Friday, October 29, 2010

Brag fest

Look, I know a man who owns a pig! How many friends like that do YOU have?!

The other night a friend and I was heading to a concert at the East Oriental Art Centre. We took a metro to the Science and Technology Museum, and once we got up from the stairs we started looking for the right exit out. Since I was unsure I decided to go and ask someone. Just as I walked away, a group of middle-aged foreigners passed us, and my friend asked them:

-Hey, this is the correct exit to the Oriental Art Centre, right?

-Sure is!
One of them said.

My friend called me back and we got on the escalator behind the group. Suddenly the older man, who’d been the one answering my friend, turned around:

-So you girls are here as tourists then?

-Eh… no, actually. We are just a bit lost at this station!
We said.

-Ah, but you’re new to town?! Because if you would have lived here like me, for six yeeeeeeaaaaaaars, you would have been able to find your way around!

We both looked at each other, unsure of what to reply to that. This “getting-to-know-each-other” process moved a little bit too fast, and a little bit too much into the brag-about-how-long-I’ve-been-to-China for our liking.

We all got off the escalator and started walking towards the art centre, and the man started telling us things about the area:

-Behind here there is a beautiful park called Century Park! You should go there, it’s great to walk around in. And over here is…

-Well actually, I used to live around this very area when I first moved here in 2006 so I know the park,
I said, not being able to take this whole brag-fest for any longer.

-Oh, so how is it then possible, that you don’t even know your way to the Oriental Art Centre? Don’t tell me that you have never been to a concert there? It’s a beeeeeaaaaautiful venue with….

-I have been here before. I’ve seen a lot of concerts here. But it’s not a place that I go to every week, and today we were simply unsure of what exit to get out from, that’s all.

Still, the brag-party didn’t stop there.

During the next ten minutes, this man took his time, telling me about his successful business, the fact that he was the ONLY foreigner at his company, working with SEVEN Chinese people (“Ohhhhhhhh!” Or, maybe, not so “oooooh?!””). He was obviously super successful, knew Shanghai as if he had been born here, and not scared of telling me about it all. I listened and nodded, not even having to say much because this man knew how to do the talking.

Once we eventually managed to get separated from the group we were both something between upset and in a hysterical laugh attack. Who are these people? Why are they so full of themselves, just because they have lived here for some years, have a business and know which exit to take at a subway station? When is this whole foreigner in China V.S foreigner in China going to end? I’m so sick of foreigners bragging to other foreigners about how long they have been here, how good their Chinese is, how “local” they are, how well they find their way around, and so on… Can’t people just lower their shoulders, smile and relax? I’ve lived in three other countries (maybe not as exotic as China, but still) before this, and not once have I seen this “proud laowai behaviour.” Just live here and get on with it. It’s not that special. And it’s nothing that someone else could not do.


Jewels said...

It's not like that in Canada either. We're such a melting pot of cultures, it's difficult to tell who's been here for 3 generations and who arrived yesterday.

m--e said...

Unfortunately this is the "Laowai Loser" syndrome. It's almost always seen in men who aren't be very popular in their own countries, but in Asia they are special.... No offense to these types of guys, but they need to say these things to others to feel better about themselves!

Mark said...

sounds like learned behavior. he's probably been surrounded by people who are forever bragging to him about stuff like their wine collection, or knowledge of obscure history and military battles (happens a lot in asia right?) so he's adopted that into his own persona in order to survive in china.

or he's just an ass.

Sara said...

I haven't seen this kind of guy yet, but I'm sure I will meet him or her during the next for years I'll be living in China. And at the same time remember not to become one of them. Good post!

nova said...

I totally agree with Mark. Break the cycle and instead of politely listening or competing tell him the truth: "I don't care."

Maybe it's rude but in the end you're probably doing him a favor.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Jewelse -Niiiiice. Maybe Canada is a future destination for me?

M--e -he was def a loser laowai, but a quite old one of those... me was more than 50+. Pathetic!

Mark -U r probably right. Amazing that these sort of people have friends. Who would like to hang w someone like that??!

Sara -he's just one drop in the ocean.. plenty of people like him around over here. Sadly.. but there are obviously a lot of non-braggers too! :)

Nova -yeah, I wish I had more guts. Next time it would be nice to tell someone like that off!