Am I a gweilo 鬼佬?
The term gweilo comes from racist origins a very long time ago. As westerns arrived in the region of Guangzhou local started using the term. In this southern region of China people speak Cantonese. Thus Chinese people speaking mandarin do not use the term.
Locals would describe westerners as dirty, mean, and looking white as a ghost. Hence the use of the character “gwai” 鬼.
When you look at the origin of the term gweilo and split the two characters here is what you get:
鬼 gwai2 – ghost, demon, terrible, damnable, clever, sly, crafty, sinister, plot. it is also a suffix for somebody for a certain vice or addiction etc…
佬 lou2 – elder person
The “lou” 佬 does not help the original negative meaning of the word. Where cantonese people would call White people old ghost or old demons.
Time has changed and the use of the word is more common then ever. It has gone from its original negative meaning of describing a white person. To now a general term for any foreigner.
Here are some usage of the characters “gwai lou” 鬼佬 in other words.
Image above is a screenshot. The link is at the end of the post.
Now to come back to the first question:
Am I a gweilo?
I call myself a gweilo in the meaning of a white person. As white skin can go I am very white. There is whiter out there I am aware. But my skin does not go darker.
However as the meaning foreigner, I am a local in Hong Kong. I moved here when I was little, have lived most of my life here as well and I know the territory quite well. Hence the blog ; )
A personal note on the whole looking as white as a ghost thing. There are so many whitening cream, scrubs, and things out there for Asian to be whiter. Thus I find it hard to feel offended when they want to become what they used to consider white demon/ghost.
Definitions in the post where found on:
Note: mandarin pronunciation
Link for screenshot:
enter the characters 鬼佬 in the search bar and select Chinese word.