Believe it or not, in China white guys can get a job posing as businessmen for companies who hire them to look more international to their real partners. It’s called “White Guy Window Dressing” and it’s apparently a very popular business tactic.
What makes this such a great job for white guys in China is that it has some really simple requirements: be white, don’t speak any Chinese, or speak at all unless asked, pretend like you just got off an airplane the day before, and look good in a suit. The people who usually go for this king of gig are part-time models and actors, English teachers and expats looking for a quick and easy paycheck. It’s called “White Guy Window Dressing”, “The Token White Guy Gig”, or simply the “Face Job” and it’s so popular in China these days that there’s actually a company called Rent A Laowai (Chinese for “foreigner”) that helps businesses improve their image by providing fake white employees or partners.
Although this kind of practice is relatively new, it’s tied to a centuries-old Chinese belief about the human face. “Face, we say in China, is more important than life itself,” says Zhang Haihua, author of a book called “Think Like the Chinese”. He believes that because some Western countries are so well-developed , many Chinese people think that if a company affords to hire or do business with a white man, it must have a lot of money or connections abroad. That’s why some businesses will often hire Caucasians to simply sit in an office near the window, where clients can see them pretending to work.
But most white guys are hired to travel to second and third tier Chinese cities, where their presence is needed to impress officials and business partners. Jonathan Zatkin, an American actor who lives in Beijing, told CNN that three years ago he was paid 2,000 yuan to go to a small city in the province of Henan, and pose as the vice-president of an Italian jewelry company. He was up on a stage with the city’s mayor and gave a speech about how wonderful it had been to work with their local company for 10 years and how proud he was of their work. There was a bandstand in his honor and everything. But this was just a small job. Others pay over $1,000, but are also more dangerous, according to another white rental. The Beijing police knocked on his door after a company he had worked with for a couple of months swindled millions from its clients and told everyone he was in charge. The poor man couldn’t even remember the name of the company…
So the next time you’re in China and looking to make a quick buck, try posting an ad for white guy services. You don’t even need any experience.