The mostly cosmopolitan young people in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai are accustomed to seeing foreigners, but be ready when you travel to major tourist spots, villages, or provinces because a foreign-looking person will most likely be stared at by locals. And as we’re in a country where most people are armed with a smartphone, chances are they will take a quick snap of you and your friends or family without permission, or even (politely) approach you and ask for a selfie.
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. For one, I consider this behavior a nuisance, but it rarely happens to me because I look like Chinese. But many of my foreign friends have vented to me and said they felt violated. There are times that locals go beyond and become creepy.
When you’re out with children, the situation can escalate quickly as a child can be frightened and parents protective, just like a recent incident recounted by my colleague Andrew Killeen.
As English speakers, we may 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 néng, 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.
请不要拍我的小孩 Qǐng bù yào pāi wǒ de xiǎo hái.
Please give way.
请让开 Qǐng ràng kāi.
We are in a hurry.
我们赶时间 Wǒ men gǎn shí jiān.
My child doesn’t 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.
我不会说中文 Wǒ bù huì shuō zhōng wén.
I don’t understand what you’re saying.
我听不懂你说什么 Wǒ tīng bù dǒng ni shuo shenme.
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?
你有经过我的同意拍我吗 Nǐ yǒu jīng guò wǒ de tóng yì pāi wǒ ma?
Who said you can take my photo?
谁说你可以拍我? Shuí shuō nǐ kěyǐ pāi 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?
你能让我们安静地看吗? 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 zi 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!