Monday, September 21, 2009

Loser Laowai

I wonder why China attracts so many weird foreigners. Before I moved to China I spent six months in London, more than three years in Australia, and another year in Finland, and I’ve never experienced meeting as many weirdoes as I do over here. People that are comparing themselves to others, competing against others, and people that take every single chance they get to express how d*** good and successful they are and how bloody well they are doing. Maybe I’m simply too low-key for China, because I never talk about myself as if I was some kind of expert? Let me share one example from a Loser Laowai I met last Friday.

On Friday night me and some friends went to a bar in Suzhou that had arranged a special Swedsih crayfish party event. Since us Swedes love crayfish it was given that we were going to go. The crowd at the bar was mixed, but I was having fun in my group and although we sang “snaps songs” together with the other crowd we preferred to stay at our table and talk throughout the night. Me and my closest girlfriend weren’t really going for getting pissed drunk: I had been sick all week and wanted to take it rather easy, just enjoy a few glasses of wine and a good conversation.

Soon, a fellow laowai from the other group joined our table. He was quite nice to start off with, even though he started the conversation by telling us about his “fantastic career here in China.” We were like “OK, great, well done” until he asked:

-So how about you? What are you girls doing here?

We told him that we were learning Chinese.

-Oh, at Suzhou Daxue? (Suzhou University) he sad with a terrible pronunciation.

-Yeah, I am, my friend said. But Jonna is at another uni.

-Why aren’t you at Suzhou Daxue?
he asked me. Don’t you want to study together with your friend?

-Well, we are not at the same levels
, my friend said. I’m a beginner and Jonna has studied for 2 years so she’s in advanced.

-Advanced?! ADVANCED?! Oh really?! So you can like, speak and stuff? He said, and straight away I could feel the attitude.

-Eh, well yes, I can speak and stuff. I’m not great or anything, but sure, I can have a conversation, I replied.

-I wanna hear that! He said. Hey, Tom (?), come over here! He yelled, waving for one of his male friends. This lady claims she can speak Chinese, we have to test her!!

I felt like punching him. First of all, I had not claimed anything, rather, I just replied to his question. Second of all, I wasn’t in the mood to be “tested,” I was having a relaxed night out with a friend?

Tester-Tom also seemed a bit reluctant at first, I think he felt that neither me nor my friend were interested in playing this game. His friend kept urging him, however:

-Come on Tom! You have to test these girls! They say they are fluent in Chinese! I wanna hear that! I wanna see if it is true!!!

Me and my friend were giving him the “what-is-your-problem?”-eye, but we didn’t really say anything.

-So, where do you come from? Tom suddenly said in a terribly broken Chinese. For my friend, who hasn’t studied for too long, it was impossible to comprehend, meanwhile I got his point. But the whole situation felt completely ridiculous.

-Are you from the same city in Sweden? Tom went on.

-No, we said.

-So, what cities then? He urged.

-Malmö, I said.

-Kalmar, my friend said.

Now, Kalmar is a tiny little city in Sweden. Unless you’re a Swede, you’re not going to know this place, so we knew Tom was going to be clueless.

-Stockholm? He said to my friend?

-No, Kalmar.


-No, Kalmar.

-Ehhh…. OK, great.

Tom kept silent for a while, looking at us and obviously not feeling the love. Meanwhile, his drunken, annoying friend kept glaring at us, as if he wanted us to be put on a spot and suddenly admit that “oh, ehh… haha, no no… we actually cannot speak Chinese after all!”

-I come from a city called… bl blab la… Tom went on. Neither me nor my friend listened, instead, we turned our attention to each other.

-OK, Tom suddenly said. They are both great! They speak excellent Chinese!

His friend said. But you have to like, test them!!!

-I just did,
Tom said and got up.

Throughout the rest of the night, the annoying guy kept coming over to our table, telling us to join their table, throwing abusing comments about some other people (that we know) around and just being a jerk in general. Around midnight, he was so drunk he could barely stand up, and swayed over, telling us they were going to a nightclub.

-You should coooooooooooome! He slurred.

-No thanks. We said, not even bothering to smile.

-Why not? Come on, don’t be so boring! What are you? Like, bloody 45 years old? Let’s PARTY!!!

-Actually, we are really boring, I said, completely fed up with this guy. We are more like two 60-year olds. We don’t like going out at all. We spend most of our nights in. I was hoping this would make him leave.

-Yeah you bloody are! He said, clearly annoyed. You are so boring! I mean, what the f*** are you doing in China if you don’t like to PARTY?!

And with that, he turned around, walked straight into a table, almost fell, spilled his beer, said something like “f****!” and walked towards the exit.

He left me and my friend at our table, laughing at his pathetic departure, and his embarrassing speech.

Sure, I’ve met jerks at many places, but this particular kind of guy, who wants to compete in who is the most successful/ speaks the best Chinese/ has the most fun/is the biggest party animal… I don’t know, but aren’t there just too many of them here in China?


Tarja said...

Oh my, what am I doing in China than, I don't party at all!! And I don't even study chinese or work outside home =)

Actually I was out saturday night whith some finnish friends. We met few annoying laowais. We just wanted to have quiet chat in our own table but suddenly there was this group of guys wanting to be part of our group. We didn't want to talk with them and one of the guys went grazy.

We thought that laowai guys are so used of approaching chinese girls who just giggle and are so pleased with the attention, that laowai housewifes are really annoying when they just reject the attention. Anyway, we had fun night =)

Jeanne-ming Brantingham said...

i know what you mean. Some Lao Wai think China is the last frontier and so feel some manhood at stake when living there. Also, I have found ( I am old enough to be your mother) when I used to travel in china in the late 70's when it first opened that any lau wai man assumed you could be approached. Based, I guess on some novelty of bing in China. Yes, lots of misfits. They go to China becasue some will look up to the big gwei lo, but at home, they really are losers.

Magnus said...

Come on Jonna You are a LOSER LAOWAI! Go party with total drunk strangers. Love the story! Amazing that he had to drink so many Qingdaos to finally reveal WHY he came to China. Good thing his boss wasn't there.

That is one thing about being a male in China that we don't experience. I'm not one to go to a table of complete strangers and then force my friends to test these said strangers.

You should've called him a bunch of bad Swedish words.

Mark Carver said...

Whether we like it or not, China can bring out a man's emperor complex, and as they say in China, "a mountain can't have two tigers." I don't think I was a jerk like this dude in my early China years but it was easy to get into size measuring contests about who has been the most places/has the hottest girl/parties the hardest. Then I realized that this attitude gets nobody anywhere, especially me, so I got serious about life, got married, and now I look at many of my friends still barreling down a useless road and I don't feel the least bit jealous. Of course I still like the party but my life is much more moderate and I feel satisfied and relaxed because of this attitude.

W said...

There are bound to be some "losers"
who are bold enough to try their luck in the new world. I guess today's China is in a way like the US 100 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Well Jonna, given the popularity of your blog, you have the chance to do some good with the power you have.

Open another blog and title it: "Laowai Losers" or some such thing.

Then get the name of the idiots who always try to test your chinese and make you feel small because they keep boasting about themselves. Include photo if possible, for uploading and disable comment posting, to cut off any backbiting.

It is your civic duty to make assholes aware of how psychologically crippled they are. Perhaps this will help humble them and plant their feet back onthe ground.


1. With great power, comes great responsibility, and;

2. You have to be cruel to be kind.

Alternatively, carry a taser and use it liberally.

I have a day off today. Going to take the opportunity to go to the botanic gardens soon to smell the roses and hear the whisper of the whoosh of swaying leaves and branches :)

Have a good day.


Shopgirls Shanghai said...

haha, im already used...

Jonna Wibelius said...

Tarja -I like a good party but I'm def not in China to enter one... Geez, some people are just born to be jerks. As for rejecting those guys, most people (girl or guys) are not so good at handling rejection. Going crazy just coz u don't wanna talk to him is a bit extreme though... It's not like u r going to be more keen to talk to him once he starts behaving badly.

Jeanne-ming -yep. I don't think it's only men though, I have encountered a few quite "up there" women here in China too. It's just like this constant competition: "who are you/ who are you working for/ what can u do for me/ what can I do better than you/ is my Chinese better than yours?" I've never met people like that in other countries. I wonder what brings it out here in China. Maybe it's because being in China/working in China/ studying Chinese is currently so "hip"? I don't know really, just a guess.

Magnus -yeah I know, I'm a loser laowai too... haha! You know, I would have loved to tell him to "dra åt helvete" but I couldn't... he was Swedish!! Yup. A Swedish laowai loser! A lot of those over here too!

马克 -well, this guy was married and had 2 kids! His wife was at the pub too, not as annoying as him but definitely as loud. I don't know. I guess some people are just too hung up on others. I would never waste my energy during a night out on others. I would focus on having fun w my friends. Having said that though, I guess I contradict myself seeing I wasted time this morning to write a whole blog post about him?! Man, he just annoyed me so much. Oh well, I think next time I'll leave the polite girl at home and just tell someone like this to F** off straight away.

W -yup. There will always be guys like this. I just feel I've met one too many over here lately.

Adrian -nice idea, although I will have to decline. If I would waste more time on these loser laowais they would eventually think they got to me and that I cared about them. I already wrote a whole blog post about this dude... a bit bad, I admit. So nope. No more ink waste on jerks. I hope u enjoyed the botanic garden!

Shopgirl -really? uhhh, how do u put up with is. Guys like this makes me wanna move back to Australia. Or actually, I would move there any day if I could. Man, I miss that care-free, happy, open society. Although China isn't that bad either, u just have to watch where u hang I guess.

TG said...

I hate people like that! So annoying and they're everywhere, here in Europe or Asia. If I see them in Asian, I just avoid them...

No my kinda peeps.

Same goes for Europe. Just ignore.

Anonymous said...

Sad that the great hospitality that the Chinese exhibit to foreign guests seems to go to a lot of people's heads and instead of feeling honored and humbled, they start thinking they are the last emperor.

Would be curiouse to know, do any particular nationalities seem to be worse than others, or does it seem to effect expats from all countries equally. I know as I was reading that I was thinking "please don't let it be an American, please don't let it be an American"... lol then I saw he said "bloody" and breathed a sigh of relief. Not that it really matters where the losers are from, just curious if you notice a trend.

Little Tiger said...

I've met my fair share of laowai like that in China. I don't know if it's a coincidence but they usually came from the same country!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Hopfrog -yeah, apparently that seems to be the case. I've never hung out with people that are real full of themselves, so to me this is completely new. I wouldn't say most of those jerks are Americans or Scandinavians or German... I think there is a good mix of all kind of nationalities out there. Haven't noticed any trend. In this particular case, the jerk was a Swede (although he kept switching to English all the time, which gave him more jerk-points) and tester-Tom was American.

Little Tiger -oh really... so u have noticed a trend? What country?

Little Tiger said...

I'm going to be a diplomat and keep my mouth shut (for once in my life!).
But let's just say that the people from there left such a bad impression on me that I am in no rush to visit that country.
I know it is quite silly to tar everyone with the same brush though and I try to judge everyone I meet in China on their own merits.

Anonymous said...

thats not specific to laowais.

the chinese society is like a jungle. only the powerful survives. if you are the powerful you can do pretty much whatever you want to the powerless without worrying about the consequences so you obviously dont wanna be the powerless, but if you are, unfortunately but most likely the powerless, then there are two things you can do: one, you suck up to the powerful and beg for mercy and two, you pretend to be the powerful to scare others off

or you can get the hell out there, provided that option is available

Anonymous said...

speak of partying too hard, thats not specific to laowais either. in china if you dont wanna have an "attitude problem" towards your boss, your peers, or even your relatives, then you better be there when they call you out. chinese people take this matter way too seriously.

and when they ask you to drink you cannot get away with it saying you dont drink because the respond to that is always: one beer/shot is nothing! and if you insist they will tell you off right on the table so if you are out, you will be drinking... a lot!

Matthew said...

Yeah I met my share of annoying foreigners around China--part of the reason I mostly avoided the big foreign neighborhoods after my first year. Shenzhen had some of the worst I met in China.

You really need to write more about the Swedish crayfish. I didn't realize they were so popular (I've only seen them at Cajun restaurants).

Lynda said...

I agree with Adrian "With great power, comes great responsibility." (Is this line from the movie Spiderman?)
Jonna, you are now a very influential person in blogger. But with blogger censored by the Great Firewall, you may not have enough readers from China. So how about opening a blog in China's most popular blogsite to attract millions of readers from mainland China? Just let it be a mirror of your blogspot.
I bet your blog there will be a huge success! You may even exceed the current top 2 blogs by actress 徐静蕾 and young author 韩寒. Really Hope to see you take sina by storm and become a national celebrity!

Hans Li Engnell said...

I think these kind of people are everywhere in Sweden too. Especially in Stockholm...

WoAi said...

Arrrrggggh! I write about Loser Laowai often. Also known as LBH (loser back home). Social misfits who come to China and suddenly realise the locals worship the ground they walk on. Then it becomes a surprise when some girls don't show interest in them.

For some reason this guy reminded me of the guy I once shared a taxi with who insisted I should call the driver "shi ji" and NOT "shi fu" and wouldn't shut up till he managed to get the driver to agree with him. I wanted to punch him in the face!

Anonymous said...

We have plenty in Japan, too...

Liu Mengjun said...

I understand what is your point. Some Lao Wai think China is the last frontier and so feel some manhood at stake when living there. But why do you go to a meat market after all. If you don't want to be chatted up stay at home or choose some other activity.

Conflicting interests, both to stubborn to accept reality.