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Not-to-miss advice for new arrivals to China

Advice for New Arrivals to China

刚来中国的外国人,请往这儿看!


(There is something of a changing of the guard underway among foreigners resident in China: some familiar old faces leaving, and a lot of new arrivals. It occurred to me that since the environment for foreigners and foreign companies in China has also changed dramatically, a briefing for newcomers might be in order. For this purpose, I’ve invited two imaginary professors, Professor Dr. Kai Sailu and Professor Du Wasi to engage in an enlightened dialogue.)

(驻华外籍人员正在换防:走了一批老面孔,来了一批新面孔。这让我想起,鉴于外国人和外国企业在中国的生存环境也已发生显著变化,也许是时候该为新来者准备一些情况说明了。为此,我特意邀请两位虚拟出的教授——Kai Sailu和Du Wasi参与这次启蒙对话。)

 

Dear New Foreign Friends: Welcome to China!

尊敬的外国朋友们:欢迎来到中国!

Kai: You’ll be happy to know that we no longer call you “foreign devils”.

Kai:你们知道我们已经不再喊你们“洋鬼子”了,一定很高兴吧。

 

Du: Instead, “lao wai” (‘old outsiders’) is standard. This reflects a longstanding attitude toward people from outside the Great Wall of China. Chinese believe in the principle of reciprocity, but that doesn’t mean you should call us “lao nei” (‘old insiders’).

Du:现在我们对你们的标准称呼是“老外”。这反映出长期以来我们对来自长城以外的人士的看法。中国人讲究有来有往,但这并不是说你就可以喊我们“老内”了。


Kai: After all, we’ve been calling ourselves “The Middle Kingdom” for thousands of years.

Kai:总之,千百年来我们一直称自己为“中国”,也就是“中央大国”。

 

Du: Actually, if you were expecting a royal red carpet, your timing isn’t very good. In the early days, mid-1970s, Chinese people avoided foreigners like the plague for political reasons. Then came the Opening and Reform era, and foreigners became the object of worship. Eventually the foreigner worship reached ridiculous levels, and now the pendulum is swinging back the other way again.

Du:事实上,如果你想指望在这儿得到皇家礼遇,你来得还真不是时候。早些年,也就是上世纪七十年代中,中国人由于政治原因,躲外国人就像是躲瘟疫。后来改革开放了,外国人成了崇拜的对象,甚至到最后这种崇洋媚外都变得有些可笑。但现在,对待外国人的态度就像是钟摆,已经摆向了另一个极端。

 

Kai: Twenty years ago, in relative terms, most foreigners in China were rich compared to most Chinese. The arrival of large numbers of poor foreigners, especially since the global financial crisis in 2008, was a wake-up call for Chinese to realize many of us are far wealthier than most of you.

Kai:20年前,相对而言,大部分在中国的外国人都比中国人富有。而大批穷外国人的涌入,特别是从2008年全球经济危机开始,让中国人开始觉醒,意识到自己比很多外国人都有钱。

 

Du: Add to that the fact that huge numbers of Chinese have been travelling abroad in recent years. In the 1980s, Chinese who had been overseas were treated like astronauts returning from the moon. So illusions have melded into reality.

Du:此外,近年来大批中国人到国外旅行。而上世纪80年代,出过国的中国人都会像登月归来的宇航员一样受到膜拜。以往的幻象如今早已化作现实。

 

Kai: What this means is basically that if you behave like an arrogant jerk, you will be treated accordingly, instead of being exempted because you are a foreigner, as might well have been the case some years back.

Kai:这基本上意味着,如果你举止傲慢,就会得到应有的对待,而不像多年前,凭借外国人的身份就可以得到豁免。

 

Du: we welcome you, but you’d better obey the rules. Some of our rules are well-known and transparent. Others are not. You will be expected to obey them all, including the ones you don’t know about. This is especially true for foreign people and organizations, who by definition are potentially suspect of having ulterior, subversive motives.

Du:我们欢迎你,但你得守规矩。我们的一些规矩是众所周知的、透明的,但也有一些不是。你必须全部遵守,包括那些你不知道的部分。尤其是对那些被定义为疑似别有用心的危险分子来说,这一条更是真理。

 

Kai: no matter how long you live here in China, we expect your understanding of Chinese culture, history, literature, language and society will remain superficial. By contrast, we think we already understand you and your background very well.

Kai:无论你在中国住多久,我们都希望你能了解中国文化、历史、文学、语言和社会,并且保持一知半解的水平。反过来,我们认为自己对你以及你的背景都已经了如指掌了。

 

Du: one essential skill set you must acquire is using chopsticks. Other optional new learning could involve the ability to squat for long periods, queue-jumping techniques, smoking in no smoking zones, and spitting on sidewalks. If you really want to impress, learn to appreciate eating sea cucumbers, chicken feet, stinky bean curd and durian fruit; while guzzling white lightning “er guo tou” liquor.

Du:你必须掌握一项基本技能,就是用筷子。其他可以选择学习的新技能还包括:两腿分开长时间下蹲、排队加塞儿、在有禁烟标志的地方吸烟、往人行道上吐痰。如果你真想给人留下深刻的印象,还要学会吃海参、凤爪、臭豆腐、榴莲,不仅要甘之如饴,还要边吃边抿上一口“二锅头”。

 

Kai: On occasion, it may be wise for you to apologize for various historical misdeeds that you or your government perpetrated against the Chinese people. Our official announcements will tell you when the feelings of the Chinese people are deemed to have been hurt. Since your officials rarely if ever announce such things, it would be premature to expect apologies from us.

Kai:偶尔,你还要比较明智地就你或你国政府对中国人民犯下的各种历史错误表示道歉。我们的官方声明会告诉你,中国人民的感情是在何时受到的伤害。可是因为你们的政府很少做出类似的声明,所以想要我们做出任何道歉,都是不成熟的举动。

 

Du: You will develop skills and knowledge helpful to navigate Chinese society. However, foreigners’ ability to negotiate a good price will always remain severely handicapped. When a Chinese asks you what you paid for an object bought here, you can tell them the real price paid, or lie and tell them a much lower price. Either way, you will be laughed at and told you paid far too much. It may also be pointed out that your purchase is probably a fake.

Du:你将学会在中国生存的各种社会技能和知识。但外国人讲价的本领永远欠缺。当中国人问你在这儿买一件东西花了多少钱时,不论你是如实相告还是编一个很低的价格,都会被耻笑买贵了,而且还有可能被告知买到了假货。

 

Kai: here in our country we have many secrets. They are so numerous and so secret, that it is not possible to explain. But you had better be attentive in this area. You may think I am mainly talking about official data, but actually it is much wider and deeper than that. We don’t share information on family and friends as readily as Americans do, for example. That’s partly the difference between an ancient country and a young upstart. My advice would be to treat everything as a secret, even what you had for breakfast. It’s the safest way. No one really needs to know anything about you. Those that do need to know, know it already anyway.

Kai:我们国家有很多秘密,多到说不清,秘到没法解释。但你最好多加留意。也许你以为我说的都是官方消息,但实际上的含义更广更深。比如,我们不会像美国人那样随便公开家人和朋友的情况,部分是因为我们是文明古国,而美国成立的历史太短。我建议你把每件事都当成秘密,包括早餐吃的是什么,这样才最保险。没人真的需要了解你的事儿,即便真有需要,反正也早就知道了。

 

Du: you will be told again and again by Chinese friends that you are too trusting and you must be more vigilant against cheats and scammers. This advice will also come from cheats and scammers. My advice would be to trust no one, except online retailers with a proven track record, and those “Big V” people on weibo (at least sometimes).

Du:中国朋友会一遍一遍地告诉你,你太轻信别人了,必须小心上当受骗。而上当受骗本身也会提醒你。我的建议就是谁都不要相信,除了有认证的网店和微博“大V”(至少偶尔是这样)。

 

Kai: as a foreigner and/or foreign investor you will spend a lot of time and resources attempting to play by our very confusing and obtuse rules. These change frequently without notice, and are subject to large variations in implementation from place to place and time to time. This is actually good medicine for you. Accept it with gratitude. Don’t bother with the fact that for your local competitors, all this stuff is pretty much negotiable. Your presence has helped us create a whole industry employing lots of people, and this is appreciated.

Kai:作为外国人和/或外国投资者,你得花好多时间和好多资源才能玩转我们那些令人晕头转向又滞后的规则。这些规则随时都会调整,不仅不会通知,而且还会依执行地点和时间的不同大相径庭。事实上,这些都是你的良药,你应该心怀感激地接受。不要烦恼为什么这些规则对你的中国竞争对手来说都是可以商量的。你到中国来,帮我们建立了一个新的产业,解决了很多就业机会,这一点我们还是很感激的。

 

Du: expect to be invited, often on short notice, to make public performances which will showcase you as a fool, clown, or performing monkey. Be generous in your response. Chinese people really enjoy watching foreigners look silly. Can you really blame them? You really do some funny and entertaining things. Remember the indignities we Chinese suffered during the colonial era.

Du:要做好准备随时应邀当众表演节目,好让你看起来像个傻瓜、小丑或马戏班的猴子。你要对此表现出大度。中国人喜欢看外国人冒傻气。可你真会责怪他们吗?毕竟你确实做了一些可笑的事儿。别忘了我们中国人在殖民时期受过的侮辱。

 

Kai: prepare to address many ordinary people as “Minister”, “CEO” or “Teacher”. This is a show of respect which is extremely popular nowadays, and the rank is exaggerated upwards on purpose. Even the guy fixing your bicycle, or the clerk in the tax office, can be called “Teacher”.

Kai:准备好用“部长”、“总”、“ 老师”这些称谓来称呼很多普通人。刻意提高对方的身份是现在比较流行的表达敬意的方式。哪怕对方只是自行车修理工或者税务机关的办事员,你也可以称他为“师傅、老师”。


Du: even you yourself, quite possibly an unqualified college drop-out, may be addressed as “Teacher” at some point. It’s equivalent in sincerity to the cashier in an American supermarket saying “Have a nice day!” to everyone — all day, every day.

Du:即使你自己很可能只是个大学肄业生,某些时候也会被称为“老师”,但真诚度就跟美国超市收银员每天每刻都会祝每位客人“过得愉快”一样。

 

Kai: when in doubt about someone’s title, always promote them upwards: “CEO Wong”, “Minister Li”, etc. If you meet an actual teacher, consider promoting them to “Principal Cai” or ” Dean Wu “. In this way the opportunities for career promotions in China become numerous and frequent, yet the actual added economic cost is nil.

Kai:如果拿不准某人的职务,就一概尊称为“王总”、“李部长”。如果真的遇到老师,就将他们升格为“蔡校长”、“吴主任”。这样可以增加你在中国的晋升机会,但实际的经济附加值却是零。

 

Du: fear not: you are not alone. The bloom is not only off the foreign rose for individuals, but for many foreign brands. Many leading foreign brands have been in the hotbox of local media in the past year, including Starbucks (too expensive), Apple (warranty issues), KFC (unsafe chickens), etc., etc.

Du:不要害怕,你不是一个人在战斗。所谓的“辣手摧花”不仅针对外籍个人,也针对很多外国品牌。近年来,很多知名品牌也都坐在中国媒体的火山口上,比如星巴克(价格太高)、苹果(保修问题)、肯德基(鸡肉不安全)等等。

 

It’s just the flavor of the times. Despite all this, Chinese people are extremely welcoming, gracious and open-minded hosts. You can count on being well-treated, as long as you behave yourself. If you have an “arrogance management” issue, book an earlier return ticket home.

这些都只是时代的调味剂。说到底,中国人还是殷勤好客、慷慨大度、心胸开放的。只要你行为得当,保证就会得到善待。但如果你有“趾高气扬”的毛病,那还是赶紧打张机票回老家吧。

2016-06-24

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