Types of Expats You May Not Meet in China Anymore
I came across a fun article on '12 Types of Expats You'll Definitely Meet in China' http://space.echinacities.com/1626450/blog/spacenodedetail/5300
I disagreed with some of the 'types' but mainly because I felt they were describing 'phases' or simply negative characteristics that anyone might express to some degree.
But some 'types' are real. I think we've seen 100 different attempts at the 'Stereotyping' and they get snotty, funny or sometimes try to be serious. Some were bang-on accurate and others little more than bigotry and even racist but I do believe most of them are irrelevant now. The Classic 'Types of Expats' are disappearing.
Oh, to be sure, they did exist and they still do. I mentioned meeting an almost cartoonish character of the 'Know-It-All' Expat just a few months back. He is an Old Hand who can't wait to find another foreigner to gloat and express contempt for their laziness. This guy had all the traits and he was also a long-term expat. I would say he was living in the past.
For sure I have met the 'stereotypes' in the past. I've said that I've seen the same exact group of what I call the 'High-Fiving White Guys' in every city. Its not the same group but dammit if the same clique of five or eight weren't exactly the same, have the same nightclub, carry out the same attitudes, get in the exact same drinking, fighting, girlfriend issues, half of them are former military heroes (they aren't) they are all cool-as-hell (they aren't) and carry on in a pack of arrogance only 19-28 year olds away from home could.
I think they've all moved to Vietnam. I noticed that there were less and less of them picking fights with locals outside their expat hangouts at 3am and all I know is that the leftover ones have lost their high-fiving rowdy attitude and keep telling me they plan to go to Pattaya Thailand soon.
I met a whole bunch of stereotype expats up north who I guess I can call 'Batmans'. 19-38 (yes that old) who were in China to learn the true secrets of Shaolin. Amazingly, I later found out they were paying as much as 60,000 USD a year to live in barracks and become Shaolin Gong Fu Batman whatever-masters. Most really were a very specific type. No girlfriends, had some weird intense emotional issue things going on, all of them always clarified.. and very seriously.. they weren't here for games but were here for the real deal. I really did watch them perform and all of them were so gaddam serious I couldn't keep a straight face even though I admired their insane dedication. It seems all of them intended to open up a 'Dojo' in the USA. Even the British ones.
Who else? Some of these I don't believe were ever that common. I keep seeing 'Yellow Fever Expats' in every 'Type' post and I'm convinced there really isn't such a thing (or it's cured very quickly) but absolutely for sure there is what we can just call 'Blue Ball Fever' Expats. Really, all I'm saying is that young men who are 17-27 have a 'fever' for any and all pretty local ladies who are within eyesight. This isn't 'yellow fever'.. this is just perpetuation of the human race as it's always been.
Otherwise, there are 'types' that are really just circumstances. Older men and women who've retired and live in a 2nd tier city. Right, they aren't learning much Chinese and they will be at McDonalds for the Sausage McMuffins.
Others have married a spouse in China. They aren't here to learn Chinese, they aren't thrilled about working as an English Teacher and they are working on complicated Visa procedures with their wife and sometimes children. They will have a different view but that's around circumstances more than anything.
But as for those wacky boxes, the funny or nasty stereotypes everyone goes on about - I think they are disappearing. I do remember a sort of '5 types' being easy to make back in 2010 but not so much now. Maybe that's why a recent article had expanded to 12. It's because there aren't easy-to-define types as much as there used to be.
Now when I meet a foreigner they will be some mix of circumstances, some varying degrees of reasons for being here. Most are what I happily describe as fully 'self-aware' and 'woke' to what is happening around them. They aren't pretencious, they don't have a special 'attitude' and they aren't trying to 'be someone'.
And again, I did see in the past and there really were 'types' you could identify. I will give you an example but it seemed like in every city, in each district and in some given neighbourhood was what I jokingly called 'The Only Laowai in The Village'. If anyone remembers a TV show called 'Little Britain' they might remember a popular character who insisted on being the 'only gay in the village'. The 'gay' character, its believed wasn't actually gay but, in truth, just wanted the strange attention of being singularly unique in his world. If another gay came to town, far from happy, he'd be right upset that his specialness had been stolen from him! Well, I think I've met this type of Laowai once per district. And it's not like we bothered them. Right, I don't just chase him down yelling 'Hey Fellow Foreigner' but for whatever reason they were annoyed beyond belief that I had dared cross the 'I was here first' rule they seem to have going on.
I don't see that guy anymore. I used to and you could almost spot them a mile away, sense it and I'd even know better than to wave or say hello. But now I don't see that stereotype. I don't run up to the only other foreigner in my neighborhood shouting 'Hey Two of US NOW!' either but actually if I see another I can say hello and he or she will say hello and there is simply no pretense. Nor are we expected to become a duo.
I don't see the 'Shaolin Monks' as much anymore but I have now met two different foreigners who were specifically in China to learn Gong Fu or another proper Tai Chi and neither were the strange slightly-misogynistic, 20-yard stare, 'Batman' obsession dudes. Actually, one was a woman and the other quite a humorous but down-to-earth guy. Neither struck me as 'sword collectors' and neither were wearing those MMA tshirts that say 'Affliction' like the Batman's did. Refreshing.
I used to run into a specific stereotype - the lord of education expat. We knew a fellow who'd been frustrated after years of trying to get a full-time public school teaching job back in Seattle. He was one of those lonesome loser types, the guy just couldn't get a break, nothing really worked out, 30 comes and goes, balding now, paunchy stomach and he wasn't exactly Mr.Personality. He's landed a gig as.. wait for it... Chief Of The Foreign English Department. (he's the only foreigner and the school is in an apartment, there are only 20 kids, they use standard Chinese textbooks). Well HOLY HELL.. wow he has become.. and pardon the language but there is no other title but he is gawdamm King Sh*t of F*ck Mountain. The Baddass Bossman and I mean pity the foreigner that works there part-time because he will chortle and rage a decade of his own rejections and insecurities into your head with his godlike status as THE premiere Lord of Education in China and maybe even the world.
I don't meet those guys much anymore. It's just a dude who's totally aware of what's going on, what is happening here, tries their best, takes it seriously but is under no self-delusion about where they are and what it means. They are not telling people back home they are now the 'Dean of a College' or the guy we met who'd decided he was a 'Professor' (seriously) after giving a dozen lectures at a local University. That guy is gone now. I heard he went to the the U.A.E. and before he left informed everyone he was going to do 'real English teaching' and not this low-level 'fake teaching' we were playing at in China.
No, I am happy to report I'm seeing less and less of the 'stereotypes' and I suppose that isn't always great. I noticed fewer 'Stargazers' and I do believe the internet has something to do with robbing 1st time arrivals of that 'awe and wonder' phase, sometimes called a 'honeymoon phase'. One young lady, just 3 days in China actually felt she should say "ya ya.. but this is my honeymoon phase" which in a way made me sad because she was 'too self-aware' when she shouldn't have even thought of any such thing, phases, she shouldn't have that self-examination. Not yet anyways. Just be overwhelmed and silly and over-excited and good! It's not good if you're doing that 3 years later I suppose but let it be great for three months or even weeks!
This rant wouldnt' be fun if it was just reporting that the 'ugly expat stereotypes' are disappearing. After all, where would we get our thrills, our judgy goodness from?
Okay, well I'm happy to report I've now found a new kind of 'Expat Type' and its a stereotype and I've now seen it enough times that they can get their own category and maybe there is a name for them already. I dubbed this new stereotype of expat the 'Social Media Poser'.
To be clear: though I'm older-school I am fully on-board for the social media sharing, I love it for keeping friends and family in a virtual adventure and I'm all for having fun, hamming it up and using today's digital media to tell stories... however...
..the ugly part of this expat (in fact, they are tourists though some longer-term) but they are putting the cart-before-the-horse. Their primary purpose is to create some kind of Social Media 'character' and manufacture an online persona. The actual adventure itself, China itself, actually enjoying the moment itself is all beside the point for them.
I first really noticed this about two Summer back when a small group of fedora-wearing hipster Westerners were scouting the local market. "..just find the grossest looking one" and they seemed hurried to scan each cart until settling on what is rather nasty looking noodles. Nasty from a Westerner's perspective. They then took turns posing with the noodles, each craning their head back to drop the noodles, some made these 'groaning noises' which reminded me of a TV Chef who'd had an almost 'signature moan' when he dropped that golden delicious thing into his mouth.. as if to say 'ohhmmmm ya now THAT is what I'm talking about'.
But after what seemed to be a 'photoshoot' with the oily grey-toned noodles they left the barely-eaten dish and hurried off. I noticed one was editing shots on an iPad en-route. I've seen this 'Social Media Poser' a dozen times now. They have gimmicks, I saw a few have a stuffed animal or toy for the photos. Another almost lost his mind in excitement at a classic Mao era statue where he had the perfect shot for what seemed to be his signature pose of blowing massive 'vapes' and styled himself to the statue but while vaping. Once the monster vape shot was good enough they could not have moved on fast enough. They have GPS and they have preplanned shots and I've seen and heard them coaching. One young lady and her boyfriend must have done 10 'takes' in a park for I suppose her blog or instagram or YT channel where he'd be heard saying 'make it look spontaneous' or 'ya it looks better if you eat it while walking'. None of this would be a crime but again - once the 'spontaneous world traveler' shot was attained they were all business, she didn't look so chirpy and carefree and they tromped off to the Starbucks where I suppose they had WiFi for editing and uploading business?
I never did see any 'Colonialists', I haven't seen all the 'Yellow Fever Sexpats' you'd think are swarming around China (though I don't doubt some exist) I have seen the 'Crunchy Backpackers' on some self-discovery journey (not a bad thing) and for sure some of these '5 types of Expats' were identifiable groups for sure but I am happy to report..
...I think they are a disappearing thing. I do believe the expats of 2020 won't really fit any of those groups, I think it might be that the 'down-to-earthers' and the 'non-stereotypes outlasted or maybe we all just matured but I think things are getting better all the time.
Or am I just lucky?
I think you are right about things probably being different in a few years. The world is becoming flatter, cultures are mixing and differences are becoming less apparent. Expats and locals will be more alike than before. It's inevitable. Hopefully we can all keep trying to embrace the differences that we can still observe right now.
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