Although every person is unique and it’s dangerous to generalize, it’s also true that after a while, you begin to recognize certain types of foreigner in the Chinese workplace. There are of course multiple types and many foreigners straddle a line between more than one, while others move between categories the longer they stay in China. For a bit of fun, however, I’ve outlined five of the most common types of foreigner you’ll meet in the Chinese workplace. Which one do you most resemble?
The Lazy One isn’t in China to forge a career and has no interest in saving money, learning the language, getting qualifications, or getting promoted. They’re just here to travel and party. Work is simply a means to an end and they will typically do as little of it as possible.
Outside of work, you’ll find The Lazy One in the bars. During the holidays, you’ll find them on some beach in Southeast Asia partying with the backpackers. Regardless of how you feel about their work ethic, you can’t help but be both amazed by, and envious of, their stamina. This type of foreigner usually either evolves into one of the other types as they get older, leaves China, or burns out like fabulous roman candle.
Likely to say: “I came straight from the club to work. I think I might still be drunk.”
Unlikely to say: “Sorry, I can’t go for a drink tonight. I have to put in some overtime.”
You’ll find The Moaning One permanently sat on their high horse. For them, complaining about China has gone from being a habit, to a sport, to a way of life. Nothing is ever The Moaning One’s fault. It is always “Chinese people” or “China”. Someone jumps the line on the subway platform, “Chinese people are so rude.” Their lunch arrives 15 minutes late to the office, “The work ethic in China is awful.” HR makes a typo in an email, “This country is screwed.”
The Moaning One just wants to complain while never offering any solutions. If there’s an issue at work that needs to be addressed, either you find a productive way to deal with it or, if you can’t find a solution, you stop complaining about something you can’t fix. The Moaning One is yet to get this memo.
The Moaning One usually stays the same, from arriving in China as a fresh-faced university graduate all the way to becoming a middle-aged moaner sat in an American bar, drinking pints of Tsingtao while complaining about Chinese taxi drivers for the millionth time.
Likely to say: “The coffee in the snack room isn’t hot enough. China sucks.”
Unlikely to say: “This country is so fascinating. I’m so lucky to be here.”
The Native One is arguably the rarest and most interesting of all types of foreigner in the Chinese workplace. The Native One speaks fluent Chinese, hangs around with almost exclusively local friends, and loves to eat all the weird Chinese food that turns most Westerners’ stomachs. They can often be found chatting in a local dialect at some street side shaokao joint or drinking baijiu with their friends from Hubei.
There’s an awful lot to admire about The Native One, and there’s no denying that it takes a lot of ability and hard work to learn the language as well as they have. You could do a lot worse than take a leaf out of their book, but it’s also true that us mere mortals can’t help but feel a slight twinge of annoyance when they bang on about how easy Mandarin is to learn.
Likely to say: “For Chinese New Year, I’m going to a small village in Guangxi where they make a special type of pickled lemon duck.”
Unlikely to say: “Let’s go to the British pub after work to watch the match and have a burger.”
Fourth in the list is The Newbie, the one that’s just arrived in China. For them, everything is still equal measures amazing and terrifying, and they’ll be sure to let you know about it. “Karaoke is so much fun.” “I learned a cool dice game in a nightclub.” “Chinese food doesn't taste like it does back home.” “Baijiu is so horrible.”
It shouldn’t be, but the energy and enthusiasm of The Newbie can be grating, especially first thing on a Monday morning. Those who have been in China a while will probably give The Newbie a wide birth until they mature into one of the other types of foreigner. As harsh as it sounds, The Newbie can be one of the hardest types of foreigners to be around.
Likely to say: “Guys, I keep hearing about KTV. What is it?”
Unlikely to say: “I won’t bore you with the details as I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.”
The Veteran has been around for god knows how many years and is somewhat of an old China hand. They’re married to a Chinese person, probably have kids, and have worked their way into a pretty decent career. They stopped complaining about China years ago, not because they have nothing to complain about, but because they realize there’s no point. They probably speak Chinese, not as much as The Native and less than they feel they should having been in China so long, but more than most foreigners. They share none of the enthusiasm of The Newbie but have achieved a certain equilibrium in China.
Likely to say: “You can’t change anything, so you better get used to it.”
Unlikely to say: “Let’s go to KTV.”
Which one should you be?
As with many things in life, you should try and find a balance between all types of foreigner you find in the Chinese workplace. Learn the language and enjoy the culture like The Native; accept the reality of life in China like The Veteran; retain a good work-life balance like The Lazy One; let off some steam on occasion like The Moaning One; and, most importantly, try to keep a sense of enthusiasm and wonder like The Newbie, no matter how long you stay.
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Keywords: Chinese Workplace
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Dec 10, 2019 20:14 Report Abuse
From my experience, the non-white people from non-western countries are the best adjusted in china. They don't seem to complain about much and are usually fun to hang around . The worst ones are the liberal "educated" ones. These woke millennial types. The ones who follow the political correctness cult and think their world view is superior and are use to having their feeling protected by their parents. Although usually these people don't last long in China and end up dying their hair purple and going back to their mom's basement.
Sep 22, 2019 09:48 Report Abuse
I think you make a pretty good point there actually. Non-westerners are probably just so darn happy to be in a place that is not their flawed home country. Smug Westerners, on the other hand, will look at China and find so many things lacking; sub-par insulation and ventilation, undrinkable tap water and too much pollution. Non-westerners will, on the other hand, see opportunities, well-functioning infrastructure, and peaceful streets.
Sep 22, 2019 20:24 Report Abuse
And to add to that, they usually get treated far worse than white western people. Especially if they teach English. They get lower pay most of the time and face racism wherever they go...yet I find them more likable and enjoy china far more than a lot of westerners. I just can't handle the constant complaining about shit they can't change. I transcend that shit. I have no time for those things. Ignore the bullshit, embrace the good and you'll have a good time.
Sep 24, 2019 23:01 Report Abuse