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How Well Can You Sell to Foreigners? Hangzhou Launched Contest to Find Out

Posted: 12/16/2014 9:30 am


Online retailers in China thrive domestically, but they rarely venture beyond Chinese borders. To help promote international expansion, Hangzhou recently held a contest to encourage university graduates to target foreign markets.

University graduates competed with each other to see who could be the most successful online “laowai” retailer. The contest featured cash rewards of up to RMB 10,000 and a chance to win two years of free rent in Hangzhou’s Network Innovation Park.

The winning company, “Albert”, had the corporate slogan, “Technology to shape the future, creativity and wisdom for life”. Albert promotes interactive technology outsourced to independent companies for design and manufacturing. As with other competitors, the Albert team used foreign social platforms to successfully promote its products.

Other participants included “i-life”, an anime online toy retailer boasting monthly revenues of RMB 10,000. The company is currently expanding into Russia and Brazil.



Watch: Things Laowai Say That Chinese People are Tired of Hearing

Posted: 12/1/2014 3:19 pm

We came across this video today and thought it was too good not to share. It was done by TMD Shanghai, which does a lot of short sketches and comedy bits on life in China.

Check it out! If you are behind the GFW, you can find the video on Youku as well.


Expat A Bit Too Tense, Tackles Chinese Woman Over Innocuous Comment

Posted: 10/27/2014 9:00 am

The suspect in the red T-shirt was arrested by patrolling police.

A Chinese-speaking foreigner in Henan was clearly having a “bad China day”. The British man overheard a conversation between two women on the streets of Zhengzhou when he flipped out.

According to the Henan Business Daily, the incident occurred while the victim was shopping for a cellphone with a friend. After walking past a foreigner wearing a pair of shorts, the woman allegedly exclaimed, “The weather is so cold, how can he be wearing shorts?” (Incidentally, the temperature that day hit a high of 27 degrees Celsius).

The man then tackled the woman, allegedly robbing her of her cellphone and RMB 3,000 in cash. The expat was later arrested by patrolling police officers.

Photos: Weibo



Randy’s Popular Homemade Hamburgers Shut Down by Chengguan

Posted: 08/18/2014 10:00 am

foreigner hamburger changzhou“Hamburgers” and “foreigners” go together like “white on rice”. In the province of Jiangxi, however, people were able to actually watch a foreigner make and sell hamburgers on the street, causing something of a sensation. But it didn’t last long.

A foreigner living in Changzhou has had his roadside hamburger stall shut down by the local chengguan, but not before gathering a clientele with a taste for American fast food, reports People’s Daily Online.

Reportedly named “Randy”, the 62 year-old US citizen made and sold hamburgers, hot dogs, and other US-style fast food by the side of the road. While Randy’s hamburgers cost RMB 15, more than those at KFC, Randy made each hamburger by hand.

foreigner hamburger changzhou

Word of this foreigner and his delicious, exotic delicacies hit the internet on August 7. As a topic on local forums, netizens left comments such as “This makes me feel strange. Laowai still need to make a living?” and “I hope the laowai doesn’t use gutter oil.” Randy’s hand-made hamburgers have gained so much interest that some netizens sought out his address to give them a try.

According to Master Shen who lives nearby, Randy’s hamburger roadside stall saw an increase of customers after coming to prominence online. On weekends, Randy’s hamburgers would attract about a hundred people who congregated in the area. The hamburgers became so popular that one person even left a card with a nearby store asking them to notify them whenever he appeared.

However, Randy and his hamburgers were not meant for the road. The chengguan of Hutang County, Wujin District shut him down because street stalls aren’t allowed in the area.

foreigner hamburger changzhou

However, don’t feel too band for Randy. In addition to selling hamburgers, he is also a senior executive at a local company. Apparently Randy had been selling burgers as a means of conducting market research to determine whether or not there is a market for Americian style burgers in Changzhou. According to an acquaintance named Xiao Wen, Randy is hoping to open his own American fast food restaurant there.

In another report from Caijing, the chengguan came and left without incident, even shaking Randy’s hand as they departed. The friendly treatment to a foreigner rubbed some people the wrong way, considering the chengguan’s otherwise violent reputation. Here are some comments:

Are they temporary workers? (referring to the common excuse used when chengguan are caught acting improperly) Why don’t they treat their own countrymen better?

(The chengguan) don’t breakdown the great foreigners stall upon sight? They’ll bully their own people because they have the capability to do so? What garbage.

(His stall) hasn’t been smashed?

Why must they treat their own countrymen so rough and rude?

Preferential treatment.

Actually, the operations of chengguan have gotten much more civil lately. Although they haven’t be able to get rid of the worst elements, things have still been getting considerably better. This is something that can’t be denied.

It must be because (the foreigner’s) stall is so clean, it stunned the chengguan (into a stupor). Simply speaking, this is what will bring economic balance to a broken market…

Randy burgersRandy burgersRandy burgersRandy burgers


Photos: People’s Daily Online, Caijing


Foreigner Tricks Jiangsu Cabbie By Paying With African Proverb

Posted: 07/18/2014 9:41 am

laowai iouA stranger from an exotic land writes down words you don’t understand which are said to be valuable. Do you trust him? (By the way, the words are in English.)

At around 8am on July 16, motorcycle cabbie Xiao Liu was in Zhonglou District of Changzhou, Jiangsu Province. That’s when he took a foreigner for a ride and charged him ten yuan.

The foreign man spoke poor Chinese, but described himself a foreign exchange student at a Xi’an university. He told Xiao Liu that he didn’t have any money despite asking for a ride, so he would do the next best thing: write a note, reports 163.

The note read:

If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.

The foreigner told Xiao Liu that he could exchange the note for a lot of money outside of China. As Xiao Liu doesn’t speak or read English, he didn’t know what to make of the note, but accepted it all the same.

Later, Xiao Liu went on Weibo to ask for help. Netizens helped Xiao Liu translate the note for him, and that’s when he discovered the saying is in fact an African proverb.

Xiao Liu chalked it up to life experience:

I’m going to treat it as though I purchased a lottery ticket that didn’t win anything. However, this laowai is too tricky. I will be more careful in the future.

Perhaps by being taken in by this charlatan but getting help from the vast online community, Xiao Liu may learn the lesson of community and togetherness.

Photo: 163


Chinese Guy Dresses Up As Laowai To Sneak Through Customs

Posted: 07/16/2014 5:40 pm
fake laowai foreigner

A still from the film, “Death Ray on Coral Island” (1980).

A Chinese citizen who attempted to sneak past customs by dressing up as a “laowai” was busted by police because his English was so poor, reports Sohu.

Chengdu border police officer Xiao Liu first had doubts about the suspect when he saw a discrepancy between the suspect and the suspect’s passport picture. Xiao Liu’s suspicions were confirmed when the suspect displayed an incredibly poor English ability.

When confronted, the man admitted he bought the passport. The man said he had dyed his beard and gotten a perm in order to disguise himself as a foreigner in order to sneak through customs.

Photo: Asia Obscurra


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


Opinion: Laowai is a Four Letter Word

Posted: 06/3/2014 12:00 pm

laowai foreigner t-shirt[The following is a blog originally published at Sinopathic on December 23, 2013 as written by terroir, and is reprinted here with permission.]

It’s thrown around by our colleagues, the jianbing seller, taxi driver, your students, and maybe even your friends. Even though it’s such a ubiquitous term, nobody seems to be quite sure what “laowai” really means. Should you feel good to be referred to that way, as a member of a prestigious club? Or should you be taken aback at being singled out as something different?

Some may say that “laowai” is a neutral term that doesn’t contain any inherent meaning other than “foreigner”. If there are any negative connotations in the word, they stem from the context in which the word is used. But this ignores the latent meaning of the word, shrouding it behind the banality of daily repetition that grinds its significance into unfeeling, bureaucratic indifference.

Taken literally, “laowai” written in Chinese is 老外 (lǎowài). Individually, its components are 老 (lǎo) meaning “old”, and 外 (wài), meaining “outside”. “Laowai” most definitely does not mean “foreigner” in Chinese; instead, that term is written as “外国人” (wàiguórén) which is made up of “外国” for “foreign” and “人” for “person”.

There is no English equivalent of “laowai” in English; this mostly stems from the fact that most English-speaking cultures don’t inherently view the world as being divided between themselves and everyone else (most, I said).

There may be some confusion to what “laowai” actually means due to its individual components. “Old” is universally regarded in Chinese culture as a sign of respect. If someone is called “Old Wang”, then the Wangster is a person of a dignified position, regardless of his age. With this same thinking, a “laowai” should be a position that is equally respected—something absolutely true if it wasn’t for the second half of the term, “outside”.

Family is the most important component of Chinese society. As a way to endear themselves to others, many Chinese will address strangers with family roles; for example, to call a fellow man a “哥们儿” (gēmenr) is to afford him the respect of not just a fellow brother, but an elder one. After family, the respect commanded by any one person starts to thin out the further away they are located from the family home: friends, business associates, co-workers, neighbors… until it becomes a question of geography.

Being an outsider is pretty much the lowest scale to occupy on the Chinese social hierarchy. You are not trusted; your customs and habits are strange and unfamiliar; you are the unknown that stands in contrast to the family circle; your existence is a contradiction to all that which is Chinese.

So when when taken together, “laowai” means “respectable outsider” and not the “Hey, old whitey!” that Lonely Planet tried to convince me of at a more naive stage of my stay here. One could take it as as a backhanded compliment if one enjoys masochism in their majesty, but the word “laowai” is basically a system of control to always alienate a foreigner. No matter how well you speak Chinese, no matter how much you pander, no matter how much you love China – you don’t belong.

Respectfully speaking, of course.


Editor’s note: If you’re still not convinced, we’ve found a very simple process to both confirm the opinions expressed here as well as to give yourself the social advantage anywhere in China. Please use responsibly.

  1. The very instant you are personally referred to as a “laowai” during a conversation, stop everything. Interrupt the other party if you have to. Doesn’t matter if it is pouring rain and you are negotiating a fare for a taxi—grind the conversation to a standstill.
  2. Without raising your tone or showing any anger, pointedly demand answers to these questions: “Who are you calling a laowai?” (你叫谁是个老外?Nǐ jiào shuí shìgè lǎowài?) “Who’s a laowai? Am I a laowai?” (谁是个老外?我是个老外吗?Shuí shìgè lǎowài? Wǒ shìgè lǎowài ma?) “Where’s this laowai?” (老外在哪里?Lǎowài zài nǎlǐ?) Be firm, but not emotional.
  3. Do not waiver. Do not stray from your objective. Repeat yourself dozens of times if necessary. Do not change the subject, or allow the subject to be changed. Do not say anything other than the script in step #2. Again, do not escalate the situation by getting angry.
  4. Results will vary, but what we’ve seen is a slow grinding of cogs in the brain, after which the offending Chinese person will slap the brakes on and put it in reverse like a pizza delivery guy in the wrong driveway at the 29th minute. You may get an apology, get called the revised label of “foreign friend” (外国朋友, Wàiguó péngyǒu) and a conciliatory “好了好了好了” (Hǎole hǎole hǎole). This person will now try to quickly resume your original conversation to forget this unpleasantness, albeit at a disadvantage.
  5. Enjoy your new respect.

Photo: iQiLu


Is There An Expat Exodus in China? Not Quite…

Posted: 05/20/2014 1:19 pm

While it has died down a bit of late, there has been a lot of talk over the last few years of expatriate workers finally packing it in and heading home. Rampant pollution, questionable food quality, problematic education systems, crowded transportation, unbearable bureaucracy and more have been blamed for making China increasingly unlivable.

We wrote extensively about two relatively high-profile expats who penned “Why I’m Leaving China” articles that drew substantial attention, even among mainstream media outlets. But does perception match reality? Are expats really leaving China in droves?

An organization called SmartIntern has put together a handy infographic that says things are not as they seem. While the number of foreigners coming to China has declined, it is only very slightly. Plus, the country remains insanely popular, with Shanghai leading the way.

And if you ever question your decision to come to China (or, more likely, stay this long), you must always remind yourself that things aren’t so bad.


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