Questions Chinese People Ask Me

Life in Nanchong is definitely interesting. I love it because its very Chinese and not as modern as other cities, but being one of the only foreigners comes with some unique experiences. Especially since some Chinese have never seen a foreigner before. They’re understandably curious and often ask questions that I have no idea what to do with. These are some example

The performance requests

Yesterday a girl on the bus started talking to me. She asked the basic questions about where I’m from, why am I in China and whatnot. Then she started asking if I like to sing. Personally I’m not much of a singer but karaoke is a super big deal here, so I politely smiled and said sometimes. She pulled out her phone and pulled up Katy Perry’s Roar and asked if I could sing it for her. I was not feeling into performing for a stranger and politely declined, she was so shocked that an American would be so shy.

I’m not sure not wanting to start singing for a stranger while on public transportation exactly translates to being shy… but perhaps I’m wrong? Sometimes I end up second guessing myself, wondering if its strange that I don’t want to sing for a stranger on public transportation. Also any KTV experience is filled with requests to sing English songs.

awkward panda

Its about as awkward as this panda

The Stereotypes

People pretty consistently come up and ask me if I have a gun. Sometimes its sort of startling when I’m working and  a parent comes into the office and asks me if I have a weapon. I know there is stereotype (that’s sort of true I guess) that Americans love guns, but usually not girls my age and I definitely have never felt the need to own a weapon.

The English Questions

I often receive compliments on my English, which is sort of funny to me, being my only language. People will sometimes ask me how many English words I know. I had no idea but I researched and apparently the average person knows 50,000 words, a reasonably well-educated person should know 75,000 words (hopefully I count as reasonably well educated). I usually just respond by asking them how many Chinese words they know. I have to admit though, I get impressed with their ability to read and write characters. I can’t even write my Chinese name legibly and its just two characters.

Teaching English in China

these dumplings can write characters better then me

The racial difference questions

No one believes my hair is naturally curly. I’ve tried to tell people that its just the way it is but they constantly ask me how often I perm it. When I got my hair cut at the salon they told my friend if I came back they could give me a better perm then the one I have now, which slightly miffed me. I’m not sure I’ll ever convince anyone its genetics. I’ve also been asked how I get my skin so light and if American women have an easier time giving birth(?).

The other seriously creepy funny thing about getting a hair cut was that some of the people in the salon were catching my hair as he cut it and looking at it. I’m really hoping no one my hair home with them.

Whenever people make their peace signs I have an urge to throw up a gangster sign. I don't know whats wrong with me...

Whenever people make their peace signs I have an urge to throw up a gangster sign. I don’t do this normally

The Random Questions

People also consistently ask me how much money I make in China and how much I made in America (I don’t answer) I also get asked if I know gay people (I do and I’m pretty they do too) What do I eat (not rice) and probably a million other bizarre question. Its very amusing most of the time and the questions are always just out of pure curiosity which is sort of endearing. Its definitely a part of living in a smaller Chinese city.

And to be honest, as funny as these questions are, I ask a LOT of dumb questions here. A LOT.

Want to know what else is awkward? having full length mirrors inside bathrooms. Who does that?

Want to know what else is awkward? having full length mirrors inside bathrooms. Who does that

other people get asked funny questions? would you sing for a stranger on a bus?


10 responses to “Questions Chinese People Ask Me

  1. Rebekah, When I lived in Asia, I got similar questions. I think stereotypes is part of the problem, but I also think things like curly hair just don’t happen there and so it’s hard to believe you didn’t do that to your hair. Funny post!

    • To be honest straight hair has always amazed me. I can’t imagine having hair that just drys normally…. But it’s definitely hard for Chinese to grasp that curls happen. Seeing how much differences confuse people has made me appreciative of growing up with diversity

  2. Haha the same thing happened to me in Brazil with the random questions. People especially liked to start political conversations with me, and I HAD to have an opinion on what they were talking about. I usually would just tell them I don’t talk about politics, but they would push hard sometimes. Another thing I had to explain was that I wasn’t German. A lot of people in Brazil are convinced that Germany is the only country in the world where people can have blonde hair and blue eyes, that was fun.

  3. Ha I can sometimes relate. Thanks for researching the answer to how many words the average person knows. Seriously, who would keep track just because you’re fluent in your native tongue?

    Although that is disheartening that 50,000 plus. The HSK 4 requires a vocab list of only 1200 words (which is less than the list of characters, as the same characters make up different words.) Although that doesn’t count more basic vocabulary/characters. Average educated Chinese knows 4000 characters I believe. Chinese is still going to take a while for me…

  4. Haha – I think getting asked strange questions comes with the territory whenever you travel abroad. I remember when I was about 10, I went to visit my great aunt in Kansas, and my relation (second cousin once removed…?), who was around 8 at the time, wanted to know if we had suitcases, CDs and trains in England…

    Though I have to confess, as I’ve got older, I’ve become one of those terrible people who leads people on when they ask odd questions. For instance, I’m starting to lose count of the number of people who are now convinced that I’m distantly related to the queen.

    Are you never tempted to do that?!

  5. That’s so interesting! I lived with a Chinese girl for one year whilst I was at university in Italy and I have to admit I must have looked to her like these people do to you. I was so curious about her different culture that I asked so many odd things and I’m pretty sure that most of the time were just stereotypes. I loved this post Rebekah 🙂

  6. You sure get asked some really interesting questions. I would love to know why they would think American women would have an easier time giving birth.

  7. HAHA!! I love this!! Yes it is very weird to sing for a stranger on a bus! And I can’t believe their impression of Americans is that we all carry guns. Sigh. What does this say about our image…. My boyfriend’s dad said that when he went to China for the first time like 25 years ago… They really haven’t seen a lot of white people, and kept petting his arm and going like “wow! Like a monkey!”

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