the speaker thought I didn't understand.

I met an elderly Singaporean woman last week and she had been living in Shanghai for 6 months. She asked me how I felt being called a laowai, which surprised me. I asked why and she said that in Singapore it was considered quite rude to refer to foreigners as laowai.

But yeah, the term 老 is definitely most often used in polite ways, but not when the 外 is added.

With that being said, I have Chinese-North-American friends who don't find the term Chink as being racist. So it all depends on whether a person will be bothered by a label or not.

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mandarinstudent

At first it was funny.

Then for a while it was infuriating.

Now I don't hear it.

First of all, the way I see it, if you are in China working and making money, you don't have the right to bitch. In the case of students, bitching is ok because you are only adding to the Chinese economy, not benefiting from it. Whether you are a business expat or an english teacher in China, you are making buttloads more than your Chinese counterparts just for your white (or other non-asian) skin. That same skin is going to cause gawking and racist remarks. In the case of the foreign teachers, that is the price you pay for being paid a kings ransom (by Chinese standards) just for being able to speak English. Foreigners make too much money (again, compared to regular Chinese people, not what it would be worth in your home country) to complain about anything. If a little "laowai!" is the price to pay to live 5, 10, 50 times better than the natives, I say get over it. I'm going to say the same thing as I said to people bitching about the US while making money there...If you don't like it, go home!

Secondly, people from the countryside make up around 80% of the Chinese population. These people are poor and uneducated. If you are an educated black man and walk through a trailer park, are you going to be offended when some redneck swilling Pabst Blue Ribbon calls you the "N" word? If you are an educated white person walking through the ghetto, are you going to be mad if some gangsta calls you a "honky"? Of course not. You would chalk it up to their lack of education and move on. Why would it be any different in China? Everyone knows that it isn't the well educated people that are shouting, "laowai!" Apply the same reasoning that you would in your home country.

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magores

I don't hear laowai or waiguoren very often in my daily life in Beijing.

Sometimes, I'll hear it when I go shopping in one of the 7 story wholesale "malls" that Beijing has. I have big feet (by Chinese standards), so I have to go to wholesale markets to find my size. And, I'm cheap, so I buy electronics in Zhongguancun, rather than normal stores.

I'll walk into an area, and someone, usually an "ayi", will say "Laowai lai le" or "Waiguoren lai le". I just look at them, smile, and say, "Dui. Wo dao le." It gets a giggle every time.

Never had any problems at all.

Much more pleaseant way to go about my business than worrying about what the person might have been trying to insinuate.

At least, thats how I figure it.

Magores

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woliveri

My Bagua Shifu calls me LaoWai and I'm one of his most devoted students. I don't feel anything negative about it.

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gougou
'll walk into an area, and someone, usually an "ayi", will say "Laowai lai le" or "Waiguoren lai le".
When I went to my local fruit vendor the other day, they were having a merry family get-together behind their little kart, and somebody from the back exclaimed: 欧元来了!

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mrtoga

mandarinstudent talks some sense here. In the boonies we are something very different, remarkable in fact - so people make remarks about the fact. And the reason you do not hear the word in Beijing is simply because there are so many of us. It is no longer worth the exclamation!

Laowai is similar to foreigner in literal meaning, but the perceived divide between speaker and object is much larger with laowai than with foreigner. Laowai is perceived to be fundamentally different in some hazy sense, whereas foreigner simply refers to someone who speaks in a different language or with a foreign accent, however there is no perceived fundamental difference

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back

Hi, I am a Chinese.I like this forum very much. and I learn a lot of English here.

Actually, I often say "laowai". but I dont think it is rude. I think it is also very interesting and ... friendly.

Dont be too sensitive. And most importantly, please remember: most of Chinese are very friendly to foreiners.

Regards.

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back
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

Dont use the term "东亚病夫" any more. All Chinese hate this word !

This is the real insult to Chinese.

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woliveri

I would also add to Smile when coming in contact with Chinese. I've viewed a lot of Lao Wai who walk around with their noses in the air like they are above the world and then the Chinese get a bad impression. I often see Chinese people look at me to see my attitude before I speak. Then I smile and so they do too. (most do)..

However, Some Chinese could care less and won't even give you a grunt if you ask a question of them but most are nice. These are mostly workers....

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autumn1

I think 老外 mostly isn't a negative form of address,but is a common and brief way, and even a kind of Chinese custom to call foreigners orally."

外宾wai bin,also referring to foreigners" is too fomal,usually used in writing."外国人wai guo ren"(3 words in chinese) isn't brief enough,while 老外(only 2 Chinese words) quite brief.

老 is commonly used in China as its custom,like 老 婆wife,老 李old li(person's name),老 乡persons born or living in a same place ,老 家hometown.

And a native chinese could also be called 老外(the外) is from the first Chinese word of "外 行wai hang"(sb who doesn't know sth in some field) .

If a foreigner is called 外国鬼子,that is really a kind of insult to him/her.

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opper567

I don't understand why chinese here in the states refer to me as waiguoren when talking about me. I'm not foreign in the US, my grandparents were born here...

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gougou

Chinese abroad will also say [pop=lit.: in the country/guónèi]国内[/pop] and mean China, these words apparently have lost their original meaning.

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geraldc

This article makes very interesting reading on the terms the Chinese use to describe foreigners, and how the Western powers banned them from using certain terms in the aftermath of the Opium wars.

"Viewed in this light, the rhetorical strategy adopted by the British in a series of events that escalated into the first Opium War might acquire a new significance. As we know, the familiar quibble between Chinese officials and Western diplomats over the word "barbarian" had been the occasion of numerous clashes in the early phases of Anglo-Chinese diplomacy. The British had repeatedly protested against the Chinese use of the word yi and was determined to ban the expression from diplomatic intercourse. The ground of the perceived insult lies in the presumed equivalence of meaning between yi and "barbarian"(sic) and between ying yi and "English barbarian"(sic). It is useful to know that the equivalence thus established between the two words was a recent phenomonon or, at least, had not been in common usage before nineteenth-century European translators came along and insisted on "barbarian" as the exclusive signified of the Chinese word yi.

If we look back to the eighteenth century or even the beginning of the nineteenth century, alternative translations of yi did exist. That word had been equated with "foreigner" or "stranger" in English. To give an example, among the official correspondences of the British East Indian Company I have examined is a translation of some official proclamation issued by the Governor of Guangdong and Guangxi to the foreign business communities in China. Dated August 20, 1728, this English-language version had been supplied to the Company by a Roman Catholic priest in Guangzhou (Canton) who had translated it from an earlier French version of the Chinese original. Apparently, the European translator of the document did not have a vested interest to render yi as "barbarian" but used "stranger" and "foreigner" instead. Even as late as 1815, Robert Morrison of the London Missionary Society still thought it proper to render yi as "foreign" and glossed yiren as a respectable term for "foreigner" in the first Chinese-English lexicon published in Macao. After the fiasco of the Napier mission, however, Morrison decided to adopt a different translation of yi, now equating it with the English "barbarian."...

Nevertheless, a general crisis began to build up around the so-called arrogance of the sinocentric attitude toward foreigners. The British mounted one protest after another against the use of yi by the Qing government and remained absolutely convinced that their national honor was being insulted by the Chinese word. The crusade against yi thus became a counter offensive against the Chinese prohibition on the opium trade, lending ample ammunitions to the hostile exchanges between the two governments. After the British won the Opium War and lifted the ban on the opium trade, they lost no time in banning the word yi from the official languge through treaty provisions. Article 51 of the British Treaty of Tientsin (1858) stipulates: "It is agreed that, henceforward, the character 'i' [barbarian], shall not be applied to the Government or subjects of Her Britannic Majesty in any Chinese official document issued by the Chinese Authorities either in the Capital or in the Provinces." (The ideograph for yi was inserted between "i" and [barbarian] in the original text of the Article.) That ban turns out to be more successful than could have been imagined by its original architects, because the word yi has since been completely erased from modern Chinese vocabulary."

http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/RethinkingSciCiv/etexts/Liu/Legislating.html

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self-taught-mba
That ban turns out to be more successful than could have been imagined by its original architects, because the word yi has since been completely erased from modern Chinese vocabulary

The word is gone, but the attitude / enthocentricism remains. (in many cases) That really wasn't that long ago when you think about it. Nice to know we were labeled from the start. But to be fair--if all the white ppl were linked to opium sufferings well I guess I might consider that a little barbaric as well!

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Horse

It blatantly depends on the context and tone its used in doesnt it. Ive heard people use it totally innocently in friendly conversation for want of a better word, ive also had it shouted and sneered at me which obviously is meant as an insult.

I was called a 'Hello' the other day which was a novelty but did actually succeed in really pissing me off. i went to wipe my nose and this little shopkeeper goes to his mate; 'Hello 感冒了'

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ZhouNuosi

if they use it negatively and u're absolutely sure they are, open your wallet & shout "yes I am!"

that should shut them up.

or reply with "from xxx to xxx (xxx = dates of colonization) I was Chinese too :wink:"

that aught to hurt...

best solution is of course not to reply, but if you're anything like me, U'd want to hurt them too (with words ofc.)

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dalaowai

ha, i remember this post and I had really enjoyed it.

One of my long-term living in China American friend uses this term when referring to foreigners: 国际朋友

I find that this is a better term instead of using 老外 or 外国人. I guess that I don't mind these terms, just tired of being singled out for everything based on my appearance. These terms are a constant reminder that I'll always be an outsider.

I'm going back home this Monday and I'm planning on doing a social experiment where I call every Chinese person 老外 to see what kind of reaction I get. I will keep you guys posted! :D

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