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Some Chinese perplexed, confused by laowai: survey

Posted: 02/22/2011 10:18 am

We all know this anyway, but now it’s finally been confirmed in a survey of 161,000 Chinese people in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen: Chinese people who work alongside laowai find them confusing, and their jokes unfunny. The report comes to us courtesy of EastDay:

About one third of the people taking part in the survey said they had difficulty communicating with their foreign colleagues.

Kiki Liu, a secretary with a Hong Kong-based logistics company, said she was bemused by a British colleague’s jokes.

“He loved to tell jokes, but I found most of them to be not funny at all,” she said. “I thought it impolite if I showed no response, so every time I just laughed stiffly.”

Cecelie Cui, a customs service employee for a computer company, said an Indian colleague insisted on describing simple things in a complicated way. “He is a nice man and is sweet to everyone, but often I don’t know what point he’s making,” said Cui.

The good news is that most Chinese said foreigners brought “something unique” to the company. There’s no doubt that laowai often complain about being misunderstood or not understanding their Chinese colleagues, so it’s clear the miscommunication goes both ways.

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