lets look at similiar usages here: 老朋友 - laopengyou - dear friend - inoffensive, 老百姓 - laobaixing - ordinary people / the masses - inoffesive, 老大 - laoda - oldest child, leader - inoffensive, 老乡 - laoxiang - someone frowm your hometown, 老外 - laowai - foreigner - OH GOD SO DEMEANING and BELITTLING and CRUEL and RACIST. This is the wrong question. Is the term “laowai” really so objectionable? Thus Chinese dubbed foreigners "lao wai". After seeing such a clash of opinions for this story, I couldn’t help but consider how dramatically my stance on the issue has changed during my time in China. then the answer is yes. Jokes, people. Admin, I can't believe you essentially repeated the same mantra "it doesn't matter". Personally, I have little time and less interest in fretting over whether complete strangers---most of them mediocre---respect me or not. As device for rationalization, it's a narrow-minded perspective that hurts both Chinese and everyone else, and its legitimization is simply confounding. If someone Chinese treats me like an asshole, i think “asshole”, not “Chinese asshole”. Contentious as all this has become, it is by no means the first of such heated, laowai-related screed online. "Lao" means "old," and is a respectful way to address someone, while "wai" means "outsider" or "foreigner." So it's based on a misconception. Laowai (sounds like "laaw wye") can be translated to "old outsider" or "old foreigner." Andrew from Hangzhou echoed this sentiment on Facebook: “Calling someone a foreigner is pretty bigoted as it implies you don’t belong here. READ: Red Dress Charity Run Attracts Online Controversy as Animosity Towards Expats Grows. Laowai or waiguoren, what difference does it make? Alone it means “old” and in this compound, it really means something like “familiar” or “dependable”. It took some time for me to realize that it wasn’t because my father in-law couldn’t be bothered to remember my name, but that he was instead horrified by the prospect of offending me by mispronouncing it. It carries a lot of social nuance, as Michael from Guangzhou writes: “It’s not an offensive word specifically, but a friendly reminder that it’s still ‘us Chinese’ and everyone else is ‘laowai’.” Zhu Zhu, an economics lecturer at Chongqing University of Science and Technology, reckons that we must look at the term Laowai In China. It may have simply been that the combination “y” and “l” in “Kyle” isn’t an easy prospect for a fellow who has yet to learn “hello” in English. As for me, I’ve rarely been called “laowai” in 18 years here and when i have been called that, it’s rarely been used as a pejorative (except when used preceeded by “他妈的” or “傻逼” — which again, has been an extraordinary rare experience for me). I'm not. Who cares. I personally taught the owner English and now he allows me to drink for free. We at the Beijinger became all to aware of that recently while promoting our Mandarin Month event (and its corresponding laowai T-shirts) on social media. This is the wrong question. Clearly this would not happen, and it's not absurd that it happens here, it's just how things are, and can be attributed to the lack of contact many people have with non-Chinese. In summary, “laowai” i dont get my panties in a bunch about. Marko Kisic, from Serbia, argued that laowai is an offensive term that The Beijinger shouldn’t be promoting, least of all on a T-shirt. Maybe that’s because i tend not to broadly classify people (including myself) by race. Books by current and former Beijinger staffers. In Beijing, 老师傅 (lao shifu) means 'old master,' and 老板 (lao ban) means 'boss.'". The term Laowai and its frequent use as the first point of discussion about a non-Chinese is just a symptom of a wider issue. If the people using the term don't mean anything offensive by it, I don't think it should be construed as offensive. I wouldn’t imagine racism has anything to do with it, going with the flow of probability seems more appropriate. Copyright 2018 Baopals. "Offense" seems to be a curiously Yank attitude: a neurotic craving to be loved AND respected by all. May 5, 2018. in News. But calm down and let me explain this term in I've come across this gross ignorance time and time again, with such focus on the 老, and not a word mentioned about the 外. The components’ meanings don’t signal negativity: The prefix “lao” (老) is not offensive, either alone or in this compound. No backbone. 老外 (lǎowài) is the most common Chinese word for "foreigner." I retorted, leaving her speechless for a moment. Occasionally I meet a Chinese person who is able to be persuaded that these "foreigner/洋人/外国人/老外" words are overused, to say the least. I’m staggered that you actually wrote and tried to defend what you had previously written. then we don't stand a chance. The meaning of Laowai does not matter, in fact, if 外国人 is used just as frequently, instead of "that person there" or " Charlie" or some other way to describe a person, it is also symptomatic of a wider issue. "So is it OK if I call you laotaitai?" Chinese language has so many ways to politely refers to others, why would I be ok with a barely neutral slur? In fact astrong argument can be made that laowai is MORE respectful than waiguoren. You have a self-contempt of which I do not wish to take part. He’d rather not waste time quibbling about it with his Chinese friends and colleagues, explaining: “Other foreigners who haven’t spent a few years in China may get offended by the term. Are there racists in China? “lao” is literally translated as “old”, “wai” is for “abroad”. The term is othering and controversial, as it may be perceived as racist. Personally, if people absolutely must refer to my based on my appearance alone, I could settle for being called a 'white person' in the language of their choosing, as that would be an accurate description of who I am, no matter where I am. In theory, waiguoren is the more polite word for “foriegner.” I have been told that laowai is supposed to be more offensive. Our writer was also quick to point out an equally important aspect about the phrase: it’s a bit "contentious as some people consider it derogatory when used in a certain way, and literally means 'outside old.’". And yet there is still a surprisingly outspoken (albeit small and overenthused) portion of expats who are outraged by its utterance. You are a 老外, not me. Where it is so devastatingly powerful is that it is a blanket term to which a social status quo can be upheld by … Me, I'm going to take a leak, and in the end I wager I'm the one feeling refreshed. Laowai, is the term offensive? Yes, we're of course talking about the term laowai. Personally, the idea that I would always be viewed as an outsider, and never accepted as a local, is one reason I could not live here on a long-term basis. Essentially, people should call us what we introduce ourselves as. A final common term in China will be 美国人 (meiguoren) which is just American, but it will often be said to British, German, and other white laowais much to their chagrin. So when a Chinese person calls me a foreigner, I take it to mean the same.”, In a 1997 selection of Chinese essays by foreign exchange students, one piece was titled “When will I finally stop being a laowai?” In it, the author Felicia writes, “Even if I studied Chinese for a few more years, even if I decided to stay in China long-term, even if I started a family here, I can’t change my fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. A Guide to Getting Laid with Laowai. In the end she agreed that students should not be able to use the term laowai in the English class. Yes, all of us foreighers here are laowai. So if a Westerner lives in Australia, s/he's a "racist colonialist oppressor maybe", and if s/he lives in China, they're a laowai? Apologies if any Black people feel alienated by anything I've said, it wasn't my intention, I'm just speaking for myself as a White person.). Among the Chinese, the term is informal and may be used in a neutral, genial, or even good-humored way;. And if the masses of laowai in China want to march around steaming about this minor linguistic peccadillo, they can go ahead and rage. Laowai is not considered a necessarily offensive term by those who choose to use it, but may become so from context (tone, manner, situation, etc.). Don’t go shoot up a mosque in anger, ok Gormey? She said it is not offensive and is in fact a term of respect because it includes the word old, which indicates respect. “Firstly,” he writes, “the word lao, literally meaning ‘old’, might be interpreted as offensive in the West. If you're not upset, then you're not, and I'm not going to convince you otherwise. In addition to laowai, a foreigner in China can also expect to hear 外国人 (waiguoren) which just means ‘foreigner’ in the most basic, factual sense as we would say it in English. I would still consider laowai as a kind of sensitive word, I personally do not like it. interesting how so many people get "offended " by the term laowai but they still use the "laowai" privilege when they want something done easily. If I was in my country of Canada, it would most certainly be considered offensive for me to point at people of non-white skin colours and shout "foreigner" or openly refer to non-Canadians as "the foreigner" in social situations. “Laowai, translated as ‘old foreigner’, refers to you as someone senior and respected… However, if someone says ‘Watch that laowai using the chopsticks’, it means you are a foreigner so you can’t use chopsticks properly and they are waiting for you to make a fool of yourself. Probably the Chinese equivalent of "nigger". laowai is just a term for all foreigners who are not Mongolian race, means "outsider"..it's not derogatory nor positive, just a word. But along with China's development and communication with other countries, a growing number of … Because it is neutral, it might turn to either side - positive or negative. I wonder who else can spot it. I can certainly echo the experience of a preview commenter that laowai seems to be used when people don't think I can understand them and waiguoren is more likely to be used when people are at least attempting to be polite. Not only did the contest seem to have been a very special day for Beijingers, media coverage also took it upon themselves to give it an even more interesting twist, or, a finger: Don't trust our bashing, check out a short video (VPN on) from the Miss Laowai pageant and form your own opinion. It's these instances of crosscultural bonding (and the chuckles that inevitably come with them) that allow for a welcome breather to the ever-escalating debates about political correctness, and in some cases, downright outrage, where neither side gets through to the other. Many foreigners eventually become desensitized to such labeling, given the frequency of its usage, or shrug it off as meaningless from the outset. My wife’s parents in rural Inner Mongolia, for instance, would often call me laowai when we first met, much to the amusement of my friends back in Canada whenever they asked me to dish on the cultural clashes with my in-laws. Similarly, if someone white treats me like an asshole, i think “asshole”, not “white asshole”. Similarly I saw in a graded reader of the Chinese language, written by Chinese "academics", a Westerner actually introduces themselves by saying "我是外国人". That, I also find staggering. More stories by this author here.Email: kylemullin@truerun.comTwitter: @MulKyleWeChat: 13263495040, Photos: sfu.ca, Lost Panda, Facebook, courtesy of Mudhun Ananthaiyer Ganesh. My opinions are my own and are not intended to represent “the white race” or really anyone except for me. Get over it. Interesting, then, that his image was chosen for this article. Laowai Life: Shifting Landscapes of the Expat Job Market. But if someone calls you shabi laowai, then you beat them. Re: Mandarin Month: Is it Offensive to Be Called a Laowai? So go on, I guess. We need to be referred to in a similar way as the Chinese themselves, with a term which denotes a specific location, background and cultural identity. As to what connotations the word “laowai” has, the jury’s out there — as addressed above, the vast majority of the connotations associated with the honorific prefix “lao” are positive. Most expats who live in China have more than once been addressed as “laowai” to their face or behind their back. So the common response among apologists for these expressions "You're in their country, so you are, in fact a foreigner." then the answer is yes. It’s neutral. Like, I call my wife Lao Wang, because her family name is Wang, or in the same way that I am Lao Liu to my friends. It’s a tough cross to bear, being easily offended. And if we really want to go down the dictionary definition path, "foreigner/洋人/外国人/老外" should really mean ANYONE in ANY country who doesn't hold a passport for that country (or similar definition). But wait! “Laowai for me is not meant to be offensive at all,” he says, adding it’s akin to him referring “to a good Chinese friend as ‘lao name,’ where lao is really a form of endearment. Yet most people, such as Chris from Shanghai, thought it depended on the context. In theory, waiguoren is the more polite word for “foriegner.” I have been told that laowai is supposed to be more offensive. Now this admin has been in China for a decade, and his/her credentials are shared with so many other Westerners living in China or with a strong association with China, so I'm afraid there is little hope for a change in the use of "foreigner/洋人/外国人/老外" words for possibly a century. 入乡随俗. It is an informal word that appears in both spoken and written Chinese. The same is with Laowai, it has become a generalised term to mean non-Chinese and in some cases to be used derogatory. Astonishing how different it is to the first demographic hey? Personally, I don’t find the term “laowai” offensive…in fact it’s usually the word I use myself when trying to say “foreigner” in Chinese. Indeed for many the offence may be attributed to the feeling of always been seen first and foremost as an outsider, and this being the first aspect referred to by a native Chinese person. Mandarin Monday: Dongyou School Uses Cultural Activities to... Mandarin Month: Learn Chinese From Awesome 80s Hollywood... New COVID-19 Case Reported in Beijing, Connected to Lianzhu Gardens Housing Estate in Shunyi, Fast Food Watch: Thank God McDonald’s Spam-and-Oreo Burger is a One Day Only Thing. Finally someone with a sense of cultural awareness and basic manners and dignity. by Kenneth Tan. The idea that clarity is needed when Chinese communicate with each other, so the "foreigner/洋人/外国人/老外" terms are needed is simply rubbish. But if the question is: "Am I causing harm by using the term 'laowai'?" Referring to you as a foreigner might already seem disrespectful and add to that being called “old” would downright leave some folks feeling offended. As an expat who studied Chinese at the Ideal Mandarin language center (we wrote about his story as part of last year’s Mandarin Month coverage), he attributes much of the issue to a lack of PC conditioning in China. I am particularly perplexed by people who say 外国人 is OK but 老外 is not. If Westerners themselves say "You can basically call me whatever you want." After all, laowai doesn’t have to be something we clash over—it can be a term that both sides find peace over. But this is seemingly what this admin actually does—introduces themselves as a foreigner—after all, it's not derogatory, after all the 老爸, 老大, 老二 evidence that he/she provided (although, that 老二 one didn't seem to raise any further comment, which, in the context of whether words are derogatory or not, seems quite laughable). The BBC responded by asking a couple of Chinese members of their staff for their opinion, and they apparently decided that the word "laowai" is not offensive, … Well, all those "language experts" in the article, being foreign or local, are utterly wrong about what actually IS the lao prefix (in most of the cases, NOT a morpheme) - please do your homework here: https://books.google.com.hk/books?id=e_CK0w9CWBAC&pg=PA216&dq=the+morpheme+lao&hl=cs&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9opb3u9PUAhUBLZQKHe26A4kQ6AEIJTAA#v=onepage&q=the%20morpheme%20lao&f=false. Chinese is filled with terms for foreigners. I’ve never really had feelings one way or the Do i think people who have called me “laowai” did so with a racist intention? (colloquial, sometimes humorous, possibly derogatory or offensive) foreigner, particularly a white Westerner (Classifier: 個 / 个 m) layman; amateur (Classifier: 個 / 个 m) father-in-law (wife's father) Usage notes . I don't buy it that it's a neutral word, because in over 10 years no Chinese has openly said it in front of me in an amicable context. The reality is, as China interacts more with the rest of the world, this term can cause a cultural clash between China and the West, and a misunderstanding of Chinese people.”, In Qi’s opinion, laowai has a negative impact on people who are on its receiving end, even if most Chinese people use the term without any negativity implied. With this usage, the word foreigner in say, Singapore, would refer to Western non-Singporeans, Chinese non-Singporeans and Japanese non-Singporeans etc etc alike. Although you will undoubtedly hear the term many times a day as people excitedly chat about your presence, their intentions are rarely rude. Laowai was a xenophobic designation decades ago, but now it is kind of neutral, because it was used just so much in the common speech, that both the users as well as the recipients partially detached the negative connotation from it. Hence the smiley at the end of that statement. Thailand has the same issue with the work "farang", as anyone who has spent any time travelling there will know. I spotted a laowai out at my favorite pub. 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