Picture framed in a Chinese home

I’m on a sleeper train ride from Chengdu to Kunming with three other backpackers for over eighteen hours. We’re casually playing card games near our beds when a group of five Chinese men approach us. Clueless as to what they want, they nervously take a camera out and in hand gestures politely ask for pictures with us. I couldn’t understand as to why they would want pictures with complete strangers. Each picture taken is followed with laughter and peace signs. Have they mistaken us for a celebrity? This is hilarious. My friend takes out a bag of potato chips and one of the Chinese men points to it. The Chinese man gestures his hand toward his face rubbing his eyes like a crying baby and then lowers his hand for something short. Since the package is in all Chinese, my friend had no idea what he was eating were for kids. It made for a burst of laughter heard throughout the entire train cart.

The Chinese group pulls out a bag of various fruits and vegetables and insists we eat with them. Their kindness is overwhelming. An opened water bottle is pulled out and poured into a small cup. How strange to pour water into a small cup I thought. I’m handed the cup and I take a quick hard sniff of what it is. At first I had thought they were trying to kill me with paint thinner or rubbing alcohol but a cup is handed to the entire group including themselves so if I’m going down, they are coming with me. I’m trying to avoid sniffing the gagging smell as I take the shot. Not a pleasant tasting experience but it’d be rude to say no when were handed even more. I later learned what we had was called Baijiu and may have been homegrown alcohol.

Tibet - People

Tibet – People by yewco

This wasn’t the first time this has happened to me throughout China. I’ve been approached several times for a picture with complete strangers that lead to more conversations, many that had never met a foreigner before. In the United States, I’m a regular guy but in China – I’m a celebrity. Don’t think I’ll be approached by anyone wanting to touch my hair or take a picture of me walking down the streets in the United States. I can’t help but imagine myself picture framed in a Chinese home.

Have you ever been approached for a picture in a foreign country? How did they ask you?

32 Comments

  1. Stephanie on July 5, 2010 at 8:06 am

    I’ve never been asked for a picture (yet) but I have met some of the most interesting local people on train rides. Even with a language barrier between us people are always interested to know where I’m from, where I’m going and maybe share a few snacks. I like this post because it’s such a great reminder of how welcoming people everywhere can really be.

  2. Stephanie on July 5, 2010 at 9:06 am

    I’ve never been asked for a picture (yet) but I have met some of the most interesting local people on train rides. Even with a language barrier between us people are always interested to know where I’m from, where I’m going and maybe share a few snacks. I like this post because it’s such a great reminder of how welcoming people everywhere can really be.

  3. Federico - maitravelsite on July 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Hi Michael!

    It has happenned to me as well, in Bali, Thailand and Taiwan. These are always great moments because you get to interact with locals or travelers of that area with being pushy! Nice post and great picture

    Federico

    • Michael on July 6, 2010 at 11:56 am

      Thanks Federico!

  4. Federico - maitravelsite on July 5, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Michael!

    It has happenned to me as well, in Bali, Thailand and Taiwan. These are always great moments because you get to interact with locals or travelers of that area with being pushy! Nice post and great picture

    Federico

    • Michael on July 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm

      Thanks Federico!

  5. Andi Perullo on July 5, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    I wrote a similar post about my experience with people asking to take their picture with me here: http://mybeautifuladventures.com/2010/05/05/india-day-3-part-2/. Except I was in India, not China. However, when I was in China I was asked on many occasion and my hair was pulled on many occasion as well. 🙂

    • Michael on July 5, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      Haha too funny. Never know, you just might find yourself on a Christmas card!

  6. Andi Perullo on July 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    I wrote a similar post about my experience with people asking to take their picture with me here: http://mybeautifuladventures.com/2010/05/05/india-day-3-part-2/. Except I was in India, not China. However, when I was in China I was asked on many occasion and my hair was pulled on many occasion as well. 🙂

    • Michael on July 5, 2010 at 9:48 pm

      Haha too funny. Never know, you just might find yourself on a Christmas card!

  7. everywhereist on July 6, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Love it – never have I been approached for a photo (though I’ve never been to Asia, either, and I wonder if there’s a connection), though a good friend of mine was stopped on a daily basis during her last trip to Japan. Everyone wanted photos of her 1-year-old (who is, arguably, one of the cutest kids, ever). She was a good sport about the whole thing, even though she admitted that it got a little daunting.

    • Michael on July 8, 2010 at 8:13 am

      I can’t imagine how much attention a baby would get especially in Japan. I did have a few strange pictures taken of me in the most random moments sometimes without even warning me.

  8. everywhereist on July 6, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Love it – never have I been approached for a photo (though I’ve never been to Asia, either, and I wonder if there’s a connection), though a good friend of mine was stopped on a daily basis during her last trip to Japan. Everyone wanted photos of her 1-year-old (who is, arguably, one of the cutest kids, ever). She was a good sport about the whole thing, even though she admitted that it got a little daunting.

    • Michael on July 8, 2010 at 9:13 am

      I can’t imagine how much attention a baby would get especially in Japan. I did have a few strange pictures taken of me in the most random moments sometimes without even warning me.

  9. q8travelbud on July 8, 2010 at 1:08 am

    nice blog btw…I heard from people who when to China that they’ve also been stopped and photographed with … how are the trains over there …. I am planning a trip (part of it in china) and I figuered trains would be cheaper than flights?

    • Michael on July 8, 2010 at 8:11 am

      The trains are fantastic. It’s much much cheaper than flights. The system isn’t that hard to get around either. Usually the place you stay at can take care of it for you and even deliver the ticket to you. The beds are very good and you’ll meet some very nice folks on the train. Highly recommend them. You get on the train, sleep, and suddenly you’re in a new city. Save on looking for a place to sleep and you get into a new city!

  10. q8travelbud on July 8, 2010 at 2:08 am

    nice blog btw…I heard from people who when to China that they’ve also been stopped and photographed with … how are the trains over there …. I am planning a trip (part of it in china) and I figuered trains would be cheaper than flights?

    • Michael on July 8, 2010 at 9:11 am

      The trains are fantastic. It’s much much cheaper than flights. The system isn’t that hard to get around either. Usually the place you stay at can take care of it for you and even deliver the ticket to you. The beds are very good and you’ll meet some very nice folks on the train. Highly recommend them. You get on the train, sleep, and suddenly you’re in a new city. Save on looking for a place to sleep and you get into a new city!

  11. Suzy Lounge Bar on September 8, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    People always gets curious when they see a person different to them and that makes you an instant celebrity. =)

    • Michael on September 9, 2010 at 6:29 am

      Yeap. More so in China than anywhere else I’ve ever been so far.

  12. Suzy Lounge Bar on September 8, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    People always gets curious when they see a person different to them and that makes you an instant celebrity. =)

    • Michael on September 9, 2010 at 7:29 am

      Yeap. More so in China than anywhere else I’ve ever been so far.

  13. Cmbtravel on September 18, 2010 at 8:35 am

    This is interesting for me to happen upon because on the way home I just finished a conversation about this with my husband and friend. We spent the day walking around various parts of Beijing, and I out of the corner of my eye I noticed several cameras pointed at me at different times throughout the day. People would try and sneak photos with their cameras, or when I turned they would point them somewhere else. Others just flat out walked right up and took pictures without asking. Very strange indeed, but we realized we take living in America for granted. Never would I think to take a picture of someone who looks different than me because I am so used to being surrounded by such diversity. At one point I just started smiling or holding up peace signs for people. Better that than risking them catching me making a face!

    • Michael on September 19, 2010 at 12:50 am

      I totally get into it when I catch them taking a picture of me. I hold up peace signs and strike a pose. Always gets a laugh and conversation.

  14. Cmbtravel on September 18, 2010 at 9:35 am

    This is interesting for me to happen upon because on the way home I just finished a conversation about this with my husband and friend. We spent the day walking around various parts of Beijing, and I out of the corner of my eye I noticed several cameras pointed at me at different times throughout the day. People would try and sneak photos with their cameras, or when I turned they would point them somewhere else. Others just flat out walked right up and took pictures without asking. Very strange indeed, but we realized we take living in America for granted. Never would I think to take a picture of someone who looks different than me because I am so used to being surrounded by such diversity. At one point I just started smiling or holding up peace signs for people. Better that than risking them catching me making a face!

    • Michael on September 19, 2010 at 1:50 am

      I totally get into it when I catch them taking a picture of me. I hold up peace signs and strike a pose. Always gets a laugh and conversation.

  15. Gabrielle on July 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Sounds like what happened to my boyfriend and I in India! Sometimes hand gestures or broken English. It was definitely quite surprising at first!

    • Michael on July 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm

      I’ve never been but I bet India is very similar to China with these experiences.

  16. Gabrielle on July 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Sounds like what happened to my boyfriend and I in India! Sometimes hand gestures or broken English. It was definitely quite surprising at first!

    • Michael on July 15, 2011 at 6:17 pm

      I’ve never been but I bet India is very similar to China with these experiences.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: