Hello Uncle Foreigner

Who is this Uncle Foreigner?

Peter does the snaps, Emily does the text

We are Emily and Peter, a couple of 美国’s abroad. We’re both ex-New York media types — Peter, with a background in the graphic and visual realms, and Emily in writing and web work. These days we’re calling China our home. And we’re sharing our experience of it in multimedia, here on our blog and on YouTube.

Our story started in mid-2010, when Peter, in the midst of a frustrating job search, joked, “We could always just go teach in China.” After about a week, Emily asked: “On the chance that you weren’t joking … I’d go.” And after about a year of research and preparation, we were on a plane to Luzhou City, Sichuan Province, China.

What? You’ve never heard of Luzhou? Well, that’s because this small town (of 1.7 million people!) is considered somewhat of a backwater in China. (Though it’s local liquor, Luzhou Laojiao, is known and drunk throughout the country.) But it’s a city with ambition. We watched it grow over the four years we spent there (check the archives for stories), and as we said as we left, “Luzhou will always be our Chinese hometown.”

But leave it we did. To head even further west to the city of Lijiang, in Yunnan Province. Lijiang, while not yet well known to foreigners, is China’s premiere domestic tourist destination. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Lijiang is strikingly gorgeous. They’ve got mountains, lakes, hot springs, and more. The locals are a mix of different ethnicities not found anywhere else in China and — though some of it is prepackaged and sold to wealthy travelers — their heritage is still living and vital.

And then … after a year we came back to Luzhou! We love Sichuan province so much that we couldn’t bear to be away. But we’re more active than ever. Our main focus is cross-cultural communication, and we want to help the world’s people share their stories with one another and forge new bonds. If we can get some good snacks along the way, all the better.

Getting to know us in moving pictures

Since the start of 2018, Uncle Foreigner has been concentrating mostly on short film work. (Subscribe to us on YouTube for instant access to the latest vids.) New Foreigners, we recommend you start with these five — to get a taste of what we’re all about. Shorts, longs; silly, serious; helpful how-tos, useless fun … we’ve got a lot of different angles on our life in China.

  • Thumbnail from video of "Ni hao from China" a pledge drive for the Hello Uncle Foreigner YouTube channel

    Ni hao from China Shot originally for our June 2018 Pledge Month (keep your freakin’ money, all we want is your views), this video is a behind-the-scenes look at the operations at Whoop wu studios. It’s a humorous introduction to all the Emilys and Peters that keep this operation afloat. And, the most production-heavy work we had done up to that time!

  • Thumbnail from video of "Focus on yourself," a short film

    Focus on yourself Uncle’s Shorts is our flagship video series, depicting our life in China weekly, in quick, silly vignettes. “Focus on yourself” is one of our favorites … the Platonic ideal of what we think an Uncle’s Short should be: mundane subject, our off-kilter perspective, an appeal to our common humanity in diverse circumstances, and a dash of post-production magic. And, you know, it’s short.

  • Thumbnail from video of "Field notes," a short film set in the Chinese countryside

    Field notes from rural China This one is a highly personal video that chronicles a very special afternoon in 2015. Distance-wise, we didn’t travel very far — just a stone’s throw from our apartment at the time. But it was one of those journeys that irrevocably changes one’s perspective and slightly alters the course of one’s life forever. You understand how that goes.

  • Thumbnail from video of "Drink Up Luzhou" the pilot episode of our international talk show

    Drink up Luzhou, pilot episode Watch this space for Drink Up Luzhou the webseries … coming soon. And in the meantime, watch the pilot episode of our international talk show in which we celebrate this crazy world that we all share through the lens of a small Chinese city in south Sichuan province. We do all this while enjoying some of the best food on the planet. Sichuan food is the best! Come at me!

  • Thumbnail from video of "Teachers Exist in China" part 1 of a 6 part series looking at teaching ESL in China

    Teachers exist in China I’ve learned A LOT about teaching in English in China over the years, and in this six part series I share just about everything I know. This is the only place you’ll actually see me handing out tips — a guiding principle of Hello Uncle Foreigner is “no explaining” — so make sure to have a notebook at hand while you’re watching. You’re going to want to write this down.

Travel the world through your screen

We’ve been very lucky to do a fair bit of traveling while living in Asia, and then writing about that traveling. Here are some of our favorite destinations:

  • Chongqing and Shenzhen, China, 2017OK, so according to the internet, 十八梯 was a famously old neighborhood that attracted local sightseers for many years. Now it’s a pile of rubble still attracting lookie-loos who haven’t heard the news that it’s being cleared out for a new housing development. There are still a few remaining restaurants boldly advertising their 十八梯 connections, but mostly what’s left are street vendors, hawking everything from porn to hand-crafted silver. And I had been wandering through it all along without knowing!”
  • Vietnam, 2015 “To reset the stage, it was winter break, just before Chinese New Year. We were in search of good food and warm weather – both of which were in ample supply. I remember complaining about it a bit, but from this vantage point, it was a good trip! Let’s go back someday.”
  • Jiuzhaigou and Songpan, China, 2014 “They showed us all the best views, where to take the pictures, which walks were the most interesting, when it was advisable to take the bus between sights, and even where to sit on the bus for the best vantage point. The lakes of Jiuzhaigou are startlingly brilliant and even in person unreal looking. “I know. It looks Photoshopped,” Lisa said.”
  • Penang, Malaysia, 2013 “Our guidebook tried to sell us on some of the more out-of-the-way beach and fishing villages on the southwest of the island — Batu Ferringhi is all concrete and hotels, they said — but our normal daily life happens off the beaten path, so we felt pretty OK not being so hard core on our vacation.”
  • Kunming, 2013 “We were ecstatic to find that among the wide range of experiences that Kunming offers is a lively art and music scene. There’s a small but growing network of art galleries, and you can find live music somewhere, every night of the week. People make stuff here! Creative stuff!”
  • Qingdao, China, 2012 “We started with an appetizer of roasted asparagus with some sort of hard cheese shaved over the top. (It was something delicious and fancier than Parmesan, is all we can remember; one lesson of this trip was: take better notes.) This was the first time we had seen asparagus anywhere in China, and so we anticipated the dish hungrily.”
  • Chengdu, 2012 — The Lost Passport Saga “But that doesn’t mean there is no rock in China. It’s just something you have to do a little digging for. One of the mainstays of the Sichuan scene, we heard, is the New Little Bar in Chengdu. (New Little Bar is the younger brother of Old Little Bar. Both were founded by a hip collective of musicians and artists.)”