Editor’s Note: Updated with corrections 9/25/2016.
One of the complaints tourists and expats have in China is about personal space and privacy in public places, especially tourist spots. While you’ll have to try hard to find a Beijinger ogling at you for looking different, it’s common for country bumpkins, such as migrant workers or domestic tourists, to stare, secretly take your photo, or touch your hair or skin. In the beginning, many will find the experience of being crowded, photographed, and asked to pose flattering and refreshing, but sooner or later it gets old.
When you’re out with children, the situation can escalate quickly as a child can be frightened and parents protective. As English speakers, we think the world revolves around our language, believing that “NO” is universally known, but we are wrong to assume so. Here, we’ve listed a few handy phrases from polite to not-so-polite to help you make your message clear when avoiding Chinese “paparazzi”.
No, you can’t; thank you. | 不能，谢谢。| Bù neng, xiè xiè.
I don’t like taking photos. | 我不喜欢拍照。| Wǒ bù xǐ huān pāi zhào.
I’m very shy. | 我很害羞。| Wǒ hěn hài xiū.
Please don’t take photos of my child. | 请不要拍照我的小孩. | Qǐng bù yào zhǎo wǒ de xiǎo hái.
Please give way. | 請讓開. | Qǐng ràng kāi.
We are in a hurry. |我们赶时间. | Wǒ men gǎn shí jiān.
My child doesnt like having his/her photo taken. | 我的小孩不喜欢照相. | Wǒ de xiǎo hái bù xǐ huān zhào xiàng.
I can’t speak Chinese. | 我不会讲普通话. | Wǒ bù huì jiǎng pǔ tōng huà.
I don’t understand what you’re saying. | 我听不懂你说什么 | Wǒ tīng bù dǒng ni shuo shen me
I am not a tourist. | 我不是游客。| Wǒ bù shì yóu kè.
Did you ask for my permission before taking my picture? | 你有问我同意你照我像吗 | Nǐ you wèn wǒ tóng yì nǐ zhǎo wǒ xiǎng mà?
Who said you can take my photo? | 谁说你可以照我? | Shuí shuō nǐ kě yǐ zhǎo wǒ?
Are you secretly taking a photo? | 你在偷偷拍照吗? | Nǐ zāi tōu tōu pāi zhào ma?
My child is not here for you to photograph. | 我的小孩来这不是来给你拍照的. | Wǒ de xiǎo hái lái zhè bù shì lái gěi nǐ pāi zhào de.
You’re scaring my child! | 你吓到我的孩子了| Nǐ xià dào wǒ de hái zi le !
Can you let us browse in peace? | 你能让我们安静的看吗? | Nǐ néng ràng wǒ men ān jìng de kàn ma?
We are leaving. | 我们要走了。| Wǒ men yào zǒu le.
Fudges and barnacles
Stay away from my child! | 离我的孩子远点！| Lí wǒ hái zǐ yuǎn diǎn!
You keep away from me! | 你离我远点! | Nǐ lí wǒ yuǎn diǎn!
Get out of my sight! | 在我眼前消失 | Zài wǒ yǎn qián xiāo shī!
If you don’t leave, I’ll call the police. | 你再不走，我就报警 | Nǐ zāi bù zou wǒ jiu bào jǐng!
Photo: Flickr (John Flick)