Friday, April 07, 2006

"You are an Italian, non-student..."

Spring is here, and that means that the advertisers are here, too. They are all over the campus when it's warm, looking for foreigners. Some of my friends have recently taken modeling jobs, and other some television commercial jobs. Since I've been in China, I've been of the opinion that the most prized form of advertising here must be blatantly lying, because products definitely do not do what they report to do, nor could they ever realistically do those things. Now, however, I have confirmation of the lies.

My friend Pablo recently took an in-store modeling job with a French student from here. They were modeling suits by an Italian designer based in China and handing out/receiving business cards to/from patrons. Part of their job, however, was to pretend that they were Italian, and not students. That went fine for a while, until the designer came. He didn't know that they weren't Italian, and so he started talking to them in front of everyone. Pablo did a mix of Spanish and fake-Italian, and told him that he couldn't speak Italian because just his mother was Italian. Lucky escape.

Donny is going to be in a commercial soon, and he has to pretend to be French. There are tons of examples like this floating around my campus. Part of your job when advertising is to lie your face off. Look at this ad I found yesterday on local entertainment magazine That's Beijing Online:

Ad No. 68878
Comfortable job, high wage,occidental wanted.

Ad Number: 68878
Ad placer: miltongang
American,Canidian occidental wanted.
If you are a male/female, who shrewd-looking capable and experience,personable,diplomatic,please contact us. We provide
foreign model of commercial for companies when they hold cocktail party,or celebration. You task are dressily,giving an
address or playing an role of one stuff of the company.

Comfortable job, high wage. If you are the one that described above, do please send your cv with photo to
Our website:

Times viewed: 159

Am I shrewd-looking? Because I would really like to go see what kinds of lies they'd have me propagate for a night.

All of this brings up another issue in my mind, though. In the states, I often heard my East Asian or Asian-American classmates complaining about the tendency of Americans to group the people from the countries of their origin all together and say that they all look the same, and consequently assume that they are the same. I certainly can understand how that would be irritating. I've definitely seen the occurrence of someone in states obnoxiously saying "Ni hao," - in a terrible accent, at that - to a Japanese person, and then getting mad when the Japanese person doesn't understand. That's ridiculous.

A similar thing happens here, too. I have increasingly noticed a feeling that, "All white people look the same," partly because of things like I noted above, and partly because of just how some people have acted toward me. People fairly frequently speak languages to me that I don't understand, and then question me angrily about why I don't understand later. But they're not speaking Chinese at first! How am I supposed to know what they're saying? I'm an English and Chinese speaker. Do I really look Russian? And my teachers lump Americans and Europeans together when talking about Western countries - we're not all the same. And what about Canadians and Mexicans? Or do they just not count?

So, really, this is a criticism of everyone. Take the time to get to know the people you're talking about and to. If there's something I can't stand, it's people asserting that things are a certain way when they are uninformed. There are many different cultures in East Asia, and there are many different cultures in the US and Europe. Certainly, there are similarities, too, but it's important know what those are.

I don't mind if someone mistakes me for being from somewhere I'm not, but it is irritating if they start insisting that I must act a certain way based on an uninformed assumption they're making about me. That only further adds to the feeling of displacement that I feel here sometimes. I understand even more now what the international students at my university must be feeling like.

Educate yourself about other people. It's important. You would want them to do the same for you.


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