China + Paparazzi = Chinarazzi

Being from South Florida, I’m used to living in a cultural melting pot. Most of my friends were born in the U.S., but our cultural and ethnic backgrounds vary. In China, everyone is Chinese. They all look Chinese and act Chinese and can’t get over it when they see someone different.

Wherever I go, people stare at me. They take photos and sometimes they reach out to touch me and see if I’m real. When I first arrived in China, I thought it was funny and entertaining. I’d pose for photos and stop for Chinglish conversations, but after months of bizarre interactions on a daily basis, it can get a little exhausting. Sometimes you just want to look sweaty on a treadmill or buy a new toothbrush without the paparazzi (or in this case, the chinarazzi) in your face and the rumor mill flying. In Yongchuan, I’ll meet a friend for lunch and ten minutes later get a text that says, “I heard about your new boyfriend.” It’s crazy. Beyonce, I feel you girl!

A few weeks ago, I went on a hiking trip with two American friends. We stopped to pose for a photo next to a river and a crowd formed to take photos of us, not the scenery. The entire day, we were followed and had our pictures taken whether we were paying attention or not. It’s sort of like being an animal on exhibit at the zoo, except we’re people. This sort of thing happens all the time, but this time I managed to get photo evidence of the chinarazzi.

 

China is just such a homogeneous culture that they’re absolutely fascinated by anyone who looks different. The only time I’m not the center of attention is when I’m with my black friend, Tahina. Black skin is even less familiar than blonde hair and unfortunately, it’s frowned upon. Apparently there is a cultural belief that if you are tan, you are a poor farmer who works in the fields, but if you are pale, you are wealthy and educated. So while bikini clad Americans are getting spray tans and bronzing on the beach, Chinese people are hiding under umbrellas and bleaching their skin.

In any supermarket, the cosmetic aisles are filled with whitening products. I can’t buy makeup or face wash in China for fear of becoming even paler than I already am. Even on the hottest days, Chinese people wear long sleeves, pants and hats to protect from getting any semblance of a tan.

Where are my bodyguards when I need them? #nophotosplease #Chinarazzi #mydailylife #China   A photo posted by Kate W 魏可兰 (@the_kateland) on

 

Unfortunately, many people are racist as a result of pure ignorance. And they’re typically the most unapologetically blunt people I’ve ever come across. One time, I was in a taxi with a black friend when the driver decided to strike up a conversation…

“Where are you from?”
“America.”
“Okay, she’s from America, but where are you from? Africa, right?”
“No, we’re both from America.”
“That’s impossible. Black people come from Africa.”
“We’re both American.”
“But why is she so beautiful and you’re so ugly?”
…..

UGH. This is what happens when an entire nation is cut off from the rest of the world for so many years. Obviously, we all know that someone can be beautiful regardless of skin color. China has a long way to go in this regard.

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