Birds of a Feather: Laowai Warning

I’d like to relay two stories I’ve heard recently. The first happened a couple years ago and the other happened less than a week ago – but both illustrate something that all of us in China need to be reminded of, we’re in China. I know, it seems obvious, but sometimes it’s easy to forget and our at-home sensibilities jump in before we have time to remind ourselves of this.

Both these stories are from the best of my memory, and I hope the tellers/victims don’t mind me relaying them.

Story #1: Scottish Mike’s Slashing
A few years ago one of the Dalian English teachers had spent the evening at a local night club. He was standing outside at the end of the night when a Chinese guy who had been kicked out of the club earlier returned. Mike noticed that he had a knife, and so warned a couple people standing around him to get back. The guy, having overheard Mike’s warning, quickly walked by him and slashed his abdomen open.

Mike got to a hospital and was stitched up, and thankfully recovered (I am pretty sure he said the doctor told him his spleen was nearly falling out). The police did nothing because the guy had mob ties and that was the end of it.

For some reason Mike didn’t let this horrible event send him home and he’s good humoured about the whole thing, but damn.

Story #2: Adam’s Beating
We were sitting in this very cool Tibetan bar Sunday night when Adam came in with two dark rings around his eyes, looking like he hadn’t slept in a week. He relayed how he had been at JDs the Thursday before (not quite a week ago) and saw a Chinese guy kicking the shit out of a girl. Realizing that the gawking Chinese standing around were not going to step in, Adam approached the man and calmly explained that he shouldn’t be banging anyone’s head into the grill of a cab.

To repay Adam’s sharing of this somewhat common-sensical knowledge, the guy, very drunkenly, took a swing at him and missed. Adam, just generally wanting to stop this guy from hurting him or the girl, put the guy on the ground. At this point two of JDs bouncers, who had been watching the the beating of the girl and the altercation with Adam, came over and offered their assistance – to the drunk guy. They held Adam down while the guy went to work on his face. One of the bouncers took a couple swings for good measure, all in all leaving Adam with two black eyes and a fractured nose.

The moral of the story: Chinese people are much more likely to stand around and watch horrible things happen then offer help. And should anyone get ambitious and offer to help, no matter who’s right and who’s wrong, it will ALWAYS be for the Chinese person.

Adam’s story was especially poignant as a few days before I had been returning home from class and saw a man and woman screaming at each other, with the man somewhat violently pushing the woman away. Typically, the scene had attracted a crowd whose only call to action was to obtain a better viewpoint. A lot of me wanted to step in and do something, but I took a second look at the situation and realized no good would come from me getting involved and I reminded myself I was not in Canada.

However, had I been Adam, like most people raised with a Western sense of values (sorry Chinese people, but action and a lack of it really speaks in this case), I too would have stepped in and with similar results no doubt.

All of this is just to say to all those new to China, remember, you’re not in Kansas anymore. 95% of the time, if you’re responsible, you’ll be fine in this country and most Chinese people are kind, caring and lovely human beings. However, should you find yourself in that 5%, don’t expect much, if any, help. Best I can figure the order of assistance is as follows for most Chinese people:
-Friends/Those With Guanxi
-Foreigners With Guanxi
-and MAYBE Foreigners if it’s not too much effort

It may be a cold way of dealing with things, at least from Western eyes, but it’s a system that has been developing in this country for a few thousand years and isn’t likely to change tomorrow.

Oh, and may I suggest any foreigners living in Dalian boycott JDs? I realize it’s the only real meat market club around, but maybe we can show some solidarity as foreigners and let them know that a club that survives off of foreigner money shouldn’t kick the shit out of their customers.

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  1. Pingback: Standing In Doorways | Life In Suzhou China Blog | Adventures of the Humanaught

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