A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE

THIS MONTH CULTURE TELLER TAKES A LOOK AT SOME OF THE MORE BIZARRE SPECIES WITHIN THE EXPAT COMMUNITY

1215_culture-tellerWe have all met different genres of foreigners in China, the smartasses, the jackasses, and the just plain clueless. So, inspired by the news Star Wars movie ,which comes out this month (hurrah!), I have taken a closer look at some of the ‘cultural villains’ that you may find yourself doing battle with during your time in China.

Darth Clueless — This fellow has been doing business in China for several years, and will happily regale you with endless stories of just how stupid and incompetent the Chinese are. Every single problem that he’s ever faced in China is because of those stupid Chinese. Any success that he may have had in China is due purely to his own intelligence and hard work; and any failures that he may have had (he’ll rant on about these endlessly) are because of Chinese incompetence. You’ll feel a disturbance in the Force when you’re around him.

Darth Clueless remains blissfully unaware that there are expats in China who have not only conducted business very successfully, but who have effective, efficient, and enthusiastic Chinese teams working with them. People who have come into China, who made the effort to learn the culture, developed means for bringing out the best in their Chinese staff, and had an enjoyable experience, as well as significant success in business. Darth Clueless taps into neither the Light nor the Dark side of the Force, but rather into the Dull side. He’s simply incapable of recognizing that 90 percent of his problems are of his own making.

Darth Know-it-all — Usually, this guy has been in China for a year or less, but has already figured out not only what’s wrong with China, but how to fix it. He backpacked for a few weeks around China, which makes him an authority on ‘the real China’. Oh, yeah, and he read several books about China too, as he will tell you within the first few minutes of meeting him. He will lecture any willing (or unwilling) audience at length with his mighty words of wisdom, tapping into the Banal side of the Force. “Know China, I do. Much knowledge, have I.”

The biggest threat to Darth Poseur’s life is the prospect of having to return to his own country, where, again, he will be a nobody.

His observations range from the blindingly obvious — “China’s biggest problem is that it has too many people” — to the myopically impractical — “The Chinese need to get rid of their written language, it’s too complicated and difficult”. Darth Know-it-all will generally admire and even worship those who’ve been in China much longer than him, until they make the mistake of disagreeing with him…at which point he will devote all of his formidable powers to trying to convince them that he is right. The possibility that he is wrong, or that he could learn from others, remains forever beyond his comprehension.

Darth Hypocrite — You’ve met him, the guy who lives and works in China, but absolutely refuses to learn the language or culture, and insists that any Chinese that want to work with him should be required to learn his language and culture. But try asking him about immigrants living and working in his own country, and he’ll turn around and lecture you quite passionately and angrily about how anyone who wants to live in his country should learn his language and adapt to his culture.

The Oblivious side of the Force is very strong in this one, and any attempts to point out the implicit contradiction in his arguments will lead only to angry justifications. Our best advice to you is to steer a wide berth of this one.

Darth Poseur — Darth Poseur does perhaps more damage to the expat’s image than anyone else. This guy is not remotely attractive, intelligent, or successful–if he were to walk into a bar or club in his own country, he would be entirely ignored, and probably be destined to a lifetime in a meaningless job with no real ecognition or accomplishment to brag about.

But in China, he acts like he’s the top dog. Look at all the beautiful Chinese girls chasing after him in the bar, saying, “Help me, waiguoren…you’re my only hope!” Look at how many Chinese people treat him like he’s important, because he has white skin. He was invited to be an extra in a movie. He never really accomplishes anything more in China than he would in his own country, but somehow he seems to feel more important in his mediocrity. The biggest threat to Darth Poseur’s life is the prospect of having to return to his own country, where, again, he will be a nobody. Truth is, he isn’t really a Sith Lord at all, and is entirely lacking in any Force whatsoever.

There are more than a few of these types residing amongst the dusty streets of Dongguan.

For solutions to confusions, send questions and observations to cultureteller@heredg.com.