We don’t blame locals for assuming most expats can’t speak Chinese because a lot of us can’t. But, all the same, when you can understand enough Chinese to hear people’s public remarks, conversations can get really funny really fast if you’re armed with the right phrase.
1. “Look, a foreigner.”
Where? I don’t see one.
Nǎlǐ? Wǒ méiyǒu kàn dào yīgè wàiguó rén.
2 “He/She is so fat.”
I’m wearing a costume.
Wǒ chuānzhuó yī tào xìzhuāng.
3. “She is so beautiful./ He is so handsome.”
Please don’t stare. You’re embarrassing me.
Qǐng bùyào dīngzhe wǒ. Nǐ ràng wǒ nánkān.
4. “He is so tall.”
I’m tall because I never drink hot water.
Wǒ hěn gāo, yīnwèi wǒ cóng bù hē rè shuǐ.
5. “Look, twins!”
Do all foreigners look exactly alike?
Suǒyǒu de wàiguó rén kàn qǐlái dōu yīyàng ma?
6. “Foreigners should really learn to speak Chinese.”
Oh, we’re not in Thailand?
Ó, wǒmen bùzài tàiguó ma?
7. “Look, foreign children!”
They’re not foreigners; they were born in China.
Tāmen bùshì wàiguó rén, tāmen zài zhōngguó chūshēng de.
8. “Are all of those children hers?”
No, I kidnapped them all.
Bùshì, wǒ bǎngjiàle tāmen.
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Vanessa Jencks founded China Family Blog to connect internationally-minded parents through semi-humorous stories and China-life-and-parenting fails. She is the former managing editor of beijingkids magazine; see her previous work here. She is also the founder of the 600+ member organization, Innovative Educators.