Sunday, May 28, 2006

Talk talk China

If state's support and Andy's energy do not wane, Andy Yao's institute in Beijing might become, over time, the next Weizmann: one of the best places for theory in the world, the first choice for Chinese nationals who complete their PhD in the US, and an attractive destination for non-Chinese for their post-doc/ sabbatical/ summer. Meanwhile, it is an exciting place to be, with a palpable sense that great things are going to happen. (And I don't remember if I have already mentioned that the food is good.)

As I anticipate many happy returns, I have been reading a bit about China, and I have enjoyed reading talk talk China. It is written by three expats, living in Beijing, China and Hong Kong. Some entries were written when one of them lived in Shanghai. It is mostly devoted to ranting about China, so many posts may be offensive to many people, but, through the ranting, they say very interesting things about China, about foreigners in China, and about the Chinese.

Their claim to fame is this post about the "lao wai death stare," which I experienced even in my very short stay. This , this, this, and this sound familiar too.

Apparently, it is very difficult for a foreigner, or even for a Chinese-born white person, to feel accepted. The comments on that post are particularly interesting, because many posters make a comparison with Taiwan and speculate on how things may change in China. (Or, in the rest of China, if you prefer.)

Indeed, when I arrived at the customs/immigration at Beijing airport, I felt something was strange with the signs pointing to the lines for "Chinese nationals" and for "Foreigners," and then I realized I had never seen the word "foreigner" anywhere else in this context. In Europe it's always "EU Nationals" and "Non-EU Nationals," in the US it is "US Citizens" and "Visitors" (even though, in the paperwork, I am an alien, which is about the worst term they could possibly choose) and so on. My impression is that a lot of this has to do with there being no notion of "politically correct speech" in China (yet). "I like foreigners, with their big noses and sunken eyes" someone told me in Beijing, presumably as a compliment. I am not saying it is a bad thing, I am not a big fan of PC-speech myself. (But this is a subject that would need its own post.)

I had the most fun reading this post about English names. (Warning: even the title of the post is offensive.) In Beijing I met a Beckham and a Gerrard (they are names of football players), and in Taipei I met a Bevis, but this is nothing compared to the examples given by the original poster and the commenters. Of course, now that I am considering "reckless card" as my Chinese name, the joke is on me.


  1. Anonymous Anonymous
    5/29/2006 08:22:00 AM

    Try to do business in China and you will find that there is PC and actually it very hard to be PC.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous
    7/20/2006 06:08:00 PM

    Very pretty design! Keep up the good work. Thanks.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous
    11/24/2006 06:49:00 AM

    You want a good name choice. I met a Chinese guy from Hong Kong who had chosen the name Harry. Doesn't seem so bad until you realize his last name is Kok. Hi I'm Harry Kok. Nobody ever forgets his name!

  4. Anonymous Anonymous
    11/24/2006 06:50:00 AM

    You want a good chosen name? I met a customer of mine once in Hong Kong named Harry. No big deal right? Well his last name was Kok. Yes, his name was Harry Kok. Nobody ever forgets his name!


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