This post is also available in: 한국어 (Korean)
People are rude to me. To their point of view, I’m rude to them.
90% of my conversation with Chinese locals goes the same. And it always ends with a hateful look from the people. Always. If they are randomly talking beside of me, I couldn’t notice because I don’t understand the dialect, and they think I’m ignoring them.
Asians, at least East Asians are not generous with being different. They are just used to one nation; one race; one culture. That’s the exact reason why I’m having a hard time as a traveler. They teach you not to be different; just go with the flow. If you are not going to be THE BEST of whatever you do, it doesn’t really mean anything. There’s no try, just follow the existing rules.
To them, the Chinese, it’s not acceptable; a girl looks like one of them can’t speak their language but English and hang out with foreigners. To them, I’m a show off.
There’s a phrase out there, called ‘Asian-Asian racism’. It’s even too complex to describe, but I’m sure a lot of Asians out there, or if you spent a lot of your time in Asian countries, you would understand. It is a serious problem. And there’s no solution. I don’t think.
In other standards, they adore foreigners. The years of mixed and complex history made them idealize speaking English, blonde hair, blue eyes, and sharp nose. To this day, people want to be westerners. They think Westerners are better than them just because of those reasons. It is so 70s but it’s true. My friends who are working as ESL teacher often post a children’s drawing; a portrait of them being tall and blonde. Do you think that’s funny? To me, that’s sad.
When you, if you are not Asian, are walking down the street with your backpack, you will be stared my locals with wonder and kids will follow you to just say ‘hi’ and run away. Millions of ‘Hello’ in the street is annoying, but it is a good attention.
When I’m walking down the street with my backpack, I’m stared by locals who think I’m weird. No one gives a damn about me.
Just like any other travelers from the west, I’m just a backpacker exploring the foreign land, but no one looks like that.
I’m neither one of them nor a foreigner.
I hear all the crazy stories about how people were rude and taking pictures of them without asking, how all the locals were staring at them in a small village, how kids wanted to talk to them and how people proposed to them because you are so beautiful, but I have nothing to share but awkward encounters with locals.
Unwanted attention is bad, I know. Who would want to be stared by a creepy old man? But to be honest, do you really hate when kids are following and laughing with you, and wanting to take a picture with you because they think you are the most beautiful person in the world? Is being exotic that terrible?
Of course, all the ranting here are based on my own experiences and I simplified the world. I know there’s much wider world and crazier stories out there. Just sometimes, it is frustrating not treated differently anywhere I go. As a traveler, I don’t want to be treated differently; want to experience what local people do. But at the same time, it is good to be recognized as the fact that I’m trying to fit in, learning their language, and exploring an unknown land. In China, using my skills to write and read Chinese character only brought more complicated situations. I’m not be appreciated.
I know that’s not the reason to travel. Sometimes we are observers and sometimes we are doers. The right mix of the two things makes a good experience, but in China, I’ve been only denied.
It is not that easy to feel that I don’t belong to any of their category.