How Chi­nese like to stereo­type ex­pa­tri­ates

Global Times - - Viewpoint - By Lilly Wong The au­thor is a Bei­jing-based jour­nal­ist. She lived in Syd­ney from 2014 to 2016. opin­ion@ glob­al­times.com.cn

If you are an ex­pat and look dif­fer­ent from Chi­nese, you fre­quently get com­pli­ments from lo­cals on your Chi­nese lan­guage, even if you barely know how to or­der food.

Chi­nese like to be­lieve the chop­sticks and Chi­nese lan­guage are two most dif­fi­cult things to learn in the world. There­fore, do not be too flat­tered when you hear those com­pli­ments. It is more like the val­i­da­tion to their cul­ture. Un­for­tu­nately, Chi­nese born over­seas do not get such treat­ment be­cause they are ex­pected to be­have as Chi­nese.

Re­gret­tably, many Chi­nese re­gard ex­pats as “aliens” and stereo­type them due to lack of knowl­edge and cul­tural un­der­stand­ing. It is funny to see the word “alien” in­stead of “for­eigner” even writ­ten on po­lice reg­is­tra­tion pa­per in Bei­jing.

All Cau­casians who look like “laowai” are Amer­i­can

A few years ago, I trav­elled with a few Bri­tish friends to Suzhou city, East China’s Jiangsu Prov­ince. When I asked a mid­dle-aged lo­cal guy the di­rec­tion to a nearby Chi­nese restau­rant, he in­sisted I should take my friends to McDon­ald’s.

He said I should be a great host in tak­ing my Amer­i­can friends to have their fa­vorite food, although I stressed my friends were Bri­tish at least three times.

Then, he asked me to tell my “Amer­i­can friends” that he was pleased to know that Obama be­came US pres­i­dent. He be­lieved China would have an even bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with Amer­ica be­cause it al­ways helps Africa.

All Bri­tish men are gen­tle­men

When I took my ex-boyfriend back to visit my fam­ily dur­ing the Spring Fes­ti­val, my lit­tle cousin asked him to show how to be a gen­tle­man be­cause he was English. He also queried, “Do you eat other food be­sides fish and chips in Lon­don?”

As an English­man, he should have been able to han­dle more al­co­hol than my Chi­nese rel­a­tives, but he soon got very drunk. My un­cle’s self-made wine was stronger than he ex­pected. How­ever, we could not tell un­til he al­most blew up a car by light­ing fire­crack­ers in the street. I had to drag him home with the help of my cousin.

My cousin told me, “Your boyfriend is so po­lite be­cause he says sorry all the time.” An em­bar­rassed me replied, “He per­haps does not mean it ev­ery time.”

All French are ro­man­tic

My friend Ning Ning, who had thought Paris was the most ro­man­tic place in the world, re­cently vis­ited the city. How­ever, she was very dis­ap­pointed as the city was dirty and she got robbed near the train sta­tion.

She wanted to take a pic­ture with a pi­geon in front of Le Lou­vre Mu­seum, but the birds at­tacked her be­cause she was car­ry­ing too much food.

Ning Ning had a glam­orous en­counter with a hand­some French guy. How­ever, he was never happy and com­plained about ev­ery­thing. Ning Ning had to leave him with­out no­tice be­cause she had trou­ble un­der­stand­ing his English.

All Span­ish love bull­fight­ing and prac­tice fla­menco

As some Western­ers think all Chi­nese can fight kung fu, the Chi­nese ask my Span­ish friend, Alba, to dance fla­menco or ques­tion her about Span­ish foot­ball. But she is nei­ther in­ter­ested in foot­ball nor fla­menco. Bei­jing taxi driv­ers of­ten ask her about bull­fight­ing. If she pre­tends not to un­der­stand Chi­nese, they make a bull sound or put their fin­gers on their head to make her un­der­stand that they are talk­ing about the an­i­mal. She is very em­bar­rassed be­cause she thought Spain had so much more tra­di­tion than bull­fight­ing. Alba no longer takes a taxi alone in China.

All Aus­tralians live with kan­ga­roos

If you ask a Chi­nese to name the Aus­tralian cap­i­tal, the an­swer is “Syd­ney.” They pic­ture Aus­tralians wear­ing thongs and shorts across sea­sons. Ev­ery­one can surf and lives with a kan­ga­roo in Aus­tralia. Chi­nese women be­lieve all cos­met­ics made in Aus­tralia are nat­u­ral.

Many Chi­nese do not un­der­stand Aus­tralia is a coun­try of im­mi­grants, and ex­pect to meet only white Aus­tralians. When Xiao Ji, a stu­dent from North­east China, just ar­rived in Syd­ney, he was as­ton­ished to see dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties in the city. He asked me, “Why are there so many In­di­ans here? How come they speak such good English with an Aus­tralian ac­cent?”

“Be­cause they were born here and are Aus­tralian.”

All for­eign­ers are sex­u­ally open-minded

The idea that all for­eign­ers are sex­u­ally open-minded and avail­able has prob­a­bly come from West­ern films, or be­cause some Western­ers talk more openly about sex than their salary. It is be­lieved by the Chi­nese that all laowai sleep around.

Chi­nese men be­lieve they can flirt with West­ern women, but do not con­sider them mar­riage ma­te­rial, es­pe­cially those who have a tat­too or are dressed provoca­tively.

An Aussie friend, Oliver, was once ap­proached in a bar by an old Chi­nese lady for a one-night stand. Af­ter he re­jected her of­fer, she said, “Isn’t that what you all for­eign­ers do? Fxxx around?” Oliver was very up­set about it for a while.

I am not writ­ing this to show how ig­no­rant the Chi­nese are. For­eign cul­ture has al­ways been stereo­typed, like the cliché of all Chi­nese eat­ing dogs.

Do not feel of­fended if a Chi­nese calls you laowai, lit­er­ally “old for­eigner.” As a na­tive Chi­nese speaker, I think it is a lovely Man­darin slang, be­cause Chi­nese also call their mates this way, like “Lao Wang” or “Lao Li.”

In com­par­i­son, I feel the Can­tonese slang, Gwaiou, mean­ing devil man, is very racist. I am sur­prised it is cur­rently widely used in the over­seas Chi­nese com­mu­nity in many West­ern coun­tries.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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