There is something very special about being a foreigner living and working in China. It is sometimes difficult to define what it is or describe clearly to someone, but I will try here.

China certainly has some amazing scenery, food, culture, architecture and engineering marvels, but those things are of utmost interest to a tourist or a new arrival. For someone who is intent on staying, the crucial attraction must be the people. While in the biggest Chinese cities, it is easy for the locals to write a foreigner off as just another clueless tourist or wanderer, in the smaller towns you can really feel a kind a belonging and acceptance.

Here in Jinzhou, a satellite city of Dalian, there are probably less than 20 non-Asian foreigners resident here. I am fairly certain that I am the most recognized foreigner in town, having lived here for more than six years, all the while being more sociable and visible than most other expats.

It is incredible easy to make friends here in Jinzhou. Just being friendly in Starbucks will have people approaching wanting to talk. Back when I was single, it was easy to get a date each week just with a coffee and a question to a girl who was doing the alone-but-visible thing. I used to joke that it would be unusual for me to eat at the same restaurant for more than five times without getting a date with an eligible lady from the staff or the owners family.

Some people feeling low or self-conscious might find it extremely irritating, but when you are about town everyone notices you. Children will point you out to their mothers, and young people will look you over. For me this is a good thing. Once you realize that people are aware of you because of special status, a kind of celebrity, and that you will never be identified as Chinese, you can start to enjoy the status and even revel in it.

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