The Nanfang / Blog

Chinese People Share Embarrassing Stories of Foreigners Who Understand Chinese

Posted: 07/9/2014 3:35 pm

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageExpats may enjoy each day in China as an “adventure” waiting to happen, but have you considered that Chinese have stories of their own about their “adventures” with foreigners?

Guangzhou Daily shares with us a number of personal stories in which Chinese people encounter an expat who, to their often embarrassing surprise, understands Putonghua. While the number of foreigners that have adapted to living in China has increased, it seems the number of Chinese that continue to underestimate them remains extremely high.

We can’t vouch for the authenticity of any of the stories below, especially when a supposed personal anecdote is told in the third person, but all of them sound truthful enough. They are short, life-like, and share the same theme.

They are also accompanied with pictures of movie stars, which we’ll reproduce here:

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageOne day I was at the supermarket buying something when I saw a black person. I turned to my friend next to me and said, “Hey look, that black laowai is really black.” The black person then looked back at me and said, “[I'm not black, it's just that] you’re so white.”

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageDuring university, my classmates and I had all gone out to arrange our class schedule when a brother from Africa who was very black appeared in front of us. One of my classmates said, “So fucking black!” We didn’t think that the laowai would turn his head around and say “So fucking yellow!” We just about fell over at that point~!

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageTwo women and a foreign man were taking an elevator together. One of the women noticed the chest hair of the laowai was very long, and said to the other woman, “Look, the laowai’s chest hair is very sexy.” Who would have thought that the laowai would suddenly answer: “Thank you!”.

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageMe and my girlfriend went to a roller skating rink. My girlfriend repeatedly fell down so I said, “Piggy, do you see that beautiful foreign girl over there? She is much taller than you, but she skates so much better.” That foreign woman skated over and said, “Thank you for your compliment, handsome.” Faint! I hurriedly used my English to answer back, “Not at all.”

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageOnce, my dad went to the Great Wall. As he climbed the wall, he saw a tall, white person sitting on a step. My dad told the people all around him, “Look, this laowai doesn’t have the strength to climb the Wall.” Then the white person replied, “I’m taking a short break, is that okay?”

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageThere was this time I was eating sand pot noodles at a neighborhood outdoor stall. I was dripping with so much sweat that it was like I was drunk or crazy. It so happened the dormitories for Southern University were next door. Then, a young woman of Chinese nationality walked out holding the hand of a black child of about five years old. This small black child kept looking at my drooling face as they kept walking, and then suddenly said in a perfect Nanjing dialect, “I want to eat sand pot noodles!” I just about spit out my noodles.

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageI was once taking the Guangzhou Metro when I saw a family of foreigners. The mother was leading the daugher who was very pretty, just like a doll. Then, an old gentlemen beside her used standard English to ask, “Where are you from?” The little girl impatiently replied with a nonchalant answer in Chinese: the USA.

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageI wanted to bring my classmate on a trip to Beijing one weekend but she was too lazy to come along, so I had to go alone. On the train there, I sat next to a very good-looking foreign man. So I called up my classmate to vent at her. I told her, “You’re going to regret this for the rest of your life! I’m telling you, there’s a foreign man sitting next to me with a side profile that looks like Brad Pitt. All the more eye candy for me!” After I put the phone down, I noticed that the man was noticably happy at me; his heart was brimming with joy as his face radiated with happiness. The foreign man then told me (in Chinese), “Miss, your side profile is also very beautiful!” …Opposite us were a couple that almost fell over from laughing. It was all I could do to refrain from jumping off the train.

laowai chinese anecdotes fluent languageI’m from Jinan. Once, my father and his colleagues went on a business trip to the USA where they went shopping at a supermarket. As they discussed among themselves in the Jinan dialect, they were approached by an American who used a proper Jinan dialect to say to them, “You are from Jinan!” The colleagues all exploded in sweat. After speaking a while, it turns out that this laowai had stay behind with the rear US guard after the war. The colleagues asked him, “So, how is your English?” The laowai slapped his leg and said, “English is so fucking hard to learn!!”


Photos: Guangzhou Daily


PRD People: Albert Wolfe, Laowai Chinese founder, blogger and author

Posted: 02/26/2014 10:00 am

When Albert Wolfe first came to China in 2005, there weren’t many resources with which a foreigner could learn Chinese and few people were blogging about it. Now Wolfe, 32, runs Laowai Chinese, one of the most respected Mandarin education blogs around. This is one of many interesting and rewarding side projects he is able to work on while employed as a teacher at Peizheng College in Guangzhou’s Huadu District.

Albert Wolfe, image courtesy of Baidu

Wolfe came to Guangzhou in 2007 after spending a year in Nanchang followed by a year in Kunming. Since coming to the Pearl River Delta he has published a non-fiction book, written a novel and written several dozen songs in both English and Chinese, some of which have been played on local radio.

Tackling China and Chinese

After taking a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, Wolfe got his TESOL certificate and chose to come to China. “I wanted to learn Chinese. There was something alluring about the Chinese language,” he told The Nanfang. Wolfe added that he found the Chinese graduate students he knew to be very friendly and gave two main reasons why he wanted to tackle this language:

“Number one, (with Chinese) I could communicate with a huge amount of people. Number two, Chinese has a reputation for being so hard, I just wanted to see if I could do it,” said Wolfe.

When he arrived, there was one particular source of dissatisfaction – a shortage of resources with which to learn the language. “Learning to read from scratch, there were things my friends and I couldn’t find an explanation for.”

This frustration was part of the reason why he founded Laowai Chinese. “I put it out there for other people to benefit from,” Wolfe explained.

The blog has proved popular, useful and opened doors both socially and professionally for Wolfe. He has taught beginner Chinese classes for foreign teachers at his college which employs 65 (yes, 65!) foreign teachers.

Plus, Wolfe’s first book Chinese 24/7: Everyday Strategies for Speaking and Learning Mandarin, published in 2009, was made possible by the blog. Just a few months after he founded the blog at the beginning of his second year in China, a publisher approached him asking him to write the book.

Writing books and songs for publication

This was not to be Wolfe’s last book. Writing has inadvertently become a big part of his China experience. “I never thought I’d be a writer. I didn’t come to China with that in mind, just something I got into as a result of being here,” he told The Nanfang.

After Chinese 24/7 was published by Stone Bridge Press, Wolfe joined a writer’s group with two colleagues at the college in which they would write something and meet every week to read it out. After the first chapter of a sci-fi novel that Wolfe was writing went down well, he decided to persist with it. The work that Wolfe read out at these weekly gatherings became “Faceless,” a novel Wolfe says portrays “The worst case scenario for social networks.”

Wolfe’s next book has the working title of “The Great China Quest.” It is about a trip across China made with colleague Adrian Winter in 2010 without flying and with 15 Scavenger Hunt challenges to complete. Here is a brief description from the website:

With only the starting and ending points decided, and a time limit of just 30 days (July 29 to August 27, 2010), The Great China Quest is the story of our journey to cover the 2,000 miles from Urumqi to Guangzhou (without flying) while attempting to tackle 15 scavenger-hunt challenges that our Chinese students have dared us to complete (see The Rules).

“That’ll be a really fun book,” Wolfe told The Nanfang. As well as the story itself which is compelling enough, it is full of side anecdotes about the two men’s combined 15 years in China. Some of the best China books about what life is actually like here are memoirs (think “Mr. China,” “River Town,” etc. rather than more scholarly works).

Aside from the books, Wolfe has also used his spare time in China to get into the habit of making music. He has published two albums of English songs and two albums of Chinese songs for free on his website. His Chinese songs have been played on local radio. The comments are overwhelmingly positive but with characteristic self-deprecation Wolfe told The Nanfang: “People tend not to complain when a product is free.”

A teacher at heart

In spite of all the time he spends on these activities, he describes them all as nothing more than just hobbies. “I really feel like a teacher at heart,” he said.

To Wolfe, his job at Peizheng College is an “excellent” gig for people who have a large number of side projects. He describes the college as being “special” and having a “very supportive faculty.”

He teaches English, music and Chinese at the college and writes intelligently about the process on his blog. As many other Laowais have learned, language-teaching and language-learning are highly conducive to each other.

Having said that, the hobbies are a huge part of what keeps him at Peizheng College, where he is staying indefinitely. “The ones who stay are the ones who find some meaning here.” Indeed.

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