Inside China
Becoming "Modern"
China Popular Culture
80后
Culture Shock
Additional categories . . .
Reading the Paper
Pic of the Day by Category
Home  /  Inside China  /  The Laowai Effect – A Symbol of Quality in the Chinese Sky
The Laowai Effect – A Symbol of Quality in the Chinese Sky print version
A Caucasian face among a Chinese crowd is often regarded as a symbol of quality, modernity and internationalism. The illusion that a white face can produce is very valuable in the Chinese economic sky.
Chinese public opinions about the west in general and the US in particular are complex, and move on a line between complete admiration to strong resentment. Still, a western, especially Caucasian, face can add a scent of modernity and internationalism to businesses and institutes. If such a face is good looking and elegant clothes are added, then the effect is even stronger.

An introduction film of a tourist attraction will often contain at least one Caucasian face, proving that such attraction is appreciated not only in China but also abroad; A company which wishes to present itself in a commercial or a convention will often hire a laowai (lǎowài, a common name for 'foreigners', usually westerners in mainland China) face to appear more international; even Chinese drama TV shows often contain glimpses of western faces, often associated with modernity and financial wealth.

Sara Hymes was recruited to a scene in a TV series while she was spending a semester studying Chinese in Beijing Language and Culture University (北京语言大学). "One day two Chinese guys approached and asked if I would like to participate in a one-day-shooting for a new drama series. I didn't like the idea of waking up in 5am, but for 1000RMB a day it was worth it. I had to wear a suit and act as the president of some diamond enterprise. I had to say only one sentence, but I appeared in quite a few shots."

Hymes was 22 at that time, a fact which didn't prevent her from acting as a successful wealthy lady: "I didn't quite get it; I am very young, not extremely good looking and certainly not wealthy. It was the first time I ever wore a suit and around me were successful actors and producers. Still, my white British face was enough to make it worth it for them. I don't know if the show ever aired and I actually forgot it's name..."

In another story, taking place in Jinan, Shandong, Audrey Beart, a student form Quebec, was linked to a wine company who were looking for French speaking westerners to present their products in a national wine convention held in the city. "I had a feeling I won't be using my French too much, but I still agreed to do this three-day job, for the experience, I guess. I had to stand in the company's stand, holding a bottle of red wine, wearing a dress and tons of makeup and basically spreading my charm around. I didn't speak one word of French, only some English, but I guess they preferred to have a French speaking laowai, in case they will need to make an extra impression of sophistication. It was quite an easy job, I must say."

Examples like the two above are abundant like lotus flowers in Buddhist temples, and they all share a common ground: A Caucasian face adds an extra dimension which can be easily associated with quality. Many Chinese understand that not all westerners are wealthy, elegant or successful businessmen but until proved otherwise, such a laowai face would first symbolize such traits, and would thus elevate the reputation of such businesses or projects.

Want to contribute something to this topic? - 想添加与这个话题有关的内容?



Related Articles

•  Lost in Translation?
•  A White Sheep in a Yellow Herd
•  Language Barrier, or 'Why We are Lucky to Speak some Chinese'
•  Chinese people, English language - A love-fear relationship
•  Chinese and English versions of China's leading news portals – Two styles of journalism

Tell a friend - 发给朋友

China LinksLanguage CenterPicture of the DayChinese Language PartnerAbout 关于Contact 联系Sitemap
© 2012 All rights reserved to thinkingchinese.com