Opinion / Blog

The feeling of being a foreigner

By IncredibleChina ( Updated: 2015-05-14 17:32

There were times when I was scared to venture out on my own. The fear of getting lost was not an easy one to overcome. The address of my place seemed to be too difficult to remember. Actually later I realized that it was not that the address was difficult, my mind just refused to remember the address in Chinese. “What if I get confused and forget the way? How will I ask my way back? If they direct me, will I be able to understand them?” So many questions were in my mind. 

But at the same time I hated to be in the company of my foreign friends. I like to walk on the streets or get into a random bus number and get down at a random stop and just explore that area. The joy of exploring people and a place on your own is the best! 

After having learned a few Chinese words and a translator in hand, I finally decided to go out and see the city on my own. Yes, there were staring eyes, but it did not make me uncomfortable. I smiled back at them. I know many of them were surprised to see me and wanted to have a chat with me. When I said few words in Chinese, they praised me that how good my Chinese was. Some asked permission to click a photo with them, while others just clicked me from far away. 

“Which country are you from?” was the mostly asked question. “Are you a teacher?” and “Do you like Chinese food?” are the other favorite questions by them. I tried to reply patiently (most of the time showing them characters from dictionary or translator) and they used to listen to me patiently too. 

I saw happy faces and startled faces when they bumped into me. The small kids could also recognize that I was not a part of their kind of people. Some tried to tell their busy talking parents that they saw a 'different looking' person. Some parents tried to show me to their kids and told them that she is a foreigner!

Yes, I am a foreigner. That is my new identity which I had never experienced before. I had no problems with their staring eyes or startled faces. I completely understand them. They hardly get to see a foreigner and when they saw me, whatever happened was quite natural. The feeling was great as the faces I met were warm and friendly, and had high regards and respect for the place I come from. 

Now when I go outside, I still see startled faces at times. But the difference is that now I can communicate with them very easily. When they hear me talking in Chinese, they are more appreciative of me. The feeling of being a foreigner has changed over time, as now I feel more like a local person than a foreigner!

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