Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Part O - Teaching in China - The observations of an onlooker.

If you're female, tall, blond and blue eyed you'll be noticed in a country where most people have black hair. That's a given. There's no way you won't turn heads and create both obvious and discrete comment from children and adults.

If a bloke has a generous amount of face foliage and is older, you'll not only turn heads, but will have people constantly queuing up, asking to have their photo taken with you.

When you're a foreigner staying in a non-tourist Chinese city, be prepared to be stared at. Staring isn't necessarily rude, but is more along the lines of "Did I just see what I think I saw? My eyes must have been deceiving me!  I'll just have another look to check." This is often closely followed by a nudge to a friend, a hurried conversation and more staring eyes.

Put simply, if you're in the above categories, and don't like being stared at with curiosity, wonder or disbelief, dye your hair a dark colour or shave the beard off. For the introvert it'll save a lot of angst, and isn't uncommon among foreigners. You won't blend in, but you will be less obvious!

Staring can range from the cursory glance, to the prolonged unblinking stare, to the positively amusing triple take, complete with audible gasp and bulging eyes.

In the photo below you can see this in action. The lady in the blue/green blouse on the left is staring at the beard. The man in the black t-shirt in the centre of the photo is staring at our blond colleague.
I'm following along behind, bemused, insignificant and practically invisible ;-)

On the escalators however, it was another matter.  People couldn't stop and stare. They'd be travelling up the escalator chatting away and were unable to stop or backtrack to get a better look at the gweilo. I'm sure some of them would need to have had a neck brace fitted afterwards as their necks snapped round with such speed!

Walking along behind either Candy or Ian was often entertaining! You'd always know where they were by the synchronised turning of heads. Ah yes, they must be that way .... hmm, no more people looking, time to backtrack and follow the signs! On one occasion in a crowded market I couldn't see Ian, and simply gestured to a stall holder, stroked an imaginary beard and with a huge grin and wink, he pointed me in the correct direction. A beard can be a very useful item for a wife!

My previous posts about Teaching in China were our ArrivalBanquets,  Culture and Comfort foods, DrivingExerciseFabulous Food,GamesHistoryIllnessFrom Jerilderie to JiangsuKenny (which is about toiletsLists and Communication Misunderstandings. Next up - Pets!



Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - what a fascinating commentary .. and yes I could believe the stories .. glad your sign language work ..

Cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Hi Hilary, someone said to me the other day that she doesn't like travelling to countries where English isn't spoken - I feel she's missing out on so much by sticking with the familiar.