Reason #5 to Live or Travel in Xinjiang: Foreigner Curiosity | Xinjiang: Far West China

Reason #5 to Live or Travel in Xinjiang: Foreigner Curiosity

November 16 | No Comments

*This post is part 5 in a series of posts entitled “Why It’s Good to Live in (and Travel to) Xinjiang”.  If you haven’t already, it might be a good idea to read over The Intro, Reason #1, Reason #2, Reason #3, and Reason #4 before continuing.*

Much of Xinjiang has still been left untouched by foreign hands…thankfully. There have been a couple places that my wife and I have visited where people have come up to us and said “We are so excited to see you! There has never been a foreigner here before.” The local police actually had to hold a quick staff meeting to figure out if what kind of paperwork or formalities that had to be done for us to stay there, because they were unfamiliar with the process.

Sometimes this foreigner excitement leads to the annoying stares, unending questions, or greetings yelled from a mile away, but for the most part it just makes us feel special. It’s a taste of celebrity without the burden of keeping up appearances.

The Advantages

Believe it or not, there is actually an advantage to having a certain level of foreigner curiosity where you live.  For those of us who work here in Xinjiang, it provides job security.  In this city of 200,000 where my wife and I live as teachers, we are 2 out of only 4 westerners surrounded by over 50 elementary and middle schools.  Needless to say, our school has gone to great lengths to keep us happy knowing that another school would be itching to snatch us up.

Another advantage is easy recognition.  When you’re the only two Americans in a city, people remember you and desire to be remembered by you.  We often get picked up and driven home while out walking, taken out to meals, and invited to big social events. While this can easily become an annoyance, once you’re able to master the art of saying “no” when necessary, it can quickly become an enjoyable benefit.

There are Disadvantages…

Paparazzi taking picturesSo I guess it wouldn’t be fair to only list the advantages.  As mentioned above, being one of only a few foreigners can also be difficult.  We’ve taken numerous pictures (read: Flattery or Manipulation: A Coffehouse Tale) and even given out a lot of autographs, but this is really only as annoying as you make it.  If you come to visit, be prepared for long stares and mumbled comments.  It happens.  If you come to live be prepared to be in the spotlight at any banquet, party, or wedding that you attend.

Of course, it’s not always going to be this way.  As time goes on and Xinjiang begins to open up, foreigners will become old news, but I think that time is still quite a few years away.  For now you can see this as a great opportunity not just to visit, but even to work here.  Still not convinced?  If you still can’t see why I would much rather live here than in Beijing or Shanghai, make sure you read the final part of this series detailing the most beneficial part of living and working in Xinjiang.


Follow up with the rest of the series on “Why Live and Travel to Xinjiang?”:

Uyghur people wander around a Friday market in Xinjiang1. The Cultural Diversity

Dapanji, or "Big Plate Chicken" is great Xinjiang food2. Diversity of Food and Music

The Xinjiang-Tibet highway, the highest in the world3. Obscurity

Muztag Ata in Xinjiang, China4. Exotic, Natural Beauty

Paparazzi taking pictures5. Foreigner Curiosity and Excitement

Riding a camel in Xinjiang's Taklamakan Desert6. Hone Your Survival Skills

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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