The Veteran Sensation
11 Nov 2004
Last Friday I went with Brad to a bar called Mural. It’s really popular on Friday nights, especially among the expat community. It has a comfy loungey interior, and, perhaps more importantly, it has a 100rmb ($12.50 US) deal for open bar until 2am.
The bar was probably something like 80% expats. Most of them were looking to kick off the weekend in drunken splendor. It had been a while since I’d been in that kind of atmosphere.
I’ve been in Shanghai for close to a year now, and I’ve got exactly two expat friends in Shanghai. One of them is my co-worker and one of them I knew before the move. I’m long overdue to make a few more expat friends here. It’s no secret that I have no love for Shanghai’s high-rolling China-oblivious expat crowd, but it would be ridiculous to prejudge or label such a large group of diverse people, and there’s no sense in rejecting one form of prejudice in favor of its flipside. It was time to get to know some new people.
I soon discovered a pattern, though. Most of the expats at Mural were young English teachers fresh out of college who had been in China for less than a year. Many were almost ready to go home. When they learned that I had been in China for over four years, the tone of the conversation would shift. I was “experienced,” I “knew Chinese,” I “understood China.” I didn’t make any of these claims. The people I talked to projected this impression.
I suddenly felt like a high school senior at a freshman party. I wore my four years in China like a letter jacket.
I’m not sure how I feel about all that. It was just an odd sensation.