Please Just Stop Staring …

You would think that since I have lived in China for about 2 years they would be use to seeing me.. I mean I am in a small town and most people have seen me almost everyday.   I am sure there are not a lot of Black-American women that are a size 14/16… around here.  I am the face of the school and I am at all the advertising and marketing events.  I am even the token foreigner that passes out the flyers in front of the primary , elementary and High Schools. Everyone has seen me… twice even.

However, that does not stop them from staring and pointing at me when I walk down the street.  I have been to most of the little shops in my fair city.. and have seen familiar faces from shop owners, taxi driver to even Rickshaw drivers… however… although they know all about me… they still continue to stare. Get over it already!

I have been told over and over again my by students that it is because they are curious, they have not seen a foreigner, or they are excited to see you.  However, I tell them over and over again… bullshit…. (smile)… I gave them a scenerio…. If a Chinese person stared and pointed at another Chinese person… would you guys think it was okay? Of course I get a resounding No… it is rude… then I asked them…It that is so.. why would you think that foreigners would think it is okay? … (that gets blank stares everytime)

Other foreigners that I have encountered have the same kinds of feeling regarding the staring and pointing…. But what can you do?

I am stared at on the street, in the bus, at the bank, in the restaurant, at the train station and wherever else I go. I have even have the honor of causing some car accidents as drivers take their eyes off the road and strain their necks to look at me. It does not matter what your mother taught you about staring at other people;if you look different in China you will be noticed and observed.

I sat in front of my school to try to catch a few rays of sunshine… and my co-workers and boss came out to join me.   A gentleman in a car was hanging half way out side the car.. staring at me and smiling all big…My boss asked me… do you know that guy?  I said .. no… then he asked why is he staring and smiling at you that way?  I was like how should I know .. it is your country…

So, people are going to stare at me; it is just part of the culture. But I can stare back! I do this frequently. Usually, the ‘offending’ starer drops the gaze and turns red. Sometimes.. I will just look right back at them and say…. WHAT? Don’t worry I won’t eat you.  However, I do draw the line at people who want to take random pictures of me. I do not take pictures of people in China without asking for their permission. I should be shown the same courtesy. If someone attempts to take an unsolicited picture, I will do everything in my power to make sure the photo does not turn out well.

On the rare occasion that someone asks me for a picture.. I will pose with them… however, this can get out of hand… one person sees you posing for a photo and several other will want to join in.  Then a crowd forms.. and you are trapped there for at least 30 minutes trying to get away.

You would think I would be use to it by now…. the staring and pointing… Some days.. I am feeling good and I just wave at the staring folks or smile at them… But some days… I just want to get my soap in a sock… and slap the piss out of them ….(well you know what I mean).

Although my foreign friends try to console me and say they know how I feel… I explain to them it is worse for me… because….. MY HUSBAND IS CHINESE…..ohhhh yeah… My husband and I were walking out of our apartment building and he was telling me that he would meet up with me later on that afternoon… and as we were parting.. he kissed me good bye.   A small peck on the lips..nothing crazy…but .. when I turned around to head into the direction that I was going… I looked up and .. an entire bus load of people on the city bus was staring at me.  Mouths open and eyes wide…. it looked kind of like the they were all in some kind of state of shock.

Last night, my husband and I went out to get some fresh fruit at the outside fruit stand… I could not even move to look at the fruit because some old woman was in my way staring at me… she could not even move.. she just stood there… staring… finally my husband had to say something to her to make her move.  I just wanted to say to her… Yes.. foreigners eat fruit……now move your old ass.

Unbelieveable…. I try to joke about it.. and tell the ones that are brave enough to talk to me.. that I am Obama’s cousin…. or Beyonce’s older sister… even Oprah’s little sister… it gets the laughs.. but after awhile it just gets old and irritating.

What cracks me up is how the educated Chinese try to clarify the reasoning for the stares.. I get things like…. your skin is just so beautiful….. they just think you are too fat….  they think you are a superstar….Then in the same breath.. i get...Maybe you should lighten your skin a little… Maybe you should lose some weight.. …it would be easier for you here…. These things irritate me… I am who I am .. and their approval is not necessary.

Sometimes, I see my husband’s face when they stare at us.  He holds it in but I know it pisses him off…. and every Chinese person he meets always asks him .. why did you marry a foreigner?… his answer is always.. because I love her.  (smile)

Ahhhh.. China… it seems I will always have this love and hate conflict going on in my mind.  My new adopted country is not going to change because of me…… and the traditional thinking will not change in my lifetime… So how do you cope with it?  How do you keep from getting angry… when people stare at you in the supermarket to see what the foreigners buy…actually go through your bags….?… What do you do when when you have to sit away from the windows in restaurants because it will draw a crowd?  What do you do when you have to wear big sunglasses to cover your eyes so you irritation does not show?

I know.. I know… it is Chinese way…. but sometimes… i just want to scream at them……“Just Stop Staring at us”.……fact that I am stared at like a caged animal at the zoo, and it is enough to make any sane person feel as though they weren’t.

until next time…


34 thoughts on “Please Just Stop Staring …

  1. Randy....

    You are beautiful. You are in China where being super thin and super light is the only way or DEATH! Materialism is king there (so I have seen), and if you have nothing you are nothing, and if you’re dark that’s even worse. Somehow, being the Jo that you are you’ll manage. Yes, I’m sure it is irritating, but think about it. When you see something that is out of the norm, unique, complex, and unusual… what would do? I would want to investigate. Not in a disrespectful manner, but I would want to take a closer look and appreciate something I haven’t set eyes on before.

    People are insane from any culture, and unfortunately I don’t think it will change because we continue to let things let this transpire. You have the best opportunity to change and mold minds because you are a teacher. Maybe you can let part of the way and let them lead the rest.

    1. I know.. but.. the pointing and staring… sometimes… i just cant handle it.. it makes me more self-conscience of my differences… and they make a big deal about it… like laughing outloud and sometimes even making body actions to make fun of me… gets old….

  2. beautifulbrown

    i would just walk with my camera and whenever they take a picture of me (without my consent) i would take a picture of them so to let them see how it feels..

    1. Yeah, I did that for awhile.. and I pointed at them.. when they pointed me… and when they stared too long.. stuck my tongue out at them…. that always catches them by surprise… but.. it never ends…

  3. Ami

    Lawd have mercy! This is the very thing that scares me and gives me the most anxiety about what my time in China might be like. Yuan and I are both people that get a lot of attention on our own and when we are together it’s insane. I can only imagine China. I just have to pray that I don’t have an anxiety attack and can deal with it, because you’re right there is nothing that can be done to change that. Something that has to be dealt with. Just as long as I’m not touched. I have heard that some will reach to touch your hair or something and my policy is respect my personal space and look all you want if you must, but just please don’t touch 😦

    1. unfortunately, Ami… some will touch you… a few people I have met.. will ask can I touch your hair… (and I say no) … and some will just touch you .. and your hair. My husband tells me that it is rude to touch someones hair without out their permission in China.. and if they do it.. it is usually the uneducated, rude people.

      Well.. there are a lot of uneducated, rude people… China…

      1. Ami

        I figured that they’d be reaching for the hair 😦 It is a definite no no to reach out and touch a black womans hair. One day someone will come across the wrong one and be in for the shock of their lives by the reaction to that rude curiosity :/

        I can’t wait to read your book btw!

        1. yeah.. some African girls here.. wear braids in different colors.. and then get upset and angry when people try to touch them… I tell them.. then why put your hair that way .. if you know they will do that… They just tell me.. it our hair… we can do what we want.. I said.. okay.. fine.. but.. then dont complain when they touch you.

          Hopefully, my book will be completed and out by christmas….

  4. Justin Liu

    I wonder if you’ve ever heard of Clarence Adams. He was a POW that chose to stay after the Korean War. He was the first black person to live in China and he married a chinese woman. He told a story of how after they were married, his fellow workers at the factory he worked speculated what the baby would look like. Some people thought the baby would be checkered, some thought it would be striped like a zebra, some thought it would be white on one side and black the other. I’ve alway thought that was funny story

    1. i had never heard of him.. but that sounds like something the chinese locals would say… crazy people…. I wanted to also .. thank you for reading my blog… and keep reading … I get interesting sometimes…

      1. Justin Liu

        Will do. You have a pretty good flair for writing and your personality definitely comes through. Short of actually going back to china this will do for my china fix.

  5. brittanyhite

    Hi, I found you via Jocelyn. And oh, how I hear you on this one! I’m actually in Beijing, which as a previous commenter mentioned, you would think would be an OK place to be since they are used to seeing the thousands of foreigners who live here. But, I assure you, this is not the case.

    I work quite far from the city center, so I think I come more into contact with “locals,” and particularly the older people (who I assume are more fascinated since they grew up in an era when there were literally zero foreigners here).

    Today on the bus, I just couldn’t escape it. Everyone. Looking right at me. As if I had a third eye or something. At the bus stop, I got so fed up, I just looked back at a girl and yelled “What!?” I just hope as China continues to become more open, hopefully one day this “OMG Laowai!” phenomenon will be a thing of the past!

    Keep up the faith.. Sometime when the stares are bad, I like to tell myself that surely it must be the same for Naomi Campbell or Claudia Schiffer, getting stared at all the time because of exquisite beauty 🙂

    1. First welcome to my blog… and They always tell me here that in the big cities it is not like that… since they see foreigners all the time… but now you have cleared it up… that it is in every city… sad… But .. chin up.. at least when I go outside… I try to look my best.. and wear my shades.. and hold my head high just waiting for someone to say something to me…. hehehe… it does make life interesting…

  6. pearls

    After seeing the word ‘laowai’ I just had to look it up. My source was the following:
    (lao-means always and wai-means outsider)

    Always outsider, or always an outsider to be exact. How sad for those who ‘choose’ to embrace differences people have no control over or can’t change. I hope you continue to do whatever you do during those photo ops. Those of us who have more experience and understanding on living this life are more aware of some things in comparison to others who have not. Being in the states among mixed races is one thing, yet living abroad is totally a different story. Other expat bloggers have stated this loud and clear! Also, here in the states, I live close to Chinatown and sometimes shop. I can guarantee you while window shopping, I was the only AA woman on the street, and I’ve never experienced what you or other expats have that are abroad! It’s all about the conditioning! Peace…be encouraged and take vacations as prescribed!

    1. you are exactly correct…. and now matter how we adjust to their traditions or customs… we are never Chinese…. even if your half Chinese.. you are never really Chinese.

      If you are married to a Chinese person.. you are still .. never accepted as Chinese… so the staring will never end. Welcome to China boys and girls….

  7. Kelly

    I feel your pain as well, living in a small city by Chinese standards. Being a foreign “superstar” definitely has it’s perks – ego boosts from being called beautiful, managers helping you jump the lines. But then there are the drawbacks too, as you mentioned. I have actually been forced to leave a park and go home because 3 young guys wouldn’t stop following me around trying to take cell phone pictures of me and shouting obnoxiously. Most days I am able to just ignore it (although I am almost always aware of the staring), but some days it is just too much. Those are the days I give up whatever I had planned to do that isn’t necessary and go home to hibernate for a bit!

    1. Yes.. exactly… sometimes you just do not want to leave the apartment…. the superstardom fades fast…. one foreigner said he never noticed the staring… that was 6 months ago.. now .. he is cussing and flipping people off… (not that they could understand)…. it gets to everyone eventually…

      1. Kelly

        It certainly does, but it’s something that one has to learn to deal with somehow if he/she is staying here long-term. Here’s a funny thought though – I’m going home to Canada for a 3 week visit in about a week. Do you think I’ll actually feel like something is missing when I can walk around anywhere without being stared at and talked about?! Haha!

  8. pearls

    This is a true story.

    Some years, ago I moved to a certain city. While living there, during my lunch breaks with a coworker(s), we’d just walk around, engaged in conversation. Then, all of a sudden, someone would walk pass me, bumping my shoulder. I soon noticed a reoccurring pattern that needed my immediate attention! Now common courtesy tells you when you’re walking on a crowded sidewalk (sometimes the sidewalk wasn’t even crowded), just turn to the side. Right! I would, did so, and still do. With some people that’s too much like right! So, I decided to become like the postal person. No, not go postal, I became like them in the diligence of their profession. You know the slogan. The one that goes it’s neither rain, nor sleet, sunshine, or hail will stop them. I didn’t carry letters, but I carried my umbrella. Yes! I most surely did! While engaged in conversation, with eyes straight ahead, if I sensed the person wasn’t going to turn sideways and deliberately going to bump me, (I gauged it according to how close they got to me). I would just announce to them what I was going to do with my umbrella! Every time the person either smiled or just glanced at me, and then turned to the side! It eventually stopped happening, yet I carried my umbrella a little while longer to make sure there wouldn’t be any surprise reprisals. I believe the universe forewarned people that I was coming, and meant business. In part, I maintained my peace of mind and had no tension in my shoulder!

    1. This is interesting.. because in China they do this too… they will just walk right into you.. like you are in their way. I was sitting in front of the school on the steps… and there was a whole sidewalk in front of me.. and this woman determined to just walk right over me…. I did not move.. since there was a whole sidewalk for her to walk on.. and she was not coming to the school… so she stepped over me and almost fell… I could not believe it.. she would have rathered stepped over me than just go in front of me and use the sidewalk….priceless..

  9. randomthoughtsfromcali

    Interesting…life under the microscope. Not to take anything away from your frustration, which honestly would grate on my nerves as well, but from a survival standpoint, humans are somewhat programmed to identify and respond in some way to something different. I’m compiling some suggestions from psychologists who specialize in IRR on how to manage the stares for a project, so I find your post quite interesting. But from what it sounds like, the people in your village/town have seen you enough to get over it already. Here’s an idea: keep a camera with you and snap THEIR picture every time they stop and stare. Then please, please, share those photos with us!

    BTW, thanks so much for adding me to your blog roll. I will be in touch with you–I would love to profile you and your experiences, but we can chat more about that offline.


  10. Erica

    I lived in Europe for 3 years and there were people who would stare openly quite frequently at me on the street, in the mall and at restaurants. I got used to it, but I heard the same thing. They stare b/c you’re beautiful, different, etc. I ignored it, but many of my friends were extremely offended. I can’t imagine them wanting to take photos, surrounding me, and stopping, staring, and pointing on a continuous basis. I would love to visit China and hopefully, I will get to experience this firsthand! LOL!!

    1. Dont worry.. if you come here.. it will happen.. However, you cant just stay in the big city like Beijing and Shanghai.. they are use to foreigners by now… it is the smaller cities and town…. whew… it will wear on your nerves.. sometimes.

  11. pearls

    Possible Solutions!

    Causing accidents:
    Wow, what a compliment! You ‘Go’ girl! It’s your overwhelming exotic beauty! The accident causers aren’t asking you to be their witness when the police come are they? If not, strut on sister friend!

    Hanging out car windows and smiling, too:
    Wow, another compliment! Beauty girl, it’s your beauty! Better than an old drunk trying to hit on you like over here!

    When with your husband:
    Ignore them, start humming a pleasant tune with locked arms, or held hands. Then with your lovely face, look into your husband’s wonderful face and engage in a conversation (sweet talk) that will definitely take your thoughts away from them, or tell a funny joke! Then LAUGH like crazy!

    Public Peck:
    For public viewing audiences sake only. Girl, dip that man by throwing him back in your arms and lay one on him, then look up and wink! Or kiss, smile and see only him!

    When alone or with friends:
    See you already know to just stare right back, but this time add pointing! You could include that you carry chopsticks and tell them that you eat people! I know, I know, how crass! Yet, that was a joke, but a good one, huh?!

    Grocery shopper enthusiast:
    They must be new to the neighborhood or visiting relatives!
    Or when alone, close your bag, go around her and get in ear shot and say in chinese back off! Or, again that you eat people! LOL! (No, it’s not the Jeffrey Daumer form either)!

    Restaurant windows and photo takers:
    Get a hat and some nice pieces of stationery with borders on it. Write in chinese that you’re charging a fee to watch your eating performance! Or photos not free, photos for a very large fee! They’ll get the point!

    Do not give them your joy, ever! What you can allow or permit them to have is the joy of relishing in both your presence when out and about. Let it be like water on a duck’s back!

    1. You have some great ideas… I know.. one of my friends … upset a beggar.. the beggars here.. flock to the foreigners because they think we are rich… and they carry little plastic disposible bowls and chase you down the street asking for money… very rudely sometimes…. so my friend pretended he couldnt understand them.. and when they handed out the bowl.. he took some money out….(smile).. the look on the beggars face was so funny… I wanted to do one up on him.. so.. i carry one of those little disposible bowls in my purse… when a beggar comes up to me… I reach in my purse.. he thinks I am getting money… then I take out my bowl and wave it in his face….(they dont like that) … in china.. its a comedy sitcom waiting to happen.

  12. Osirus

    Upon reading your post all I felt was empathy. I too am a westerner married to a Chinese man. I have been married to him for 5 years and have been living in China since. We live in Beijing which is supposed to be an “international” city but I can tell you that I get stared at by the locals everyday. When I’m shopping or doing anything. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve confronted a few of them with angry words when I hear them shout “laowai” … “sigh”…. Anyway, there is nothing that can be done about it since China has been a closed society for so long and finally opening up to the international world. Just grin and bear it and also try to take vacations out of china at least 2x per year. I think that might make your life here a bit more easy. I know it’s helped me alot.

    1. Thank you soooo.. much… I know you feel my pain… sometimes… they look like cartoons with their eyes all big.. yelling Hello..Hello…. then when you turn .. they just look at you… in awwww…… pitiful… Yeah.. I have been here 2 years straight.. maybe i need a short trip home… thanks for the advice…and thank you so much for reading my blog…

  13. I’m amazed at some of the comments you got. What do people think about?! In all fairness Chinese people are amazed at our skintones & body differences…I found anyway. I do think it’s super rude for people who see you ALL the time to act like that.

    I would also be pissed at the photo taken but girl you better stop playing around and pose for those photos right…your a super star in China! =p

    1. I think the people in the states are amazed with the body tones and shapes.. because they see beautiful black women all over the place and they know we come in many shades and mixtures.. but in China… it is different… foreigner is a rare occurance… a Black woman from african .. a little more common..(that country is close) .. but Black American woman…they can barely believe…. until the Obamas….in those photos i will make a face and everything else…. heheheh… turn my head at the last minute… Thanks for the post Nikki

  14. Ruth

    Wow, celebrity status. j/k But seriously I can’t believe that your “friends” said lighten your skin. How about THEY get talller?! Damn! How RUDE is that?!

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