5 Things Chinese People Find Funny About Foreigners

5 Things Chinese People Find Funny About Foreigners
Apr 21, 2023 By Mark Turner , eChinacities.com

Much ink has been spilt on the things expats find weird when they arrive in China. But how about the things Chinese people find funny about foreigners

things Chinese people find funny about foreigners

"Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.” When critical thinker Henry David Thoreau pointed out the inherent absurdity of fashion and the way in which we blindly follow it, he said the same is true for culture. The immediacy of our experience and the inherent self-centeredness that is part and parcel of being human means that many of us struggle to accept cultures different to our own. So while we struggle to understand the Chinese way of doing things sometimes, what do they think of us? Here are 5 things Chinese people find funny about foreigners.

Very foreign bodies

One of the first things that both baffles and amuses Chinese people about foreigners is the pure foreignness of their bodies. While most tourists visit the hollowed cultural grounds of Beijing’s Summer Palace to experience the glory of China’s past, it’s also a great place to see the incredible variety of the human race. You could spend an entire afternoon there just marveling at every shape, size and colour of human from every corner of the world. There are yellow handle-bar mustaches, huge afros, men with bulging muscles, giant females and tattoo-covered hippies.

I can’t even begin to imagine how strange a sight this is for the masses of Chinese tourists from the sticks who aren’t used to seeing foreigners in the flesh. What a contrast to the rather homogeneous looking Chinese tourists with matching colored caps being led around by tour guides waving flags.

It’s cold. Why the shorts?

As amusing as foreign bodies can be on their own, it also amazes Chinese people how foreigners choose to dress these bodies. It is baffling for the Chinese when foreigners—in particular men—wear shorts and t-shirts for most of the year. The sight of a large foreign man with hairy legs sporting shorts and flip-flops on a crisp spring morning will cause a chorus of giggles from Chinese onlookers and endless insinuations that foreigners are crazy.

Non-sensical eating habits

Going a little deeper into our foreign body, it’s time to look at the stomach. Although Western food is becoming more popular in China and authentic Chinese food is becoming more prevalent in the West, both sides are still not fully onboard with the other’s cuisine. Stinky tofu, anyone? Duck tongue? Didn’t think so.

Many Chinese are confused by common Western eating habits. Despite Buddhism being one of China’s main traditional religions, the widespread practice of vegetarianism and veganism by Western people is something of a mystery. Here, children are commonly raised to believe they should eat as much meat as possible and be grateful for it. In contrast, they also find it weird that foreigners eat so much dairy. I’ve even heard Chinese people comment that Westerners smell of milk!

Finally, when Western people want to loose weight these days, they tend to load up on protein and cut out carbs. Chinese do the exact opposite, and will forgo meat in favor of rice and vegetables if they’re feeling a bit chunky. They therefore find it very strange that foreigners will pass on rice when they’re on a diet.

Say what?

Given the tonal nature of Chinese and the absence of tones in Western languages, the way foreigners speak Mandarin is another fountain of amusement for Chinese people. An innocuous tonal fumble when asking for a face mask in a pharmacy can manifest as a sexual proposition! And this is just one example of an infinite variety of linguistic blunders that foreigners set themselves up for when trying to communicate in Chinese.

Strangely, however, the Chinese also seem to find it hilarious when foreigners use Mandarin well. Authentic and correct use of traditional catchphrases known as ‘cheng yu’ by foreigners will have them rolling in the aisles. You can’t win!

Why so confident?

Simple differences in social behavior are also a great source of amusement for Chinese people confronted with foreigners. Off-beat actions, impulsiveness, exhibitionism and gregarious personalities can elicit raised eyebrows, blank, confused faces and embarrassed chuckles.

With modesty trumping confidence here, the average Chinese person is much more likely to use a self-effacing style of communication. They also aren’t so great at picking up on the irony and sarcasm that Westerners employ so liberally. Be aware that a Chinese person may take what you say at face value rather than in the tongue-in-cheek nature it was intended.

Embracing the differences

The bottom line is that every culture has its own way of doing things, but we can actually learn things about ourselves by taking a closer look at other cultures. China is a perfect place to do just that, so try not to be too offended if someone takes a closer look, and perhaps a little laugh, at you.   

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Woww this caught my attention, so interesting

Mar 07, 2024 05:44 Report Abuse


Good to know what to work on when i visit China

May 22, 2023 20:38 Report Abuse


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May 01, 2023 20:21 Report Abuse


LOL. this is hilarious. Obesity is on the rise in China and you will see many different body shapes. Equally confident foreigners are accused of being arrogant. 'Lists' like these are insulting and not 'funny. If the situations were reversed, Chinese would accuse the native people of being racist,

Apr 23, 2023 04:11 Report Abuse