I’ve shared more than one bone-head foreigner story on here, so it’s a nice change to read a story of the opposite happening.

Thursday afternoon, upon seeing a woman drowning (allegedly an attempted suicide) in Hangzhou’s West Lake, a 30-something American tourist wasted little time jumping into the famous lake and swimming to the rescue.

Shanghai Daily: A middle-aged woman jumped from the lakeside Wenshui Pavilion at about 4:40pm, said witness Liu Yong, a security guard at a dining and shopping complex near the pavilion.

Liu said he was preparing to go to the woman’s aid, but before he had taken off his uniform, the foreign tourist had already dived into the water.

“When she jumped into the lake, the drowning woman was about 20 meters away from the pavilion and was sinking. I could only see her hair,” Liu said.

“But the foreign lady swam quickly to her, held up her chin with one hand and used the other to swim back.”

“She was so professional and agile. It took her less than two minutes to swim back to the bank,” he said.

Am I just overly cynical thinking that her jumping in the water was preceded with, “Why the hell aren’t any of these people doing anything?”

UPDATE 2011-10-24: Comments below have pointed out that the foreigner that did the rescuing was María Fernanda Gómez Arregui, a Uruguayan who has been living in Shanghai for a few months.


  1. I don’t think you are far from reality with last sentence

    btw. I would be just curious what kind of idiot choose suicide by drowning without using stone or jumping from high bridge or is it common in China that people don’t know to swim? otherwise it’s basic instinct to fight for life and it’s not possible to drown intentionally

    • I don’t agree at all. This is a dangerous attitude. Please, if I’m ever temporarily insane enough to try to kill myself, let it not be Ms. Bickerstaff that is the only one I could depend on to save me.

    • In a recet interview, Maria Fernanda said that all she could understand of what the chinese girl said after she saved her was “thank-you, thank-you”. So much for the “mind your own bussines” argument.

    • If you see someone who has fallen from a balcony half alive on the ground infront of you, you will have a very tough choice to make then, whether or not to call an ambulance… I mean, for all you know it may have been a suicide attempt and then you can just carry on with your business, or it could also be a tragic accident or perhaps even foul play in which case, i assume you would want to call an ambulance. Just a thought to consider before trying to make a young woman who saved someone’s life sound like anything but a good person.

  2. China doesn’t have a swimming culture like many other countries have and so most people don’t know how to swim. In Qingdao, you’ll often see Chinese tourists on the beach and in the sea, wearing water wings or inner tube things.

  3. Suicide is actually a desperate cry for help. I thought everyone knew that.

    Cheers to that American lady. Hope someone bought her a couple rounds of beers.

  4. The “cry for help” thing is a Western notion. In China, it’s the only way out for a culture that places far too much pressure on certain people, notably women — but doesn’t give them any support. It’s why the suicide rate’s so much higher than in the West.

    • I see your point. But I also wonder why she chose a method that is so much more ineffective than other methods. And I wonder why she chose to commit suicide at a famous tourist site where many people would be there to witness. There is nothing to suggest that she was trying to make a point as in the case of people who set themselves alight to protest injustice.
      BTW,China has benefited in the past from adopting western ideas. Not all western notions (with Chinese characteristics) are bad.

      Aside from the truly mentally unbalanced, most people who fail in their suicide attempt would benefit from a) resolving their personal problems and b) learning to cope with their problems better.

  5. I don’t think you’re too far wrong with that last sentence either. What with the girl who was recently run over without anyone coming to her aid, I think a lot of foreigners have had similar thoughts. Anyone who has witnessed an accident in China has also noticed the general disregard. But perhaps ‘disregard’ is the wrong word??

      • Tom’s post is really good. I especially agree with his point about why this kind of stuff seems to bother foreigners so much. Perhaps it is just because despite our culture’s historical ties to Christianity, we’re still not sure what we’d do in that situation. So kudos to the woman in this article for not thinking too much about ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t,’ and just doing what she felt was the right thing to do.

  6. The woman who jump in the water is an uruguayan girl (South america) not an American (of USA). Her name is María Fernanda Gómez.

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