Share the Same Hometown? You Are My 老乡 (lǎoxiāng)!

Chinese General laoxiang

As a student of Mandarin Chinese and a native English speaker, there are some things that fascinate me in comparing our two languages. One of these fascinations are the words that have no equivalent between the two languages. Some English words that don’t translate to Chinese are “serendipity” and “dying”. Likewise, in English, we don’t have a specific word that is equivalent to the Chinese 老乡 (lǎoxiāng), even though the word is quite useful, especially for those of us living in “migration” cities such as New York, Shanghai or London.
So, what is 老乡 (lǎoxiāng) anyway? The closest English equivalent we have would be something like “from the same town”, “fellow villager”, “hometowner”, “New Yorker” or “Londoner” but none of these are perfect fits for the translation.

Where does 老乡 (lǎoxiāng) come from and what does it mean?

老 (lǎo): old; decrepit; a prefix used before the surname of a person or a numeral indicating the order of birth of the hildren in a family to indicate affection or familiarity.

乡 (xiāng): village; countryside; hometown.

老乡 (lǎoxiāng): people who come from the same town or village.


Wǒ hé lìli shì lǎoxiāng.
我  和 丽丽 是   老乡。
Lily and me are from the same hometown.

Jīntiān wǒ yào hé wǒ de lǎoxiāng qù chī wǎnfàn.
今天    我  要   和 我  的     老乡   去  吃    晚饭。
Today I will have dinner with my friend who come from my hometown.

The Chinese People Liberations Army used to refer to “commoners” in villages and rural areas with this term. It is not derogatory, and is in fact a sign of comradery and friendship.

When we use 老乡 (lǎoxiāng):

In my language school in Beijing, it’s quite common to meet another person from the same region back home, or when introducing two students in a social gathering that you may know to be from the same region of their respective foreign country but now studying together in China. Even if it’s not the exact same hometown, we can still use 老乡 (lǎoxiāng) as a term of endearment to someone who grew up in the same vicinity.
In modern China, my teacher tells me that they use 老乡 (lǎoxiāng) not just for villages and rural areas, but also for people living in the same districts of a large city such as Shanghai or Beijing.
It’s just one of the many words you can use to endear yourself to locals in China and foreign residents as well!

HSK 3 quiz

A good opportunity to use 老乡 (lǎoxiāng) in a social setting would be:
A. When you ask someone where they are from
B. When you introduce two people who you know to be from the same region of a country
C. Inviting someone to visit your hometown
D. When describing your hometown to classmates

Learn more fun expressions about “老 (lǎo)”:

Don’t Call Her the Wrong Word for “老婆 (lǎopó) Wife!”
Why do Chinese call you “old outsider (老外 Lǎowài)? ”

―Written by Philip Reed―

Philip Reed is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing. He has been studying for one year in China and before that had an interest in Chinese at university in the U.S. He loves Chinese music and culture and can sing a few Mandarin songs at the KTV when he has free time!

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