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  Beijing Scene




Labelling Laowai

If you've been in China for more than 15 seconds you've most likely heard one of the infamous Chinese "sayings" (known in the West as "stereotypes") about foreigners. Although many Westerners have been taught that stereotyping and separation of peoples is both inconsiderate and uncool, in China it's really just a means of self-affirmation. Unfortunately, for every hundred foreigners who try to dispel stereotypes about themselves in China, all it takes is one loudmouth laowai (foreigner) to get on TV and reinforce these cultural confusions. Don't expect to convince anyone not to gei renjia tie biaoqian (put labels on people). Better to be prepared for the lao yi tao (stereotypes) and some commonly espoused epithets, trivial truisms, and fancied fiction about non-Chinese people.

"That Smarts"
If you're a youtai ren (Jew), a zuo piezi (lefty), a hun xue (a person of mixed blood) or you simply know how to use chopsticks, congratulations - you are congming (smart)! If you think you might be a hun xuer but aren't sure how smart you are, keep in mind that there are a few tiaojian (conditions) that have to be met before the congming label can be stuck on your forehead: In China, a person of "mixed blood" refers to the child of two parents of different skin color. The child of a German-French "mixed" marriage or the child of a Korean-Japanese "mixed" marriage is not as smart as, say, the child of black and white parents.

An interesting maodun (contradiction) that should be pointed out is that although, according to Chinese tradition, lefties are supposed to be smart, no self-respecting Chinese parent would ever allow their child to use his or her left hand to do ANYTHING. It's just too bu fangbian (inconvenient) to eat or write Chinese characters with your left hand, or so they say.

What using kuaizi (chopsticks) has to do with intelligence is highly debatable. Comrade Jerry Seinfeld once made a funny comment about kuaizi. He said, "You have to give it to the Chinese for determination. They've seen the fork. Out on the farms, the hay?the pitchfork. But they're still sticking with the ol' chopsticks!"

"Wanton-ness"
If waiguo guniang tai suibian (foreign girls are loose) and zhongguo guniang baoshou (Chinese girls are conservative), then why does China have 1.3 billion people? You shouldn't yi mao qu ren (judge a book by its cover), but talk about baoshou, the last time I saw three girls walking down 42nd street in Manhattan wearing spiked-heel leather boots, tight leather miniskirts, beepers and no bras, they were arrested for soliciting.

"Food For Thought"
Waiguoren buneng chi la de (foreigners can't eat spicy food). Perhaps, like the Koreans, Mexicans are actually descended from the Chinese. That would make them "not really foreigners" and would explain why they can eat spicy food.

xican chi bu bao (you can't get full on Western food). Let me just offer a big duoxie (thanks a lot) to those tongbao ("compatriots") from Hong Kong and Taiwan, many of whom have never even been to the West, who open up over-priced "Western" restaurants in China and screw the laobaixing (Average Joes) out of their hard-earned RMB by charging them outrageous prices for crappy morsels of bad-tasting junk.

Waiguoren ai chi mianbao (foreigners like to eat bread). That would explain the "meals" served on domestic flights (i.e. a piece of bread, slice of bread, hunk of bread, chunk of bread, lump of bread, crackers, croutons and a piece of dry, crumbly cake. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to mention the little packets of salt and pepper they give you in case your bread is too bland).

Another popular stereotype is that Chinese food is somehow complicated and difficult to make, and Western food is a snap. Ever try cooking lasagna with a wok, some oil and a burner? In about three minutes' time? The guy who invented guoba (rice crust) in actuality simply burned his rice by accident and then said he did it on purpose to keep from losing face. Hence, a new "complicated" dish!

"Watch Your Language"
The words wiayu and shijieyu used to mean "foreign languages" and "Esperanto," respectively. Now they both mean "English." The erroneous assumption thatwaiguoren dou hui shuo yingyu (all foreigners speak English) will probably continue to exist for a while, so a heartfelt apology goes out to all those non-English speaking French, Spanish, Italians, Russians, Australians, et al in China who are forced to speak English with Chinese people instead of using the Chinese they have studied. It is widely believed that zhongguo hua tai nan xue (Chinese is too difficult to learn), despite the fact that 1.2 billion Chinese people speak it, so unless you have Asian features, don't expect English-speaking Chinese people to speak Chinese with you.

Miscellaneous Misconceptions
Thanks to TV shows like McGyver, Knight Rider, Airwolf, Cover Up and all those other asinine 1980s American programs which you can now watch in China, there is a growing belief that meiguoren dou you qiang (all Americans carry guns). Of course, the news about America that makes its way to the Chinese people doesn't exactly smash that stereotype.

Furthermore, if you're a foreigner, you'll be happy to learn that you are rich! (Although you may not have been aware of it). You see, waiguoren dou you qian (foreigners are all rich). This is a very popular stereotype that explains the whole dual pricing system. It also helps rationalize charging US$10,000 per month to rent a "Luxury Garden Splendid Palace Home" outside the fifth ring road in a developing country. The other side of that coin is the saying, zhongguoren qiong (Chinese people are poor), a "fact" that you may not have noticed with all the BMWs, Audis, Mercedes and mobile phones around.

The Comrade, of course, has no pianjian (prejudices). He makes fun of everyone, regardless of race, religion or sex!

Previous Stories...


In Sickness and
In Health

No Pain, No Gain

How to be a Chinese Tourist

Christmas Comrade

Comrade's Guide to Baijiu

Tube Talk

Toilet Talk

Back to Basics

You say potato,
I say potato

Surviving Chinese Weddings

The Dating Game

One Party, Two Systems

Shop till you Drop

What's in A Name

Making friends with Chinese people

Chinese Zodiac Part II

Chinese Zodiac Part I

Everyday Items in Chinese People's Homes

Blood Type

Judging a book by its cover

Losing Weight

Money is everything

The Comrade's final exam

Wining and dinning out

Pekinese in beijing

Using Your Electric Brain

Traditional Holidays

Little Emporer Syndrome

Henpecked Husbands

To Own Real Estate is Glorious