The China Foreigner: eight rough profiles & a quiz
THE ROAMING ARTIST
Moved here to experience another culture or get away from culture i.g.. Dabbles (some more seriously than others) in some sort of arts, usually photography, painting, or, most often, music, with which he/she tries to make a living but when that fails turns to part-time English teaching. Loves—loves—freebies. Identify them by their dreadlocks and odd mash-up of cheap Communist slippers and folk apparel combined with tattered jeans and dress shirts.
Might become: wannabe businessperson, the China Expert, the Lifetime TEFLer
Might hear them say: 给我便宜点儿吧！
Common complaints: I am broke. Pay is too low. Nobody appreciates my talents.
Keywords: DJ, musician, singer, writer, painter, model, actor, photographer, designer
THE WANNABE BUSINESSPERSON
Also sometimes referred to as "halfpat." The guy (or gal) who came to China to take a look and ended up settling down for a while. After sucking up the maximum number of visa extensions as a student of Mandarin or sucking out all his/her willpower as a foreign teacher, becomes convinced he or she is "capable of better." Years of struggling might make them bitter and unable to fully integrate into society. Gives the locals reason to doubt foreigners' ability to do business.
Might have been or still be: the Roaming Artist, the China Expert, Lifetime TEFLer
Might hear them say: 你有没有名片？这儿是我的。
Common complaints: I got ripped off by my Chinese partner. "They" don't know how to do business.
Keywords: profit margin, strategic partnership, 1.4 billion customers
THE CHINA EXPERT
Knows everything about China; might have a degree in Mandarin or Chinese studies. Probably studied abroad in Beijing for a year before settling in China. Enthusiastically offers translation services to anybody who'll take them. Refuses to speak to locals in any language but Chinese but gets extremely upset when he/she realizes that "being fully accepted" is a pipe dream. The most hardcore enroll in a master's program at Sichuan University and attend classes with the local students. Delights in eating intestines, rabbit head, duck bill, brains, and anything else Westerners find weird or repulsive, especially when in the company of said Westerners—whose company he/she usually shuns anyway on the quest for total immersion. Lives with his wife-to-be in a one-bedroom apartment somewhere nobody else lives and even local taxi drivers haven't heard of.
Aspires to be: the Wannabe Businessperson
Might hear them say: 当然听的懂！学中文学得很久！
Common complaints: Chinese people won't speak to me in Chinese. I'll never be fully accepted!
Keywords: young white male, Asian studies
THE LONELY WESTERN WOMAN
Has written off locals as potential romantic partners for any of a number of reasons. In early phases, tends to throw herself rather unscrupulously at any foreign male who shows the slightest interest. Eventually becomes bitter and jaded, resenting Chinese women for "taking all the men," Western men for "how easy" they have it, and while they're at it, everybody else on this goddamn planet too. Complaints might be compounded by chronic yeast infections as well as the lack of clothes and shoes in her size. Often derided by insecure male counterparts as being "unfeminine" and "fat" compared to Chinese women. Lives with her best friend in a two-bedroom apartment next to their favorite bar. Is possibly middle-aged, with an adopted Chinese daughter in tow.
Common complaints: Foreign men in China suck. Men here only want to have one-night stands.
Keywords: perpetually single, underwhelmed by options, bar, club, bitter, jaded
THE EXPAT FAMILY
The expat family is in a class all its own, with very little crossover from the other foreign riffraff. This category comes as a package that almost always comprises a man with his wife and kids in tow, although there have been a few cases of expat women with "trailing husbands." Usually middle-class in their home country, arrives in China on a nice "compensation" package and can suddenly live like kings, sending the hired help to buy kitchen staples at Sabrina's and Metro. Penchant for taking group field trips to places deemed too "local," i.e., any place that's not IKEA. Uses the adjective "Chinese" as a catch-all code for something completely alien and probably displeasing to them, as in, "Such-and-such place is so Chinese." Generally only spotted at Peterpan or Bookworm, or, for a wild night out on the town, Shamrock. The young ones tend to stay in a bubble as well but, with Mandarin courses at their $20,000-per-year schools, do usually pick up Chinese faster than their parents.
Might hear them say: 听不懂。
Common complaints: I can't find [insert name of Western product] here. That's China! I'm having a 'bad China day.'
Keywords: multinational corporation, manager, stay-at-home mom, imported goods section
THE STUDY-ABROAD STUDENT
Spends weekends with classmates at Shuangnan or Taiping Nan Jie, skimming all the free alcohol they can get by cozying up to some drunk wealthy-looking locals and ganbei-ing umpteen times. Might wake up for those 8 a.m. classes ... and then again, might not. Dinner is McDonald's or Tex-Mex on delivery. Usually is either funded by his/her over-moneyed European nation or has managed to finagle out a scholarship from some government or from mom and dad's savings accounts. Initially lives in the dorms until he or she realizes what a rip-off on-campus accommodations are, but by then it's too late. At the end of the semester generally has very little language skill to show for six months other than a few choice samples generally not spoken in polite company, and then it's time to travel and then go back home anyway.
Might hear them say: 我很喜欢中国！每个东西都很便宜！
Common complaints: The classes are so boring. The teachers don't know how to teach.
Keywords: school, Chuanda, Xinan Minzu, sleeping in class, rage against the textbook
THE LIFETIME TEFL TRAVELER
Ostensibly came to China via Japan or Korea to experience another culture but got caught up in the cheap beer and pretty women. Might have ended up marrying a local, or might be plotting a next stop in another (Asian) country. May or may not have any teaching qualification whatsoever (and even then, a TEFL/CELTA certificate requires only four weeks.) With rare exceptions, the lifetime TEFL traveler is almost always male. There is gender discrimination here: Female lifetime TEFLers might be looked at as independent, courageous souls, while their male counterparts are generally just thought of as duds. Their salaries, often based on a handful of superficial "qualifications," tend to make locals green with envy.
Aspires to be: wannabe businessperson
Might already be: amateur Sinologist
Might hear them say: 再来一瓶啤酒！冰的！
Common complaints: My beer's warm. My students cheat. My school did not fulfill its contractual obligations. Life is too easy.
Keywords: head shot, CV, two letters of reference, diploma, but most importantly, head shot
These are the ABCs, BBCs, CBCs (American or Australian, British, and Canadian-born Chinese), etc. who cause confusion everywhere they go. When white foreigners get utmost praise from locals for uttering a clumsy "Ni hao," the XBC gets "Why's your Chinese so bad?" and, conversely, "How's your English so good?" from other foreigners. Is either the envy of the foreign community for growing up bilingual and being able to "blend in" or is pitied for taking all the flak and not reaping any of the benefits of the "star treatment" a foreigners in China have been known to be on the receiving end of. Makes Chinese ponder the deep philosophy behind the question, "What is Chinese?"
Might hear them say: 我是华侨,没有在这儿长大！
Common complaints: Why do the waitresses always look at me to order?
Keywords: confused, in between, what do you call them anyway?
OPEN QUIZ: Which Walking Stereotype Are You?
1. So ... what brings you to China?
a. My boss said "Go to China," so here I am in this craaaaazy country!
b. Oh, you know, I just wanted to experience another culture
c. I've always been fascinated with China. Plus, I have a degree in Chinese, so it just made sense.
d. One-point-four billion customers!? You can't go wrong!
e. I'm studying Chinese at the university.
f. I am here exploring my ancestral roots, thank you.
2. Which of the following best illustrates the extent of your Chinese-language skills?
a. Wo hui shuo yidiandian.
b. Ting bu dong.
c. Uh, shifu, dao sanyecao jiuba.
f. Zhege gongzuo hui fu gei wo duoshao qian?
3. How do you support yourself?
a. I teach English, but that's just until I can become a full-time translator.
b. My double-salary-plus-expenses paycheck gets directly deposited into my account back home every month.
c. I go to the DOS's office every month with a plastic bag to collect my big, fat stack of red notes.
d. My European country's super-rich government gives me a scholarship ... but I have to live on campus and can only eat Western food once a week! Woe is me!
e. Well, you know, I'm just trying to live frugally until we make a profit....
f. Whatever comes along, none of which I'd be hired to do in my home country ... acting, modeling, DJing, singing, dancing, taking photos, "proofreading" ...
4. What are your usual hangouts?
a. Home, but for a big night out it's either the Bookworm or Shamrock
b. Sichuan University, Café Panam(e), Taiping Nan Jie and Waishuangnan
c. Wherever I can get free inebriants!
d. At home, watching Chinese movies with my Chinese significant other or eating hotpot with my Chinese friends.
e. Just bring me to the closest bar with English-speaking staff as fast as possible
f. Oh, you know, between the EUCC events, AmCham events, and BritCham events, how would I have time to party? OK, sometimes I step into Café Panam(e) for a look ...
5. Among Chengdu's vast and varied selection of international restaurants, your favorite is...
a. Peter's Tex Mex
b. Oh, please.
6. Your usual social circle consists of ...
a. Locals only. I do not associate with other foreigners.
b. My family and sometimes other foreign families. Our ayi is always around but doesn't live with us.
c. Other uni students and my language partner.
d. The other teachers at my school and my love interest of the week.
e. I hate everyone.
7. Are you new here?
a. Yeah, I've only been here a week.
b. What are you trying to say?
8. How long are you planning to stay?
a. I don't know, however long I feel like.
b. Our contract is up in two years, so then we'll go back home.
c. Forever! I'm already working on applying for citizenship.
d. Just 'til the end of the semester.
Results: Hell if we know. Tally up your answers and figure it out yourself.