When I first arrived here in China, people would ask “where are you from?” or “你是哪国人?” And I’d respond, I’m from the States, 是美国的. Sometimes they were confused, how could an Asian-looking person be from the States? Other times they asked again, “Are you an overseas Chinese?” “华侨啊?” Sometimes they would use “huaqiao” and sometimes they would say “huaren”. I never thought about it, until a friend recently told me that there’s a difference between these two words. I thought that they meant the same thing.
To some Chinese huaqiao (华侨) and huaren (华人) have the same meaning and to some Chinese the two words have different meanings. I spoke with an older lady, the Ayi who helps clean our apartment. She understood that both huaqiao and huaren have the same meaning… a Chinese person who’s overseas. To those who understand two different meanings, one definition is “a person of Chinese decent who was born and raised overseas” (me) and the second definition being “a person of Chinese decent who was born in China and currently residing overseas” (my parents). I met someone else recently, who explained to me that every person of Chinese decent no matter which country they live or grow up is a “huaren”, but those who specifically claim a nationality other than Chinese are “huaqiao”.
Ok, so after all this discussion, I decided to just look it up in the dictionary. It defines “huaren” as ethnically Chinese people. And “huaqiao” as a Chinese emigrant who still retains Chinese nationality. Now, to confuse things further, I recently heard one more term “HuaYi” (华裔), which refers to a person of Chinese decent with foreign citizenship. Phew. Glad to finally get that clarified. And now we all know. Huaren are all Chinese people versus Huaqiao who are Chinese emigrants with Chinese nationality and Huayi are foreign citizens of Chinese decent. :P