"Guanxi（关系)" makes your business and personal life in China happy, smooth, and successful. However, having guanxi requires a lot of Chinese friends - or at least people that don't dislike you. Just don't fall into the category of "Oily Expats". Instead, fall into the categories below!
1. Sincere and open to diversity
"You can communicate with them openly and sincerely, without scruples or guard," said Gao Fei, translator of the Chinese edition of The How To Be British Collection, when referring to "fresh expats" she likes to be friends with.
She cited a Catalan friend she met in Barcelona as an example. He is kind, outgoing and curious about different cultures, and he has a strong interest in China and Asia. She said that he has an independent mind and that they can have in-depth conversations, instead of just greeting each other or showing interest out of politeness.
"To befriend a foreigner works the same as with a Chinese. To hit it off, you should have a certain understanding of each others' social and cultural backgrounds and have common interests," Gao said. Being a friend is a long-term thing, and friendship doesn't grow on the surface of implosive minds, she added.
2. Rich experience and worldly
In addition, being knowledgeable and experienced in different parts of the world is another feature of fresh expats.
"I prefer to make friends with those who have traveled a lot and are well-informed on differences of various countries and cultures so that they accept and appreciate the beauty of diversity from the bottom of their hearts," said Cai Yun, a Chinese PhD student in Canada.
Cai said fresh expats choose friends based on people's personalities, instead of nationality or regions, and the best way to avoid being oily is to go out and see the world and to broaden one's horizon.
3. Love Chinese culture
"Most of my foreign friends love Chinese culture and make an effort to get to know more," said Ba. Some of them are keen on Chinese medicine; some are passionate about Chinese movies and many have been to China many times. Ba feels very relaxed and happy getting along with them.
"They also like to eat haw flakes and stir-fried egg and tomato, and we have a common love for music and films," Ba said, adding that "oiliness" exists everywhere, and that also applies to Chinese people; keeping an open mind without bias is the key to staying "fresh."
What expats say
As to the Chinese insight of oiliness in expats, foreigners give their own opinions.
"We don't like oily expats in our foreign community either, and I like those who can integrate into Chinese culture and society," said Alvaro Lago, who comes from Spain and has worked in Beijing for years.
As for expats who act superior based on their foreign faces, he adds that lazy expats who have little capacity, cannot find a job at home and come to China to teach English usually belong to this group. "Some of them are not even native English speakers, but they use their foreign faces to teach. I think that is very oily."
Lago also said that oily foreigners are those who pretend to know everything about China and boast about their close connection to China in front of other foreign nationals, which he frequently sees on international flights.
"They show off their Chinese proficiency and their knowledge about China, but they speak broken Chinese and know little about the country," said Lago, stressing that more and more foreigners are proud of working and living in China as the country's global influence grows.
Similar to Ba and Gao's opinion, expats stress that the oiliness is not specific to certain nationalities and nobody likes an oily person.
"We all want others to be open and honest with us because trust is what makes a relationship - in personal life, in business or simply as a friend," said Brian Salter, a media expert working in Beijing, stressing that to develop better relationships with people from different cultural and social backgrounds, understanding human psychology is the key.
"If someone is interesting to talk with, they are more of a pleasure to be with; if they are genuinely interested in your culture and background, there is more scope for developing a relationship that can lead to true friendship. This is all basic human psychology and is not confined to one nationality or another."