China at Night

Bars and clubs. I turned 21 in America, actually, but let’s face it, going to a bar by yourself during summer school in the town of Middlebury wasn’t the most appealing thing. But being in China, I had the opportunity to accompany some friends on a few nights out to experience China’s nightlife for all it’s worth. And the highlights happened to be people watching…

Example One: We entered the club and got a table near the dance floor. A quick glance around is mind-boggling in the diversity of people. Foreigners, locals, and foreign locals alike are all of a sudden on a level playing field. I notice. On the dance floor. A older white man is dancing with a young Chinese woman. The woman has her legs wrapped around him and they are wildly criss-crossing the dance floor as such. Three arabic-speaking gentlemen are on stage dancing as if no one is watching. I admire them for their oblivious nature. The table in front of us is a high-roller Chinese couple. The young Chinese woman is arguing with the waiter. In front of her are four different glasses of beer, full. Why? Looks like she keeps saying that the waiter is getting the order wrong. The man tries to get the woman to stop chewing out the waiter. The couple finally sits peacefully. They begin to “dance”: the man sits and the girl sways back and forth in front of him. They leave without even touching the beer. To my back, are three young Chinese girls who have come to the club together. It’s an experience for them. They dance in that awkward Chinese way but don’t dare venture on to the actual dance floor. They too are here to people watch. A young white ex-pat dances with a racially-ambiguous woman. She looks Chinese-ish but is decked out in green, almost army-ish, pants. They begin making out. A few minutes later, a black gentleman begins dancing with the same girl. He gets in a kiss but she get squirmy. The following 20 minutes or so are composed of the girl trying to avoid the advances of the black man as the young white ex-pat looks on without comment.

Example Two: We knew what we were getting into. We were going to a gay bar. Some students (both gay and straight) had gone before and said it was well worth the experience because it was real: no foreigners went to dives like this. But gay anything in China is looked down upon so finding a place where so many gays congregate is like finding a gold mine of underground culture. We went in. We got looks for bringing so many foreigners and so many girls into the club. But they pretty much immediately knew that none of us were actually gay (minus perhaps our one friend). So, we were left alone to watch. And there wasn’t much to see except that these were some of the best dressed and looking Chinese males out there. The typical Chinese male found on busses and siting on the sidewalks of China isn’t exactly the model of beauty: sweaty, dirty, oily. But we quickly left people watching for dancing. The girls particularly liked dancing at this place. Why? No sketchy Chinese men trying to dance with them. It was a safe environment to dance without being oogled at as foreign women.

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