One year in China. Let's do this!

Laowai on Laowai

Shanghai is a city of 24 million people.  Half a million of those people are foreigners, or “laowais.”  While half a million people is a whole lot of a lot of people, it sometimes feels like you are a white person in a sea of Harry Potter jet black hair and people that are about half a foot shorter than you.  They gawk and stare and gape and talk smack about you in Chinese and then tehehe giggle when you say something to them in Mandarin, indicating that you just understood every single word they just said about you.

As a ginger-haired, freckled, transparently white girl in Shanghai, I have adapted to the Chinese stares.  But one of the things that is still super awkward, and happens across the board for all foreigners, is the foreigner-on-foreigner interaction.  We have all adapted to being the token white in a sea of Asian people.  So it throws us for a loop when another group of foreigners is present.  It’s a mix of frustration (THIS IS MY TERRITORY JEEZ!), confusion (I am in a super local neighborhood right now, what are YOU doing here too??) and pseudo-excitement (ahhh one of my kind!)

To break down the step by step interaction of when one group of laowais bumps into another group of laowais, we have taken photos to provide examples.

Evidence below:

And we're walking, enjoying our laowai time.  No one is going to stop us.  We are grooving.  We are walking.  We are loving life.

And we’re walking, enjoying our laowai time. No one is going to stop us. We are grooving. We are walking. We are loving life.

Oh snap.  It's another foreigner.  And he is confused as to why we are stomping on his territory.  That look just says "OH NO YOU DIDNT!"

Oh snap. It’s another foreigner. And he is confused as to why we are stomping on his territory. That look just says “OH NO YOU DIDNT!”

"Woah, buddy, who do you think you are?"  This laowai is less than pleased.  This interaction is awkward.  "Ugh, another foreigner, what the heck?"

“Woah, buddy, who do you think you are?” This laowai is less than pleased. This interaction is awkward. “Ugh, another foreigner, what the heck?”

This is the "yikes" face.  This laowai is not OK about that awkward encounter but will round the corner, wipe the sweat off his brow, and keep going with his day.

This is the “yikes” face. This laowai is not OK about that awkward encounter but will round the corner, wipe the sweat off his brow, and keep going with his day.

After the awkwardness has passed, there is a much necessary smirk on both ends.  This laowai laughs to herself and keeps going on her way.  And that was the laowai-on-laowai interaction.

After the awkwardness has passed, there is a much necessary smirk on both ends. This laowai laughs to herself and keeps going on her way.

And that was the laowai-on-laowai interaction.

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