Random snippets of Chinese conversation overheard in Vancouver (Do laowai have big heads?)

Dear Vancouverites,

Ever wondered what all the Chinese people around you are talking about? Given the amount of Chinese people in Vancouver, you may wonder this occasionally.

From what we’ve overheard, most of the time it’s not that interesting; they’re just talking about mundane daily stuff like everyone else: when to meet or where to go or what to eat, etc. But occasionally you get funny stuff like, “Those foreigners are speaking Chinese!” (referring to us, and I’m a white Vancouverite born and raised), Mandarin radio English-teaching spots that use the example of a marijuana bust to illustrate “the jig is up,” or really random stuff like what we overheard this weekend.

We were hiking in the forest near Deep Cove in North Vancouver when a Chinese couple passed us going the other way. They were in the middle of a conversation and as they passed the man said, “In China and Taiwan they don’t have big heads like in other countries.”

Do lÇŽowài have big heads? In Tianjin we’ve heard lots of remarks about foreigners being tall, having “high” noses, even having “three dimensional” faces (I was seriously impressed with that woman’s English vocabulary), but do we have big heads, too? No wonder people stare at us. ;)

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6 thoughts on “Random snippets of Chinese conversation overheard in Vancouver (Do laowai have big heads?)”

  1. I often overhear stuff like this in Sydney, where there are also lots of Chinese. Haven’t heard the big head one, but lots of other racial stereotypes: westerners are lazy, dumb, ‘open’ (ie promiscuous), have ugly body hair, smell, or just plain ‘shén​jÄ«ng​bìng​’ for anything that falls outside Chinese norms (ie charity collecting on the street, protesting, busking).
    I also overhear Chinese people expressing paranoid beliefs that westerners are out to get them in everyday situations – ie the supermarket checkout overcharged them just because they’re Chinese, the police gave them a parking ticket just becase they’re Chinese etc.

  2. Huh. I have no idea if it’s similar in Vancouver or not, or if there’s a different situation in Sydney. I’ve seen Indian immigrants try to bargain at the supermarket checkout, but not Chinese. (Wasn’t there some tension a while back between China and Australia over something? I forget what, but I thought I remembered hearing about a slight backlash in public opinion regarding Australia’s current openness and approach to China. Maybe that’s soured the atmosphere a bit?)

    Now that I think about it, I hear Chinese people in China talking about getting overcharged whenever they travel outside their home province, especially if they go to Shanghai. I wonder if that part of it has more to do with a general insider/outsider outlook rather than anything specifically to do with Westerners.

  3. Big head is a new one to me. I’m living in China right now, and I’ve heard people say foreigners have big everythings… but not heads. Give me time, though. I’m sure it’ll come up.

  4. 老外头大吗?第一次从你这里听说。头大只是是相对 于身体而言的。不过Clark说的老外一切都大,基本还 是得到了民间的认同地。^^

  5. 这玩笑开得可以阿。不过国外的麦当劳远没有中国的 火爆。

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