If you’re a foreigner in China and you’ve had even the slightest contact with locals, you’ll inevitably have been asked some amusing, baffling and downright annoying questions in your time. While it’s of course unfair and totally incorrect to assume that all Chinese people possess an extremely stereotyped view of foreigners, the solid majority of locals I’ve met are curious but know very little about us. Here are just five of the daft questions that Chinese people have asked me or my friends:
This has to be number one after “Where are you from?” If you’re anything like me, you’ll have heard a million comments about how terrible foreign food is. This will usually be accompanied by a question about whether or not you like Chinese food. The question poser will then stand there with a look of hopeful expectation on their face, partly genuinely wondering if you do and partly assuming that you must, and if you don’t then you are clearly a cretin.
Of course, the answer that comes out is “Yes, I love Chinese food”, to which the inquisitor will smile broadly, safe in the knowledge that Chinese food is the only food worth consuming.
As Chinese food is so wonderfully varied, it always strikes me as a very strange question, kind of like asking if someone likes music.
As strange as this sounds, I was actually asked this once by a twenty-something Chinese career woman. She had read somewhere that since foreigners discovered the nutritional qualities of the banana, we have been stuffing our faces with the yellow fruit to the tune of five a day.
The concept that I only eat the occasional banana actually shook her to the core. It’s lucky my sister wasn’t there; she hates bananas!
Yes, this is a genuine example of a question a Chinese person asked my American friend.
No-one can deny that America has an extremely high rate of gun ownership and that many of the homicides on American soil are gun-related. Chinese people aren't alone in stereotyping Americans as gun toting maniacs, but the question comes when the asker has failed to see the difference between an American in the USA and an American walking down the road in Beijing.
No, Americans generally don’t carry guns, especially when in Wudaokou and not Wyoming.
This question starts to be asked of foreigners in their mid-twenties onwards. It’s especially common for women who, I have been told, get bombarded by accusatory Chinese people who feel they should be married with kids by their mid-twenties. They think foreigners are incredibly liberal, slack even, when it comes to dating and marriage.
The reality, of course, is that nowadays many Chinese people, especially city types, are putting marriage and having a family off until their thirties. It’s even quite common to hear Chinese people talk about never having children.
Naturally, this is a reality largely ignored by older Chinese folk, who see foreigners' reluctance to settle down early as proof of our sexually depraved and morally bankrupt characters.
This question on its own might seem perfectly natural to ask. Indeed, I’ve asked some of my friends on their first day visiting me in China. However, it’s when this question is asked by a Chinese person who knows you’ve been in China for a long time or has seen you eating with chopsticks before that gets me.
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that you’ve lived in China for three years and still not mastered the ancient and baffling art of eating with chopsticks (yeah, right!), but it’s pretty unlikely. Sorry guys, but it’s really not that hard! Nevertheless, you’re a foreigner and this is China, so for many Chinese people it’s completely reasonable to assume you know absolutely nothing.
These are just five of a multitude of questions that myself and my friends have been asked during our combined years in China. The questions cast light on assumptions Chinese people make about foreigners, in much the same way as we stereotype the Chinese. I think it’s important that both sides remember the old maxim of "to assume makes an ass out of u and me”.
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Keywords: Foreigner in China
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Well, it can also be daft the other way around. It is just natural to ask questions that may seem foolish to the foreigner. Westerners have asked people from another country assuming questions. Westerners also asked foreigners if they like the former's food. Many Chinese are asked how good they are in math. An African told me that he was asked by an American if he lives in a mud hut. All people, no matter the nationality, will tend to assume certain things about another person of a different nationality. You can either just laugh it off and be cool about it or be so pissed like what is happening now with the PC culture where almost everything has become offensive.
Aug 14, 2018 23:10 Report Abuse