Reply To: How to Become a Local Laowai

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Language proficiency is of far less importance in the “Age of the App”.

How so?

I know guys here who speak much less Chinese than me, but embrace the culture more, have far more local friends than I, and are generally living a more “Chinese lifestyle” than me, and some of these cats, literally, cannot count to 10. It’s all about your attitude and your willingness to engage people and new things.

Learning the language is a major component of the culture. It’s crucial piece that unlocks everything else. You know people who aren’t interested in learning Chinese, but they live a Chinese lifestyle and surround themselves with locals without being able to count to ten? That’s a little hard for me to imagine, although we all start off not speaking any Chinese or having any knowledge of Chinese culture.

There are a lot of people doing interesting things in Chengdu: Eli co-managing the Sinostage dance studio, Michael opening up Suit Republic and Dragonfly, Larry and Jacob opening the Natooke bicycle shop. All of these people speak excellent Chinese and that’s what it takes to really make a splash in Chengdu. The expats who don’t speak Chinese and are having a meaningful impact on the city are… very few and far between from what I can tell because they’re competing with expats who do speak Chinese, and that group is just much better equipped to navigate and get things done.