Photo of the Day – Offensive or Not?

In the Western Shanghai suburbs of Hongqiao there is an awesome place called “Laowai Jie” , literally Foreigner Street. There are a bunch of bars and restaurants situated on a pedestrian street. It’s an awesome place to chill out on a weekend and a get a taste of home. Now this place used to be called Hongmei Pedestrian Street . Hongmei could be translated as rainbow plum ,however, the name has since been changed to Foreigner Street. While it is true that many foreigners do frequent the area (as do rich Chinese) , was the name change really necessary? Probably nothing bad is meant by the name, but it seems kind of offensive to me. I’m not complaining , but what do you guys think?

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4 thoughts on “Photo of the Day – Offensive or Not?

  1. as a Chinese-American, maybe I’d feel a little offended too, if there’s literally a sign that says “Chinatown” in Chinatown ^^

    • A very good point. I was thinking of the Chinatown example myself while writing this post. Then there are also the “Little Italys” , “Little Havanas” and so on. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen a Chinatown sign in Chinatown haha. Does using the term Chinatown seem offensive to you? I think “Laowai Jie” should have just kept the original Hongmei Pedestrian street name haha.

  2. But in China, I think having a street called Lao Wai Jie does not mean ghetto. It’s less of an insult, especially in China to be called a lao wai. There’s a certain reverance in the term that gets lost in translation. When I think of Lao Wai, the Chinese part of me see a tall, white, English-speaking person. So it’s mostly good things associated with the term. However, the American side of me thinks of less nice associations when I see the word foreigner.

    • Yea I agree in this case it’s not really referring to a ghetto but I do believe it is aimed at the fact there is a high concentration of foreigners in the area. The pedestrian street is geared towards the foreign demographic with all the bars , cafes, and world cuisine. I know there is supposed to a be a reverent tone in the word , old “respected” outsider , with lao appearing before laoshi , and my girlfriend saying lao ma and lao ba when addressing her parents , but it’s just I’m so used to hearing laughter , someone saying laowai , followed by a burst of laughter , a loud “HELLOOOO!” , and then more laughter. Haha it just doesn’t seem that respectful. A weird experience with this is when I was sitting in the Vientiane , Laos airport and I overheard some Chinese guys calling me a laowai. C’mon! Obviously Asia is more their home turf than mine but they weren’t in their country either!
      Haha. Thanks for the comments and for stopping by. I like to hear others’ opinions on the matter.

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