Daily we hear, “外国人!” (Someone from outside China!). As we walk down the streets of our city in western China we hear, “那是外国人!” (Those are people from outside China!)
A grandpa we spoke with on a bus awhile back talked about how life was different when he was a young adult. He said he would have been imprisoned if he was caught getting a picture taken with a person from outside China. He’s an English teacher now and talked about the change in attitude toward people (like us) from the outside world. Most non-Chinese English speakers here translate the Chinese phrase I first mentioned simply as “foreigners”. Although it obviously wasn’t always this way, it does seem that, these days, the sentiment toward us is pretty tame. An acceptable translation does seem to be along the lines of a benign, “foreigner”.
A shout out to my little brother, Isaac, who understands the challenges of translation!