I waited at the McDonald’s at one of the many uninspiring malls for everyone to come. It could have been anywhere in the world because these joints don’t have much variety for lifeless interior design, but the giveaway that this was Jakarta, Indonesia, was the hijab the Muslim female employees were wearing. Aside from the profile pictures I saw on the Couchsurfing site, I had no idea what to expect aside from fellow expats of the American variety and a few locals, plus whomever else was coming for the meetup.
In walked a small gathering of people, and thanks to the token white American, everyone else knew which table to flock to. Within five minutes, I was mentally checking for red flags: the Vietnamese American girl had proven to have characteristics of the Hedonist, the Sanctimonious Turd, and the Expat Bubble Airhead as detailed in my previous report. Disappointing. She seemed to be an open-minded girl by her profile, someone who wouldn’t treat locals as Others, and wasn’t treating life here as vacation mode before returning to the shallows she came from in Orange County. Then the white American, a bastard who epitomized the ignorant loud-mouth Yankee stereotype when he violated every taboo. He did everything from touching women with his left hand “to be a bro”–a big no-no, because most folks, but not all, wipe themselves with their left hands and use water, not toilet paper. He was being loud, had a local girlfriend, and brought in outside food, eating it there defiantly and proclaiming “I’m American and if they try to sue me, I’m leaving for the states anyway”. Gary Farmer describes this prick best.
But there was another type of international prick there: the local scum. It is a two-way street, because when you’ve been around the world, you’ll find that there is a certain percentage of a population in any place that make up the dregs of society. While it’s already been written about the expat bastards, here is a brief summary of the several types of self-serving locals you will meet when traveling, and why being an Asian expat in Asia makes dealing with them worse. Before we begin, a quick disclaimer: don’t be the douchebag foreigner, and don’t be the local scumbag. As long as you’re not one of these five, you’re a normal human being, but if you see a part of yourself in what’s here and in the last piece, don’t get mad, get rid of that inner bastard.
The Asskissing, Social-Climbing Expat Space Invaders: These are the folks who will take plenty of pictures with foreigners so that they can show off to their friends how cool they are. In their minds, having fair-skinned friends is a sign of prowess and popularity. But oh wait, if you’re not of Anglo heritage, you’ll still meet some folks who will enjoy you for your personality and consideration for their culture…Not. It’s professional ass-kissers like these who allow individuals like Mr. Self-Entitled Hedonist I mentioned earlier to continue being idiots. This is the same kind of sip-sip that people who idolize Trent Reznor have when they scream with orgasmic ecstasy because his spit landed on their face. You won’t get that some love and worship if you’ve got a yellow face, but you will find yourself being treated like you’re an idiot or have money to spend on them, since you’re an expat, therefore, to them, you must be rich.
The “Bear Trap in Their Crotch” Future Ex-Boyfriends/Girlfriends: This is the type of idiot what spawned the “me love you long time” stereotype that Asian Americans abhor, but also includes the men. You can totally get into a relationship with a local if you wanted to regardless of your face, but you’ll notice there’s a certain type that doesn’t just want to social climb, they want an exit. That exit could be a plane ticket away from home, or an arm to cling to and say “Hi everyone look at me, he’s with the Texas mafia don’t mess with me!” for girls, and the “Look at me, I can get foreigner ass too, I’m alpha male!” for guys. Image, security, and escape are their game. But one thing people fail to realize that the stereotype doesn’t elaborate on: you are foreign, they are connected locally. Piss them off, and if you don’t know your way around, congratulations: you are not just a stranger in a strange land, you are now marked for trouble–especially if you date business, political, military, or police folks.
The Prodigal Pocketbook Parasites: Although this really should fall under the Space Invaders category, these are climbers with an agenda which is more monetary than social. They aren’t after foreign friends to “look cool” by having pictures to show to their friends and families or justify obnoxious behavior by associating with equally indulgent idiots. In fact, they’re after you because they want to live the high life at the expat bars and clubs–and you’re the one buying drinks for them in exchange for hook-ups with “great work, hot guys and beautiful girls, and show you around the sights of Chiang Mai, Bali, and Boracay”, which, of course, you get to pay for them for their help. It’s like having a personal tour guide who eats your food, drinks your beer, and you can never pay enough to go away. True story: some Filipino Americans I knew in the Philippines were looking for someone to “introduce them to their culture” and they were taken to the most expensive restaurants, market stalls, and on the priciest transportation there–all of these businesses they were taken to were owned by friends and family of the self-appointed guide and translator friend.
Oblivious and Dogmatic Fundamentalist Patriots: There’s a certain arrogance associated with being an extreme patriot and nationalist that inspires people to stick their noses so high up in the air that they can’t even smell their own bullshit. They come in all sorts of varieties, from the Singaporeans who say that they speak “proper” English which is a perfect blend of British and American that the world will one day realize and adopt, the mainland Chinese who wreck Japanese restaurants (which are actually Chinese-owned), and the people who oppose the Philippines’ Reproductive Health Bill because they think “We want to be a tiger economy in Asia, and what is a tiger without teeth?” Never, never, never discuss race or politics with these people, especially about Asian America. They’ll talk about what they know and act like they know more than you, even if you’re not a dumb college student who knows everything about Asia from watching a couple documentaries for class.
Xenophobic Live Trolls: Assholes have existed long before Internet anonymity. These are the folks who aren’t necessarily out to make friends, they’re out to find someone to voice their anger at. While you’re at a bar and someone hears your American accent, they go up to you to talk about how horrible America is for dropping bombs in Cambodia and Agent Orange in Vietnam, invading Iraq and Afghanistan, and how the health care and education systems are an abomination. These trolls don’t care if you didn’t vote for those pricks like Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes who sodomized America with their lies, they want someone to know their hatred for George W. Bush even if you voted for Gore or Kerry. They’ll talk about how your music is bad and how you’re ignorant to the issues of the world, making it a point to educate you for being a dumb gaijin, buleh, laowai, and farang, the greatest crime. And if you’re Asian American, they will teach you to be proud of your culture if you are the same ethnicity, but if you’re not, then they’ll tell you why their country and people are better than yours, insulting your heritage and your home country. Pro tip: tell them you are in the process of becoming a citizen of Equatorial Guinea, and if they’ve never heard of it, they’re ignorant assholes; that’s the best way to get them to leave you alone. Or at least gives you enough time to slip away as they head straight to Wikipedia.