Laowai Style

Much to the chagrin of my dear hubby, I’ve been watching at least one Gangnam Style parody video a day. Hey, it keeps me happy. A Gangnam Style a day keeps the bad China days away!

Here’s my new favorite: Laowai Style!

On Youtube

On Youku

And a few comments from Youku:

哎呀我这个脑子啊 这哥们太有才了 — Oh, my brain! This guy is really talented!

貌似心态不错~~真是羡慕~~ — Attitude is not bad… really admire this!

快回去吧! 中国本来人就多 还来老外! 天那~~~ — Quick, go back! China already has too many people, now laowai are coming here too? For goodness sake…

Well, I love it. Thanks for putting this out there, Fullbright Scholar Jesse Appell!  We are looking forward to more good things from you in the future!

Talk on Laowai Style


20 Comments
  1. Pingback: Hao Hao Report

  2. That’s too funny! His Chinese is just at my level, too. ;) I especially love how when they are dancing in public all the Chinese people watch intently/happily. :) Good stuff.

    • I enter into this page by accident!well,i am doing a survey now,would you please do me a favour? i want to know have you ever been called”lao wai” and what’s your feeling about this word?

      • Sure! I lived in China for about 4 months and had been studying Chinese for two years before that. Most of the people who called me “laowai” were little kids. I thought it was really funny and would yell back at them “zhongguo ren!” I was never called “laowai” in a mean way, but I have heard other people’s stories and am thankful people were generally nice to me (maybe because I was a 19 year old girl). Will we be able to see the results of your survey anywhere? :)

    • Chinese at your level? You must be very good at Chinese. I cant distinguish that guy from a Chinese guy doing a parody of Laowai by pretending to be a Laowai. There is no American accented Chinese there. Do you know that guy? I dont think you can know his level especially not from this parody.

  3. Pingback: 老外Style! | Alex i Kina

      • Very good point. The true appreciators are those that sacrifice themselves for the culture. The rest are moneyed classes. Phillistines.

    • This video is obviously intended to poke fun at the laowai set/himself/ourselves. It’s a PARODY video. Saying anything like “Shanghai is better than Beijing” or the other way around makes you the character in the video. Plus, I live in a third tier city so I’m more authentic than all of you #obviouslyajoke.

      • Profile photo of Nicki

        I agree about the poking fun of ourselves bit – isn’t that what the original Gangnam Style video was about, anyway? Poking fun of the lifestyle? I think it’s great when people can enjoy a little humor at their own expense :) 3rd tier city, eh? I’m never quite sure where Haikou ranks in the tier system but I see that Dave Lyons of Rectified name has a new formula for that: http://www.rectified.name/2012/10/19/chinese-city-tiers-cracking-the-code/

      • I’m sorry I think it runs a little deeper than that. Yes, its parodying the laowai, meaning ‘lovable person from the outside’ roughly translated. However, it’s a certain kind of laowai.It’s the kind that studies authentic culture at the University, never goes to KFC and drinks authentic Chinese beer and softdrinks.

        It refers to the kind of laowai that I love – the kind that drives a ‘pojiu zixingche’ or ramshackle bycicle and genuinely,in the words of James Brown, ‘wants to get into to it,man. You know, like a laowai machine,man?’

        A wierd but extremely interesting truth revealed by this forum; white or otherwise foreign business people tend to asociate with Shang Hai and are NOT essentially regarded as laowai. THey are regarded as business people contributing to CHina’a growth.

        They are respected.

        And teachers ARE regarded as laowai.

        In truth, both are essentially laowai – but in actuality,laowai only refers to teachers.White business people are not laowai.Although not explicit, laowai in essence is a little

        Nothwithstanding notable exceptions,business people often speak poorer Mandarin than English teachers (essentially the true laowai referent) and teachers are really more the culture vulture, understanding China better than the Shang Hai business person,whilst enjoying a much less luxurious standard of living.

        But business people are very popular among Chinese and are taken seriously.You only need to look at Chinese people talking to businessmen to know.

        It is sad, but Chinese dont really want you to understand them – as the tittering at the laowai in the video reveals (an important post-scriptum that explains the true meaning of the word) – you either make serious money for China or you are simply ‘a lovable person from the outside’.

        So yes, I do resent being called a laowai a little,because there is a depth grammar here- a nuance; a laowai is senntially a yogey bear. A lovable but trivial addition to the super economy. A flaccid dick.

      • I think it runs a little deeper than that; the de jure meaning of laowai is lovable person from the outside. The de facto meaning is someone who is not contributing to China’s super economy as much as the Shang Hi business people or business people generally.

        You may be a foreigner,but the business people are not regarded as laowais. It refers to English teachers.

        As a teacher,although I loved teaching – I was always regarded as the laowai despite speaking better Mandarin than most business people I met and knowing more about China.China does not want you to understand it – it is bored by foreign devils trying to master the inscrutable hanzi designed for its ruling civil servant class and its precious ‘jade inside a wall’ (see guo character)populace. Thus the tittering at the end works as a powerful post scriptum that highlights the inner meaning of the parody.

        Ultimately, the laowai is a kind of culture vulture who takes culture and language classes at Beijing UNiversity, drinks Chinese beer and Wang Laoji and drives a pojiu zixing che or ramshackle bycicle.

        Laowai is a slightly contemptuous term in essence; in these heady times of economic world domination,China has come to regard anyone who isnt riding the cyclone as an outsider and this certainly extends to the true laowai referent – the English teacher. We are sometimes forced into the yogey bear role – lovable but trivial. Flaccid dicks.

        And this despite our manifest cultural superiority to the materialist and phillistine Shang Haiers!

        Although our students love us for the economic freedom that we do,ironically, give them – to a greater extent than a Chinese business degree could in some contexts – this lovable outsider image will forever be the albatross we wear round our necks for our sin of having a job anywhere we choose to travel to!

      • Hey T, great post! I don’t disagree with any of it. But I think there’s a certain subset in laowai culture who have a sort of competitive obsession with authenticity. China can be anything to anyone – that’s a huge part of its appeal (and its madness). So while all the status issues are especially frustrating when you’re trying to immerse yourself in China and getting no respect, there’s that type of laowai who refuses to share knowledge, or always knows more than you do. I think there’s a little nod to this in this video.

        Of course that doesn’t mean that it’s bad, but it’s still funny. You can’t really ‘get’ this video unless you are (or know) that type of laowai, but you also can’t laugh at if your coping mechanism in China is to pretend you’re more legitimate than everyone else. Do you know what I mean?

        (NB Hope I don’t sound bitter – I just find expat sub-cultures really interesting!)

      • Spacehyphen,

        Well, that’s a different interpretation on it than mine – that this parodies the ‘more cultured (you use the word ‘authentic’ to mean ‘desire to espouse authenctic Chinese culture – the truly authentic laowai is simply a person who behaves like someone English etc.) than thou’ laowai.

        Yes, I knew few of those types. If any of them. I have to admit I slightly dislike Americans – they would generally collect around other Americans and eat KFC and bitch.They also hated themselves (Americans).

        But I also love Americans.

        I’ve tried to espouse authentic culture myself.

        – you might find my opinions a little anoying – but I beleive that the true authentic Chinese speakers needs to know about 2000 modern and old CHinese idioms.

        Try watching ‘Fuqi naxie shi’ (husband and wife – that kind of stuff) and it takes about two hours to understand fifteen minutes becasue it is incredibly idiomatically dense.Im not joking.

        So many think they know Chinese – but the pretensious laowai of this type knows nothing.He would understand about 5 percent of a good sitcom.

        Respect goes out to the blogger who tried to learn medical Chinese. Great.

        Sadly few CHinese know the inner metaphors of their own idioms. I know this because I did research on it.

        One our of twenty knew the meaning of ‘ Tuo ying er chu’ – it refers to a type of (if I remember) a type of corn and taking off the seed into the niang sack, symbolizing excellence and dividing the wheat from the chaff.

        So I hate the laowai of the type you mention who THINKS he knows CHinese and by extension CHinese culture. They really dont at all and they show off talking CHinese loudly with CHinese friends – but they really are sad.

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