I’ve adjusted to the culture shock of being a white guy in China well enough, but one aspect of living here will never sink in: Chinese bromance with foreigners. Sometimes living in the PRC makes me feel like a smoking hot girl because Chinese dudes ask for my phone number way too often.
It’s not because they’re attracted to me, but because they want to practice their verbal English and/or be friends with a laowai (white guy). I’m a friendly guy when I need to be, but this rampant bromance is starting to piss me off.
In case you aren’t in the loop, “bromance” describes non-sexual affection between two straight men. It can be awkward as hell, especially when the feeling isn’t reciprocated between both guys, which is almost always the case with me.
My face is a beacon for every Chinese guy with a minimal grasp of English to whip out his phone and ask for my digits. The guy will then just point to his phone and say, “Telephone number?”
What Chinese guys don’t seem to grasp is that bromance isn’t cool. When I’m walking by myself, I don’t particularly like being approached by a friendly guy and questioned on my origin, occupation and telephone number. Once or twice is okay, but it has happened far too many times.
I’ve given my phone number to maybe twenty Chinese guys—all strangers—and not one of them has called me (thankfully). Collecting friends is for Facebook, not real life. Stop asking for my number just so you can tell everybody you have a laowai “buddy.”
And dudes whom I’ve never met have no qualms taking selfies with me. This sparks my curiosity. What exactly do they say to their friends when they show off their new photo? I imagine something like, “Look! Here’s a photo of guy I don’t know! Cool!” Sure, I photograph strangers all the time for this blog, but that’s for journalistic purposes. Maybe every guy in China is an aspiring photojournalist.
To be fair, all the guys I’m talking about have been very friendly. It’s clear that they’re genuinely interested in me for my foreignness and perhaps would like to get to know me better. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that they’re bros and I don’t want to be bromantic with them.
A message to all Chinese bros out there: just because I’m American and I come across as friendly doesn’t mean I have the time or desire to cultivate a friendship with you.