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Author Topic: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately  (Read 5555 times)

Ben-Dan

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Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« on: October 28, 2010, 01:33:00 AM »
I'm sure some of you live in a similar FT habitat as me = one of a dozen or less foreigners occupying a small, untouristed city, in the middle of China. This has many blessings, such as feeling like you really ARE living in another country, and not like you're living in Bakersfield, as a friend said of Chiangmai after living there for a couple years. I always need to speak Chinese, gesture and gesticulate, mime, and otherwise compromise my dignity and muddle through the simplest things (like returning a defective heat blanket yesterday).

It's all good, but then lately there's been a rise in that kind of borderline friendly/mocking attention I get when I so much as leave my apartment. Many people can't control themselves and must utter "Lao Wai" or "Wai guo ren" or "Ying guo ren" or "Mei guo ren" if they see me. Many are stopped in their tracks and must stare, even if I look back and they're unselfconsciously picking their noses. This is all normal. I'm more or less used to it.

But lately it's as if the locals have become more emboldened, and less friendly about it all. If there's a crowd of boys, and there are lots of them because there are schools everywhere here, I can be absolutely positive they will all start yelling, "HelloooOOoo. Hu-low. What's your name?" at me. But now these are more frequently being peppered with the attention-getting, "Fuck you," "fuck," "fuck me," or if they're really bold, "Fuck your mother!"

There's just no way around it, they're being rude. I know they just want my attention, to be cool amongst their friends, and for me to think they're cool. They want to impress me, because I'm a dude and Western. But, there are times when my skin is not so thick, like the other day when I was going to the print shop on campus to make copies for my classes, and some boys (think they might have been from a local hair salon) started in with the whole, "Hello-what's your name-where you from" banter, but then one made the mistake of adding, "Fuck you!"

For the first time in years, I actually lost my shit – maybe because I don't want to be a target on campus – turned tail, grabbed the guy by the shirt, and gave him an impromptu short lecture about not telling a teacher, "fuck you" in the university. I tried to make it unpleasant enough that it wouldn't actually be encouragement, via attention, for more of the same treatment.

Since that time I've been trying to NOT lose my shit again, because, well, my record was pretty good up until then, and who wants to backslide? Usually I'll make funny comments back, like, "Zhonguo ren" or "Wo bu shi wai guo ren, wo shi wai xing ren," or make silly faces which get them laughing. Whatever. But lately, maybe since the nationalist strings have been plucked with the discord with Japan, and the US VS. THEM mentality has been fueled, things have shaded from mildly irking to pretty damned annoying.

I've been in bigger cities like Kunming or Chengdu or Xi'an, and even smaller ones that actually get tourists, and the "lao wai" stuff there is so minimal it's nothing. But, my city, which is the epicenter of spitting in the known universe, is also the worse place I've even been for "lao wai" attention. That said it's been pretty bearable until recently.

I got two "fuck yous" in one day. Used to be less than one a month or two or three or more. And it was more than 6 fuck-related comments within a week, two on the university.

So now I've gone into aforementioned "ignoring people mode." It consists of not looking at people who are blatantly staring at me, taking pictures with their cell phones… I wear headphones so people can understand I can't hear jeers. If people are trying to look at me I look interested in something in the other direction, or at my cell phone.

Of course, if little girls in pig tails follow me screaming "Lao Wai," well, they can pretty much get away with anything.

Anyway, point is, while I'm pretty tolerant of really an abundance of "lao Wai" crap, lately it's reached a fever pitch and I've had to go into a defensive mode where I have to avoid being not only the object of attention, but an actual target for ridicule. Hopefully this will blow over so I can go back to being a bit more interactive and less a walking sculpture.
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Escaped Lunatic

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2010, 03:45:14 AM »
Wow!  Other than the roving packs of primary school girls, I've never encountered anything hostile like that.  I do get a lot of assorted stage whispers of all the terms for foreigner, but those seem more curious than hostile.  In terms of unprovoked and completely deliberate rudeness from Chinese, I had one middle school boy on a bus flip me off one time when I was next to the bus at a traffic light.

For the cute little girls, work out some places where you can round a corner and duck into a shop.  Let them pass and then step out behind them pointing and calling "Zhonggua ren".  They'll either flee in terror (if so, follow for a few blocks) or become your biggest fans.

For the "fu**" crowd, I'd recommend figuring out the Chinese for something like "I only like girls.  Get someone else to bang your ass if that's what you enjoy.  Do your parents know that you are gay?"  If one says "Fu** your mother", pretend to misunderstand and say "Your mother really wants me to fu** her?  What's your mother's phone number?"

If you want to get REALLY nasty with anyone trying to tie you to the current round of anti-Japanese sentiment, ask him if only one or both of his grandfathers were Japanese soldiers.  Ask him how long he's been spying for Japan, loudly enough so that others can hear it.

If you want to be a little less nasty on that front, remind the dolts that the US won that war for them.
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The Local Dialect

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2010, 05:12:52 AM »
I think when people are telling you "fuck you" it is hostile and rude and you're perfectly justified in not being polite in return. They need to understand that no matter what language you use, if you say those sorts of things to people (and they do know what fuck you and the rest mean, they watch movies) the response will be predictable. I don't go around saying "wo cao ni ma" to Chinese people unless they've done something to tick me off and if a Chinese person says "fuck you" to me then I assume they've got a problem with me.

I don't think it is a recent thing though. Many years ago in Kunming I remember stepping off the bus and getting a "fuck you!" from this random peasant looking guy who probably didn't know any other words of English besides that and hello. And while Kunming might be a better place for the hello treatment than Random 2nd/3rd Tier Chinese City, it is still far far far more wary and suspicious of outsiders than a place like Beijing. I almost never get hello'd in Beijing and if I do then 9 times out of 10 it is an out of town loser (same with people who push on the subway escalators). You're right though, the less exposure the loser has had to foreigners the more likely they are to be the helloing type. In general, not just in China, people with more actual exposure to foreign cultures tend to be less xenophobic, not surprisingly.


I think The Ignore is the best tactic for dealing with these sorts of people in general. I'm firmly in the camp that thinks it isn't cute to randomly yell at people in languages you don't speak, no matter whether your intentions were malicious or not. Notice how hello'ers are almost always men if they're above the age of like 10. You don't get guys with suits and briefcases yelling hello at you, or university professors, or artists. The spilling over into aggressive fuck yous is, in my opinion, just an extension of the original sentiment behind the hello in the first place, so it doesn't surprise me that as general knowledge of English is expanding the idiots are being bolder and using fouler language to heckle foreigners. If you ignore these people you deny them the attention that they're craving, their attempt at getting a rise or reaction out of the foreigner will be a fail, and they might not bother to try again. If you react (even though I think you're perfectly within your rights to for a fuck you) then they know exactly how to get a rise out of the foreigner and may do it again. Plus, the more I react to these sorts of things the more likely something is to happen that will really ruin my day. Just walk on by and don't give them a second thought.

People who want to make friends with you or even just want to impress you will try and start a conversation with you that doesn't involve obscenities or yelling. People who can't handle that don't deserve your attention.

Stil

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2010, 05:25:13 AM »
Reacting angrily is usually not worth it and just feeds the troll anyway.

In a crowded place you might to try shaking your head in disappointment and saying something like

中国人没有礼貌. Zhōngguórén méiyǒu lǐmào. Chinese people have no manners.

This is very embarrassing for them. Remember the group mentality, what one does is what the group does.

Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2010, 05:53:15 AM »
Right now Japan vs China is probably helping people be interested in outer worldly things.  That is, questions of foreignness and Chineseness are currently highish on the public agenda of people who have little else to do in their day.  So, punks are noticing foreigners and announcing your lack of in-group position (aka they're reinforcing their identity using the cultural tools and such environment as they have to hand).

"Fuck you"s I don't mind so much.  They're just not aggressive.  Well, maybe they are, but "fuck you" delivered with a snigger hardly registers as threatening on my western-trained interpretive scale.

What's been bugging me recently is "Hey, man."  Who's been teaching the greeting "Hey, man"?  Chinese actually do deliver it appropriately, directed to the face, from the front, with the correct intonation and pronunciation.  It bugs me though because there is that one little thing missing, the cultural element, that "Hey, man" is a familiar greeting, delivered between people who know each other or are on some common task together.  (Seems to me).  I got three Hey, mans the other day.  The first one I laughed at because it seemed so inappropriate.  The second on was annoying because it was some kid, and I'm too old to be some kid's Hey man.  The third one I forget, maybe I was just tired of it by then.



I find in general that when people single me out in public for some kind of inappropriate attention, I resent it more if I have to put effort into pretending it isn't happening.  I find it far easier to take a look at the offenders, note their position, what they look like, how they're related to the landscape, and just cruise on by, no smile, no frown, no personal interaction, just observation.  It amounts to ignoring them without having to put on the whole "I'm ignoring you SOOOO much" act.

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Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2010, 07:18:56 AM »
The downside of taking a look at the scene is frequently the gentle souls who uttered the exciting English words change character, often moving into a more formally friendly posture, and then you have choose whether to interact or continue with the cold shoulder.

But I still like taking a look.  If nothing else, it lets one start making more objective assessments of who's who.  Like, I'm sure there is a seedy underworld in China, and if you knew where and how to look, you could probably see it in some form on every street corner, and that's more interesting than being insulted by punks.

The other side of that is being aware of when culture shock is taking its toll on your own self and when you do legitimately need a rest from being around weirdness 24/7.


 bfbfbfbfbf

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kitano

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2010, 09:15:38 AM »
china is an ignorant racist country, of course they resent you since you can make twice their salary just for being born where you were, you are profitting from their racism

ask even educated adults about the japanese or koreans and they will spout prodigiouly ignorant rubbish unless they know japanese and koreans. the government encourages it....

i come from newcastle in england and back home instead of 'hello. i love you' etc the young men will ask me aggresively for cigarettes and money. so even tho china is annoying, at least it's not home  ahahahahah

Borkya

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2010, 09:36:26 AM »
Personally, my stance has been to ALWAYS ignore "hellos." Even when I'm on campus I ignore them (my students know my name and will say it out loud to get my attention.)

i also live in a small city with just a handful of foreigners and get stared and "hello'd" to a dizzying degree. Ignoring has worked out to be the best tactic. 

Actually at my school there are 10 foreign teachers and 20 Ukranian students. Many of the Ukrains don't speak much English and I was wondering how annoying it must be for them. Since they are fair skinned and blond, a lot of people must approach them (as they do me) and ask to be friends to "practice their english." I wonder how they handle it?

xwarrior

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2010, 12:21:04 PM »
Quote
Conclusion: ignoring it was the best policy.

You kind of got it! Hard as it is, that is a pretty good policy. Most of the behaviours are not too different to the immature attention-seeking behaviours of some young people back home.

You can ignore it by not responding but I am not sure if anyone can ignore it in terms of not letting it affect them emotionally.

My best policy?  I usually find that rather than stand off a situation like that I wander over and am nice and pleasant - and they are the same in return. It is all over in minutes and I can get on with life as I want it.
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Borkya

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Re: and photographing and talking about me while I'm tryin' to eat
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2010, 12:32:25 PM »
Looked like I was using chopsticks. Now THAT'S hilarious. Imagine a foreigner using chopsticks.

We were on a long bus trip going to Xi'an and we got stuck in some major traffic, like engine off for hours type traffic, and all the guys got off and peed on the side of the road. My husband went too, but all the other guys were staring at him so much he lost all his nerve, zipped up his fly and ran back into the bus. We joked that they were thinking, "Hey, I wonder if the laowei pisses like us. Do you think he has a dick too? Let's all look!" I mean seriously, sometimes they look at us like we are aliens!

BrandeX

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2010, 12:53:50 AM »
For some reason I am reminded of this recent article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/world/asia/12beijing.html?_r=1
Quote
Chinese military men, from the soldiers and platoon captains all the way up to the army commanders, were always taught that America would be their enemy

I wonder if this kind of nationalism would ever spread outside the military?  I can see it in the USA, where the average schmo would consider arab/muslim = bad guys. But, I am not sure if this kind of sentiment would ever occur in China other than towards the Japanese.

xwarrior

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2010, 02:25:52 AM »
I have noticed that my American friends are more likely to respond to a gratuitous 'helloo' than anyone else.

I do not know why.

I know that they will often turn around and make an issue out of what they see as insulting behaviour. I have then had to find ways of extricating them from what I see as a dumb situation. 

New Zealanders (and maybe Aussies) are used to greeting anyone and everyone in the street whether we we know them or not. Something to do with being a small country with a small population I guess. I just reply in kind to any greeting.

My Chinese gf still finds it weird that I say 'hello' (or nod)to anyone who looks at me in the street.

It means I get to greet people 1000 times a day and at times I feel like switching off but I guess I am pretty conditioned. Going up stairs to class at the beginning of a break can be challenging and must sound like something out of a Greek chorus.

I have found that some English people are rather reserved in public. I was sitting alone in a small cafe when a 'European' came in. I said 'hello' and there was no response - even though he was standing only a metre away. In the end I asked him (in my best colonial, rough-as-guts, manner) if he could speak English. 'Of course I can - I am English,' was the reply.We went on to become good friends.

Another English friend, from south England, explained that he too would have ignored me as it is not their custom to talk to strangers.

These, of course, are generalisations. If you are an exception to the rule I hope you can accept them as such.

I share Kitano's concern with dealing with 'bludgers' in the street back home. In New Zealand it is guys aggresively asking for cigarettes; in Sydney, Australia it is girls asking for money 'for the bus fare home.' They usually do not take no for an answer.

To handle that I tell the guys to 'piss off'. I tell the girls I am happy to to give them the bus fare in exchange for sex. It seems to work - they go away.  bjbjbjbjbj     



   
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Escaped Lunatic

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2010, 06:32:59 AM »
We should make it our mission to change this Hello thing forever.  We teach all Chinese boys that the proper way to greet any foreigner is "Hi there!"  We teach girls that the proper way to greet a foreign female is "Hi there!" and the ONLY proper way way to greet a foreign male is "Me love you long time!"  afafafafaf

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Stil

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2010, 06:43:52 AM »


We should make it our mission to change this Hello thing forever.  We teach all Chinese boys that the proper way to greet any foreigner is "Hi there!"  We teach girls that the proper way to greet a foreign female is "Hi there!" and the ONLY proper way way to greet a foreign male is "Me love you long time!"  afafafafaf



Not unless they pay. I don't teach for free.

kitano

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Re: Having to go into "ignoring-people-mode" a lot lately
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2010, 08:10:21 AM »
To handle that I tell the guys to 'piss off'. I tell the girls I am happy to to give them the bus fare in exchange for sex. It seems to work - they go away.  bjbjbjbjbj     

how many times has that got you laid?