Questions Chinese people always ask foreigners
This month it’s my 9th Suzhouversary! I’ve been living in Suzhou for 9 years already! It’s the longest I’ve stayed in a city, excluding my hometown, where I lived for 18 years. Before my time in Suzhou I also lived in Beijing and Shanghai for 4 years, so in total I’ve been in China for about 13 years. When I go back to Spain for visits (well, when I was able to, before the covid era), my friends and relatives always joke that I’m already Chinese. Hehe, very funny. What they don’t realize is that, with my face, even if I stayed in China for 100 years I would still be considered a foreigner! Even my son, who was born here and has a Chinese father, is called “foreigner” because of his appearance (my genes totally won the battle). This fact (looking obviously different), together with the curiosity many Chinese still have about everything foreign, makes that people feel compelled to ask some questions when they first meet you. Do you want to know which type of questions I’ve answered probably a million times during my years in China? If so, read on!
– Did you get used to Chinese food?
For Chinese people, food is probably the most important thing in life and they think Chinese food is the best of all. Many Chinese people, when they travel abroad, can’t stomach “foreign food” so they try to go to Chinese restaurants or fill their suitcase with instant noodles. One of my excolleagues from the factory was sent to Spain for two weeks and when coming back complained about “always eating bread for breakfast”. So, it’s not a surprise that one of the first things they ask when they hear I’ve been in China for so long is if I’m happy eating their food.
– Can you use chopsticks?
This one makes me chuckle. Using chopsticks is not rocket science and I’ve been here for years! Of course I can use chopsticks to eat the abovementioned Chinese food!
– Can you speak Chinese?
Even when you’ve been asked this a million times, you have to understand that many foreigners live here for years and cannot even pronounce xiexie (thank you) correctly. The weird thing is, I swear I’ve been asked this while in the middle of a conversation in Chinese. Do I speak Chinese? What was I just speaking in then?
– Did you learn Chinese because of your husband?
This is not nearly as common as the previous questions, but it’s been asked a few times. NO, I did not learn Chinese because of my husband. In fact, I was fluent way before meeting him!! Now I know way more slang and bad words, though…
– Hello! (to my son)
Ok, this is not a question, but people always try to talk to my son in English, and then I have to explain that no, the fact that he looks foreign doesn’t mean that he speaks English! And well, yes, many people also try to talk to me in English because they don’t think the answer to the third question I mentioned above can be “Yes!”.
I don’t mind people asking me these questions once and over again and always answer patiently (I think). These are the most frequent questions I get, but not the strangest, though! That title has to go to the Beijing taxi driver who asked me how much my father earned. No other question has shocked me more than that one!