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Opinions on Laowai

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yonglin
yonglin: You were at 西安交大 recently, no? I wonder if you've met them? They also live in the international student dorm. I had to go back to my previous posting and edit their details out because it'd be too obvious!! Actually, they are not here for language and cultural immersion, but for a new academic cooperative degree program between 西安交大 and a university in Europe. Some are here because it's a cheap Masters program (in terms of tuition) compared to what schools in UK and EU charge. One is hoping to leverage this "China experience" as a stepping stone for his scholarship application (which he got) and boost his resume and publicity when he returns home to open his own company. One explained that she wasn't here by choice because "the program takes place in China so she has to come". I wasn't sure what she meant by that, I hope she wasnt duped and forced to put in that application...

The program turns out to be a complete disaster both academically and administratively...

I'll live by your motto: 不管遇到什么困难,还得坚持下去

That's very sad to hear. I was at Jiaoda this summer, and I thought it was a good place to study on the whole. I wrote a thread about Jiaoda somewhere around here, so you might want to update that thread with a second opinion.

There were three people in my class from continental Europe. They were all there on exchange with their home universities (to be honest, I was amazed how little Chinese some of them had learnt despite doing a major in Chinese). I didn't know them particularly well, but they were generally fairly quiet and could definitely not have been the people pestering you. These guys were the kind who were more into 6am taiji and leisure time studies of classical Chinese. There were a few from hrmpf... English-speaking countries which might have been a bit annoying, but they seldom came to class anyway, so I didn't find that an issue. As for people not doing Chinese classes, there were quite a few Pakistani people living in the student dorm when I was there. I think they were doing some master or maybe postdoc. However, we didn't really mix. You don't have to spend your time with the other people in the foreign students' dorm. There are about 8 million Chinese people in Xi'an to befriend. :)

To add to the debate: it is far less smooth to be Chinese/Asian-looking in China than it is being white. My evidence is only anecdotal, but the typical scenario is me and my Chinese-American hitting the streets to go some place we "kind of" know the location of. If my boyfriend asks for directions, he'll be ignored at least 50% of the time. To date, I have never been ignored.

As for a lasting psychological impact of being called laowai, I had an experience at 17 in Hong Kong, when i was out at the local daai-pai-dong (do these even exist anymore?) to have lunch with my classmates: some rough guys in their early 20s started talking in a very rude manner and called me gwai-mui (鬼妹) repeatedly. I thought it was just a bit bizarre at the time, but a couple of days later, I was called down to the discipline's office and they asked if I wanted to make a report to the police. Some of my classmates must have expressed their concerns to the discipline teacher. Lasting psychological impact? No. And then, the "gwai-" words in Cantonese must be interpreted as slightly more offensive that "laowai".

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jonaspony
I'm trying my best but there are times when I feel very exhausted, I feel like I'm fighting two fronts - ignorant locals and angry/self-righteous expats.

Hmmm. I was afraid of that. Take it easy, remember that China is a difficult place to get things done. Even simple things can take all day, let alone less concrete ambitions. At least you can speak Chinese. Pity the poor non-Chinese speaking Hua Qiao.

but what are they bitch about though?

You know it. It is always framed as "why can't the Chinese", "why can't the Chinese" blah-di-blah. Your post says it all.

Westerners seem to think they have destroyed racism. Derogatory depictions of other cultures have been reduced, but I notice it is still fine, in advertising, to depict Chinese and Mexicans as stereotypes. Hence, calling ABCs 'Chinese Chicken' I suppose.

But in my experience, the racism is deep, revealed in not-so-tangible ways. What do you think of the following examples? Am I too sensitive?

My fellow expats (quite older than me) used to refer to Chinese people in diminutive terms, "That little one" - refering to adults. And they (as teachers) immediately disregarded students' Chinese names and randomly distributed English names. And they also knew how to exploit the kindness of the locals, getting them to run errands all the time. It grated on me.

Also grating was the ex-pat fascination with Chinese sex. There is an overwhelming drive to change the social mores, to depict the social mores as having changed already, and to celebrate where they have changed. Maybe I am over-sensitive, but this seems to echo the pattern of racism against African Americans and Jews. And is an extension of 'exotic' temptress idea that has made Asia synonymous with sex tourism and its problems.

But what I find most disheartening is that Laowai are regularly rewarded in Chinese society. As if the Chinese accept and agree with their lower status. Has anyone noticed this? Perhaps its just the sqeeky wheel getting the oil, just like anywhere. Perhaps I don't like it because they think they are such 'big wheels'.

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miffy2007

yonglin: the foreigners I mentioned lived on the 2nd floor in the international students dorm at 交大. We are in a completely different academic program and studied mostly archaeology and conservation stuff from Chinese (via interpreters) and Italian professors (coming all the way from Italy to teach us).

I think they probably left Xi'an to return home during the summer vacation, I guess that's why you haven't met them.

I think you said it right, obnoxious (not to mention angry) foreigners tend to be from English-speaking countries. The guy said he's from an "aristocratic" family back home. but somehow his behavior does not reflect that...

I found the quote below from another expat forum in Hong Kong. A local said many "third world kids" grow up having unhappy memories. The foreigner just dispelled her statement in a harsh tone. Mind you, the foreigner is living in HK, and yet, she doesn't even try to understand the locals. I'm sure she's the kind of person yelling "racism" left and right when being called "laowai".

"Listen, if you want to have a crying party for your "tough childhood" and loss of identity, let me know and I'll buy you a box of tissues (that goes for anyone I may have offended here). Just do me a favor, leave your whining at home.... I'm just not that interested."

But what I find most disheartening is that Laowai are regularly rewarded in Chinese society. As is the Chinese accept and agree with their lower status. Has anyone noticed this? Perhaps its just the sqeeky wheel getting the oil, just like anywhere. Perhaps I don't like it because they think they are such 'big wheels'.

jonaspony: it's true, this phenonmenon is called 崇洋媚外. I was in the restaurant with my foreign classmates - although I sat at a different table with the Chinese students. After ordering, the food for the foreigners came only after 2 minutes while we waited, waited and waited; even though we complained to the restaurant owner, our food only arrived after the foreigners almost finished theirs. The foreigners, having finished first, waited outside the restaurant and one particular was irritated because he said "what are we waiting for here? Are we done?" He had to wait because we were still eating but apparently since he had finished so what we did doesn't concern him. The Chinese students were already pissed off with the food situation and now his comment. But even my Chinese classmates were upset, they didn't show anything, which is bad coz what it does is it encourages the foreigners' unreasonable behavior.

Anyways, when I left the restaurant, the restaurant owner pulled me aside and spoke to me in the sweetest of voice, he said "your foreign friends speak Chinese VERY well." I was like "who?" He pointed to one of the foreign girls, I thought he made a mistake because none of them speak Chinese, let alone 很好. So I asked the owner, what exactly did she say? He said "she can even ask for "bing pijiu" (cold beer)!! At that time, I just 反白眼 and left. I mean, what else can I say? Chinese people allow that sort of things happen to themselves! What I hate about that particular person is that 那个英国人表面上装得像个翩翩君子, 背地里却说中国的坏话. 班里的同学很慷慨,每次都是抢着付账,他还是会来一句:"Thanks!" 但后面又会说:"why do Chinese kids like showing off. They are squandering their parents' savings."他说中国菜是dog food - 但又要吃人家的free food...对这种人, 我真的是仁至义尽, 他们好像是冷血的, 为什么不发扬中国学生对他们的兄弟感情, 却事事根根计较, 说中国人坏话从来没有停过. 我现在在途学, 因为每一天见到他们, 就会影响到我的心情. 因为班中只有我会说流利英语和汉语, 他们有问题我还是要帮的,不能不管他们, 但帮了以后, 他们这样对我 (把我踢出的士的那事件), 我真的觉的很委屈. 在他们面前好像要委曲求全一样. 所以现在我干脆不上课了. 眼不见, 心为静.

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md1101

damn, miffy i must say you've been really unlucky with the people you've met so far in xi'an. the group of people i hung out with would never say that sort of stuff! we all worshipped chinese food and certainly had respect for any chinese friends we were eating with. dude just stop hanging out with them!!

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deezy
But by foreigners bitching, I mean more like racist attack or making insinuating remarks about the whole Chinese culture and race. For example, if you are angry about the service of a particular individual, you should attack him directly, instead of saying "why are the Chinese so incapable of doing this and that?" and let out a stream of complaints that is unrelated to the individual concerned. I'm sure you know what I mean because that's usually how some foreigners bitch about stuff. If I made the exact same statement but change Chinese to American (or insert whatever nationality), wouldn't you be offended by my comment too?
Very, very true...RANT ON! :lol:
obnoxious (not to mention angry) foreigners tend to be from English-speaking countries.
As I said earlier...you are exactly right. The Anglos in particular have had a superiority-complex hard-on for China since before the Opium War. And now they are more mad than ever that they still couldn't permanently colonize China! (Won't stop them from still subconsciously trying, though.)

Anglo ex-pats are well-known for being the most pompous China-bashers.

My fellow expats (quite older than me) used to refer to Chinese people in diminutive terms, "That little one" - refering to adults. And they (as teachers) immediately disregarded students' Chinese names and randomly distributed English names. And they also knew how to exploit the kindness of the locals, getting them to run errands all the time. It grated on me.

Also grating was the ex-pat fascination with Chinese sex. There is an overwhelming drive to change the social mores, to depict the social mores as having changed already, and to celebrate where they have changed. Maybe I am over-sensitive, but this seems to echo the pattern of racism against African Americans and Jews. And is an extension of 'exotic' temptress idea that has made Asia synonymous with sex tourism and its problems.

But what I find most disheartening is that Laowai are regularly rewarded in Chinese society. As if the Chinese accept and agree with their lower status. Has anyone noticed this?

All very, very true... :(

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dalaowai

Wow this thread got warped from its original idea.

All in all, it's not fun being discriminated and put together in a group. Whether it's non-Chinese saying "all Chinese are blah blah blah" or Chinese refering to non-Chinese as being "laowai" or "waiguoren". If everyone stops labeling others, it'll be a better world.

人是人,无论他们的皮肤是什么颜色。

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deezy
Chinese refering to non-Chinese as being "laowai"

If everyone stops labeling others

A funny request coming from someone calling himself "dalaowai." :-?

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dalaowai

I've accepted that it's not gonna change. I'll always be a laowai whether I like it or not.

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Yiwan

Isn't that strange that British gentleman ate it all what he called dog shit? How cheap! Honestly I find no authentic Chinese restaurant here in Sydney, Australia. Though I only go to those that fit my budget. Some expensive ones could be good. I don't know. On top of it, I really don't like the idea of the crap they serve in the Chinatown being called Chinese cuisine. It's sad. As said above, Laowai in general is not offensive. It is, only when in a context in which someone is hostile to you. I myself have noticed the presence of self-hatred among the Chinese who worship the whites and treat other Chinese like crap here. I despise them and never associate with them.

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woliveri

yeah, I'm always called Laowai here in Shanghai but it seems it's less now. However, I recently have been teaching oral English to my friend's children and to be honest I really felt bad when one of the children called me laowai. Let me explain, we held our classes in my Chinese friend's restaurant and sometimes I would be finishing a quick meal just before the class and one of the children would say, "the laowai is eating". In front of me. Also, while we were playing a game to help them learn English the same boy would say, "it's the laowai's turn". Ok, it's not "Laowai", it should be "Laoshi". I am his teacher during this period and he should be respectful of that when I'm teaching him. If my son said that I would have a serious talk with him.

I have found the children here have become very spoiled because of the one child policy, because of grand parents spoiling the children, etc. I have found most, not all, to be less repectful of adults, Chinese or foreign, either in a fast food restaurant or on the bus.

Now, back to Laowai. I honestly don't care at all if I'm called laowai on the street. In fact, my gongfu teacher and very good friend sometimes calls me laowai and I'm completely fine with it. Also, my and my wife (a local Chinese) also play and say, "laowai, laowai, laowai" when we see non-Chinese on the other side of the street, etc.

Also I can respect Miffy's desire to "Help the homeland" I think it's a bit misplaced. I mean, I also came to China thinking I would very much like to help but found that most are way better off than I am and the society is much more advanced than I thought before coming here.

So, I lead by example here. I clean up after myself at BK or KFC so the next person has a clean table and I'm seeing more Chinese do that now. I clean up after myself in the park when other ppl leave DouJiang bags, or other paper stuff lying around for the park ppl to clean up and now I'm seeing more ppl clean up after themselves. So it's like that.

My gongfu teacher has never taking a laowai student before me and I have tried to be a good example of a foreign student. I have given him more of a fee than he asks, I have brought him gifts in the Chinese way and he has taught me openly and fully. Our favorite times are talking in the park after practice drinking Doujiang.

So, I think the foreigners coming here should be representitives of their respective countries and adjust themselves to life here understanding where China has come from and the hard lives ppl have had over the last 50 years.

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Yiwan

I think it's wrong to say Laowai to your face. It's pretty much like saying Chinese to address me when I have a name or title or whatever. And yes kids, especially those of x-generation are way too spoiled. Their parents have gone through all the hardship during the cultural revolution period therefore are so determined to give their kids the best, especially when they only have one.

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jonaspony
Also I can respect Miffy's desire to "Help the homeland" I think it's a bit misplaced. I mean, I also came to China thinking I would very much like to help but found that most are way better off than I am and the society is much more advanced than I thought before coming here.

Maybe you should look outside Shanghai. The pictures linked in this post are not atypical.

Perhaps Miffy's desire to "help the homeland" is not for everyone. Your choice to help KFC increase their profit margin is commendable, but doesn't make Miffy's desire 'misplaced'.

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aimei

When I was living in Beijing, Chinese used to yell "laowai" at my boyfriend and me when we walked down the street sometimes. We spoke a fair amount of Chinese by the time we left, but we could never get our Chinese friends to tell us exactly what laowai meant. Can anyone give me a good translation (I know I sound dumb for asking but I can't seem to find it in a dictionary either.)

Also, the term "guizi", does this just mean devil or something? I know basic Mandarin but I was never taught insults by my teachers lol.

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Lu

Guizi means devil, yang guizi is foreign devil, hei guizi black devil, Riben guizi Japanese devil. In some areas of China this is the word of choice for foreigners. Personally I object to being called guizi/devil, to me (and many other foreigners) this is just plain insulting.

Laowai is a less insulting word for foreigner, and many Chinese will use it with no bad intentions at all, while others will use it to mock. Some foreigners strongly object to it, some don't mind at all. When people yell it at you when you're walking down the street, it's just plain rude.

The neutral term, accepted by virtually all foreigners, is waiguoren 外國人. More polite, if you're talking to or about a specific foreigner, is 外國小姐 or 外國先生, or if the person's foreignness is of no consequence whatsoever, just 小姐/先生.

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aimei

Thanks! Do you know what the tones on guizi? Is it gui4zi?

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imron

鬼子 - guǐzi

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monto

Laowai : 老外

In most cases, it means 外国人(foreigner) with mood ranging between joking and mocking. It is considered impolite to say it before a foreigner you don't know. It quite normal to foreign friend.

Occasionally, 老外 means 外行(layman) as in:

你老外了吧,你。= 你外行了吧,你。

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aimei

Thanks, I was way off!

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