The Huntsman Fluency Imbroglio

– Are you fluent in Chinese? This is a question that laowai often field from curious friends and relatives back home, the vast majority of whom being unable to judge for themselves. The question also arises when would-be job seekers formulate their resumes- while showing fluency in Chinese will look impressive, what happens when an interviewer … Read More »

An Open Letter to Chinese Students Going Abroad

– Dear Chinese student, If you’re reading this, you have already decided to seek higher education in an English-speaking country. Congratulations! Going abroad takes a lot of courage, and I’m sure you’ll do very well. Before you go, though, I’d like to send you a modest list of things to remember when using the English language. … Read More »

Which Dictionary To Use?

– John at Sinosplice has a review of a (gasp!) new update of Wenlin, the software dictionary that first introduced many a lost laowai to the wonderful world of Chinese characters. I was certainly one of them. I remember a few years back complaining to another foreigner in Kunming about my inability to learn characters well. … Read More »

Becoming an Ex-Laowai

DeparturesThis could be you: You’re in your late 20s and have lived in China pretty much since you graduated from college. Like everyone else, you started off as an English teacher but gradually moved on to other work, learning pretty decent Chinese in the process. And while you like living in China and consider it a second home, you’re beginning to think about moving on. For one thing, Mom and Dad are asking how much longer you’re going to stay there. You broke up with your significant other and you’re single again. And you’re thinking that with the lousy economy it might not be a bad idea to go back to school, pick up a Masters, and reassess your options in a couple of years.

As you probably have guessed, this hypothetical guy described above was me. As of the end of July, I am no longer a laowai, but rather an ex-laowai. Or, if the term ‘ex’ has too permanent and negative a connotation, I am a laowai emeritus. A laowai in exile. Read More »

Anti-Huaqiao Discrimination in China

– Recently a Kunming language school I have taught at in the past asked me to recommend a foreign English teacher. As it happened, an American friend of mine was looking for extra work. He’s in his mid-30s, speaks some Chinese, has years of experience, and even has a proper ESL teaching certificate. It seemed like … Read More »

There’s Nothing Delicious About Delicious

– As a former English teacher and long-time observer of the curious ways Chinese people approach our native tongue, my list of linguistic pet peeves is surprisingly few. Yet there is one term that I can no longer stand: delicious. Ask any Chinese person about his or her favorite food and you’re bound to hear the … Read More »

Ethical Vegetarianism

– I tried being a vegetarian once, my first year of university. I was 18 and realized with delight that for the first time, my culinary options weren’t bound to whatever my parents came up with for dinner.  I could stop eating meat, and nobody could stop me! Besides, I thought vegetarianism would help me lose … Read More »

Speaking English in China

– Here’s a situation likely to be familiar to Chinese-speaking foreigners in China. You walk into a bar, cafe, or shop in a reasonably fashionable district of a big city. The guy or girl behind the counter greets you with a ‘hello!’. You reply in Chinese. They reply in English. You reply again in Chinese, attempting … Read More »

Why I Cook — In China

– I have a confession to make. For the first four and a half years I lived in China, I did almost no cooking. Sure, I owned all the necessary equipment- I made sure of that. I wanted people to think I cooked, but didn’t really want to actually do it.  Going out to eat seemed … Read More »

Two Links For Learning Chinese

– Now back to my regularly scheduled language beat, I’d like to share a couple of links with you that should help put the study of Chinese into perspective. First, Ben Ross debunks the myth that Chinese is the hardest language to learn in the world, even if it certainly seems like it at first. And … Read More »

Why Do Foreigners in China Drink So Much?

– On a recent Friday evening, at a promotional party organized by a foreign-managed bar, a very drunk foreign man accidentally dropped a very drunk Chinese woman whom had been sitting on his shoulders. She fell backwards, hit her head on the pavement, fell unconscious, and was ultimately hospitalized with a serious concussion. The event sparked … Read More »

The Comfort Zone

– There’s a scene in the great 1980s baseball film Major League (I realize that the majority of you readers are unlikely to be baseball fans, but bear with me) in which Pedro Cerrano, a newly acquired slugger, takes batting practice in spring training. At first, he hits each pitch way out of the ballpark for … Read More »

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