Top 10 kinds of foreigners in China

Updated: 2015-04-17 10:42

By Shark Minnow(

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Top 10 kinds of foreigners in China

Foreign tourists pose for photos on the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, September 24, 2009. [Photo/IC]

Having lived in China pretty much my entire adult life, I have seen many foreigners come and go over the years. I was talking to a friend who has also lived here awhile and we started discussing the different kinds of foreigners we've come across. We came up with eight types together, and I added a couple more to round it out to a nice 10. This is by no means concrete or 100% accurate and not meant to encourage stereotypes, but I think there is a definite hint of truth to it, and probably a bit educational for Chinese readers. Any one foreigner may cross into another category and is by no means just relegated to one class. Many are "cross-overs".

These are the categories of different kinds of foreigners we have met in China and have known over the years:

1. Teachers

The predominant field of expats in China is education, and I am myself part of this first class of foreigners. Some foreigners teach in China because they couldn't find a job in their home country, some because they've lived here a long time and have decided to settle down, or some teachers are just up for an adventure teaching abroad. Qualified, seasoned teachers are usually well-educated and versed in Chinese history and culture and may or not be able to speak Chinese. Teachers can be subdivided into 4 groups:

a) Young, skippy university grads who want an adventure abroad for a year.

b) Middle age teachers who have lived in China for a long time, speak Chinese, are probably married and/or raising a family here.

c) Older, pensioned/retired teachers who want to experience teaching in a different culture before their "Golden Years" set in.

d) Phonies. Yes, charlatans. Teachers who are not qualified to teach in China and try and take advantage of the system. May hold fake degrees, certificates, etc. A nasty bunch I'm telling' ya.

2. (Drumroll....) Entrepreneurs/Venture capitalists

Mostly young (but can be any age) foreigners who are determined to either start their own business in China, get involved in imports/exports, or any scheme to "Hit it Big" in China! These are also your legitimate small businesses & pub/restaurant owners, ladies & gents. 'Nother pint, guvna?

3. Corporate Multinationals/Media

Green Card/VIP Material: Distinguished foreigners who work for major corporations abroad abound. Other smaller multinationals included, these foreigners are your Americans, Germans, Aussies, Russians, Europeans, Africans, Indians, people from all over. These are the rich foreigners or foreigners who are well-established in their own field (media, business, etc.) at home as well as abroad. aka "The Big Fish" or "The Edwin Maher".

4. Diplomats

Foreigners who represent their government in China (Officials, Dignitaries, Embassy Workers, Bureaucrats, etc.) Yawn...

5. NGOs

A smaller group but becoming larger. Mostly young foreigners/30-somethings who are truly involved in making "One World, One Dream" a reality and the world a better place as a whole.

6. Students/China Hands

Students studying abroad in China or another class, I term, "China Hands". China Hands are foreigners who live here purely out of love of the culture, language and people. They may be any age group, in any profession, but live here mostly for love of China. Think Da Shan. Both Students and China Hands have the best understanding of Chinese culture, language, etc. These are your intellectuals.

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