Before I came to China, my only experience with the wordforeigner was the first few seconds of an old song and Stick shouting “The pride of Rochester, New York!”
In Yantai, though, it may as well be my name. When I walk through town, I am constantly greeted with “Hello! Hello! Lao wei!” I’ve been told many times that it’s not rude, but I can’t imagine the equivilent “NI HAO! HEY CHINA MAN!” going over too well at home. Then again, I grew up in Montclair, NJ and then went to college in Amherst, MA, so I could pass a tribe of mutant pygmies on the street and just wish them a good morning.
Yesterday, as I was walking to my school, a young man shouted “Hello!” I waited for him to add “Lao wei!” so that I could give my customary response, which is to say in very slow and painstaking Mandarin “Hello, I am an American teacher.” But instead, he said, in very slow and painstaking English:
“Welcome to China!”