#6: Body Image in China

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Have you heard of the A4 challenge? What are female bodies supposed to look like in China, and what happens when you don’t fit that cultural ideal?

This week, we’re talking about body image in China, and how Chinese beauty standards affect locals and foreigners alike. We focus on female bodies and hear multiple women’s experiences navigating what their bodies look like and how their bodies are perceived and talked about. We explore how the Chinese approach of being direct about body talk impacts people in different ways.

Episode producer: Hannah Tessler
Music credits: FoolBoyMedia, “Sky Loop“; Setuniman, “piano loop 0Y83“, “Nostalgia“; Corsica_S, “sigj
Theme song: 4barrelcarb, “Ambient Strings and Synth Mix


For more information about Ladyfest Shanghai, follow their WeChat account (Ladyfest_Shanghai) or check out their Facebook page.

Read more about feminist writer and activist, Lindy West.

To find out more about ELG and the therapy and services they provide, check out their website, or follow them on WeChat by searching ELG.

If you’re interested in Sky’s plus-sized clothing company, check out her website here.


#5: Evolution of a Laowai


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We sat down with expats in China who had just got off the plane, those who had been living in China for a few years, and those who have been here for over a decade, and asked them about their experiences and how they have changed over time.

Episode producer: Averill Flynn Obee
Music credits: druidbloke, “Medium tempo breakbeat with reverb (120 BPM)“; BoTM_Beats, “drum loop 2.mp3“; FoolBoyMedia, “New York Jazz Loop“; Setuniman, “Everyday 1D16
Theme song: 4barrelcarb, “Ambient Strings and Synth Mix

If you are experiencing difficulties or would like to talk to someone about life changes here in China, contact www.lifeline-shanghai.com for support and assistance.

Lifeline Shanghai serves the English speaking community and their helpline offers an emotional support service that respects everyone’s right to be heard, understood, and cared for.

#4: Chinese Face in a Chinese Place


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We’ve already touched upon multiple experiences being a foreigner in China, but what about when you look Chinese but aren’t really Chinese? We’re exploring what it means to be foreign and of Chinese descent. This week’s episode is a personally very meaningful one to us — most of us at Looking for Laowai are Chinese heritage expats. In this episode, Hannah and Toni are joined by Ali, producer, and Christine, correspondent and translator, as they discuss how they and other Chinese heritage expats navigate fluid identities and spaces. We touch upon the term huayi (someone of ethnic Chinese origin, born and/or raised outside of China) in relation to laowai (foreigner), the Chinese bloodline, and what “normative privilege” means.

Episode producer: Ali Fung
Music credits: Bohan Phoenix, “Foreign 外国人,”; Setuniman, “Curious,” “Droll”; Lemoncreme, “Groove Music”
Theme song: 4barrelcarb, “Ambient Strings and Synth Mix”

Special thanks to Bohan Phoenix, for letting us use his track, “Foreign 外国人,” and to all of our interviewees for sharing their stories and thoughts with us.

Check out the full survey results here.

Further reading:

Ang, Ien. “Can One Say No to Chineseness? Pushing the Limits of the Diasporic Paradigm.” Boundary 2 25, no. 3 (1998): 223–42. http://www.jstor.org/stable/303595.

Chun, Allen. “F*ck Chineseness: On the Ambiguities of Ethnicity as Culture as Identity.” Boundary 2 23, no. 2 (1996): 111–38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/303809.

The Economist, November 9, 2016. “The Upper Han.” https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21710264-worlds-rising-superpower-has-particular-vision-ethnicity-and-nationhood-has.

Wang, Gungwu. “Greater China and the Chinese Overseas.” The China Quarterly, no. 136 (1993): 926–48. http://www.jstor.org/stable/655597.

Wu, David Yen-ho. “The Construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese Identities.” Daedalus 120, no. 2 (1991): 159–79. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20025378.

#3: We Found Love in a Hopeless Place


No VPN? Listen on Ximalaya.

Let’s face it, the dating scene in Shanghai is a pretty loaded subject. With so many aspects of dating to explore, we’re narrowing in on a specific but widely seen phenomenon. How often do you see a foreign man with a Chinese woman versus a Chinese man with a foreign woman? We explore the dynamics between foreigners and locals, focusing on how gender roles and cultural expectations impact dating choices.

Episode producer: Hannah Tessler
Music credits: freesound.org users: setuniman, hoerspielwerkstatt
Theme song: 4barrelcarb, “Ambient Strings and Synth Mix”

Special thanks to all of our interviewees and to Christine for translation help.

Further reading:

Farrer, James. “From ‘Passports’ to ‘Joint Ventures’: Intermarriage between Chinese Nationals and Western Expatriates Residing in Shanghai.” Asian Studies Review 32, no. 1 (2008): 7-29.

Huang, David Henry. 1988. “M Butterfly.”

Higgins, Louise, Mo Zheng, Yali Liu and Chen Hui Sun. 2002. “Attitudes to Marriage and Sexual Behaviors: A Study of Gender and Culture Differences in China and United Kingdom.” Sex Roles 46, no. 3/4 (2002): 75-89.

Rudder, Christian. “Race and Attraction, 2009-2014.” The Okcupid Blog, September 9, 2014.

Uchida, Aki. “The Orientalism of Asian women in America.” Women’s Studies International Forum 21, no. 2 (1998): 153-278.

#2: Perks of Being a Laowai


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What kind of privileges exist and who gets to use them? This episode looks at how foreigners benefit from living in China, and how they navigate their privileges.

Thank you to all our interviewees, and a special thanks to Christine, Mike W and Prianka for lending their voices.

Episode producer: Averill Flynn Obee
Music credits: freesound.org users: setuniman, hoerspielwerkstatt
Theme song: 4barrelcarb, “Ambient Strings and Synth Mix”

Get in touch and send us your stories by email, or leave us a review on iTunes, and stay up to date by subscribing to our newsletter and following our Facebook page. We love to hear from you!

Further reading:
Jiang, Jie. “China grows more popular for foreigners, finds report.” http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/913109.shtml. Global Times, March 20, 2015.
Koshoibekova, Nargiz. “Who are China’s Typical Expats?” http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2014/11/who-are-chinas-typical-expats/. The World of Chinese, November 13, 2014.
Qian, Zhou and Steven Elsinga. ““Nali Lai de?” – An Overview of Expat Demographics in China.” http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2015/01/08/nali-lai-de-overview-expats-china.html. China Briefing, January 8, 2015.
Redford, Dan. “Expats in China Turn to Entrepreneurship.” https://www.chinausfocus.com/political-social-development/expats-in-china-turn-to-entrepreneurship. China US Focus, April 2, 2015.
Schreurs, Margaux. “Survey: Expats Prefer Shanghai Over Beijing.” http://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2015/03/09/expats-prefer-shanghai-over-beijing. The Beijinger, March 9, 2015.
Zhao, Xinying. “For expats, Shanghai tops list for desirability again.” http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2015-03/09/content_19753120.htm. China Daily US, March 9, 2015.

#1: What the Heck is a Laowai?


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Here it is, the inaugural episode of Looking for Laowai! Through interviews with a diverse range of people, your hosts Hannah and Toni ask: what is a “laowai”? We hear different opinions on the use of the term “laowai” from expatriates from Europe and the US, Chinese locals like Zhang Ximing, a street vendor at People’s Square, Professor Feng from Guangzhou University of Foreign Studies, and more.

Brought to you by the Looking for Laowai team — Hannah, Toni, Ali and Averill — we hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it! Special thanks to Kathy, Christine, Mike M, and all our wonderful interviewees, who took the time to tell us their stories and share their thoughts.

Episode producer: Toni Friedman
Music credits: Sergio, freesound.org users: corsica-s, setuniman, kodack
Theme song: 4barrelcarb, “Ambient Strings and Synth Mix”

Get in touch and send us your stories by email, or leave us a review on iTunes, and stay up to date by subscribing to our newsletter and following our Facebook page. We love to hear from you!

Fat Shady, August, 2017. “瓜老外” (“Stupid Foreigners”). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIzSHvpMupw.

Further reading:
de Mente, Boye. The Chinese Have a Word for It: The Complete Guide to Chinese Thought and Culture. New York: McGraw Hill Professional, 2000.
Farrer, James. “Chapter 1, Foreigner Street: Urban Citizenship in Multicultural Shanghai,” in Multicultural Challenges and Redefining Identity in East Asia, ed. Nam-Kook Kim (London and New York: Routledge, 2014), 17-44.
Fechter, Anne and Katie Walsh. The New Expatriates: Postcolonial Approaches to Mobile Professionals. Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2012.
Lee, Keekok. Warp and Weft, Chinese Language and Culture. New York: Eloquent Books, 2008.
Mair, Victor. “Laowai: the old furriner.” http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=11626. Language Log, April 9, 2014.

Are you ready for Season 1?

Get ready for the first season of Looking for Laowai! Meet the team, Toni, Hannah, Ali, and Averill, and have a listen to just a few tidbits from the podcast. From foreigners who grew up in China, students trying to escape the laowai bubble… to an elderly Chinese man who really does not want his daughter to date a foreigner, we’re sharing the stories you’ve shared with us, and a whole lot more. Listen to the trailer here.

Explore this season’s episodes

Identity and relationships are the central themes in our stories in this first season. We interviewed a whole range of people, from laowai who’d just got off the plane, to locals whose families have been in Shanghai for generations, and compiled their personal stories into each episode.

  1. What the Heck is a Laowai?
    Experiences of learning what it means to be laowai, being labeled as laowai, and more.
  2. The Perks of Being a Laowai
    What are the benefits to being a laowai in China, and who gets access to those advantages?
  3. We Found Love in a Hopeless Place
    Stories about dating in Shanghai, particularly about the race and gender dynamics of dating.
  4. Chinese Face in a Chinese Place
    What’s it like to look Chinese but not be fully Chinese and live in China? Listen to the experiences of laowai of Chinese descent, half-Asian people, TCK, and more.
  5. The Evolution of a Laowai
    We talk to laowai who have been here for different lengths of time to see how the experience of being a laowai changes the longer you stay in China.
  6. Foreign Bodies in China
    How is the experience of being foreign-looking or having a foreign-sized body in China, and how does that impact someone’s experience?
  7. The Laowai Bubble
    It’s possible to live in Shanghai and not come in contact at all with “real China” – this episode is about exploring what that means and how that is even possible.
  8. How to Escape the Laowai Bubble
    How easy is it to integrate into Chinese society? We share the experiences of foreigners who have tried to immerse themselves in the Middle Kingdom, with various levels of success.
  9. The Revolving Door of Shanghai
    How does the temporary nature of expat stays influence your social life? Is it easy to make friends here? To keep friends?

Bonus Episode: Awkward Conversations with Cab Drivers
Ever have a strange conversation with a cab driver? With a random guy as they jostle you on the metro? This bonus episode takes a light-hearted look at all the fascinating interactions people have had in Shanghai.