The argument is often made that Chinese people tend to be nicer – or at least more courteous – to foreigners than they are to each other. But is that really the case?
When I first moved to China three years ago, I quickly had to get used to the fact that no one would hold open doors or keep the elevator waiting for more than, oh, 0.0003 seconds. I continued these practices basically out of habit, until one day I realised something – more and more people in my apartment building were holding open the door for me or, when seeing me sprinting towards the open elevator, would press the elevator open button. My other foreigner friends also started noticing the same thing in their own apartment buildings, but we've also observed that the Chinese residents don't really do it for each other. Why? My only guess is because when a door is held open for me, my obviously grateful smile and profuse round of "Xiexie, xiexie!" makes them feel good – I base that on the fact that they always tend to smile and look extremely pleased with themselves. Whereas when a door is held open for a fellow Chinese person, there tends to be absolutely no acknowledgement of the kind deed just done. Only time will tell if this trend increases.
当我3年前第一次搬到中国的之后，我便迅速习惯了这个现实，那就是没人帮你开门或者帮你按电梯门，哪怕只有0.0003秒，但我出于习惯的原因还是继续这 样做，直到有一天，我发现了一些事情，越来越多和我住在一个公寓的人帮我开门或者当看到我飞奔过来的时候帮我按住电梯。我的其他外国朋友在他们居住的公寓 里也同样受到了这样的对待，但是我们同样也注意到，中国人不会为其他的中国人这样做。为什么会这样呢？我猜大概是当他们为我按住电梯，我会明显的非常感激，并不断的说“谢谢，谢谢”！让他们感觉很受用，因为这时我看到他们总是笑着，看起来很高兴。然而当他们给一个中国同胞按住电梯，那个人则完全没有任何表示。
I live in Chongqing, have travelled to many countries but Chinese people are unique. Standing under a building's overhang and sheltering from a sudden shower, a Chinese woman walked past with her little boy. She stopped and rummaged in her bag, gave me her spare umbrella. Having my shoes polished in the street, (I know the normal price) two guys, separately, stopped. I noticed them, wondered why they'd stopped. When I put my hand in my pocket to get the money to pay, both of the guys signalled that I should only pay 2 yuan. These are but two examples of the many kindnesses that I've been shown here. They'd not happen anywhere else that I've been – even in my own country, alas!
我住在重庆，曾经游历过很多国家，但中国人是独一无二的。有次在一座房子的屋檐下躲雨，一个中国妇女带着她的孩子路过，她停下来从包里找出一把多余的伞， 开始在街上给我擦鞋（我知道正常价格），两个男人，也停了下来观看。我注意到了他们，还好奇为什么他们要停下来，当我从兜里掏钱准备给钱的时候，这两个男 人示意我只需要付2元钱就可以了，这是我遇到过的很多好心人的例子中的一个，这些事在世界任何地方对不会发生，即使在我自己的国家。
Depends. I have been treated better than my chinese friends just because i am lao wai, and i have also been treated worse for the very same reason.
At least in Sweden you see the same phenomenon. People treat at least white foreigners better.
The point is not really "Are Chinese people more or less polite to foreigners than they are to each other?" The fact is that sometimes you, as a foreigner, will get taken advantage of. And sometimes you, as a foreigner, will be pleasantly surprised by a random act of kindness or respect. These kinds of things happen all over the world, not just in China.