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09月30日 751 次浏览

Benku8大讨论:“你好”“老外””种族歧视”?!


“你好!”

在英国读书生活的我经常会听到外国人对我说这句话,尤其当知道我是中国人之后。“你好”对于外国人来说,应该就像中国人最初接触英语时学会的“hello”,而“hello”这个词在中文里已经也演变成了打招呼的一个口头禅,它也早有了自己的中文版本——“哈喽”。当我在欧洲、澳洲或亚洲其它国家旅游时,听到其他国家的人和我说“你好”,总是让我感到亲切——外国人在对我表示友好,他们在努力试着说出仅有的几个中文词比如“谢谢”“再见”时,我们中国人都会觉得非常可爱——他们在尝试了解中华文化呢!所以在中国人眼里,外国人——尤其是西方人,只要他们能说出超过两句或两个中文词组,他们一定会得到中国人的称赞——“你的中文太好了”“Wow, you know Chinese!”这是为什么呢?
 

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(图片为我去谢菲尔德旅游时朋友在帮我照相时,有路过的英国人和我说“你好”,还要加入我一起照相。)

中国人自古以来相比欧洲、美洲和澳大利亚,是较为封闭的国家,除了元朝时期,很少有不同种族的人大规模迁入中国境内,因此炎黄子孙的血统和文化一直得以完整保存和流传。直到第一次鸦片战争中国被西方列强入侵,中国人心中才开始有了外国人的概念。黄头发?蓝眼睛?白皮肤?怎么和我们那么不一样?但那些年代里,外国人的形象在中国人眼里是恐怖邪恶的化身,也鲜少有普通老百姓会看到“野生”外国人出没在自己的村庄。二战结束后,中国和世界经过多年的和平发展,新一代又一代的中国人的仇外情绪也越来越少。而九十年代开始普及全世界的互联网,让世界各地的人了解到互相的存在以及文化的异同,美国的世界最强国地位也让英语文化传播到世界各大国,中国也不例外。

现在2016年,在中国的大城市,金发碧眼的外国人不再是罕见的“珍物”。但因为历史和传统文化单一性的缘故,对于大多数中国人来说,外国人只存在在电脑、电视、电影院里;条件好些的学校会请来外教,教教英语口语,或者偏僻山村的贫困学生会遇到来中国支教的外国老师。就算中国年轻一代在街上看见旅游的外国人,也没有几个人敢上前去与他们攀谈。一是因为中国人本性比较羞涩、爱面子,怕说错话;二是因为多年来的英语考试让中国人只着重于笔头考试,遇到外国人要真枪实弹地说英语了,就会被吓坏了。所以在中国大多数的中小城市或农村,中国人将外国人视为“outsider”(局外人)的情况是很常见的。

但对于西方人来说,欧洲各国临近的地理位置,澳洲美洲的白人、华人移民潮甚至过去贩卖黑奴的历史都让他们对不同种族、不同肤色、不同国家背景的人有过亲身接触的经历,在现代社会,西方一直在强调人类平等,反对种族歧视。而“种族歧视”这个词并不会像西方一样成为一个社会问题,因为大多数中国人一辈子都不会与不同的种族的人有过多接触。只有“地域偏见”在中国是很普遍的,因为很多中国人因为工作生活原因会可能从一个省迁移到另一个省,但这又是另一说了。而西方人,不管在工作上还是生活上,一直追求的是——“我们没有什么不同”这样的价值观和信念观。如果说别人不一样,还是讲到别人很特别,或对某人区别对待,都好像就是一种歧视。

拿最近发生在我身上的事情举个例子吧,我最近和两个美国兄妹去苏格兰参加爱丁堡国际艺术节,这两个美国朋友其实是混血,爸爸是美国人,妈妈是韩国人,所以样貌也和亚洲人也有相似,但他们是在美国长大,所以受到的都是西方的教育和影响。我和美国兄妹中的妹妹Mia走在一起的时候,有一辆车经过我们,里面有两个英国人笑着对我说:“nihao!”我觉得很可爱,也对他们笑。但我这个美国朋友却生气了,她说:“为什么这样不尊重人?”我很诧异,我觉得那些英国人只是在和我打招呼,没有什么恶意吧,但Mia却觉得这是种族歧视。“他们并不该从你的外表就认为你是中国人而对你有区别对待”——这是Mia的想法。而我却觉得,我在英国,我确实是外国人,当地人有时候也会把我误以为是韩国人或日本人和我用那些语言打招呼,但我也都觉得他们只是在尝试用他们对亚洲文化的理解来和我们表示亲近,这能牵扯到种族歧视?在国外,有外国人能和你说上几句中文,只要不是骂人或者明显恶意嘲笑,没有几个中国人会讨厌他们吧,都会觉得很亲切可爱。同样的事发生在西方人身上,他们就会发怒了。
 

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(Chris, 我, Jeff, Mia 在爱丁堡)

这也是为什么如果一个中国人去英语国家生活、学习或旅游,很少有当地外国人会称赞英文好,因为他们有些人认为说别人英文好是一种偏见——这可能意味着他们没把你当自己人看(虽然这不是绝对的)。比如在欧洲,很多荷兰人和德国人的英语水平都和英国本地人不相上下(除了一些词汇不同),而英国人从来不会去夸他们说“哇,你这个德国人的英语真好啊!”这是他们之间的共识——谁都不愿意被当成外国人!而且英语国家的人大多会心里想当然觉得大家都会说英文,这和我们中国人以为外国人都不会说中文的情况相反。

这些都不是我第一次知道西方人对这方面理解和中国人有着截然不同的态度了。我的丈夫Chris,他是英国人,我们在上海相遇,他那时已经在中国待了一年多,会讲中文也听得懂中文但还是一直被各种中式文化“洗礼”的他,依然会经常向我吐槽中国人对“老外”的差异对待:
 

  • “我们讨厌被称作‘老外’‘外国人’‘foreigner’,这是歧视!”
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  • “你们总是觉得我们不会讲中文,一说一句‘你好’那些中国人都会大惊小怪!”
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  • “中国人经常会在我身边议论我,他们以为我听不懂中文!”


这不止是中国人对来自不同国家的人的区别对待,对不同肤色的人,中国人的态度会更加夸张。Chris还和我说过这样一个故事:他曾经和一个日本朋友一起在深圳旅游,当时在餐厅吃饭时,Chris用中文和服务员点菜,但服务员却吓得不敢回话,一直问他的日本朋友“这个老外在说什么啊?”Chris又用中文告诉服务员:“她是日本人,她不会说中文,你和我说吧!” 服务员还是一阵紧张还在反复问同样黑发黑眼睛的日本人,根本不敢和金发碧眼的Chris搭话,最后叫来了经理才把事情解决。这件小事我们也可以看出,中国人心里还把西方人和日本、韩国这些和我们外形相似的人加以区分,中国人会觉得西方人更有距离感,那么中国人这种天生的“排外性”究竟是好还是不好呢?
 

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对于中国人自己来说,我们对在国外被当做外国人被区分对待这样的事会觉得非常正常。在中国,被说长得像“外国人”或者 “混血”可算是很高的称赞,这意味着这个中国人可能有深凹的眼窝、双眼皮、高鼻梁和白皙的皮肤,无数整形机构都会广告标榜“将你整得像混血一样的漂亮”——这点西方人是无法理解的——中国人喜欢和别的中国人不一样,喜欢特别,喜欢与众不同。就像取英文名,中国人总是想要和别人不一样的英文名,甚至自创,原因是因为我们国家有太多的人口,谁都不想只当芸芸众生中普通的一员。各种方面只要和别人有一点不一样我们都觉得——好!而且中国人自小受到的教育就是要争第一,从小长大的坏境就是被学校、家长各种比较,我们一直被教育“不要甘于平凡,要出类拔萃!”而西方人呢?他们从小为了保护孩子们的心理健康成长,各种期末考试成绩都不会公开,父母也不会过多干涉他们的各种决定,他们尊重每一个个体的平等发展,讨厌被贴与他人不一样的标签。中国和西方的教育体制没有谁对谁错,但现在这样两种文化对“异类”的认识和反应也是被诸如这样的多方因素影响。

“老外”“外国人”这样中国人自认为对西方人的亲切称呼,西方人刚听到时都会觉得不舒服,不过大多数中国人都不会意识到这点,出于礼貌和尊重,也不会有很多西方人会告诉他们这听起来不尊重。我对身边的中国朋友做过调查,只有在西方读过书的中国人、对西方文化有研究或者在中国有和来自国外朋友深交的话才可能意识到“老外”这个词对西方人来说,他们的感受和我们相比,有着不一样的微妙差异的存在。绝大部分中国人还是认为“老外”是中性词甚至是褒义词、可爱的昵称,所以这一文化现象的差异对中国人来说,不是一朝一夕就能改变的。不过在当今社会,中国人对西方人的态度已经达到了一个空前友好的高度,如果西方人能够更理解中国人的想法,也许这个文化差异就不会再造成误会。而中国人也可以继续在国外微笑着回答别人的“你好”,不要用异样、稀奇的眼光看待身在中国的国际友人们,少强调他们是“外国人”或“老外”,正常、友好地平等交往,这样双方都会更开心。多一份宽容,少一份误解。
 

 

Benku8 Discusses: What Does it Mean to be a "Foreigner"?

“Nǐhǎo!”

I heard this greeting quite often after arriving in the UK to continue my studies, especially after people learned that I was Chinese. For people outside China, saying “nǐhǎo” is similar to how we begin learning English through “hello.” In China, however, “hello” has already evolved into a common greeting that young people sometimes use among one another. It even has its own Chinese version: “hālóu”!

People have also said “nihao” to me as I've traveled through Europe, Australia, and Asia. I always feel touched to hear that familiar greeting outside China. When traveling abroad, I see “nihao” as an expression of friendliness. When a non-Chinese makes a sincere attempt to use some simple phrases, like “xièxiè” (“thank you”) or “zàijiàn” (“goodbye”), we think of it as very sweet—they're trying to understand China's culture! In China, if a foreigner—especially a Westerner—is able to speak more than a few words of Chinese, they'll inevitably be met with enthusiastic praise: “Wow, your Chinese is great!”

But why is that?
 

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In comparison to Europe, the Americas, and Australia, China has spent most of its history isolated from the rest of the world. With the notable exception of the Yuan dynasty, which was established by the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, massive influxes of foreign peoples into China's borders are historically all but unheard of. As a result, the core of China's cultural and ethnic identity has been preserved throughout its history. After several centuries of trade with the West, it was only the outbreak of the First Opium War, in which the United Kingdom invaded the Chinese mainland, that led to a general popular awareness of foreigners in China: Who are these people with blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin? Why are they so different from us?

In those days, the Chinese saw foreigners as the embodiment of terror and evil. Most ordinary Chinese never had the opportunity to see a living, breathing foreigner inside their own village. Following the end of the Second World War, China and the rest of the world developed in relative peace, and the nation's anti-foreign mentality gradually weakened with each subsequent generation. This transition accelerated rapidly in the 1990s thanks to the popularization of the Internet, which helped to increase the world's awareness of different parts of the globe as well as the existence of cultural differences. America's status as the world's dominant superpower also led to the spread of English-language culture around the world; in this regard, China was no exception.

In China's major cities, Westerners are no longer seen as exotic rarities. However, owing to the singular nature of China's history and traditional culture, as far as most Chinese are concerned, foreigners only exist within the confines of a computer monitor, television screen, or movie theater. Better-funded schools may employ foreign teachers to teach spoken English, and foreigners will sometimes come to China's more remote and impoverished regions to assist with teaching duties.

If young people in China spot a foreign tourist walking down the street, most will be too intimidated to strike up a conversation. One reason behind this is the national character ingrained in most Chinese: reserved, concerned with saving face, and afraid of saying the wrong thing. A second reason is the overemphasis China's English-language education places on written exams, which has the unfortunate side effect of leaving its students woefully unequipped for face-to-face encounters with English speakers. As a result, it's common for people in the majority of China's urban and rural areas to view foreigners as “outsiders.”

Western nations, on the other hand, have long histories of trade and cultural exchange. Historical trends of immigration and even slavery have made people in Europe, Australia, and the Americas accustomed to seeing people of different colors and ethnic backgrounds. Contemporary Western cultures emphasize equality among all people, and any behavior that falls under the umbrella of “racial discrimination” meets with harsh opposition and criticism.

But in China, racial discrimination is not seen as a social issue the way it is in Western countries. For instance, 92 percent of mainland Chinese belong to the majority Han ethnicity, and it is important to note that in China, the nation's various ethnic groups (the official total is 56) are all considered to belong to the same race. Most Chinese have never interacted much, or at all, with someone from another race. Regional biases, however, are common in China, as many Chinese end up moving to different provinces for work-related reasons—but this is another matter altogether. Whether in work or life in general, Westerners typically attempt to minimize perceived differences and seek common ground in their interactions with others. To say that someone is different or special, or to treat someone differently from someone else, can be perceived as a form of discrimination.

Recently I attended the Edinburgh International Arts Festival with two American friends of mine who happen to be brother and sister. They were born to a Caucasian father and Korean mother, and their features are noticeably Asian; however, having grown up in the United States, their mindsets are distinctly American. When I was walking with the sister, Mia, a car drove by. “Nihao!” the driver and passenger called out, both of them smiling. Thinking this was very sweet of them, I smiled back. Mia, however, was angry. “They have no respect for other people!” she exclaimed. I was stunned. From my perspective, the people inside the car had simply been saying hello. I hadn't perceived any malice behind their actions. Mia, on the other hand, felt discriminated against. “They shouldn't assume you're Chinese just because you look different,” she explained, “and they shouldn't treat you differently because of that.”

My thought process was different, though. I've come to the UK, I thought, and I actually am Chinese. Sometimes the locals would assume I was Korean or Japanese and attempt to greet me as such, but I would just interpret these interactions as attempts to understand Asian culture and to be more hospitable towards me. How could that be considered discrimination? If a non-Chinese attempts to speak Chinese to me when I'm abroad, as long as they aren't trying to insult me or laugh at me, why should I take offense? I would find it very sweet, and most Chinese would also feel the same way. But if the inverse happened to a Westerner, they would probably feel angry.
 

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This is one reason why some people in English-speaking countries are hesitant to praise foreigners for their English-language skills. To them, this could be perceived as a sort of prejudice, a reminder that this person is an outsider—although it should be noted that this isn't the case with all English speakers. For example, many people who come to the UK from Germany to the Netherlands already speak excellent English, and sometimes just as well as native Britons. In this context, it would be odd for a native English speaker to complement these foreigners on their language skills. For one thing, it could be seen as patronizing, as these people likely need no reminder of their English fluency. It would also emphasis their “otherness.” Additionally, most people in English-speaking countries expect foreigners (particularly those visiting their country) to be able to speak English. To the contrary, people in China assume that foreigners cannot speak Mandarin.

My experience in Edinburgh wasn't the first time I witnessed the stark contrast in perspectives between Chinese and Westerners regarding this issue. My husband, Chris, is British. When we met in Shanghai, he had already been living in China for over a year. Despite being able to speak Chinese, he had never been truly immersed in Chinese culture, and he would constantly tell me about the different treatment a foreigner received in China:

“We can't stand it when we're called 'lǎowài' or ‘wàiguórén' [Chinese terms meaning 'foreigner']. That's discrimination!”

“People in China just assume that we can't speak Chinese. We say a simple 'nǐhǎo,' and they freak out!”

“The people here talk about me when I'm clearly in earshot. They think I can't understand them!”

This isn't simply a matter of the differential treatment that people in China reserve for individuals from other countries. In fact, the differences in treatment become more pronounced when dealing with people of different skin colors.

Chris once told me about an experience he had in Shenzhen while traveling with a Japanese friend of his. While at a restaurant, he told the waiter his order in Chinese. The waiter, however, was too startled to respond. He turned to Chris's Japanese companion and kept asking, “What's this foreigner saying?”

Chris then replied to the waiter in Chinese: “She's from Japan; she doesn't speak Chinese. Just talk to me!”

Flustered, the waiter repeated his earlier question to the one person at the table with Southeast-Asian features, not daring to say a single word to her blonde-haired, blue-eyed companion. In the end, the manager had to come out to resolve the situation.

From this experience, one can see how typical it is for Chinese to group Westerners from those with features more similar to their own—namely, people from Japan and South Korea. In comparison to the later group, people from China will feel a more prominent sense of distance when it comes to Westerners. So is China's natural tendency toward “exclusivism” a positive or negative thing?
 

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To someone born and raised in China, it's perfectly normal to be viewed and treated as a foreigner while abroad. It's also a strong compliment to tell someone that they look foreign or of mixed race. These remarks would be directed at someone with deep-set and double-lidded eyes, an aquiline nose, and pale skin. Countless plastic surgery advertisements have proudly promised to “make you as beautiful as someone of mixed race”—something that certainly would not go over well in Western countries. People in China like being different from other Chinese; they enjoy being special, being unique. For instance, when choosing an English name, they will try to find one noticeably different from the names others have chosen. They may even create their own, like Angelababy, the famous Chinese actress, model, and singer.

In China, no one wants to be just like the rest of the crowd. We're glad when we're little different from everybody else overall. Education is another factor. We're taught from a young age to strive to be the first, and we're constantly compared to our peers by both our schools and our parents. Time after time we're told, “Don't settle to be average! You have to stand out from everyone else!”

But what about in the West? Despite the strong tradition of individualism in Western cultures, parents and teaching authorities make special efforts to protect their children's mental health and self-esteem. Final exam grades are kept private, and awards are given for simply participating in events. Many parents give their children a fair amount of freedom in their decision-making, as they believe that all individuals should be given equal opportunities to grow. And while children in Western cultures are generally encouraged to find their own identities, it's just as true that most of them dislike being labeled as “different.” When one compares Chinese and Western educational systems, it would be disingenuous to say that one way is more “right” than the other. However, the ways that these cultures understand and react to the concept of the “other” have been shaped by various factors such as those described above.

When Chinese address Westerners with terms that mean “foreigner,” like “lǎowài” or “wàiguórén,” they see it as a way of being friendly. While most Westerners initially feel uneasy to hear themselves addressed as such, the vast majority of Chinese are simply unaware of this. Complicating this is the fact that many Westerners are too polite and respectful to tell Chinese people that they feel this way, at least at first. After talking to many of my friends from China, I found that only those who had studied in the West, learned about Western culture, or become close friends with Westerners were aware that Chinese and Westerners have slightly different understandings of the colloquial Chinese word for “foreigner,” “lǎowài.” The majority of Chinese believe that “lǎowài” is a neutral term, and many of them even see it as a positive one or a cute nickname.

 

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