Dear MeiGui: My mom's not a vegetable!
Originally published in The China Post, 4/05/09
What is a “DaLuMei”: vegetable or person?
Originally, the local teachers in my kindergarten told me that a “DaLuMei” is a stupid person from the countryside. They referred to the mother of one of our students as a “DaLuMei”, saying this kid was a hopeless case because of his mother’s “bad genes.”
Anyway, being from a large North Dakota farming community, I was initially offended by their stereotyping this boy, so I went to talk to the director. The director told me “DaLuMei” just means a young wife from mainland China. She said “DaLu” is a word for mainland China and “Mei” is a word for little sister. She says, since I cannot understand Chinese, the other teachers like to play with me by talking nonsense. She says their stories are all in fun.
Taking the director at her word and feeling no harm done, I decided to show the kids that I knew a Chinese word. During class, I innocently asked this child if his mother was a “DaLuMei”; not realizing the trouble to come. As soon as the question popped from my lips, the children roared with laughter, while that poor boy burst into tears crying out that his mother was not a “vegetable.”
Now, the director tells me I will be fired for breaking the “no Chinese” rule. I feel something much worse happened there.
-- Cooked in Nantou
You are obviously the victim of the “don’t tell the new foreigner too much” rule. You would have been better served had the director warned you of the negative meaning of the term “DaLuMei” (大陸妹). Instead, she worried about saving face and led you to believe you were surrounded by caring staff members with a good sense of humor.
Anyway, the child is not wrong. “DaLuMei” (大陸妹) is a green leafy vegetable from Guangdong Province which was first introduced to Taiwan 15 to 20 years ago under the name: GuangDong A-Tsai (廣東A 菜).
At that time, men from Taiwan could not freely bring mainland China brides back to Taiwan; however there were still a great deal of young mainland Chinese girls in Taiwan working in the sex industry. The term “DaLuMei” (大陸妹) was first coined by the news media to describe these illegal young women living on the island. It was then commandeered by vendors in the traditional market to describe the new leafy import from GuangDong – quite obviously with tongue-in-cheek derogatory implications.
-- “There are a lot of stereotypes to be broken which I think a lot of us are doing. What I do is, as soon as people try to pin me down to one kind of part, I’ll play a very different kind of role, so it explodes that stereotype.” Joan Chen, Chinese film icon
I am a new California dude in Taiwan looking for a girl. The guys in the hostel where I’m crashing say I should just get some cards made with my phone number; hit the streets on my skateboard; and start hunting. Is it that easy?
-- Beached in Taipei
Anything’s possible, but your buddies’ advice brings to mind an old Chinese proverb: An intelligent person will consider a thousand things and only misunderstand one point, while an idiot will consider a thousand things and only get one right.
-- “知者千慮必有一 失; 愚者千慮必有一 得” Ancient Chinese proverb