It’s a common thing for people of color visiting or working in Asian countries to attract stares from locals. While staring may be considered rude in Western culture, it’s different in Asia. Sometimes people stare out of curiosity, sometimes it’s out of fear, but for the person being stared at, it’s normal for it to feel awkward nonetheless. It still makes you curious about what Asian people are thinking about when they do stare.
A recent video by Mamahuhu, a comedy group based in Shanghai, attempts to answer this question.
The video starts out with an old Chinese man boarding a subway train. He sits directly across from a Black man and, even though he doesn’t show it on his face, he is filled with surprise as he stares at the young man without flinching.
The young man notices the old man’s stare and his reaction indicates that this isn’t the first time he’s encountered something like this. All the while, the old man goes into a monologue of remembering memories of his home town ignited by seeing the young man.
The old man suddenly changes seats to sit next to the younger man, and to the younger man’s reluctance, the old man raises his hand to touch his hair.
The old man, intending to thank the younger man for helping him relive his most beautiful memories, gives a thumbs up and calls him “laowai,” a Mandarin term that means “foreigner,” but is also considered by many to be a derogatory term.
In the end, the old man gets off at his stop and an attractive Chinese woman sits across from the young man, who immediately begins to ogle her. She notices and rolls her eyes, speaking to yet another social tendency of foreigners who objectify and over-sexualize Asian women.