Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Hello beautiful"

It was Sunday morning and I was walking to my first day of classes with my company. I got up nice and early to prepare my outfit and look over my lesson. The house I lived in was very close to where I taught, so I walked the whole way. The air was polluted so it wasn't as nice as refreshing as a walk could have been, but I kept a smile on the whole time excited to be teaching my first class.

The first thing I began to notice was the people staring. This made me very nervous because I thought maybe there was something wrong with either my outfit or I had leftover breakfast food on my face. I panicked. I began to walk faster. Near the company there is a bus station and walking very briskly past it I heard someone speaking English. As I turned my head I saw three security guards standing up waving at me saying "Hello beautiful". I didn't know how to respond so I just waved back and continued walking. As soon as I got to work I seen another colleague of mine, "Have you gotten used to the staring yet Chels?" he asked. "What! Is that what that was?!" I answered, shocked and appalled. Immediately I knew that this was why everyone was staring. This is where the idea of "erotic difference" came into my mind.

Since there were only a handful of 'foreigners' in the town I was living in it was a shock to the Chinese culture to see us walking about. The stares varied from shocked, curious, excited, to angry and rude. Being a girl, we tended to get the happier of the stares. It was defiantly an ego booster to some of the woman I taught with. One wouldn't even come out with any other girls because it 'drew attention away from her'. I didn't think much of this because it is the exact same reason to why Western men find the Chinese girls very attractive. They are different. When you are not used to seeing someone who is different they automatically become 'erotic' in your mind.

This idea of attractiveness became an advantage to me in the long run. I had an interview at the private school I taught at and as soon as the principal seen me he hired me on the spot, "You are beautiful and will be an excellent teacher". He hired me based on his perspective on how attractive I was. I could have been the worlds worst teacher, but because my principal thought I was good looking he truly believed the children would obey me and I would be an excellent teacher. This bothered me in the beginning because he had no idea how my skills of teaching were, but it didn't take long until I appreciated the decision and thought myself lucky from having to sit through an interview when I have never taught before.

After some time, in a way, I got used to the staring and the pointing and the whispering. Living the life in China is defiantly in some aspects living like a celebrity. Everyone is always complimenting you and you can do pretty much anything you like, (legal that is). I also caught on to the limited amount of English the Chinese people knew. It was basically: Hello, Okay, Bye Bye, and Beautiful.

To conclude this story, every Sunday that I walked by that bus station to go to work the same three security guards sat waiting for me to come by so they could say "Hello beautiful", and every morning I would smile, wave back and reply "Ni hao ma?".


  1. Chelsea, this was interesting to read. However, there were a few typos ("as soon as the principal seen me" should say "saw", "worlds worst teacher" should be "world's").
    I liked the scene at the beginning the most because I felt like it offered the least anount of explaination and reflection, and it made me feel like I could picture you walking in China. Because I have absolutely no idea what a street in China looks like, however, maybe you could describe the street. Is there a sidewalk? What kind of buildings did you walk by? Were the roads narrow? Were there cars driving by? Was it busy, loud, quiet?
    I liked the description of the polluted air. Living in Northern Ontario, I definately take fresh air for granted and its not even something I think about!
    Overall, the whole topic was really interesting. Its offensive that you were deemed beautiful simply based on your race... but you're right, it happens here too with Asian girls (especially on movies and tv!).
    I like the theme of your blog because I don't know much about China. However, what makes your blog particularly interesting is that its about being a Canadian living in China, so its not just about China, but about your unique perspective on it.

  2. Hey Chelsea,

    I found this post very interesting. I'm glad to see that you made your whole blog specific to your experiences in China, since I (and many others in the class) were so interested in all the things you had to talk about pertaining to your trip.

    First off, like Whitney I noticed some minor typos "As soon as I got to work I seen another colleague of mine," Should probably be "I saw another colleague"
    Other then that your post gave insight to another aspect of travel that I had never considered before (like your culture shock). I like that you didn't reveal the reason for people staring at you right away, and let the reader find out when you found out. This put some suspense in your story ( I was also worried there might be something wrong with the way you were dressed, or something on your face you didn't know about.)

    This topic is easy to relate to because everyone has some sort of experience with being the odd one out, although yours was on a much larger scale.

    I like in the end how you brought the story back to the security guards and how this also tied into your title.

  3. Hello Chelsea!

    There are some very interesting ideas touched during this piece. Particularly fascinating for myself was the difference between how foreign men and women are treated differently. I also liked the little psyche lesson on erotic difference. What was also interesting was the cultural difference in China regarding hiring practices. People everywhere get hired based on looks, including Canada, but most bosses would never admit to it. In China, it sounds like they openly talked about your beauty being a contributing factor in getting your job. Also, that beautiful was a common English word was very cool.

    However, like Meghan and Whitney, the spelling and grammar mistakes hurt my reading experience, but that is something that can be easily fixed by creating a rough copy in Microsoft word. It will more often than not alert you to those problems, while giving you an extra rough copy reading of it before you publish it. I also thought it ended rather abruptly and needed a better fitting transition than “To conclude this story…”

    I look forward to more stories about the various aspects of culture shock you experienced. It is definitely good fodder for stories.

    - Jeremy