Foreigners from all corners of the globe come to China for various reasons; for some it’s work, for others it’s adventure, for a few it’s love. But no matter what the reason for your coming may be, there’s one thing we can all agree on: there are certainly some strange laowai who roam the streets of the Middle Kingdom. So let’s stereotype for a minute and drop all elements of political correctness, here are some funny examples of the weirdest foreigners in China.
1. The Know-it-all
This is the dude or dudette who thinks they know absolutely everything about China. Every stroke of the characters ‘biangbiang mian’, the name of every emperor ever and the date he/she ruled, the winner of The Voice of China last night, Mao’s personal hygiene habits…you name it! They’re a so called expert on absolutely everything China and they have no problem letting you know that you’re not!
My friend tells of the story of him in a bar, waiting for a few others to join him. Like a true expat, he ordered a drink in the best Chinese he could. He asked for a pijiu, or beer. As luck would have it, he was sitting next to a know-it-all. The know-it-all couldn’t resist to let a complete stranger know that his tones were way off. It’s pijiu, second-tone, third-tone, you imbecil!
2. The Backpacker
These 20-something Millennials usually teach English to finance their next trip through SE Asia or India. Their wardrobe is 100% purchased from Khaosan Road, and their next Spring Festival vacation is going back to the Full Moon Party for the third time. They can easily be found at the expat dive bars – saving money by purchasing cheap and/or fake booze – rubbing shoulders with foreign students studying abroad doing the exact same thing.
The backpackers usually don’t annoy as much as the know-it-all’s, until they start talking abut the one thing that makes them unique – their travels. Sometimes it gets to be a bit much, as if they’re trying to prove that they’re so much more worldly than you. If this happens, simply ask, “Then what are you doing talking with another expat instead of getting to know real China?” This usually brings them back to Earth.
3. Da Man
This one is a fascinating specimen. They claim to have started a profitable start-up back in their home country, and are only teaching English in a 4th-tier city to kindergartners for an “adventure.” However, when you question them about their past glamorous life, they usually mix up the facts and details.
I knew a guy named Joe from the heartland of America who fit this description exactly. He claimed he was a tech entrepreneur, and sold his start-up for millions. After being bored with life, he took off to China to “do something different.” Perhaps this is true. But I’m skeptical. Joe, who frequented my friend’s restaurant and bar quite often, had a habit of never paying his tab. Actually, it got to the point that he was kindly asked to pay, or stop coming. He eventually stopped coming. If Joe’s story is true, he’s the cheapest millionaire I’ve ever met!
4. The Yellow Fever Patient
This can be a man or woman. For men, they’re usually ones with terminal yellow fever – they won’t leave China until they meet their dream gal from the Orient. They’ve actually gotten to the point that they don’t even look at another foreign girl, as if they don’t even exist. It’s hard for them to settle down, but eventually they get married and end up living in China forever.
For the woman, they usually have a steady local boyfriend. They’re quite happy with their relationship, and everything is all good. However, they do have one flaw. They’re always making the point that certain Asian stereotypes aren’t true, and love showing off the fact that they’re a rare expat woman in a serious relationship with a local.
Man or woman, we all have a friend in our circle who has stage 3 yellow fever.
5. The China Nerd
Unlike the Know-it-all, these people actually do indeed know it all! However, their studies get the best of them – they’re usually too good to hang out with other expats, preferring to do everything in Chinese. There’s nothing wrong with this, besides the fact that they make us feel stupid, and in many ways we envy their diligence.
I have a friend studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and yes, he’s a giant nerd-o and a true expert in China. Last time we had dinner to catch up, my day felt so much more unproductive compared with his. “Yeah, just finishing up my 100-page thesis in Chinese, still got some proofreading to do, but it’s almost there.” Wow!
However, the thing amazing about this scenario is not his impressive thesis. It’s the fact that he was having dinner with me, another white foreigner, and not a Chinese person.
They come to China, play music off their Mac, and somehow make a career out of it. I don’t really know how this classifies as talent, but I guess people will pay for this. Anyways… They’re usually the life of the party, have a great social life, and can always get you discounts into clubs. DJs are good people to befriend.
While they’re cool now, the only problem is years later they wake up and they’re doing the same exact thing! Unless your last name is Tiesto, DJing past the age of 30 just puts you on the list of the Weirdest Laowai in China. Sorry, that’s just reality.
Do you know of any other weird laowai stereotypes? Feel free to self-shame and let us know in the comment section below.
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Keywords: Foreigner China Laowai stereotype
As opposed to being a magnificent, universally loved, intelligent, savvy Chinese tourist who takes a piss on historical artifacts in other countries? Insecurity and jealousy is abound in this latest addition of "Foreign Bashing" lol.
How is it I've never met these types of people. I've met all sorts and especially bozos but ... And there are some world famous DJs who do that. There's a market, they do their job well and take care of themselves without cheating people. They enjoy what they do , why is it weird? Why are backpackers weird? Seems to me that you are the weird one
I know exactly the kind of backpacker the article is on about cause I've met them a few times. Most backpackers are fine but there are some who seem to believe that spending their gap year in the Far East makes them better than people who haven't had the same experience. It's like spending a week living in a yurt makes them so much more knowledgable about the "Real China" than the rest of us expats.
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