One of the things that makes life in China so interesting is the sheer diversity of people you meet on a daily basis. If you’ve spent any amount of time in China, you’ve undoubtedly run into one or more of these colorful characters…
Beijing Taxi Driver 北京的哥侃爷
Favorite Drink: Cheap green tea in a clear glass bottle
Thanks to the Cultural Revolution he didn’t study past middle school, but that won’t stop this proud Beijinger from holding court on politics, economics, and international affairs and like he’s got three PhDs. Fueled by two to three cartons a day of Zhongnanhai cigarettes, this road warrior attacks traffic jams with abandon, hurling insults in Beijing dialect at anyone foolish enough to cut him off. When he’s not educating you on local politics, he’s probably asking uncomfortable questions about your personal life, picking his nose with his extra long pinky nail, or complaining about how all the “waidiren” are ruining Beijing
Nouveau Riche 土豪
Hometown: A third tier city you’ve never heard of in Shanxi, Hebei or Shandong
Favorite Drink: Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac
You’ll hear the tuhao before you see him. He’s usually barking into one of his 3 iphones while chain smoking Zonghua cigarettes. Tight black Armani t-shirts (rolled up into a “Beijing bikini”) and anything gold are his idea of fashion. His rural background and lack of formal education mean he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which he compensates for by flashing expensive brands and maintaining two or three 24 year old mistresses and an imported Alaskan Malamute. Nobody is exactly sure how he got so rich, but it was probably not entirely above board and might involve either online pyramid schemes, dodgy real estate deals or illegal coal mines.
Favorite Drink: Grande Non-fat Flat White
The term “coffee b*tch” originally emerged on Weibo to describe fashionable, up-market office ladies working in first-tier cities, especially Shanghai. She loves to mix Chinese and English to show off her sophisticated worldliness, and always dresses in the hottest international fashions. Her WeChat feed is full of pictures of her dining on the Bund, taking afternoon tea in five-star hotels or eating macarons. She spends approximately 20% of her monthly salary on Korean skin care products.
Unlicensed Eastern European English Teacher
Hometown: St Petersburg, Russia or Kiev, Ukraine; but he’ll tell his employer he’s from Canada
Favorite Drink: Triple Espresso
He’s not a native English speaker, he doesn’t have a teaching degree, and he definitely doesn’t have a work visa. What he does have is skin whiter than a Siberian snowstorm, and it’s primarily this feature which he relies on for his continued employment (it’s certainly not his ability to conjugate verbs). When he’s not hiding from police inspections at his workplace, he moonlights as an aspiring DJ.
Hometown: Literally anywhere in China
Favorite Drink: Scalding hot water in a vacuum flask
These powerful matrons are famous for their strong personalities and domineering attitude. Go to any public square in China around 8pm and you’ll see gaggles of these lycra and polyester-clad aunties shimmying and shaking to pop music played at ear-shattering levels. Famously strong-willed and boisterous, they’ll happily elbow you in the kidney to get that last seat on the subway.
Hometown: Somewhere in Europe
Favorite Drink: Family Mart Famous Grouse Whiskey
They arrived in China bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to study Chinese and absorb as much culture as possible. In reality, they’ll stop going to classes after 1 week, and go clubbing every night instead once they realize they don’t have to pay for drinks.
Whiny Loser Back Home
Hometown: Almost anywhere in the English speaking world
Favorite Drink: Whatever is on the happy hour menu
Despite living in China for years, he’s never managed to learn Chinese past the HSK 2 level or figure out how to use chopsticks. He eats exclusively at Western restaurants, orders from Sherpas at least once a day and spends every night at sports bars complaining about China. He’s constantly talking about how he’s “finally fed up” with China, but come back in 5 years time and he’ll still be here.
Hometown: Monterey Park, California
Favorite Drink: Chinese craft beer
He looks Chinese. He speaks Chinese. But don’t ask him if he’s Chinese, unless you want a three-hour lecture on the Asian-American experience, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and why the model minority stereotype is so harmful. He came to China to “re-connect” with his roots and work through his complex identity issues, but after being sneered at by local Chinese for speaking Mandarin with a weird accent, he’ll end up hanging out exclusively with Americans.
Green Tea B*tch/绿茶婊
Favorite Drink: Bubble Tea
Don’t let her straight black hair, big doey eyes, and obsession with oversized stuffed animals fool you. The GTB is a master of the fine art of “sajiao” 撒娇, playing up her innocence to make those around her (especially men) feel powerful. She acts overly dramatic and cutesy to make herself seem harmless, but it’s all an act to hide her boundless ambition.
Favorite Drink: Strong, bitter black tea
No matter where you go in China, you’re sure to find people from Xinjiang. Whether it’s roasting lamb kebabs, selling red dates and walnuts out of a cart or hustling jail-broken iPhones, Xinjiangren are famed as consummate businesspeople.-
We hope you enjoyed our list of the ten people you’ll meet in China! Tell us in the comments which ones you’ve met and who is your favorite!
Interested in reading more about Chinese customs? Check out our article on common Chinese customs that often confound many foreigners.
And if you’re ready to meet all ten of these fascinating people (plus many others) consider applying for one of our programs in China learning Mandarin, volunteering or doing an internship. Get started today!