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.
And that was the laowai-on-laowai interaction.