A few weeks ago, one of the engineers who works for me presented me with a red card covered in Chinese characters. I couldn't read it, but I was excited nonetheless; I realized I had been invited to my first Chinese wedding.
To be honest, I was a little suprised. I don't really know this guy and he hasn't worked for me for that long. At first I thought he invited me, hoping I would give a large cash gift. It is customary for everyone attending a wedding to give 200 RMB in a red evelope. 200, 600, 800, 2000, 6000, and 8000 etc. would also be acceptable, but since 200 RMB is 1/4 of what a factory worker makes in one month, most only give 200. Perhaps my staff member thought I would be able to afford a larger gift? After all, it is a well known fact in China that all foreigners are loaded walking wallets with gold bullion spilling out of our pockets as we walk. Seriously, they teach that in Chinese schools.
Later whilst talking to another staff member, David, I learned the real reason I was invited. He explained that there would be two parties; one for close friends and family and one in the evening for the factory workers. When I told David that I would only be able to one party, David replied that I should go to the first party with the close friends and family, because the bride's family would be very impressed that their new son-in-law was such good friends with a laowai.
Of course!! They don't want you there because of friendship or anything like that! They want you there to say, "Look, I have a laowai at my wedding, look how important I am!" This sentiment struck me as being similar to my previous company's view on me. I am convinced to this day that the only reason that theysent me to China was so the Chinese division could say,
"Hey Customer, look how much money we are spending on your account! We brought a foreign expert all the way from America because you are a very important customer to us and we are trying to save face from the s**t service we are actually providing to you. No, we are not actually going to listen to anything he says or impliment any of his suggestions, despite the fact that we have no idea what we are doing and he could help make us competent..."Sigh... but I digress.
Anyway, once I had told my friends about it, Louise and Nick (no, not me... the Nick that's living with my girlfriend. Yes, I know...yes, we've heard the jokes) came up with the idea for a new business: www.rent-a-laowai.com. They figured that some Chinese people would pay good money to have laowai come to their weddings, business meetings, birthday parties, etc to pretend to all of the other guests that they are best buds with the renter.
Think about it... you'd get paid to get trashed at Chinese weddings!! I know a few people in Yantai that would be well suited for the job. Jack "Chinese guys like to grind on me" Wagner (dude, they totally do when you're wearing a fur coat and you know it) alone would bring down the house at almost any Chinese party. He'd put the Chinese MC, who's job it is to "marry" the couple and then makes jokes at the grooms expense, out of a job!
Here is my proposed business plan, in detail:
Oh wait, no. No, that's not right... That's from the Underpants Gnomes episode of South Park. Well, back to the drawing board... I hope Louise or Nick have a better business plan. Oh, and I hereby claim all rights to the "rent a laowai" buisiness on behalf of Nick, Louise, and Nick.
The wedding was actually very fun and I am glad I was invited. The groom is a good guy, and I was very happy he allowed me to participate on such a happy day for him.