The word "oily(油腻的 you ni de)" has become a buzzword overnight as an article titled How to avoid becoming an oily middle-aged man(油腻的大叔 you ni de da shu) went viral, causing hot discussion on China's social media platforms Weibo and WeChat, followed by endless headlines with a similar theme that replaced middle-aged man with middle-aged women, young people ,and various professions. The adjective refers to being cynical, acting entitled or belittling others. However, when the term refers to foreigners and expats, Chinese people have their own interesting yet thought-provoking insights.

What are "oily expats" in the eyes of Chinese, and what are "fresh expats" that Chinese people want to become friends with? Metropolitan spoke to people who have had rich experiences getting to know different nationals and asked for their opinions on the topic. 


1. Superiority based on having a foreign face 

 "I have to say that most foreign nationals I know are very nice people, but there is one type of expat that makes me very uncomfortable," said Vivian Peng, who has been working in the foreign trade for years. She thinks an "oily expat" refers to someone who pretends to be sophisticated with global vision when they actually come from a low-class or unsuccessful background in their home country.   

 "A foreign face doesn't guarantee a broader horizon or a global mind, and it is pointless playing international elites if you are not," Peng said, stressing that earning a large income just by having a foreign face does not work in China anymore. 

There was a time in the past when a foreigner was rarely seen in China and locals worshiped foreign things, described as Chong yang mei wai in Chinese, but "things have changed," according to Peng. He added that in cities like Beijing where population diversity is high, people will not treat you more favorably in the workplace just because of your exotic background.  


2. Mr. or Mrs. Unhappy  

Oily expats are also unhappy people who always complain about everything and refuse to embrace a new life in the local environment. 

"They feel suffering living here, refuse to learn anything Chinese and the only reason for their stay is for work," said Ba Yingxuan, a PR manager in Beijing. She feels sympathetic to this type of oily expat since they miss out on opportunities to explore something new in a different country and enjoy their lives in China, saying that their pessimistic attitude drives people away.

China has been open to the world for a long time and what Chinese people expect is real and genuine communication, instead of only polite greetings and warm receptions. Sophia Hou agrees. 

 "Their pet phrases are 'this is wrong' or 'that is wrong,' and 'I have the right for this or that,' but they have not considered integrating into the local society," said Hou.


3. A false sense of charm  

"Some guys will use their identity of laowai (foreigner) to show exaggerated enthusiasm, overly praise you or pretend to be close to you," said Hou, who works in Beijing. She finds it hard to stand the oiliness of those who pretend to be overly interested in order to gain trust and feelings from an unsuspecting Chinese girl. 

Chinese people are more subtle and reserved, whereas Westerners are more outgoing and open, which is totally fine, but it makes one uncomfortable if their enthusiasm is fake, Hou said. "It's good just to be real and natural." 

Meanwhile, some say this type of oiliness is seen in bars when some expats boast about their exotic life experiences to try and hook up with girls with what they think of as "foreigners' advantages."  

"They would first buy you some drinks in a bar, boast about their country afterward and then ask you to their apartment or hotel," said Li Tong (pseudonym), adding that some foreign men enjoy being a "playboy" among local girls and even boast about their "dating skills."


We tend to stay away from the above kinds of expats. But keep in mind, Guanxi (关系), the connection, is what get you far in this country, which means having many Chinese friends turns out to be quite essential if you want to be happy and successful in China! Check out the next article for "Fresh Expat" that Chinese like to befriend with!