Lao wai

I believe I have already mentioned that locals here will stare at foreigners quite a lot. Melanie who is a tall blonde-haired, blue-eyed Canadian shared stories with us about how she had inadvertently caused traffic accidents simply by walking down the street. Call me crazy but this seems unusual.


I live in a city of 5 million people many of whom are from both the best known and most obscure corners of the planet. More importantly I belong to an urban community where over 200 different languages are spoken and residents whether they are of first or many later generations have every possible variation of skin, hair and eye colour. And everyone – whether happily or not – co-exists.


Here I am a lao wai (which depending on who you ask means either “good old foreigner” or “white ghost”). Although all the staring makes me feel a bit like an animal on display at the zoo, I recognize that I can either feel uncomfortable about the whole thing or I can just be friendly.


Case in point: Mike and I were walking down the hallway to our hotel room and there was a small group of people hovering around the end window smoking. As we got closer to our room, one of the women in the group motioned to another inside the room to come out into the hall. Then all four of them stared at us and the two women said something to each other in Mandarin – still staring, not even blinking. So I turned to the group and said “hello” to which they responded with a shy “hello” and then started to giggle. These folks were likely Chinese who live outside of Shanghai in some of the smaller cities/communities. I am told that native Shanghai dwellers are quite used to foreigners and aren’t the ones staring. But I can’t tell the difference.


Today is our last full day in Shanghai and there are two must-sees on the list – Century Park (a massive green space with well manicured gardens) and the Pudong skyline at night.



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