Fear not unemployed (white) Americans, there’s an exciting new career opportunity in the East. In China, Caucasian foreigners are in demand, with Chinese companies willing to pay to have pale-faces pose as fake employees, business partners, or girlfriends.
Foreigners are still often associated with wealth, power, and connections (irony!), and Chinese businesses are willing to pay to have a strategic white guy present at meetings and key events. The practice is know as “White Guy Window Dressing,” the gigs as “Face Jobs” or “White Guy in a Tie” events. “Because Western countries are so developed, people think they are more well off,” says Zhang Haihua, author of Think Like Chinese. “So if they really want to impress someone, they may roll out a foreigner.” If no pale-faces are around the boardroom, they may just hire an unemployed actor, model, or expat English teacher.
Jonathan Zatkin, an American actor living in Beijing, was paid about $300 to fly, along with some Russian models, to a small city in the Henan province to speak at the grand opening of a jewelry store. He recalls, “I made a speech about how wonderful it was to work with the company for 10 years.”
One company, called Rent A Laowai (Laowai is “foreigner” in Chinese), posts classified ads online looking for foreigners. One such ad reads, “Occasionally companies want a foreign face to go to meetings and conferences or to go to dinners and lunches and smile at the clients and shake people’s hand…There are job opportunities for girls who are pretty and for men who can look good in a suit.” Hmmm…maybe we could export Heidi and Spencer?