It doesn’t matter if you’re American, European, Australian, Canadian, or Middle-Eastern. In China, you’re laowai. While on your quest for your Chinese love, your experiences meeting the locals will vary depending on whether you find yourself in places that are always saturated with foreign tourists or in places where foreigners are an uncommon sight.
A foreigner walking the densely packed streets of Shanghai or Beijing, or even the more quaint towns that also offer tourist attractions, is not so unusual that the locals will be gawking at his presence. There are still many places in China, however, that have remained untouched by urbanization and tourism but which are not that far off the beaten path, where a visiting laowai often experiences something akin to celebrity status.
Whether you’re visiting a special lady you met online or somebody you’re already in a relationship with, or if you’re just indulging your adventurous streak or taking a respite from the hustle and bustle of China’s big cities, you will have to prepare yourself for and get used to the sometimes pleasant and other times uncomfortable or even annoying curiosity and attention of the locals.
There may be lingering stares from the adults, whispering and giggling from children and teenagers, and shy greetings of “Hello” or “How are you?” from the braver folk. Some of the latter may even be so bold as to show or express an interest in touching your foreign skin and hair. It is not even unheard for some locals or Chinese tourists to want to take one photo after another with you.
Obviously, such attention, whether wanted or unwanted, has a tendency to become disruptive to one’s activities and pursuits. On the other hand, it can also create great opportunities for casual interactions and even meaningful relationships with the locals. Especially if your goal is to have a more “authentic” experience of China, cultivating relationships with the townsfolk will be very advantageous.
Then again, if their interest, no matter how intense, is of the unfriendly sort because you are an outsider, there may be very little hope in getting positive returns on your efforts to reach out. Some off-the-beaten-tourist-track places in China remain unwelcoming to and suspicious of outsiders, particularly of the non-Chinese variety, so don’t take it personally. But do take it as a reminder for you to tread carefully, both literally and figuratively, as you explore the local surroundings.
If you are travelling with or visiting your special Chinese lady, the locals in such unwelcoming areas will, more likely than not, feel more hostile towards you. For these Chinese folk who are mostly still resistant to change and western influence, a Chinese girl has no business being with a laowai. Of course, instances such as this are not common. Just the same, you would be wise to try to learn as much as you can about a place you will be visiting, especially if it’s not a popular tourist spot.
It would also be best if you could take a Chinese friend with you. Of course, the benefits of knowing a bit of the local dialect are invaluable. Most definitely, you will stand out in these places. Whether or not it will be to your advantage will remain to be seen. Just always remember to be on your best behavior and that the locals have more right to be more curious than you do because you’re the laowai.
However memorable your simple wanderlust or purposeful travel turns out to be, it should still enrich your overall Chinese dating experience by giving you a better insight into some unique aspects of Chinese society.
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