On Being A Laowai

I've recently received some harsh comments on my blog from an anonymous person. I've decided not to publish them in the comments, because it is not constructive. However, I would just like respond here. This, by no means is a post to insult you Mr. Anonymous, but I would just like to address your concerns. You did make me think a bit.

The Original Comments


I will quote what Mr. Anonymous sent me. Yes, it is harsh and definitely not warranted, but it gives my post perspective.

Westerners who refer to themselves as foreigners/老外/外国人 deserve no homeland of their own. They should surrender the U.S., Europe, Canada and Australia and any other place they suppose to be "multicultural" and volunteer to be shot by a cannon into the sea with weights tied to their feet. You, and every other Westerner who says we are "outsiders" are scum and race traitors.

Mr. Anonymous did send some other comments, but contains some swear words that I won't publish.

Why the hate?


I feel that the comments were unwarranted, but it gave me an eye opener as well. Racism is still prevalent and a very touchy subject, but I doubt this is the main concern for the post. I think it refers more to being labeled as a "traitor". I've never been a patriotic person or have had nationalist tendencies, but this does not make me proud of the place I grew up in. South Africa is probably the perfect example of where strong racial agendas upset the equilibrium of a nation. Apartheid was damaging to the country. I still feel guilty even if I was born at the end of it. However, this being said, a man named Nelson Mandela stepped up to the plate and saw past all colors of the skin and unified a common heritage. This to me says it all.

So much to learn


My choice in calling myself a laowai was never as a cause for insulting my country or my heritage. Learning Mandarin came with the inevitable interest in the country that is China. The culture intrigues me to no end. Thus, on being a laowai, I want to learn about the Chinese and their language. This adventure of unraveling China's mystery is exciting. It gives me a different perspective on life, which I did not have before. I gain a new understanding of a group of people that take up almost the majority of Earth's population. If this isn't something positive, then I don't know what would be.

A Fresh Pespective


Without this interest in Mandarin and China I reckon I would've been a totally different person today. I've discovered such a different way of thinking, especially since looking at philosophies of Confucius and Lao Zi. This perspective that I gain aids me in understanding people better. I've got a life goal to continue learning languages and their respective cultures till the day I die. I'd hate to go through life with the same ideas and misconceptions about a culture. Western culture can learn so much from others, but it needs to lower its laurels and step of the pedestal. In any case, with this new perspective I gain from the eastern cultures, I realize the nuances of my own culture even more. I understand why people do the things they do and makes me more aware of it; due to the difference when comparing it to Eastern culture.

So, Mr. Anonymous, don't worry I'd never lose respect or become a traitor of my country. In fact, I'm really proud of being African, even though I'm not seen as one because of my skin color. This is sad, I know, but it gives me new leash on life, 'cause I realized that being a good citizen is by building on the foundations before you, not breaking them down. There is still much to learn and there is nothing to lose in learning from others. Only lots and lots to gain. So here's to all you laowai's. May the journey be a neverending intrigue.