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As a Chinese, i and the most chinese don't think that Chinese words like "laowai" and "foreigner" are somehow offensive to international friends. We just used to this kind of expression and these words won't likely to be replaced in a short time i believe. so that please, "international friends", i'm afraid that you have to wait for a while to hear us to call you in another name. but i do appreciate that some people from other countries really consider Chinese as their friends whenever they're in china or other parts of the world. |
"Laowai!" Strolling along China's sidewalks and alleys, we hear it every day. It's slang for "waiguoren" meaning foreigner. For those without Chinese language skills, waiguoren would directly translate "outside-of-the-country-person." It's logical, and should suffice to describe foreigners. But laowai?
A direct translation of this word reflects the true feelings of some Chinese toward foreigners. Lao, a common word meaning old, can also be used to express "old friends." In other words, friends for a long time, or always. The second half of the word means outside. Direct translation: Always outside.
Every country has racists, including the US. But, it's considered uncivil to make people feel like outsiders, especially if they've been there a long time. But, foreigners living in China, even for decades, are still "always outsiders."
The US and other "foreign" countries have plenty of discrimination; especially in the past, but how we distinguish Waiguoren is different. Chinese students are surprised when I inform them that when they study abroad most people won't call them "foreign students."