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I have been living and working in Southern China for over one year now. I find the social scene here very disappointing, and it is difficult for foreigners to really make genuine friends here in China. Most people still call me 'laowai' (foreigner) even after being here for one year. During any vacations that come up, I always quickly flee to either the Philippines or Thailand, and much prefer the vibe in those two countries. I am in China for work only, but would never consider moving here permanently.
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Well, you are a foreigner, right?
How far are you from Hong Kong and Macau? I'd make weekend trips there if possible. Kinda expensive but so fun.
Are you teaching English or doing something else? Never understood the appeal of China as long as South Korea and Japan still need teachers. Unless you're interested in Chinese culture or something specific to China.
Call me crazy, but that might be because you're a foreigner.
Yes, but can you see where he's coming from?
Constantly referring to foreigners as "foreigners" in public is not the norm in a lot of countries. In the U.S. I do not refer to even obvious FOBs as "foreigner" in public. My suggestion to jonroberts is to leave China if this kind of thing bothers him, because it is never going to change.
OP, what are your long-term plans? If you really don't like China, be careful about getting caught in the trap of having to teach English in China because you no longer have any other opportunities.
You cannot compare USA with its mixed population with places in China, Korea and Japan, where more than 95 to 98 percent of the population are not mixed.
Any foreigner living in such cities will be noticed at once and many people are curious who this person might be.
老外 laowai - is not necessarily derogatory, if it is used in a friendly way.
老 lao - means old and venerable
外 wai - means from outside
外国人 waigouren (gaikokujin in Japanese) is the formal word, but in Japan often shorted to 外人 gaijin.
I am living since almost 40 years in Japan and some other Asian countries as a white European, and of course I will always be a gaijin, laowai, farang, orang-puteh..... Be nice and talkative to people who notice you and are calling you that in a friendly way....that's much better than to be ignored by them.
Last edited by Yohan on June 16th, 2016, 1:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
In Thailand they will call you 'farang' and in Philippines 'Americano'...
I agree however that it is not so easy in China to socialize, as many people are only interested to meet overseas Chinese. They often are not really into meeting typical foreigners. You sound you are living in one of these boring cities, you said in North Guangdong - so I think something like Shaoguan 韶关市, these are all cities with many high buildings, some industry, some million people and not very much else except sometimes some sightseeing spots outside the city.
You mention they speak in your Chinese city an incomprehensible dialect. If this is somewhere around Shaoguan or elsewhere in North/East Guangdong, it might likely be Hakka 客家語. Forget about this terrible dialect and enjoy to be a laowai - but Hokkien Chinese 福建话 is even worse, believe me.
I had fun dating in Southern China, but I agree the social stuff there is poor. Chinese people just don't really have the bar culture we enjoy in Europe and in other Asian countries (Japan, Thailand for example).
I did go with Falcon to a foreigner bar in Guangzhou but it was mostly full of rich young families and wasn't a great place to socialise.
If my friends were calling me laowai, then I would probably not like it. But for strangers to do it...what else would I expect? It's not a bad term. You're a foreigner, so people call you a foreigner. I don't see the problem. This sounds overly sensitive to me.
Hong Kong is unofficially part of the Anglosphere. I think the OP is overweight and/or just not a handsome man just to be treated like what he's complaining about. Advice for the OP: please, if you haven't done so, learn Mandarin, not Cantonese, and get far away from southern China since it bothers you. Furthermore, you probably are too stuck up to pay for p.ussy. Try that; you will feel a lot better. Alas, this will fall on deaf ears [and blind eyes].
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Thank you for your replies and suggestions.
Yes, with regard to 'laowai' (foreigner) - the issue I have is with people calling me that, who have known me for over a year here. There is no interest in finding out my name, and I take that to mean that they absolutely don't care. I don't think it is friendly to call someone 'laowai' (foreigner) once you have gotten to know them. I have been to over 85 countries, and I have never had that experience before.
As an example, yesterday, I was in putting the grades for my 8 sections of English at the university where I work, and the secretary had to ask someone what my name was, despite the fact that we are only four foreign teachers here.
I spoke with my only Chinese friend yesterday, Dr Lee, and he told me that Chinese people are essentially false and hypocrites and that they never show their true face. He told me instances where he had been included in class We Chat groups (a popular social network in China) - only to be removed a short time later. Further, Dr Lee told me that all his students are very nice and polite to him in class, but he has knowledge that this is not what they say about him when they talk among themselves. Dr Lee teaches Chemistry here, at this university. He told me that a group of students complained about him, after he had given some a low grade for poor performances in a lab class. Dr Lee then had to suffer the humiliation of having his classes observed by people from the Department of Chemistry to assess whether he was fit to teach, and whether his contract should be extended.
I am sorry, if I paint a not so pretty picture of China, and also sorry if Dr Lee paints a picture of Chinese people which is not so flattering, but his perspective confirms some of the things I have gone through in my time here.
In short, Dr Lee painted in a not so nice picture of social life in China, and the way people act and behave which only makes me think that I don't have a long term future in this country. I much prefer Japan, even though I know, that Japanese do not really like anyone who is foreign - but I can take it, because I have some hobby interests in Japan which keep me occupied and engaged (Ekidan and marathon and road running, elite levels).
Northern Guandong isn't Hong Kong. Don't you feel like a dumbass talking down to him.
I appreciate your posting this, jonroberts. Too often, all you hear about our people's rosy experiences. I have never been to China, but I spent years in Vietnam and got sick of the culture.
Of course, many will respond with "if you didn't like X, then you must be too sensitive."
Last edited by gnosis on June 21st, 2016, 6:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
1: People in the west talk about their professors behind their backs differently than to their face. Ditto for bosses or anyone who you are stuck with for work or school and you need to stay on the good side of. If he is speaking in generalities that is one thing, but if he is going on his personal experiences with his students only, I wouldn't put much into his example. That being said, I am sure it is a thing there although they also have a reputation for being blunt, but the Japanese are the real masters of showing a fake face.
2: I've been shit on for saying it elsewhere but other people who live for a long time in the far east notice that most people can't hack it beyond 5 to 7 years and only do so if if they can't leave, job, family. Exceptions yadda yadda. I know some here seem to think this isn't a thing but I've read too many accounts to suggest that it is based on people in country who observe the patterns of people around them. It is a rough gig for various reasons. Many can't hack it a year, but for those who stick it out they tend to get a few good years before the suck hits. Usually the pattern is a short period of OMG this is so awesome/horrible, either a honeymoon period if you like it or the opposite if you don't. If you get the honeymoon period then you break into a down period as things you didn't notice on your honeymoon period start to get on your nerves. Then you get to an acceptance stage, often sometimes within 6 months or a year or a bit more. It seems that 5 to 7 year period though it when the place really starts to wear on you and either you leave or turn into a Gary Boundless of Youtube fame. Of course people are different. You are obviously not one of them.
I am not basing this on my own personal experiences. One persons personal experience doesn't mean shit. I take many people's experiences and comments on said experiences and their observations of people's experiences and try to figure out what's what. I've seen the 5 to 7 thing brought on on blogs, quora, other forums, I've never seen it questioned till here as not valid.