With every year since China's reform and opening started in 1978 more and more foreign visitors have made the trip to experience the mysteries of the middle kingdom. Unfortunately, some new and inexperienced travellers seem to be in a mighty hurry to make total idiots of themselves. Fortunately for the FOARP, his days as a China newbie are buried back in the prehistory of The Time Before Blogs, but others are putting themselves at risk of severe future embarrassment should their noobish blog posts ever come to light. Here's the seven top symptoms of this Sinological syndrome so that you can be forewarned and forearmed:
1) Insisting on using 汉字 ("Chinese words") in every 句话 ("sentence") in a lame effort to show what a 中国通 ("China hand") you are.
You might as well just tattoo "傻屄" on your head.
2) Ever getting at all involved in what the term 'laowai' means.
If you argue either that the term is purely racist under all circumstances or that it is a sign of respect then you, my friend, are a laowiseass. The first can be countered by simply pointing out that plenty of wives married to white boys refer to their spouses as laowai, the second by even a second's worth of thinking - is "meiguolao" a respectful term for Americans?
3) Writing articles whose main premise is that China is not Wyomissing Hills, Pennsylvania.
Congratulations on being able to read a map. When people either lay into or overly praise China based solely on criteria which have nothing to do with conditions there you have to think that such articles have much more to do with where the writer came from than about where they are.
4) Writing commentary which basically boils down to "OMG! Chinese girls are so hot/girly/feminine/easy/whatever"
Our expat sisters are happily immune to this one, but unfortunately their much more numerous expat brethren are not. Once again, this seems to be much more about where the writer is coming from than about China.
5) Referring wisely to the concept of Guanxi.
Write "'Guanxi' = connections" ten times and get lost. This kind of commentary is strictly for noobs, everyone else knows that there's no such thing as a free lunch.
6) Making general statements about the Chinese people and culture.
There are very few generally true statements starting with the words "All foreigners are . . . ", and only marginally more which begin with the words "All Chinese people are . . . .". This doesn't stop people making them, but it should stop you from repeating either the excessively condemnatory language you hear in some quarters or the excessively laudatory language you hear in others. Here's a tip: before you write such a thing (e.g. "Chinese people are very conservative/modest/arrogant etc.") just stop and ask yourself whether a 20 minute walk through the average Chinese neighbourhood wouldn't turn up something directly contradicting that statement.
7) Compiling lists of things you like/don't like