Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

Are you stared at in China (and other Asian cities)?

Are you stared at in China (and other Asian cities)?

Feb 20th, 2010, 12:34 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 45
Are you stared at in China (and other Asian cities)?

Friends who were in China about ten years ago tell me they would never return. When I asked why they said it was because of the staring. They said that where ever they went in China, including the major tourist areas in the large cities, they were stared at. This made them very uncomfortable. They said almost everyone stared at them and they felt like animals in a zoo.

My wife and I are going to spend a week in China in May does that mean we should prepare to be stared at? Or maybe that does not happen anymore since the area has opened up to western tourists.
WorldTraveler1024 is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 12:38 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,359
Did you friends have 2 heads or? ;-) .. Sorry not a helpful post ! But interested to read others replies. I have never been to China so far.
kappa1 is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 01:22 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Probably a case of paranoia mix with misinterpretation of the local people just curious about a tourist. Hell I feel that way sometime when I visit certain part of the US!

Another possibility is that your friends were dressed(too revealingly?) or acted in an inappropriate manner in a country or culture that they are not familiar with.
Hanuman is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 01:35 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 441
How many western tourists go to the third world and stare at the locals? Especially those who are perceived to be different, the Karen women in North Thailand for example. I've been stared at in Vietnam because of my height and my wife because of her red hair. Don't worry about it.
silverwool is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 01:47 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 6,664
We were in China in September, Shanghai and Beijing and not once did we feel that we were in any way out of the ordinary. No staring whatsoever.
Gpanda is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 03:07 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Gpanda - that was because you were not wearing your Speedo!
Hanuman is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 03:17 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,026
No one stared at me in China!

But in Japan I got many requests to pose for photos so I guess all is not lost. Of course I was a bit younger in the days when I was gallivanting around Honshu.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 04:44 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 6,664
I was excluding speedo/pool time, when of course all the women, Chinese and western were staring. I leave the reason for the reader.

Oh, when I would sit in a park and smoke a cigar, I did get some looks, but most were looks of amusement, similar to the speedo looks now that I think about it.
Gpanda is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 04:52 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
The old sock in the Speedo trick?
Hanuman is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 05:03 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,110
I've traveled to Hong Kong, Korea, and India. Sometimes Asians stare at us because they don't see white folks very often. It didn't bother me. If you smile at them, they'll almost always smile back.
indianapearl is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 05:14 AM
  #11  
Amy
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,731
I got the occasional look (and even "lao wai!" from a bunch of teens at the "old" summer palace) but it never bothered me. Let's face it, as a blonde woman traveling alone I was conspicuous and knew I would be. I was also asked to be in several family pictures (I'm assuming they were family groups visiting Beijing from some of the more remote areas.) That was actually kinda fun and funny, to me, with me looming over grandma who was looking at me as if I were a really fascinating tourist attraction.

Ah, well, I met a lot of really lovely people and had a great time! Here's my trip report if you want a bit more info: http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...s-in-china.cfm
Amy is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 05:56 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,284
These days in the big east coast cities, or even the more touristed of the internal cities, you are unlikely to be stared at. Kids might react differently - I still remember (with amusement, not angst) being in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Beijing in 2001, agreeing to have my photo taken with a toddler, only to have the boy cry with terror and refuse to get close to me!

Aren't you going to be staring at the locals? Why shouldn't they stare at you?
thursdaysd is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 06:34 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 33
I used to take teachers on study tours to China. On the first day of one tour we were in Tiananmen Square. A Chinese Muslim man was staring at one of the African-American teachers in our group, and the teacher was equally interested in the Muslim gentleman and his family. The only solution was to take a photo of the 2 of them together! I'm also in my share of Chinese family photos in front of famous landmarks.

Seriously, I've been stared at, but I was also by myself once and got lost in one of the hutongs in Beijing and no one gave me a second glance. (Never fear, with a good map and the ability to read Japanese, which comes in handy with deciphering Chinese, I found my way out.) I'm a white woman, but not very big, so my size doesn't give me away. More uncomfortable to me than the staring is the people selling things or little kids who are begging.
kotoanne is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 08:40 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
I love being stared at. Makes me feel like a movie star!
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 08:44 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,778
> Friends who were in China about ten years ago tell me they would never return. When I asked why they said it was because of the staring. They said that where ever they went in China, including the major tourist areas in the large cities, they were stared at.

Ten years is a very long time in China. Particularly in Beijing and Shanghai in the run-up to the Olympics and World Expo, where there have been many campaigns against spitting, walking round shirtless and with your trousers rolled up, wearing pyjamas in the street, and staring at foreigners, all these activities have been much reduced. Nevertheless, at sites of interest to Chinese tourists you are still likely to be stared at by groups from places (the overwhelming majority of China) that don't see a foreign face from one year to the next.

Venture only slightly out into the Beijing suburbs and the impact of the campaigns lessens, and you'll hear, "Lao wai!" as one person points you out to another, and calls of "Halloooo!" usually not in greeting, but just for self-amusement, to show off to a girlfriend, or in order to get a response (a bit like saying "Pretty Polly!" to a parrot).

But even all this is a great deal less than it was even a few years ago, when to pause in the street, perhaps to look at a map, was to find oneself surrounded, after a few minutes, by a tight ring of blank-faced starers, two or three deep, one of whom might grab the map to see what it was the foreigner was looking at. Even today, in the heart of Beijing and even at expensive restaurants, if you understand Mandarin, you may hear yourself the topic of the most impertinent, ignorant, and often racist conversation. Ordering your meal in Mandarin and chatting to the waitress won't stop this, although it will lead to the neighbouring table asking the waitress, as if you don't exist, "Eh! Does the lao wai understand our language?" Then they'll carry on with their remarks regardless.

In short, thanks to the xenophobia built into the education system, the intellectual purdah in which the Party has maintained the people for so long, and constant mutual encouragement amongst Chinese to feel that their culture is older and thus for some unclear reason superior, foreigners are frequently made to feel their 'otherness', sometimes painfully. This isn't unique to China, and nor does one have to go back very far at all to find similar ignorance in the West--say, the 1960s, when it can have been no fun to be Pakistani in the UK, Turkish in Germany, or black or Chinese in much of North America. Plenty of staring and cat-calling there, too, although, of course, none of this excuses the current situation in China.

Many people make the zoo comparison, but far fewer than used to do so, as the problem is now, especially in the big cities, a great deal less. There's anyway nothing to do about it except ignore it.
PeterN_H is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 09:12 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 4
I spent 6 months in Beijing studying Chinese and traveled just about every weekend to places where we didn't see any other Caucasians. I'm 6'2", blond hair and have bright blue eyes. Clearly I look out of place in some of the smaller Chiense cities.

People might've looked twice, but never felt uncomfortable because they were 'staring'!
mvenneta is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 10:53 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 13,993
They wanted to take photos of us with them and would ask"Where from? Sweden? Germany?, etc. I never felt "stared at."
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Feb 20th, 2010, 11:50 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 2,924
In India, staring is common and not considered rude or strange in most circumstances. A group of men staring at a woman, however, is rude.

Among women the staring is them looking at the detail of your sari or clothing, how you're wearing your hair, what you have on for jewelry, etc.
Jaya is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 12:20 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,531
I stare at them, they stare at me!

As Jaya said, I don't think staring is considered that rude in China or India.

My girlfriend is 6"2". When she was travelling in China in 1982, she not only got stares, but they would talk about her when only an arm's length away. She spoke Mandarin though, and would answer back ("yes, I am a woman." "Yes, I'm american", or "I can hear you")
lcuy is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 01:03 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 34
We visited China in 2008 (just after the olympics) and did not feel uncomfortable at any stage and sometimes we were the only westerners around. By the way my husband is blond and blue eyed so he stood out like a sore thumb. Certainly don't let this issue stop you from visiting a very interesting place.
paru25 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:56 PM.