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chinadaily.com.cn 2018-08-31 15:51


“I’m more Chinese than you are!” the guy sat next to me suddenly cried out, causing me to jump and inhale the mouthful of noodles I had been enjoying at the time. It’s not a sentence you hear often, even in China, and especially not from a 20-something Jewish man from California.

To somehow prove his point, the man slammed his wallet on the table and produced several pictures he’d recently had taken with his Chinese girlfriend at a Beijing photography studio. She was in a traditional qipao dress, and he was wearing a sparkly T-shirt, leather wristbands and a pair of shades, trying his best to look moody.

The guy was a friend of a friend who had joined a group of us for a feast of beef noodles, lamb skewers and beer. In his defense, his declaration was in response to someone else saying that I was in fact more Chinese than him, because I had a Chinese wife and had lived in the country longer.

“But I’m not in the slightest bit Chinese,” I responded, after coughing up a lungful of noodles. I pointed out that both my parents are Caucasian, although that should have been obvious from my pasty white features. “And nor are you Chinese,” I added.

Yet my fellow diner seemed uninterested in genealogical fact. For him, “being Chinese” meant he had truly embraced his adopted home, soaked in its culture, and become “one of the locals”.

It was an odd exchange, but over the years I’ve caught several groups of expats arguing over who was “more Chinese”. Sometimes these debates have even included people of Chinese heritage born in other countries, who surely have an unfair advantage.

While some expats struggle to adapt to China’s unique ways, there are others who take intense pride in how quickly they pick up local habits.

I’ve always been skeptical of the “When in Rome” advice I’ve received, though.

One summer night, a British friend – who had lived in Beijing for some years by that point – advised me I should always shout in China, particularly when asking questions to a stranger. To test his theory, as soon as we finished dinner at a restaurant, he sought out a random passer-by to ask directions.

“Watch this,” he said, before turning to bellow a question in Mandarin at a middle-aged woman standing in the street. After asking the whereabouts of the nearest public restroom three times – each time receiving only an equally loud “WHAT?” in response – my friend smiled, thanked the perplexed woman, and walked away.

Of course, you never truly appreciate the habits you pick up from living in a foreign country until you return home and sit down for a family meal.

“Are you going to do that every meal?” my mother asked during the first trip back with my wife, as I loudly slurped the noodles I’d requested at lunch in place of potato fries.

My wife looked over, tutted, and added, “He’s so Chinese.”

英文来源:“CHINA DAILY”微信公众号
编审:董静 丹妮

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About the author & broadcaster

Craig McIntosh is a news editor at China Daily. Originally from the northeast of England, he moved to Beijing in late 2008. He previously worked at regional and national publications in the UK and the US.

Contact the writer at craig@chinadaily.com.cn