In the following answer over 知乎 to the question 在西班牙生活是怎样的体验?:

8-中西文化差别很大,前几天,我废了好多力气去解释什么是mianzi,还有因为文化差距,也很难跟老外走的很近,大部分都是中国人跟中国人,老外跟老外。老外很喜欢夜店,迪厅,什么的,答主还是不喜欢这些。这里karaoke 都是中国人开的,打不过的顾客也是中国人

I know 老外 means a foreigner. But in this case, it is awkward to call someone as a foreigner, since it is the answerer who is a foreigner (the answerer is Chinese who lives in Spain).

So my questions are:

  • Does 老外 mean a foreigner who is from the standpoint of the speaker? So is it OK to call Spainard as 老外 even if the speaker lives in Spain, as long as the speaker is not Spainard?

  • Or does 老外 mean non-Spainard foreigners (American, German, etc...) in this context?

  • By the way what does 打不过的顾客也是中国人 mean? Is the customer also Chinese or not?
    – Blaszard
    May 12, 2018 at 16:47
  • users see no problem with the usual accepted meaning, bkrs: 老外(coll.) foreigner (esp. non Asian person)(外国人) foreigners; “Laowai” (a good-humoured nickname for foreigners, especially westerners) 打不过 no match for, 打不过的 here may mean "even"
    – user6065
    May 12, 2018 at 17:53
  • 1
    Your first point (老外 means a foreigner who is from the standpoint of the speaker) is correct. Similarly, a person from Mainland China talking about 國内 means China regardless of where the person is speaking from or how long that person's been overseas; 白話 in Cantonese always means Cantonese, even though 白話 can refer to any other topolect (depending on which topolect it is spoken in).
    – dROOOze
    May 12, 2018 at 18:03

5 Answers 5

  • Does 老外 mean a foreigner who is from the standpoint of the speaker? So is it OK to call Spainard as 老外 even if the speaker lives in Spain, as long as the speaker is not Spainard?

Yes 老外 is relative to the speaker's nationality or ethnicity, not their geographical location. If the speaker is a Chinese person living in Spain, then 老外 covers all non-Chinese people living anywhere in the world including in Spain.

Also note, technically 老外 means foreigner i.e. people with different nationality, but in real life usage it's most used for 'foreigners with dissimilar appearances from the majority of Chinese people'. For example, it's technically correct, but non-idiomatic to call Japanese 老外, neither does it sound intuitive to call a Chinese-American 老外.


打不过 should be 大部分, typo.

老外 is a slang, it could means 非华人 in your context.

  • 打不过 is also a slang usage.
    – mootmoot
    May 15, 2018 at 10:47

Your first answer - foreigner from the perspective of the speaker. More importantly, because the speaker is speaking to a Chinese audience, where the commonality is that “we” (speaker and audience) are Chinese and the “them” are locals in Spain, hence 老外。


It is a long history and cultural related. The "middle kingdom" cultural are mostly family eccentric. In 伦理 , 伦理 has nothing to do with intellectual, but about "society circle" structure. For example, "外面的人如何说你”, 外面的人 is mean anyone outside the family, regardless of country of origin. Something one will come across phrase such as "别见外“ (threat it like your home).

For some reason, mainland Chinese use 外国人 as any foreigner. Since it is awkward in speaking, it is shortened to 老外. Which 老 bring out another a loosen relation. Due to globalisation, 老外can sometime mean stranger. But in the zhihu context you shown, it simply mean Spanish.

P/S : globalisation is a recent things to mainland Chinese people. So you must be aware of the rift of communication between different age gap. Many commentary in Zhihu contains a lot of perspective bias and stereotype.


老外 means anyone who is not a Chinese. It doesn't matter where the speaker is, in China or other countries. Some people may think that the word 老外 is offensive. In fact, it isn't. It's just a simple way to speak. Many Chinese call themselves 老中。

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