When it comes to foreigners in the Celestial Kingdom, there are a few categories that most seem to fall neatly into. There are the tourists, naturally. They have a fantastic time, and generally leave saying things like “Oh, weren’t the Chinese friendly, they were all so curious and said ‘Hello!’ to Mildred and I everywhere we went” and what-have-you. They also tend to witter on ad infinitum about all the ancient 5,000-year old temples [that didn’t exist ten years ago because they’d all been knocked down during the Cultural Revolution, with the monks still inside at the time, but never mind that small detail]. Oh yeah, tourists have a great time.
Then there are the transients – temporary teachers, short-term students, ‘travellers’. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to include them with the tourists.
Then there are the ‘seagulls’, company bigwigs who fly in from Europe and the U.S., make a lot of noise, crap all over everything, and fly back out again. They also have a wonderful time, eating expensive dinners, shagging themselves silly with KTV hostesses and barbershop quartets, staying in the best hotels, and all the rest of it. They believe everything their dick tells them, and leave saying things like “I just don’t understand why Jenkins complains so much. These people promised me everything I asked for, and were so very polite at all times, I’m sure we will have a great future with these people”. There aren’t many of these types, but what they lack in numbers, they make up for in stupidity. Pretty much every Western politician falls into this category.
Of course, there are the company types who actually live here, too. They tend to come in two different flavours – the ones who have been sent here unwillingly, and the ones who applied to come (local hires fit into the second category). There is a bit of overlap here, so if you are in the first category, but live the life of the other, then no offence is intended. The ones who have been sent here against their will are frequently sent here in the same way that people used to be sent to Australia, before England ran out of convicts and the Irish. They simply are so inept that they cannot be allowed to work anywhere where they can cause any harm, but their golden parachutes make firing them too expensive. I’ve met a few who were brilliant at their jobs, though, and they have more in common with the local hires. The convict-types usually live in serviced homes, with local help on call 24/7 to cook, clean, suck dick when the wife’s out, and all the rest of it. They have company cars with drivers, work in air-conditioned offices, shop in ‘foreign-goods’ supermarkets, and generally have a ball. They let their local staff get away with anything and everything, they spend money like water, and they think they actually make a difference. They don’t say anything when they leave, because they can’t leave. Local hires, for the most part, are the opposite, and are in the majority, too.
Most of the good that happens in this benighted Land, happens because foreigners do it. Charities that actually deliver the goods? Development assistance? Technological advances? Management that works? The concept of honesty? Foreign direct investment? Medical aid? It’s a long list, and I’m bored already, but rest assured it comes from foreigners, not the Chinese People. Without foreigners, foreign money and foreign technology, China would slip back into the Stone Age within a year. Ok, perhaps 18 months. China really does have a lot to be thankful for.
But all of us are ‘Laowai’: evil foreign scum who are only here to oppress the good, honest, diligent, hardworking Chinese People. We personally are responsible for keeping China down, for stealing world hegemony from the glorious motherland, and for eating babies. Every bad thing that ever happened here, is our fault – and they never, ever forget it.
Let’s go back to Mildred and her travelmate. Remember how they said that all Chinese are so friendly? Saying “Hello!” to tourists all day long? Well, I’m sorry to have to burst your bubble, but in the words of the legendary Inigo Montoya: I do not think it means, what you think it means. As it happens, “Hello!” in the mouths of the Chinese People has more in common with the words “Jew!” [think 1936, central Europe], or “Boy!” [1903, the deep South]. It isn’t friendly, and it isn’t a greeting.
Now as it happens folks, there are three main holidays in China every year, each one about a week in length (though being a Communist holiday, one is required to work the weekends either side, in order to make up for lost national production). These holidays are not only national events, they are also Nationalist events, and are always preceded by a rise in the level of extreme nationalism one can experience when out in ‘the sticks’. This may come as a surprise to the foreign folk who don’t get out of their ivory towers much, but believe me when I say it’s not only bad, it’s getting worse. It used to be just “Hello!”, but in recent years the locals have become braver, and I know of many, many incidents involving violence. I have been lucky thus far, though I have had a few close encounters of the Sino kind.
Anyway, back to “Hello!”. The reason the yokels say this, is because they don’t know any other English. Of course, some of the brighter lights have learned such gems as “Laowai Fucka You!” (and one particularly hostile lass was shouting “I Love You!” at me in a restaurant once, which brings me back to Inigo Montoya again). I used to get quite angry about this, as I would never accept this behaviour from anyone in my home country, regardless of who they are or who it was directed at, but this year I have changed my tactics. I have prepared a few stock phrases that can be easily shot back, and which will be easily understood. I field-tested them today, as follows:
Local: “Hello! Laowai!” – group of ‘workers’ in the street.
Me: “Tu Baozi!” [lit. dirt dumpling, a scummy peasant]
Local: “Laowai! Fucka!” – group of high school students in the street at lunchtime.
Me: “Wai Di Ren!” [lit. not local person, a country bumpkin]
Local: “Want buy?” – local perched a fence rail, selling stolen cellphones.
Me: “Dui Bu Qi” [an apology] [spoken as I pushed him backwards into the bushes]
In every case, the result was a resounding success. Complete shock, confusion, and inability to comprehend quite how the Laowai was able to speak the complex Chinese language. And by the time the folk in question had sorted themselves out, I was gone.
So, friends and neighbours, if you are going to be here and in contact with The Man In The Street, learn a few words of the local lingo – it really does pay off.
Wo Shi Laowai – Wo Pa Shui?