Written by 安德雷
This term is well-known to all the locals and most foreigners with a longer stay in China. Diaosi has multiple meanings depending on the interpretation, but in general it can be described as Looser or a Nobody. Lately it became quite accustomed in an ever changing modern Chinese society, where competition for prosperity and recognition is fierce. Therefore, this term applies to the younger generation with little or no material assets~ poor family, no employment or a miserably paid job and a general lack of perspective. Gaofushi is what young men aim to become~ a successful, young, well situated goal-getter, praised by pretty women and the public. Of course, in a country of billions and surrounded with a vast competition, becoming a Dioasi is not hard at all. Naturally, no one wants to be one. While on one hand this social stigma stimulates ambition and a strive for success, it also represents a source of great depression for many young Chinese who simply can’t push their way onto the top. However, being a Diaosi is not just label for low social status, but a form of a public image as well. Dressing up in ragged cheap clothes, wearing 10 Kuai flops, hackneyed rucksacks, having a bad hair day every day and generally looking disoriented will also affect on the level of one’s Diaosism. That is why many Chinese, even though they often can’t afford it, invest huge sums in their good public appearance in order to save face and present themselves as a piece of the upper class. Having a good public face is another big thing in a complex Chinese social system, and keeping that face clean is a top priority for most. It also helps with the first impression, for there often isn’t more than a single chance to show one’s qualities in such a competitive environment.
So, how do foreigners or Laowai fit into all this? For one, that would greatly depend on their profession and location. Tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of Laowai live and work in major Chinese metropolises like Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong. However, in “smaller” cities like Hangzhou, penetration of big global business is nearly not as substantial, which results in having very few foreigners actually doing some serious business. Not all, but most of the Laowai population in such cities can be classified under 3 categories: students, English teachers and opportunists in general. Being a student often implies to incomplete professional qualifications, and as far as English teaching goes, such position in China merely requires bright skin and the ability to talk English, regardless of how bad or incoherent it might be. Chinese would refrain from calling anyone foreign a Diaosi, since foreigners are generally excluded from local social norms for most part, but the question remains~ how do these Laowai see and present themselves? The funny thing is that most of them actually have no problem with being a Diaosi. Of course, one could hardly expect a student to project an image of financial and professional success, however, a certain amount of self respect and recognition is welcomed. After all they are members of some academic society. Unfortunately, many of them would accept the Diaosi image with open hands… rags for clothes, general absence of decent manners and a free time dedicated entirely to bottles of alcohol. Situation with a good chunk of the English teaching cluster is not much better, if not even worse. This group often stretches way into the 30s, 40s and even 50s with age. Cozy life in China, mixed with a general lack of education and supported by a significant social acceptance from the local environment put these Laowai in a very comfy and carefree lifestyle. And that’s what makes the whole case ironic: While on one hand young Chinese desperately try to claw their way out of the Dioaosi zone, many foreigners, with decent chances for success, gladly embrace the public image of a social looser.
So, as the old saying goes Others respect You as much as You respect Yourself, here’s a tip for all of You students, English teachers, adventurists and other Laowai out there: Act like a Diaosi, and You will be seen and treated as one. In this respect, invest some effort in Your public image. It’s worth it.