Black in Asia

Black in China part VI: Playing after midnight

Playing after midnight

I have a saying, that I’ve told to many friends who want to go to Asia in order to try and pick up some girls…

“If you don’t understand the culture, and their mindset, you will never be their match”

I too didn’t understand their culture at first, and as westerners we may never understand completely. But I guarantee you, if you don’t know that culture, and think your gonna go abroad and get some action, your gonna lose more than you know; I learned the hard way, as a result.

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I’m a quick thinker, and I trust my instincts, but even these, aren’t a enough to match a vital trait called common sense. Something that’s people say so easily (use common sense), yet is the rarest trait, that takes years to foster; common sense, is notoriously uncommon.

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I recall two nights, where I was in a dangerous situation. Knowing the language can save you, as it did me, but that common sense factor that I ignored is what almost did me in.

Nightlife in Shanghai is glamorous, the skyline, the lights, the restaurants, clubs, the whole nine. It’s easy to get consumed by the temptations that follow, and arrogance that surfaces to the point of corruption. We as westerners believe the sexual myths thinking that you can go to Asia and think sex if freely given. I’ve seen many expats in clubs around China, and I frequently see them strike out, 60% is because of the arrogance, and plus they can’t speak the language. But more than that, the ignorance at not knowing the culture takes root.

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Many Chinese girls, will say, they are “traditional” which is a facade to and end, the point being, they don’t want to seem easy. “Yes means no, and no means yes, maybe means utter uncertainty,” and all the while your lost in a maze. Such was my case, when I went to a local club with a few friends of mine.

Being an expat, doesn’t make you popular in shanghai anymore, it makes you a target, because we haven’t re-adjusted to the reality that a foreigners gold status is over in the big cities. The small cities will still treat you like gold, but the big cities will see you as a “fool who needs to part with his money” ah, yes, the fool. I have been the fool, been with a fool, and saved some fools, all in one weekend no less.

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Being the fool

I realized long ago, that being a foreigner is not gold anymore in shanghai, unless you actually have gold. Of course neighboring medium size cities like Suzhou and Hangzhou will still give you gold plating, but in shanghai, nah, those days are gone, unless your dark skinned, that will still be interesting for a few more years lol.

Now if you can speak the language, and know “the game” in Chinese you can reclaim some gold, if not your pretty much a loser. For example in the clubs, only 2 factors will get you attention anymore. 1 is if you can afford a sofa with drinks and bottle service, that’s a given you’ll get attention if you want it, 2 is if you know how to draw a crowd. Chinese people love dancers, especially hip hop dancing, if you can dance like my friends and I did, you can reclaim some more gold; I didn’t say we were good dancers, but using that natural born rhythm, plus some sense of step that I got for playing and dancing in the band, gave me a head start.

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But being gold, also makes you a target.

I went with 2 other guys. And of course, when you dance, and you don’t get embarrassed when a crowd forms, you will get people who want to buy you drinks, or have you sit at their sofa, since the ladies will follow. Well we experienced both. 2 of my friends got females who they danced with, and broke away from us, but they were good, we thought, then one Chinese high roller, started toasting non stop shots. It’s safe to say, we got tipsy, and of course given the temptations around us, we just stopped thinking and had fun. I later regained myself in a taxi, in motion, to some area in shanghai I had never seen, with some girl I was toasting with.

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Hmmm, bad idea! I saw the movie Hangover, and as a guy, I didn’t mind, but as a guy who thinks, something was off, I asked the driver in Chinese, where we were going, and he ignored me, so I then, proceeded to pretend to call my embassy, this is when we stopped and he told me, a guy helped me into the taxi with his “friend” we were driving to Suzhou where she lived, and we’re about an hour away from the club we left, he further told me since I was “out” he didn’t know where I lived.

The girl woke up, and said that it’s offense to leave her, and to me, since I know things about the culture, I knew it was b.s, I saw the meter at 220 RMB, which was around $35 at the time, I paid it, and got out of there, big time, and since the taxi kept going and she didn’t exit the car, I knew I’ve been had, but that’s a price I paid, compared to what could have happened, if I stayed in that car to the destination. My boys, who weren’t in my program but people I met, also played a factor, a small cultural tip I will share about going out in the nightlife in Asia; “know who your with, use common sense, stay together, and know the language,” cabs lock from the inside, imagine if I didn’t speak the language.

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If your group doesn’t have any speakers,bring a pocket guide and bring your address written in that language for your wallet if you can’t say it right. One thing I’ve also seen, is if your an English teacher, or people know you are, your even more likely to get approached, it’s changing now, because of tighter English regulations and certifications that are necessary, but back in the day, many English teachers who didn’t know a thing about teaching, went to China for thrills, played the game with girls way out of reach, got ripped off, then go online and pro-ject their experiences in Asia, as a negative one. It can happen in any club anywhere in the world.

Being with fools and saving them

After such an experience, I had wanted to stay away from clubs, but it’s not the clubs fault, more so my fault, for getting in over my head, with people I don’t know like that. Plus I’ve been to a few clubs before that experience and had a great time.

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So that Sunday night, I went to a concert with 2 people in my program, 2 people from Jiaotong University who were Korean, and Japanese, and a few European girls from Fudan University.

Concert was great, as expected, we then went to eat, and as a group of expats, we were approached by some overly enthusiastic locals. -sidebar, most asian cultures, have more of a stigma towards strangers than we do in the west, people will rarely ever approach you.

They wanted to join us, and they did, we ate, chatted etc, since East Nanjing road, is a hip place in shanghai, plus it has a lot of shopping, naturally the locals wanted to go shopping with the European girls, and being girls, they ran inside. I knew of the shanghai infamous “assisted shopping scam” where locals want to shop with you and take you to places they are affiliated with where they will get a big commission, and you will likely get some nice and clean looking junk and get completely ripped off. Even if it looks new, it’s probably just junk, inspect it!

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Another thing, when going to these bargaining places, you need to not only be a man, even if your a lady, be a man, because the vendors will approach you hard, pressure to buy their bargains, and practically drag you into their store. You may be thinking, that won’t happen, but they are good at the pressure, and even if you buy some thinking well the exchange rate is $1 to 6 RMB it’s not bad, so you buy something that you were pressured into, and you just lost $16 which is 100 RMB.

So, the girls were being ripped off, we couldn’t find them, and cell phone service was bad; nightlife in shanghai is a different economy than it is during the day, everything is more expensive. If you go bargain shopping during the day, it is so much cheaper than at night, around 11pm, a meter in the taxi, will run 30% faster! and the red taxi meter runs fastest, I don’t know why! but we were warned, and even tested its authenticity. It’s true…

So, once we found the girls being surrounded and complimented by a ton of vendors, maybe around 20 or so, they wanted to leave, and didn’t know that, telling the vendors “no,” doesn’t not mean “no” in that culture, you ignore them, and keep walking, they will go away. They even bring children to play, they claim that they are making money for their kid, etc, the whole sob stories, it’s all a scam through my eyes. But this is the scary part about shopping in those bargain areas, and this is how we saved some people;

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If you are not a direct person buying something in East Nanjing Road, you cannot, I repeat, cannot engage in another persons purchase. I mean it like that, even if it’s your friend.

We told 3 girls getting pressured into buying some electronics it’s not worth it, in English, the vendors, prior to our thoughts can speak enough English to know what we said, and they flipped on us, not in a funny way either, but they kicked us out the store, told us don’t come back, we have no business in their sale, and 2 guys stood near the entrance so we guys couldn’t re-enter. The girls bought 2 phone cases and left, the mob of course never left, so we got out by telling one girl from Macedonia to call someone and make a panic scene almost, speaking Macedonian so they wouldn’t understand, and rushed out.

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The thing about these bargain shops in Shanghai that I’ve seen, is your safer going with 2 people, than if you were going with 5 or 6. The bigger the group, the bigger the target, you are seen as more walking money in a bigger group, it’s opposite from what we would have thought to be true in the west.

Now, not to make anyone nervous, but these things happened only one to me, generally nightlife in China has been overly amazing, but you have to use common sense everywhere, in everything you do ,especially if you can’t speak the language to get out of a situation. You have to know some stuff about the culture. Here are some less than discussed culture tips I’ve learned and developed that no one ever taught me:

– “Yes doesn’t mean yes, it means a way to avoid a situation until an excuse can be found to get out of the agreement.” Me and my buddy were talking with two Chinese girls, and after chatting with them for a few days, we decided to meet up again and go to a movie. They said, yes, but then once we were leaving, my girl said sorry they couldn’t go, and when I asked why, her friend, didn’t feel comfortable with my buddy, but saying no, is rude, so they say yes, to avoid making us uncomfortable. Of course I lost my girl too, because if the friend isn’t going, she isn’t going either. Plus, my boy was cool, I don’t know what happened but it’s cool.

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– “No doesn’t mean no, it means I can’t be seen agreeing to something in this situation because of the culture, but if it’s something you want, you should push on and insist” here’s an example for the “no” because it’s difficult to understand, if a girl likes you in that culture, she will say no, to almost everything, but if you take her word for it, then you lost, it means keep pushing, you have to work hard. Or, if someone tries to sell you something and you say no, it seems as though you are trying to fight for a better price, your “no” doesn’t really mean no.

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– “Don’t go anywhere, money involved without a a local friend” in my case, I asked to buy some fruits, and I was to be charged 5.88 RMB per pound, when my Chinese friend went, he was charged 2.5 RMB which was the price, now, as an example, at the time, if my Chinese was at the point is it as now, I would probably have been charged 3-3.50 RMB. It’s not all the time that this happens there are a lot of nice people, it tends to happen once in a while, but when it happens, it’s big enough to make difference, plus getting ripped off can ruin your day”

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– “Don’t lose your composure in Asia” this one is funny, but so true, a lot of Asians are VERY nationalistic, and while Asia is way more safe than say, New York, where I’m from, a lot of people always think you as an expat will cause trouble. So if you are seen getting angry in a situation where even if your getting ripped off, people will swarm to defend their fellow countryman. You can’t say anything against the crowd, your wrong, this one goes up in the common sense, don’t make trouble, take a deep breath, and think about how your actions will reflect on the situation. In defense of this, and to my experience, it only take one expat to make a fool of themselves, to completely bring down the opinion of every expat they meet, so please, don’t do anything that will hurt us all. This will change as more expats go abroad, the new generation is more open minded.

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Thanks for viewing, the next article will contain a ton of weird but useful culture tips for the expat who intend to dive into the culture pool. Next post Black in China part 7 “You don’t learn Chinese culture, Chinese culture teaches you.”

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