Author: gangsta

Is it Racism to be called Foreigner or Laowai in China? [Copy link] 中文

Rank: 4

Post time 2007-2-14 09:09:27 |Display all floors
Originally posted by seneca at 2007-2-14 09:02
I often feel Chinese are patronising to laowais. If I go to a post office, a ticket window or a bank teller the staff will almost always treat me with a certain amount of condescension: using sign language, ignoring you for as long as possible, dealing with the Chinese client next in line before they deal with you, answering you with mock imitation of your Chinese, etc.

Now thats sounds strange to me. Because when I go such kind of place they really help me as much as they can and even people standing over there want to help me with a kind :)  

[ Last edited by ahmadi at 2007-2-14 09:10 AM ]

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Post time 2007-2-14 09:15:57 |Display all floors
Originally posted by seneca at 2007-2-14 09:02
In China, differentiating between "women zhongguoren" and "tamen waiguoren" is disturbingly "normal". While not necessarily motivated by wickedness, it is unsettling and productive of myths.

People cataloguing other people this way can't see individuals, and that leads to biases.  

I wasn't able to understand what do u mean by productive of myths? But I agree with u that people cataloguing other people this way can't see individuals, and that leads to biases.

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Post time 2007-2-14 11:40:51 |Display all floors


In the UK such terms would be racist and probably it would be illegal to use them

they are equivalent to nigger for black people, Jap for Japanese and Chinky for Chinese people - such terms are not nasty in themselves (they just refer to where a person might have come from) but because they are used to emphasize the "them and us" distinction they are racist. Also they lump all people who look similar together even though they are not similar - for example a racist in London will call a Vietnamese person or a Malaysian a Chink, but they are not from China.

Also, if we just use some logic - If I walk into a hotel in Shanghai and another guest asks me "where do you come from?" The logical answer is "From Chengdu" as that was the place my journey began. If I say this I, so far have always got the reply "No, what country?" According to this logic the answer he really needs is "From my  mother's womb".

Foreigner - reminds the person that they do not belong, that they are different; this will cause the "foreigner" to feel isolated and not part of Chinese life. It is the reason why foreigners often complain about Chinese "rudeness" and say Chinese people are bad - the cause of this feeling is that "foreigners are made to feel that they are outside Chinese world, excluded from it. In this situation the "foreigner" will not understand the reasons for the things they see and experience and will find them merely annoying.

Best example is thie one. If Chinese girls treat "foreigners" as toys, things to be used and not real people; then the "foreingers" will find it easy to treat Chinese girls as sex toys and playthings - not real girls.

A Chinese girl once said to me "I could never love you! You are just a foreigner - I was only playing with you" I think that was a very bad thing to say. Such people are only spreading hate.

Another example, I saw two Chinese people lost in Chengdu and trying to read a map. I am a "foreigner" but I know the roads of Chengdu very well because I live here. The two lost Chinese people were the real outsiders - they were not residents of Chengdu so in this context they were more "foreign" than me.

Lao Wei classes all whites as the same - So an English person is same as a Pole or a German or an Icelander, but they are not the same; they have different languages, histories and habits. If Chinese people teach their Children to use this term then their children will find it hard to learn about non-Chinese culture and history.

In the UK, the correct term would be

"Residents of overseas origin" maybe

We could be called Roos (like Kangeroo)!

but then Roo would become racist
"We know it's weakness, but the weakness is so strong!"

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Post time 2007-2-14 11:42:50 |Display all floors
When i first come to Beijing, quite a few years ago, people were just staring at me. Back then i didnt speak any Chinese and whatever other people said, did not really matter.

Then again, even now, you see people on the street, and the first thing they say is "laowai" and then they start  shouting hello hello hello to the pitch of their voice, to the point of maddness.

I like parks and i usually go to Tiantan, when i want some peace. And all these people come on you shouting at you to buy their maps and postcards, treating you like you are stupid. (i heard them swearing at me behind my back a couple o times too)

Don't you guys thing that this is racism?

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Post time 2007-2-14 12:35:45 |Display all floors
Dear gansta,

I guess most Chinese don't even know what racism is. They may be stupid (those people who treated you like you were stupid), they may be cynical or jealous(foreigners get privileges in China sometimes, like in the bank they don't have to get a number and wait in a queue!), but I doubt they are racists.

As regards the swearing, I as a Chinese get that too! I like shopping, and I like trying on different things and probably end up buying nothing, I get called a "bitch" fairly often! Please don't feel too bad about that. Those people wanted to make some easy money on you and apparently they picked the wrong person. They swear out of embarracement I think.

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Post time 2007-2-14 18:34:10 |Display all floors
Originally posted by seneca at 2007-2-14 10:19
This type of behavior is simply impolite and can grate on the victim's nerves; why should the victim alone make concessions?

Agree 100%

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Post time 2007-2-15 05:14:49 |Display all floors
Originally posted by bossel at 2007-2-14 03:32

Foreigner is always relative. For these Chinese girls the others were lao wai, so that's OK. For the others the girls were lao wai, just as OK.

Anyway, to the original question: can't s ...

No, the Chinese girls were the lao wai.  They were the foreigners, not the people on Edinburgh's street.  This is why I think 'non-Chinese' would be a better definition of what Chinese people mean when they say lao wai.  Foreigner implies that one is in a country that is not one's own.  When I was in China, I could accept being a called a foreigner.  In my own country, I do not appreciate being called a foreigner, in any language.

Gangsta, I totally agree with you on the 'hello' statement.  Though I think nine times out of ten there isn't any racist connotation to it, it is Incredibly annoying.

[ Last edited by funky_dunc at 2007-2-15 05:17 AM ]

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