Weekly photo challenge – foreign

2 Nov

The image that continues to capture my concept of foreign was one taken by my good friend Chris during my first Chinese New Year in China in 2008.  We had gone to Yu Yuan Garden with another friend and upon crossing the bridge of 8 turns he snapped this photo.

To me – foreign is not fitting in, knowing that there is a difference between me and others.  As good as my mandarin may be, as many strange foods that I eat, I will always be foreign in China.

Being foreign can be fun – it opens my eyes, it gives me views of things that I would never see.  I’ve visited so many wonderful places that if I was afraid to be foreign would be unavailable.  And that’s the key – the balance, knowing that there are times that I need to go home or eat a pizza or watch TV in English to regroup and be foreign again tomorrow.

To see how others have defined foreign, you can check out the Weekly Photo Challenge here.

Where do you feel foreign?  What places do you feel a little uncomfortable or a little different?  Sometimes that can be a lot closer to home than my China trip.


17 Responses to “Weekly photo challenge – foreign”

  1. thirdeyemom November 2, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Love it!!!

    • gkm2011 November 3, 2012 at 9:35 am #

      The photo just fit – it’s one of my favorites – I published a “book” on my old blog, the Shanghai Chronicle – and this photo is the cover.

  2. jotsfromasmallapt November 2, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    A picture of a thousand silent words…

    • gkm2011 November 3, 2012 at 9:36 am #

      Each time I look at this photo it still strikes me. I was so lucky my friend captured the moment.

  3. roomaomao November 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Awesome photo! I had a moment like this during my first trip to China back in 06′ . We were at Hangzhou’s West Lake and it was under siege by red hat wearing domestic tourists following the droning of megaphones. I was on a boat by land and gazing out at the mass of humanity , I was greeted by a solid wall of black haired people . Not a single blond in the house!

    • gkm2011 November 3, 2012 at 9:43 am #

      When you can pull yourself out of the moment enough to take a step back and realize that you are in a sense “making history” it’s a really special experience. Luckily I have this photo to remind me as well.

  4. expatlingo November 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Like you hinted at in your post, sometimes I feel very foreign back “home” surrounded by Americans: in Target (wow look at all this space and stuff!), talking about pop culture (what TV show are they talking about?), or following politics (do that many Americans really think that about China or about health care in Britain?).

    I really like this picture.

    • gkm2011 November 3, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      Yes – I think there are two different types of foreign – the “external” and the “internal.” In China I have both – but in the US it is much easier to “pass” for something that you’re not quite sure you are, because we don’t have that external clue to guide us. Thanks for the insightful comment.

  5. sarahinguangzhou November 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    It’s a strange word ‘foreign’. In the west we don’t call someone a foreigner because it sounds vaguely insulting, but you hear it in China every day. I was definitely a foreigner in China but it’s even stranger being ‘home’ and still feeling like a foreigner.
    Love the photo!

    • gkm2011 November 3, 2012 at 9:46 am #

      Thanks Sarah – yes, it is – we use the word very differently and that is part of what I like about China – the directness with no harm meant, but it is also part of what makes it a difficult culture to assimilate into because you are always “foreign.” I agree, this is one of my all time favorite photos.

  6. eof737 November 6, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    Excellent post and insight… I get what you are saying. Having lived in other countries most of my life, I know that foreign feeling. Then we just get up and get on with the day and our efforts at assimilating. 😉

    • gkm2011 November 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

      Right – feeling foreign becomes the status quo and then when you have a period where you are the norm and that feels strange!

  7. CanadianTravelBugs November 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Thanks for the follow!
    Forgive me I may have asked, but forgot…(a lot going on right now). Are you in Shangahi or was that just a visit? What do you do in China?

    • gkm2011 November 11, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      I see you checked my About page, I’ll follow this question there. But at the time this photo was taken I has been in Shanghai only a few months and it was my first experience in a crowd like that.

      • CanadianTravelBugs November 12, 2012 at 5:50 am #

        Weird isn’t it! Even when there isn’t a crowd they get that close!


  1. The sixth quarter update « 中国 Jumble - January 15, 2013

    […] In addition I participated in a couple of photo challenges, though fewer than the previous quarter.  The post that was “liked” the most was a photo taken by a good friend during my first Chinese New Year in Shanghai about being foreign. […]

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