Laowai in China
About the Author
Name: Nicholas Alexander Reay
Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa
Location: Shanghai, China
As an English teacher, I have lived many places like Brazil, Japan, Turkey, and Sweden. But none of these countries compare to China.
I have been living in China for six months now and I love the people and the customs. I would like to tell you about one of my first impressions (1) of this great, and at times, daunting (2) country.
I went to Beijing with my friend Mark. Mark is a punk (3) from England. Everyone looked at him because of his appearance (piercing and tattoos).
After a short stay in Beijing, we went to Xi’an, a beautiful and historical city with many tourist sights. One of these is a mountain called Hua Shan.
Mark and I decided to go to this mountain alone. We were tired of (4) all the “special tours” offered to laowai. They were in fact far more expensive because they were for laowai! Mark and I don’t speak Chinese but we were confident (5) that we would be okay.
The bus took about two and a half hours from Xi’an before finally leaving us at a small village at the foot (6) of the great mountain. After we got off the bus, we sat in a rather dirty room with many excited older people. We didn’t know what to do. Then out of nowhere (7), two young Chinese people appeared. To our blind luck (8), they spoke a little English. They told us that this was a tour group going up the mountain by cable car (9), not by foot. We wanted to walk. So, we joined this young couple.
For the next 48 hours we enjoyed the hospitality (10) of these young Chinese students. We only communicated (11) basic things but the warmth of friendship was there. My friend and I were a little nervous at first. We thought that these students wanted us to pay for everything, but that was not true. In fact, they saved us 600RMB! This is what the hotel manager wanted us to pay to sleep in a room because we were foreigners! Our younger friends were embarrassed by this blatant rip-off (12) and told the manager that we would only pay 25RMB each for the night, which we did.
Going up the mountain, local people stopped us many times. Mark was stopped several times for photos. Chinese people also stopped us to practice their English. This was a refreshing (13) change from the usual “Hello, Hello!” It was nice to talk to these people. They showed real interest in what we had to say.
Many foreigners in China worry that Chinese people only see them as walking dollar signs (14), and in some places this is true. However, not everyone is like this. It was wonderful and rewarding (15) to meet these two genuine (16) people. I like to look at them as representatives of the new China.
In the West, we do not stare (17) at people as Chinese people do here. Westerners also do not shout out, “laowai!” when we see a foreigner. But we also do not often help foreign people, at least not without being asked. This is a strange paradox. In the West, we are more open but we are also more conservative. So I ask the question: why are laowai treated like this in China? And is it changing?
1.impression noun 印象
2.daunting adjective 使人畏缩的
4.tired of verb phrase 厌倦的，厌烦的
5.confident adjective 自信的，确信的
6.foot (of mountain) noun 底部
7.out of nowhere phrase 从不知道的地方，从不受注意的地方
8.blind luck noun luck 幸运
9.cable car noun 缆车
10.hospitality noun 好客，盛情
11.communicated (to communicate) verb 沟通，交流
12.blatant rip-off adjective + noun 明目张胆的欺诈
13.refreshing adjective 提神的，凉爽的
14.walking dollar sign phrase 活动支票簿，“冤大头”
15.rewarding adjective 报答的，值得的，有益的
16.genuine adjective 真诚的，诚实的；真实的，真正的
17.stare verb 凝视，盯着看