Archive | May, 2012

Not a good time to be a laowai, unless you’re Jewish

24 May

star of davidForeigners are having a bit of a tough time of it in that there China at the moment. Thank goodness Death Noodle is insulated from the madness in Hong Kong.

First the government expelled poor old Melissa Chan and shut down Al Jazeera’s Beijing operations, then announced a crack down on illegal foreign nationals living and/or working in the People’s Republic, then there was the highly entertaining but insane xenophobic ramblings of supposedly respected CCTV presenter Yang Rui.

If you haven’t heard all about Yang’s moment of madness then I direct you to Shanghaiist, suffice to say he apparently called Chan a ‘bitch’ and called on the terrifying Public Security Bureau to “clean out the foreign trash” in a weibo post that would probably have had him arrested for inciting racial hatred … if this wasn’t China.

As it is, the cumulative effect of all of this anti-foreigner sentiment is to galvanise the Party’s authority once again by ploughing a tried and tested route. That is, cracking down on illegals who “come over here, take our jobs, bed our women” whilst tapping into the narrative of Chinese history which portrays the years since the Communist revolution in 1949 as payback time after centuries of foreign misrule and subjugation.

Unfortunately, there are enough foreign tools knocking about in China that have made the government’s job very easy. Witness the British man who was pummelled after apparently trying to assault a Chinese girl on a Beijing street, or the (now sacked) Russian cellist who called a local lass a “silly cunt” after kicking the back of her train seat. You can read about them all here.

Why now though? There have always been foreign dicks in China. Well, funnily enough, before all of this anti laowai nonsense started clogging up social media, you may remember the Party was having a bit of a torrid time of it.

First there was the highly embarrassing Bo Xilai scandal and all the coup rumours that accompanied it (still to be full resolved) and then the even more emasculating Chen Guangcheng saga (which again is rolling on, thanks to the treatment meted out to his relatives and supporters).

With all the subtlety of a Mandelson/Campbell one-two, the Party is deflecting attention for its shortcomings on to a few ignorant foreigners. It’s PR 101 really, and unfortunately it appears to be working pretty well inside China, where, of course, only one side of any story is told.

Now, for those who thought xenophobia was all doom and gloom, comes this wonderful tale from Foreign Policy, which perfectly exposes the hilarious side of endemic racism.

Apparently in China, there is a phenomenon whereby Chinese companies hire white western men part-time in order to sit front of office or join meetings, in order to add an air of international sophistication to proceedings or to play better with potential foreign investors.

This has been taken a wee bit further by the below company, who wrote to the article’s author requesting specifically fluent Mandarin-speaking, Ivy League-educated, Jewish guys. Read and marvel.

I hope all is going well with you. The reason I’m contacting you is because today I had a meeting with a contact of mine (deleted) who asked me for some assistance in finding people for some part-time work in Beijing. Essentially they are in the business of (deleted.) They are looking for some Americans to act as assistants in meetings with potential investors, and essentially act as the “white face” to give some more credibility to the project. He said it would need assistance for about 3-4 meetings per month, maybe more, maybe less – it all depends on how the business goes. Of course this will be a paid job, but I have not discussed any payment amount or payment terms so you would have to negotiate that yourself.

The first requirement of the job is that you must be an advanced Mandarin Chinese speaker, since the meetings will all be with Chinese people. Also men only, no females. The other requirement is that you must have some sort of background that Chinese people typically value. My contact is (deleted) and is slightly obsessed with Jewish people and thinks they are the smartest, so he naturally prefers this person to be Jewish. If he can’t get someone Jewish, he would also like someone who went to a famous university — Harvard, Yale, etc. Besides those 2 qualifications, I’m sure he’d be happy with someone who has some sort of connection to someone famous or important, or maybe someone who is really tall and handsome. Basically any characteristic that Chinese people are impressed by – he is looking for in this person. Of course it wouldn’t hurt if this person was good-looking, well-dressed, etc. – I think you can get it.  (deleted).

Hip Hong Kong doesn’t exist – get used to it

18 May

XXX signI used to have an Uncle Pete. He was the chinos/tucked gingham shirt/Pringle sweater guy at family gatherings desperate to impress me and my siblings with how young, cool, and hip he was. Needless to say he fooled no-one. Sorry, Pete, chewing a stick of Juicy Fruit and name-dropping the Gallaghers whilst alluding to the fact you once “snorted a tab of E” is just not going to cut it. I was always more of a Blur man.

Now, I never had an Uncle Pete, but if I did, this article from WSJ Asia would be bringing memories of family get-togethers flooding right back. It claims to know exactly where you can go in Hong Kong to hang out with the “bohemian”, “left-of-centre”, “creative” types, or to put it another way: “Where Hong Kong’s Hipsters Hang Out”.

Every time I hear the word ‘hipster’ I feel like I’ve been transported back in time to some kind of mythical, jazz-soaked American city of the 1950s – all amphetamines, polo necks, bourbon and domestic violence. Today, it’s a word used mostly by the Rough Guide to denote a bar, club or eatery which might be deemed ‘alternative’ by its nerdy army of travel-geeks (tip: NEVER follow the Guide, or the Planet’s recommendations for after-hours entertainment, unless you’re the kind of person who seeks out an Irish bar, wherever in the fucking world you are ). In my experience, it’s also a word used by people whose idea of a fun night out is a glass of wine after dinner at “this lovely little spot we know round the corner”. If you spot it in any lifestyle magazine, review, or travel guide, be warned that it definitely WILL NOT signify anything remotely alternative, new or exciting.

Transplanting the term to 21st century Hong Kong doesn’t work for two reasons: a) It belongs in the 1950s with the jazz sax-munchers; b) there is nothing really ‘hip’ or ‘bohemian’ about this city or the people who live here – no matter how achingly hard they try.

Think about it. What is the overriding business of Hong Kong? Finance. What is the overriding impression you have of financiers? Exactly. And that is why there is no shortage of beautifully designed bars, restaurants and ‘clubs’ which charge a fortune but have no soul, because they cater to punters who are prepared to pay a fortune and also have no soul. Edgy student district? Forget it. Hong Kong students go to uni to study and then they go back home to their parents’ house to eat noodles and wank. And then study some more. Probably.

Don’t get me wrong. Sheung Wan is just round the corner from me and lovely to wander around during the day or occasionally stop for a bite or a quick drink in the evening. It’s pretty relaxed and has some decent chow houses, but is not an area I’d travel to for a hip night out. 208 and Oolah are overpriced ponce-holes and Yardbird doesn’t serve close to as good yakitori as you’d find in even the dirtiest Shinjuku hole-in-the-wall. I have yet to visit Squarestreet and Visage One but given that they’re shut more nights of the month than open, they probably don’t fit the bill for regular hipster haunts.

In the end I suppose it’s all relative. If we are forced to split this peculiar former colony up into districts, Sheung Wan is probably hipper than the rest of the island, just as Hong Kong is probably hipper than Macau or Singapore. But it can’t out cool most of the rest of SE Asia and there are hipper bars in provincial towns in Japan than there are here.

No offence to the hack who wrote this piece – it is in many ways an ideal guide for tired, middle aged bankers and Uncle Petes everywhere.  I’m not disappointed in the WSJ, it’s Hong Kong that must try harder.  And the piece does get one thing right. XXX is the only ‘underground’ club in Hong Kong. And it’s bloody great. So there.

How to date a Hong Kong loser

14 May

HK dating poster

Alright, alright, will admit I’m a bit late to this one. Actually I’ve been on holiday so I didn’t get a chance to give it the attention it so obviously deserves.

If you haven’t seen it, this poster says just about everything that is wrong with Hong Kong and its delightful but pretentious/self-obsessed/uptight/sexually-retarded female-folk.

The pitch? Bag yourself an eligible bachelor at HK Speed Dating night. The twist: you can get that rich gweilo you’ve always been after.

Yes, for the bargain price of HK$4800, around 20 lucky local gals had the chance to meet the man of their dreams (as long as he is 35-48, foreign and a professional) the other week. Wonder how it went? I heard the venue had to be changed at the last minute. If anyone has any feedback I’d love to hear.

Apparently has been doing this kind of thing since 2004. According to Hong Wrong, previous events have included: Bunnies House Birthday Party & Lingerie Show, Dinner with Millionaires and Social Skills Workshop: How to Meet People. Brilliant.

Dinner was also included, although I’m not sure exactly how that works in a speed dating scenario. Do you keep the same plate and glass with you? What about cutlery? Has got to be a nightmare for the waiting staff…

Seriously, though, why do these events exist? Well, aside from the inverse racism and conspicuous greed which makes a rich foreign banker the ideal choice of mate for many Hong Kong girls, there are other factors.

As this latest survey states, women vastly outnumber men in the SAR, and sky high property prices mean many can’t afford a place of their own. It goes on to say that, partly as a result, Hong Kongers are among the most sexually timid people in the world – and that presumably includes Singapore.

I personally think these excuses are bullshit and nothing several vodka and cokes can’t change.

So here’s what needs to happen:

1)      Some budding Japanese Love Hotel owner needs to get on this shit, right now, and provide ample rentable sex space for Hong Kong’s young lovers.

2)      Hong Kong girls need to get over themselves, lower their impossibly high standards, stop working so hard, move out of their parents’ house, stop listening to terrible music, and get drunk and have sex with a random bar guy once in a while.


Then, just maybe, they won’t need the services of sites like this (no offence,

Ooh. I see that coming up this weekend they have a “Dinner with flight attendants” event – must put my name down for that one.