Do you feel offended by the words laowai and adoua?

Since there is a discussion going on about Taiwanese and Taiwaner, I thought we might as well open one for laowai and adoua.

Here is my point of view:
Ever since I lived in mainland China, I feel very offended by the word laowai. Maybe this is due to the circumstances. As one of the only 5 “white” foreign students at a local University life in the Chinese countryside was not very comfortable. The second you stepped out of the foreign students building you were stared and pointed at, followed, surrounded and called laowai several 100 times a day. Yeah, I admit, I thought it was fun, when I was a tourist, but I realized that it is not, when you’re trying to live there. Back to the topic: If you ask any Chinese or even some Taiwanese, about the meaning of the word laowai, they will tell you

I think this is crap! Yes, it has the same structure, but I still believe that the word infact is derogatory and Chinese people are not aware of it, or won’t admit, as we Westerners are not aware of the fact that the ending -ese for Chinese IS derogatory.
I still have the sound of the daily “laowai, laowai, ni kan laowai” in my ears and it does not sound curious or friendly at all, believe me.

After this experiences in mainland, mesheel came to Taiwan. It still happens that I am being called laowai, but most of the time people in Taiwan use waiguoren or adoua. And even if laowai and adoua do have derogatory meanings, the way Taiwanese people say it, it does not sound like it compared to mainland. I also noticed, that without me saying a world, people apologize for accidentally saying laowai in my presence.

Well, to round this up, I think whether Taiwanese , laowai or adoua do have derogatory meanings or not, and whiter people are aware of it or not, it’s the way to say it, that is offensive and not the original meaning. But I would still wish, that as Taiwanese in German, the word laowai in Chinese would die out someday soon.

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Laowai doesn’t offend me, adoua does. Makes dinner with the inlaws a teeth-clenching, frozen-smile exercise in restraint. :x

I’m with Maoman on this one. Laowai is fine, but hey, how do you spell it, Attowa - Ardoah pisses me off. Dinner time at the in-laws doesn’t sound much different to Maoman’s.

All told, it’s a matter of how much vehemenece is behind the utterence. But when you hear “adoghah” said with meaning - it’s unpleasant - no different from “nigger” or “chink”. I don’t like it.

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laowai is no problem for me. like others, adouah riles me up. they translate it for me as “big nose” or “eagle nose” and may very well be ignorant of the consternation it causes.

“-ese” is offensive? i had been taught it was a suffix meaning from the east. please elaborate.

mesheel, I don’t know where you ever got the idea that laowai was offensive. Lao means old and in Chinese is used as a term of respect. Admittedly the word laowai is overused and I don’t think there is any real difference between the use of laowai and waiguoren. Actually I think the most friendly term is waiguo pengyou, people will generally use that as a sign of real friendliness and not just randomly shout it out because they happen to see a foreigner. I think it is there that the problem lies. The use of laowai/waiguoren is not discriminatory per se, it is just overused or used in an inappropriate way. People in Australia or Europe don’t shout out “Chinese” everytime they see a Chinese person walk by so why should Chinese and Taiwanese do this?

I also think adogah is, again, not necessarily offensive but simply overused or used inappropriately.

Also remember that in China, even today, many people have had very little contact with foreigners and this explains their curiousity. However, in Taiwan this is definitely not the case so perhaps Taiwanese people can be expected to be a bit more thoughtful.

I think this is crap! Yes, it has the same structure, but I still believe that the word infact is derogatory and Chinese people are not aware of it, or won’t admit, as we Westerners are not aware of the fact that the ending -ese for Chinese IS derogatory. I still have the sound of the daily “laowai, laowai, ni kan laowai” in my ears and it does not sound curious or friendly at all, believe me. [/quote]
Maybe “Ni xiang tai duo le??!!”
I believe it doesn’t feel well being pointed at and called “laowai” often in the street. Taiwanese who do that are really wu liao (boring), but it doesn’t mean “laowai” was uttered in a derogatory way.

I happen to agree the “quote” you quote. You know, Chinese who live in the US call themselves “laozhong”. They say:" tamen (they) laowei

Yes, it is definitely a way to express closeness. The best example I can think of are children (from pre-teen to adult) who call their parents lauba (dad) and lauma (mom) when talking to them.

I don’t feel offended by being called a foreigner, after all. I call a spade a spade too. I do feel pissed off though when in a bank or whatever and having having to deal with service staff and they refer to me as “that foreigner” instead of “that customer.” Surely we should be customers who happen to be foreigners, not foreigners who happen to be customers.
But then again, two generatons ago their families were probably working in rice fields, so I figure I can cut them a little slack. :sunglasses:

As others have noted, lao+X is a familiar form of address so calling someone a laowai assumes a familiarity that is misplaced (how can you be on familiar terms with 4+ billion people?) . Same with Waiguo pengyou (the closest other term I can think of is xiao pengyou for children). Not derogatory, but lacking in respect.

It’s not the words that offend me, it’s the context in which they’re used. I think Lao Wai is better than Wai Guo Ren, as at least there is some connotation of respect. As for the customer comments made above, right on. I can’t stand when people say go look after that laowai.

All in all its usage is not that bad.


I think Taiwanese sincerely use the term lao wei when being polite. A good test would be a post car scrape shouting match to see what you’re called.

The major problem with adoah (isn’t there an “n” sound in there somewhere?) when used by strangers is the presumption a foreigner won’t understand it because its Taiwanese. That sort of shits me when I hear it on the street and I’m the only “adoah” in sight.

Having said that I, like some other posters, are the in-laws bloody household adoah! In fact, the wife introduces me as “women jia adoah” They think its funny, but then they don’t know what gook means “xie xie gook mama”. (I jest).


What utter nonsense. :unamused:

Oh no Hex, -ese is deeply offensive. Why I once had a Pekineese dog and it would bite me everytime I told people what breed it was. :laughing:


We seem to have hit it on the nail. How about laopo (wife) and laogong (husband), clearly informal and affectionate terms. Any way you slice this, lao implies respect or affection.

That doesn’t mean mesheel’s experience is inaccurate, she may really have been singled out in an ackward way and may have even been disliked because she was a foreigner in China. However, these are the attitudes of the people she was dealing with, and I do not think it reflects on the meaning of the term laowai itself.

I don’t think laowai is intended to be offensive. Neither this term nor adogah offends me. I even call myself siadogah (fucking foreigner) from time to time as a joke.

What I object to people who can’t let go of the fact that I’m not Taiwanese, asking a bunch of ridiculous questions prefaced with: “Nimen waiguoren…” If you’re curious, go live abroad, or read the literature and history of a particular country your interested in. Don’t ask me to expound on all things non-Taiwanese.

For laowai, a lot depends on how it’s said.

When I was living in China, I discovered to my surprise that the simple English word “hello” has a multitude of meanings, depending on how it’s said. These include:
[ul][li]Oh my God! There’s a foreigner! I have to say something lest all those years of English study be wasted. [/li]
[li](verbal equivalent of poking a stick through bars to see if the zoo animal will do something)[/li]
[li](shock and surprise)[/li]
[li]fuck you (generally from boys in their late teens)[/li]
[li]Hey! Pay attention to me![/li]
[li]Buy something from my shop[/li]
The last one is probably the least common.

I get those in Taiwan, too, but a lot less often, esp. where the more unpleasant ones are concerned.

Thank you for that post…

You guys are right, I am too mingan about this subject, but I’m sure that anybody who has lived in mainland before totally understand my feelings.
Actually nowadays, I’m much more relaxed about it, you should have seen me in mainland… :blush:
As I wrote before, it’s not necessarily the original meaning that is offensive, but the way people say it. If I’m called a laowai by a friend, I don’t really care, but yeah, if at a counter I am referred as the laowai, that kind of pisses me off.
I just don’t like that separation between “nimen waiguoren” and “women zhongguoren”. No matter how good ur Chinese or t\Taiwanese is and how long you’ve lived in Taiwan, you’ll be always referred as the laowai, adoua, waiguoren, waiguopengyou or what ever…but never just as a normal person. :?

No matter how “laowai” is used, it is contrived at the least and even belittling, suggesting as it does that the speaker can have anything meaningful to say about those dear old foreigners (all 4 billion of them)

It doesn’t upset me in the the slightest but I do note the use of laowai as a watered-down example of those dim-witted “nimen waiguoren” things that demonstrates the exaggerated sense most Taiwanese have of their otherness from the mass of humanity.