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Posts: 403

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Q: Forever a 'lao wai'?

When I first came to China [Hefei, Anhui] I was just about the only foreigner in the city
[of 5 million people] and so often was stared at, pointed at and heard 'ni kan lao
wai' because many people there had not really seen any foreigners.
So, I got used to it.
By now I have been here for 5 years and even though the official number of
foreigners has climbed to 16-hundred something, I still hear mumbled 'lao wai'
when people see me. It is a Chinese thing to always state the obvious...
This summer, after school was over, I went home [USA] and some good Chinese
friends invited me to a party. It was a big party with mostly Chinese people
in attendance: both Chinese-Americans and some immigrants. Of course, most of the
language spoken at the party was Chinese and so I overheard some conversations
about me, referring to me as 'lao wai'.
Finally, I went to one group and asked them point-blank why they were calling me a
'lao wai'. The answer was: 'you are not Chinese, so you are a 'lao wai', a foreigner. I then
pointed out to them that they were in fact the 'lao wai' or foreigners because they were
tourists and/or immigrants, and that I am the American in my own country. It all did
not matter. They kept on pointing out to me that any non-Chinese is considered
a foreigner.
Interesting, how Chinese people think they own the world, only they are really citizens
- wherever they might live - whereas anyone not being of Chinese ethnicity is simply
just another 'lao wai' and always will be.

Has anyone else had such an experience?

7 years 10 weeks ago in  Culture - Other cities

 
Answers (10)
Comments (11)
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Ahh just read some of my posts and you will see it only gets worse  indecision

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
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Emperor

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China does own the world. Soon, they will discover ancient maps to prove it. They should be finished by 2015.

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
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Chinese continue their comments like that even after leaving home and being welcomed into our countries. Keeps them in touch with their racist practices.

 

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
Posts: 1559

Shifu

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Yep, it's happened to me.  I stumbled upon some Chinese students studying at a local university back in the US.  They were surprised I could speak/write a little Chinese.  They then took to updating their Weixin status about how they met a "laowai" who could speak Chinese.  I politely reminded them who was (and wasn't) currently the laowai.  At least they actually admitted that I was correct, and had a laugh about it....I was a bit dumbfounded

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
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Governor

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They are stupid and agorant,they should call themselves Laowai when they are in US,as you said,it is your own country.

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
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Governor

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Don't worry, Koreans, Japs, even Thais do the same thing [but the SE Asians at least have the courtesy to call us white people (Malay/Indonesian) or "Germans" (Thai word is farang which means German) or "Englishmen" (Burmese call us "inglessis")]. Koreans Japs and Chinese group us all together as foreigners. I think the way they look down on outsiders is a psychological crutch as each of these countries is more dependent on outsiders than they'd like to admit.

EDIT:

I don't know what they would call a black person in Indonesia. But the Thais call black foreigners "farang dam" or literally "Black German". I guess the first foreigners they dealt with were European, they called them German since that's what the Middle Easterners called them ("farangi" or "franks"), then they realized that not all foreigners are white so they called them "black farang" ie: "farang dam".

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
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Emperor

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Jnus, missa, anyone who has traveled to korea or Japan, did they constantly refer to you as foreigner?

 

I find it hard to believe. 

 

I worked with people who worked in jap and Korea and they were shocked that they were constanlty being referred to as laowai. 

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
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Sth funny I just thought of. If I as an American came to china and called Chinese immigrants  or foreigners , some posters would be up in arms about how racist i am. But this no racist 

 

(damn you apple I want that placed at the end!)

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
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There are 2 types of people in the world. Chinese and Not-Chinese.  Anyone Not-Chinese is a laowai because you don't come from the center of the universe.

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
Posts: 650

Governor

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As an Overseas Chinese, I am still being referred to as the laowai by Chinese.

Such a confusing country.

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7 years 10 weeks ago
 
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