5 ways to become the most photographed person in China

Love attention? Love posing for pictures? Welcome to your dream destination: China!

Going through Chinese people’s photo albums you will often find pictures of them with foreigners. When you ask who they are, they’ll tell you they are random strangers they meet at a sight somewhere. Somehow we turn into part of their sightseeing! 

Proffesional models
Professional models at an early age

Chinese people aren’t particularly shy so often they will walk straight up to you and ask to have their picture taken with you. If you are there with your kids, they will pick them up and get ready to immortalize this moment. This is actually better than the other version where they will take the picture from 60 feet away, you just sense a camera pointed in your direction. Often they’ll get their girlfriend or whoever to pose in a safe distance from you, so that you make some sort of exotic back drop. Interesting. 

If the attention doesn’t bother you, why not take it all out? Here are my best tips on how to become the most photographed foreigner in China!

1. Grow a beard and show off your body hair. Obviously this applies to my male readers only. Dress for success with clothes that show off those arms, chest, back and legs. Since the Chinese have a lot less body hair than Caucasians many are utterly fascinated by the amount of body hair a human body can produce. It is not unusual that people come over to touch or pull.

2. Flaunt everything you have that set you apart from Asians. Red hair, milky white skin, blond hair, big nose, wide ears, big boobs, wide butt, height, lack of height… Whatever makes you unique. Be prepared to be pointed, laughed and stared at, but remember it is not (in my opinion at least) in a mean way. Chinese people are curious and are easily entertained. Be proud of what you’ve got and work it! You have something that 1.3 billion people don’t.

The classic straight pose
The classic straight pose

3. Bring blond, blue-eyed kids. Chinese love kids and the blonder the better. I have asked Chinese about this and they say that foreign kids are just prettier than the Chinese. Really? Like Chinese kids aren’t the most adorable creatures? I have never ever seen a not cute Chinese kid! Guess it’s the opposites attracts. And if they can take pictures of our kids, then we can take pictures of theirs.

4. Go to the sites most frequented by Chinese tourists. This sounds obvious, but my tip here is to go to the sites that only Chinese tour groups are taken to. A bridge of some long ago historical importance or the tombs of emperors in far away valleys. Often these sights aren’t that big or interesting, so they’ll have more time to focus on you. And you’ll probably be bored too, so why not be extra creative.

5. Strike a pose. Of course you can do the regular standing up and down, but why not play with it? Show them your best Kung Fu pose, or find a beautiful flowering tree as background when you do your best supermodel impression. Doing the V-sign, preferably with both hands is an Asian classic. You will have an audience with their cameras flashing.

If you don’t want this attention, do the opposite. It is hard for a foreigner to hide and many Chinese are not good at reading our body language, so firmly shake your head and say “bu” if you don’t want to have your or your kids’ picture taken. It can be wise to cover blond hair with hats or scarves to avoid some of the attention it will attract.

I know it can be hard and a real test of your patience, but you can actually have a lot of fun with this. Share a smoke*, share a joke, ask where they are from and you have the conversation going. Who cares if you can’t understand each other, you can still laugh together, right? Good luck! And please send me your best photo with random Chinese tourists or share it at ChinaScratched on Facebook!

*OK, I don’t recommend smoking, but keeping a packet of western cigarettes will give you many new friends among the men. If they give you one back, do like the locals and put behind your ear and promise to smoke it later.


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Christine Surlien

Christine has studied Chinese culture and language extensively. She has spent two years at The People’s University of China in Beijing, done five years of Chinese studies at the University of Oslo, and has her masters degree from Hong Kong University. She has been associated with KinaReiser, Norway’s leading agency for travel to the The Far East, for a decade. She was also employed at the administration of the Norwegian Embassy to China for two years, before relocating to Washington DC with her diplomat husband and their two children.

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