• Home
  • Search
    •  
  • Login
    • Username: Password:

      Did you miss your activation email?

Author Topic: "Laowai"  (Read 7093 times)

opiate

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 132
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2014, 12:51:31 AM »
I'm not black, as in of African ancestry, but I'm fairly dark, especially during the summer and I've been called hēirén and fēizhōurén but lǎowài is much more common.

I hear it in English sometimes. Not exactly 黑人 but if I have a decent tan in the summer even my friends will say....Wow, you're black.

I think the puzzling thing for us is that we simply do not often understand the meaning behind the words. We listen with our own cultural norms and expectations in our heads where if somebody ever says ...'Wow, you're black' it would be a pretty big WTF moment. Sure, 老外 can be used in a negative way but as much as I despise hearing 老外 it's not usually used as such. Also....my ears are kinda tuned into that word. Often I'll think I hear it when something with a similar sound was said.

kitano

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 2472
    • Children of the Atom
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2014, 03:57:45 AM »
By the way, a few of the responses talk about it being a term for 'white' people.

It isn't.

True. But if the person isn't white they're likely to be called Heiren 黑人 instead. It's understandable why some would think Laowai means white person.
That said, I don't see any response in this thread that mentions it being a term for a white person.

Arabs are also Laowai

My wife says it's people with deep eyes and big noses.  kkkkkkkkkk


hmmm, are Russians laowai?

Stil

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 4800
    • ChangshaNotes
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #17 on: April 10, 2014, 04:47:30 AM »
There is also no reason to believe it's used uniformly across all regions of China.

Calach Pfeffer

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 7634
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #18 on: April 10, 2014, 05:26:24 AM »
I don't think we can trust what Chinese say a Chinese expression means. It's hard enough to get an English speaker to explain English words adequately (what with multiple meanings and layers of contextual nuance), but in Chinese, particularly with this word "laowai", you've got a background of high context affiliation to think of as well. In-group and out-group relationships are complex, negotiated, and while perhaps clearly signed if you know the forms, they're not often literally spoken, are they?

Which is to say, if there's some "out-group" connotation to "laowai", then people who like you and want to maintain affiliation might not even know how to objectively detail the meaning of the word. Like such a lot in Chinese culture, you're supposed to just know. (And you'll be forgiven if you don't, but it's one of those tests of cultural sophistication and therefore of relationship strength that opens deeper connections if you do, somehow, just know..)

/paranoid

» now with New and Endlessly Improving CV 4U  ٩( ᐛ )و

Borkya

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 1354
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2014, 11:53:59 AM »
This is an interesting article and debate we are having here too. I think your personal feelings over the world changes as you get more experience. As for me, I had no problem in the beginning with it, then I went through the "it's so rude!" phase and now I'm back again at the "meh, whateves" phase. But I live in a boonie city with barely any foreigners so I think I have to do that just to survive and not live in a cloud of anger.

And I agree with the kids thing. Even here in the boonies kids say waiguoren, while older people say laowai.

And like somebody said in that article when I was in thailand I overheard some chinese people speaking and they said "It's over there, by the laowai." (I was standing next to something they wanted.) I didn't say anything but I was so tempted to say, in chinese, "In Thailand, your a laowai too!" haha

old34

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 2511
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2014, 12:08:21 PM »
This is an interesting article and debate we are having here too. I think your personal feelings over the world changes as you get more experience. As for me, I had no problem in the beginning with it, then I went through the "it's so rude!" phase and now I'm back again at the "meh, whateves" phase. But I live in a boonie city with barely any foreigners so I think I have to do that just to survive and not live in a cloud of anger.

And I agree with the kids thing. Even here in the boonies kids say waiguoren, while older people say laowai.

Mingbai le!

A number of years ago (10+) I spent 10 days in your city (SX) doing a winter English camp. I had really looked forward to it, because I am a big fan of Lu Xun. It was the worst 10 days of my life in China because everyday the commute between the hotel they put me in and the location was one giant "LAOWAI!" extravaganza. I've lived in smaller and larger towns, but SX was the absolute worst. I understand the "just to survive" part of you message.

(My solution then, I sought out the Indian restaurant near Bar Street there just to survive.)
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. - B. O'Driscoll.
TIC is knowing that, in China, your fruit salad WILL come with cherry tomatoes AND all slathered in mayo. - old34.

old34

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 2511
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2014, 12:55:05 PM »
Today, in Beijing. Where "laowai" is HEARD few and far between.

Scene: After morning classes I went to a nearby Burger King for lunch which features outdoor seating. It's in a new mall, in an upscale area just north of the 4th Ring Road, not much foot traffic. I ordered my lunch and took it to an outside table. No one else was sitting outside. Eating my lunch, I was playing with my phone, but also watched a slow progression of mostly office ladies, retail workers (women), and a few stay-at-home-moms from the nearby villas wander into the Burger King for lunch. It again struck me that it's usually Chinese females who frequent the "western places" here. It also could have been the local demographic. But I was noticing it. And just at the moment while I was thinking about that...

Along come a pair of middle-aged Chinese men-45 or so. Both were wearing nice, but loud-coloured sport coats. No one was around, so I Could hear them talking and one said to the other, "We can eat here. They have "tao san" meals (meal packages). I immediately thought: "He's explaining the concept to his friend, never having eatern Burger King before."

They ducked inside. Less than a minute later, one of them emerged from the store alone and looked around the patio. He was the one the other guy had been explaining the concept to. It was obvious to me that they had gone inside and his friend said, "Go outside and get us a table." (Common in fast food restaurants here.)

Since I was the only one outside and there were 6 or 7 empty tables, this was a no-brainer. Here's what happened next, outside is only myself at my table, and this 45 year old lost soul (LS). No one else. I'm looking at my phone reading the news. Here's what I hear:

LS (speaking to himself): Wah! Laowai!
old (to himself): FFS, There are 7 other empty tables here. Get one!

LS: Wah! laowai chou yan (Wow, foreigners smoke cigarettes.) (I had finished my meal and lit up. Why I was sitting on the patio.)
(He is talking to himself, there's no one else present here. His friend is inside ordering their meals.)
old: (to himself) WTF, this is Beijng. Didn't I just write a post on Raoul's last night about the use of "laowai" and how rare it is to hear here! WTF. Dude is talking to himself. But he has a nice sports coat on, albeit peach-colored.


Then...
He walks directly over to my table, again talking to himself:
LS: Laowai chou shenme yan? (What cigarettes is the laowai smoking?)
And proceeds to pick up my pack of cigarettes to see the brand and mutters: "Ta chou shenme yan" (He smokes what? Again, too himself, using the 3P)

Like picking up a toy a dog is playing with to see what it is.

The conversation proceeds thusly:

old: You shi ma? (What do you want?)
LS: (a little shocked): Uhh? (Like "the dog can speak") Ni chou yan. (You smoke!)

old: Mei ni shi. (None of your business.)
LS: uhh! (He appears to be able to speak Chinese. Impossible.)

old: Guan ni pi shi. (Colloquial Chinese for "none of your fucking business"!)
LS: (This registers and anger flashes across his face.)

old: Zou kai (Go way). Guan Kai (Roll away like a barrel - a rude Chinese expression which means "Fuck Off"!)
My anger matches his, and he starts to back off.

LS: As he backs off, he pulls out his own pack of cigarettes and mumbles more to himself than to me:
"wo ye chou zhongguo yan" (I also smoke Chinese cigarettes!) and finds the farthest table from mine to sit down at.

A couple of minutes later, his friend emerges from inside with a tray full of food. Only then do I notice that although he seems well dressed in a sport coat, his feet are shod in sandals.

Upon reflection, I think what happened here were that a couple of workers from a nearby construction site decided to have lunch at the upscale mall, and they dug out their "sport coat" and wandered over. (Migrant workers often will have one sport coat just in case.)

In this case, the "laowai" didn't bother me as much, as I've become used to it, though not in Beijing. It was the further action of basically ignoring that the "laowai" was a person and you can just walk over and check out his belongings.

Offered for what it's worth in this thread as it just happened this afternoon. In Beijing.
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. - B. O'Driscoll.
TIC is knowing that, in China, your fruit salad WILL come with cherry tomatoes AND all slathered in mayo. - old34.

old34

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 2511
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2014, 01:00:51 PM »
I'm re-posting the original link here again because the commentary on the original article keeps growing.

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=11626

Go back and catch up on it. Good stuff there continues.
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. - B. O'Driscoll.
TIC is knowing that, in China, your fruit salad WILL come with cherry tomatoes AND all slathered in mayo. - old34.

Day Dreamer

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 4430
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #23 on: April 10, 2014, 02:10:50 PM »
You must have impressed him with your ability to eat and breathe simultaneously.   bibibibibi

Similar has happened to me.  One episode a little different that I think I posted before;

Back in Changchun, the g/f and I went to a nice restaurant on the other side of town. As we sit, the waitress comes over and stands there waiting to take our order as we peruse the menu. That's her job, no problem. Then another girl comes, stand next to her and just stares at me. After a moment or two, I ask my g/f WTF. She asks new girl what's up? She replies, I've never seen a foreigner up close before.

I told my g/f to tell her strongly but not in a mean way that I'm not a fucking animal in a zoo to be gawked at. The first waitress apologizes. I told her not to, it wasn't her fault

So my dear big noses, the endless finger pointing will never cease as long as China has Chinese people
For you to insult me, first I must value your opinion

gonzo

  • Limboid
  • Posts: 1133
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #24 on: April 11, 2014, 02:14:52 AM »
Chinese living in English speaking countries-I won't use "Western"; wtf does that mean-commonly call we homies waiguoren and laowai. Pointing out the lack of logic/intelligence involved brings giggles but no change otherwise. Other Asians are referred to by their nationality, such as Hanguoren.

If we can understand that "xenophobia" translates into Mandarin as " a love of China" it all starts to make sense bjbjbjbjbj.
RIP Phil Stephens.
No static at all.

Calach Pfeffer

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 7634
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #25 on: April 11, 2014, 03:50:33 AM »
I got meiguonin'd today. A cheerful kid in the blue tracksuit of the local school and missing two front teeth was screwing around the street food carts with two of his minuscule buddies when he whirled suddenly and, already a bit too excited, saw me bearing down upon him. Wah! he exploded from arm's length away. Meiguonin lai le!

I think I concur, actually. I don't recall hearing kids use laowai much at all. There does seem to me to be some age and station component to use of the term. Like, today's meiguonin was tiresome but seemed more like kid mischief than anything I'd have to correct him on. If he'd used laowai it would've seemed out of place.

» now with New and Endlessly Improving CV 4U  ٩( ᐛ )و

kitano

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 2472
    • Children of the Atom
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #26 on: April 11, 2014, 04:04:43 AM »
I've heard laowai loads of times from little kids.

"Hey dad, there's a laowai'
"Well holy shit, we live in an international city with 1000s of laowai you little idiot"

Calach Pfeffer

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 7634
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #27 on: April 11, 2014, 04:10:39 AM »
Kids these days.

I'm in a third tier city. Not bumpkinville exactly but not cosmopolitan either. There might be a correlation between kids having attitude and their city not being a jumped up river settlement.

» now with New and Endlessly Improving CV 4U  ٩( ᐛ )و

Stil

  • Barfly
  • *
  • Posts: 4800
    • ChangshaNotes
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #28 on: April 11, 2014, 05:24:10 AM »
There's a translation issue I think.

We use the word foreigner to mean not from this place but even in the west it is may be used as 'not like me'. If you view the idea of a Chinese person referring to an American in the US as lǎowài as not meaning 'not from this place' but meaning not like me or not from China/East Asia, then it makes more sense and in the Chinese language they are not doing anything wrong. However it shouldn't be directly translated into English there. So a Chinese guy saying "老外来了" lǎowài lái le in the States is ok but saying "the foreigner is coming" is not.

We also like to break down the etymology of words and show what lǎo and wài mean and how they relate to other words and what it all means and really none of that may matter. Word meanings drift. It doesn't matter what lǎo and wài mean, it matters how lǎowài is used now. 通知 tōngzhī certainly has changed and 'awesome' makes no sense at all.

Escaped Lunatic

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 9877
  • Finding new ways to conquer the world
    • EscapedLunatic.com
Re: "Laowai"
« Reply #29 on: April 11, 2014, 07:08:47 AM »
Be'in all southern like, I don't get laowai'd too often.  Those raised speaking putonghua usually settle for waiguoren and the guangdonghua speakers typically start out with gweilo (鬼佬) - at least until they figure out that gweilo was the first word I learned in Cantonese.  Then they reassure me over and over again that the word has no negative connotations while simultaneously acting very very embarrassed and apologetic.  ahahahahah

Every one of my Chinese friends that I've asked swears up and down that there are no insulting terms in Chinese for foreigners and absolutely no word or phrase meaning anything anywhere close to anything like foreign devil.  So far, I haven't caught anyone using the Cantonese bak gwei (白鬼) or Mandarin yang guizi (洋鬼子) while talking about me, but I'm sure if I pay attention, I'll get lucky sooner or later. ahahahahah
I'm pro-cloning and we vote!               Why isn't this card colored green?
EscapedLunatic.com