Showing posts from April, 2016

All 入乡but no 随俗

(I quick note on a post I wrote recently.  A nice short article by Evan Osnos is linked here .  He ever so briefly mentions  what I had recently spoken of as regards Chinese attitudes towards their country's policies.  I think it's worth a read and far shorter than I what I usually write, though he may put ink to paper more frequently than perhaps I do. ) This is one of the oldest, most well known sayings in China.    One can say it is not even Chinese actually.    The Western version was created by St Ambrose in the 4 th century.     He was a pious dude.   When it filtered into China I cannot say.   But am I the only one to find it ironic that a society dominated by the Han would have such a proverb to begin with?    Thus common sense dictates it was brought into China from abroad.    It is instinct to wish to revert to one’s own culture and habits when overseas.   It is almost a defensive mechanism.   If one does not have friends within the guest culture what


I was on a bus many moons ago in Hangzhou.    A man held a child in his arms a few feet from me.   The bus on that day was not particularly crowded.   I had been on the bus only a few brief moments   when the child, probably around three casually pointed at me and without looking at his father asked. 这是什么东西? Dad replied with a simple, 他是老外。 I was a bit surprised that a child that young could so easily discern the difference between a “laowai” and himself.    But he did. With an equally casual air I commented to the dad something along the lines of, “ I’m not a laowai but a 外国人“。 And therein lays the rub. A laowai is an outsider.     A lot of folks consider it a slur.    Nigger, chink, what have you.   But I’m not here to throw off any angst or over the top indignation.      It’s natural for what are basically ethnically monolithic societies to develop words for other people not like them.   The Japanese have a word for laowai.   It’s called gaijin.