How Foreign Viral Video Stars in China Are Defying Stereotypes

Young foreigners are finding popularity online by putting their experiences in China front and center.

Beginning in late 2016, people passing through Wudaokou — a Beijing neighborhood popular among the city’s foreign population thanks to its proximity to nearby universities — might have noticed a young man strolling around the area, trying to talk to his fellow foreigners on-camera. Though the dark-haired expat is often politely but firmly rejected by those he is attempting to interview, he deftly edits the footage he gets into five-minute video clips that often go viral on social media apps and streaming platforms, such as Weibo, WeChat, and Bilibili.

The young man conducting the interviews is Raz Galor — also known by his Chinese name, Gao Yousi. A 23-year-old Israeli, Galor received his bachelor’s degree from Peking University. In 2016, Galor founded a startup with Chinese classmate Fang Yedun, and they now run one of the most popular social media accounts that depicts the daily lives of foreigners in China and has 2.28 million followers on Twitter-like Weibo. The startup’s Chinese name translates to “The Crooked Nuts Research Institute,” and is a pun on the Chinese word for “foreigner,” which — when said in a foreign accent — can sound like “crooked nut.” This malapropism has become a popular and amusing — if gently and friendly teasing — way of referring to foreigners among Chinese.

Recommended ReadingConfessions of a China Live StreamerBy Lauren Hallanan

Galor and many of the other so-called crooked nuts that appear in his videos have surprised Chinese people — not just in terms of their diversity, but also in how steeped they seem to be in the local culture. Many of these crooked nuts speak near-native Chinese, with some having even mastered one or more of the country’s various dialects. They get around town on shared bikes, buy things through online shopping site Taobao, order takeout through Chinese apps, watch Chinese television dramas, and keep up with their favorite Chinese stars.

Together, they reflect the ways in which a new generation of China-based foreigners is skillfully using new media to showcase their daily lives. A (stereo)typical foreign-made video about China might focus on subjects such as tourism or food. The presentation of such videos tend toward orientalism, with China and its people treated as the Other for viewers to either marvel, ridicule, or both. The foreigners appearing in these videos are often little more than sightseers — flitting along the periphery of Chinese life, taking quick, surface-level snapshots, and then leaving. Crooked Nuts videos, on the other hand, are able to showcase more interesting aspects of Chinese life — in part due to how integrated its stars have become into Chinese society. One of the account’s most popular videos from 2017 is titled, “Ever since these crooked nuts became obsessed with Chinese TV dramas.” Continue to read the full article here.


-This is original content by Sixth Tone and has been republished with permission.