A friend and I were talking about how different foreigners in China are when it comes to speaking about their Chinese language/culture/living skills. I have a friend who doesn’t speak a lick of the language, doesn’t like Chinese food, only hangs out with fellow expats (preferably Swedes as he’s Swedish himself), thinks that China is messy and annoying, but then who, as soon as he bumps into a prospective important person (a PIP as we tend to call them), uses China in order to umpf-up himself and his skills:
“Yeah well, as I have now lived in China for quite some time (2 months to be exact), I have a good, basic understanding of both the language (not if you go beyond “ni hao” and “zhe ge”) and the culture (says the guy who complains about that people are so “loud at restaurants!”). I would definitely say that I know the local market (says the guy who some weeks ago explained to me why he would rather target expats than locals with a high-end product. And yes, yes, my chin dropped to the floor) and that I could have a lot of useful advices to companies that are thinking about starting up a business here.”
This guy is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many people like him around, and I have myself to blame for being so modest. I don’t refer to myself as neither fluent in Chinese (oh no, I can speak it, and have meetings and discussions in Chinese, but I cannot discuss science in Chinese), nor as some kind of expert on understanding Chinese culture (even though I’ve realized that a lot of laowais that claim they have a good idea of the Chinese culture, do not have any Chinese friends, have never worked for a Chinese company, and base their idea on the fact that China is “different” to where they come from).
Still, I cannot help but to think that I’m the loser in the game. As I cannot promote myself, I would probably lose a discussion against Mr Know It All who, in fact, does not know anything. Or, well, actually. I probably wouldn’t if we had the discussion in Chinese/with some Chinese people... hehe.
What do you think gets you the furthest in China: being humble or being aggressive?