White Monkeys

As a foreigner there are an unbelievable amount of opportunities for work or even experiences. Once you’re an expat you find out these opportunities are usually referred to as White Monkey gigs.

The very unfortunate keyword here is WHITE. There is a premium on that milky skin, blond hair and light eyes. Y’know, Hitler’s wet dream type. But, seriously, you see advertisements for WHITE only.

These are widely varied, for example, I was offered the opportunity to be cast into a Chinese movie based in Tibet from a true story. I would play a race driver that was injured and helped by a Tibetan family.

More recently, Dwight Howard is coming to my city and they needed some foreigners who could play basketball. Unfortunately, I’m too short. Which is the deal breaker for most things here for me. I’m not tall enough and too beardy for their likes!

Many others are based on appearing and your appearance. So modeling or pretending (I won’t say acting), my friend went to some international dairy convention for a company and pretended to be a foreign expert. Being a white person at a dinner event, store openings, being a foreigner in a club or even just being offered free drinks all night to spend your night in the bar.

So in the end they are pretty helpful if you’re here already working and need the extra cash or experiences. Otherwise, you’ll probably be here on some other visa and going between gigs to make money while staying here illegally. Which, I don’t recommend that route, but is completely normally here it’s somewhat the wild west of work culture.

So the why –

There is a huge respect for western culture and the influence it has had. Although the Chinese are wildly proud of China and nationalistic values run deep they still love foreign products and aspects of our various cultures. Usually, they are consumers of luxury goods and with that there is an association when foreigners attend events. Especially in smaller cities, the bigger ones I can’t really speak for, but throughout the smaller cities, you can find more and more.

In many of the smaller cities, foreigners are quite a new thing still. We are a novelty! Often you’ll hear choruses of “laowai” or “waiguoren” the Chinese for foreigner. This is also met with camera phones and staring. Likely, people will engage you in conversation and practice their English. Or ignore your lack of Chinese and just plough through. There’s your second reason why these opportunities exist.


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