Sunday, July 15, 2007

Do I really look Russian?

There is a substantial Eastern Russian population in Dalian. During the summer Russians tourists seem to be everywhere. I hear that China is the easiest place to get a travel visa for Russians. I can spot a Russian girl from a mile away: skinny, sharp nosed, bleach blond hair, too much make up, and a hair and clothing style that hearkens back to the 80’s. But, to the Chinese, all white blonds look the same. So, first they say, “Hallo!” then immediately ask me rhetorically, “ni shi eluosi ren ba? (You’re Russian right?). I’ve started snapping back in Chinese, “No! And Russians don’t speak English!” Both come as a surprise to most.

I have even had Russians themselves approach me speaking Russian . Not knowing if I should respond to them in English or Chinese, I used to just wave my hands pathetically in the air and look confused. More recently I have learned how to say, "I'm not Russian" in Russian.

Perhaps the most confusing is when a Chinese person, who has commendably learned Russian, starts a conversation with me. It takes me about five for me to realize that they are not speaking Chinese, and they are confused and embarrassed that their Russian is poor. One man, despite my insistence that he speak Chinese and that I was not Russian, would have none of it. He continued to speak Russian and forced his name card into my hand, which was all in Russian!

I really always thought I looked solidly German!

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