May 4, 2010

Article: "When Hipsters Move in on Chinese: It's Ugly"

Flipping through a copy of the Village Voice, I came across this interesting article, entitled "When Hipsters Move in on Chinese: It's Ugly". The author discusses the gentrification of some Chinese immigrant apartment buildings in Manhattan, and the ensuing conflicts with the wealthier "hipsters" that displace the previous tenants.

Here's a few paragraphs:
The new tenants, mostly white, are in their mid-twenties. Many go to nearby art colleges—Parsons, the School of Visual Arts, Cooper Union—or are working their first jobs out of school. Some commute to schools in less desirable places, like Long Island. Many have moved in within the past year; their apartments have that Ikea/thrift-store feel. The other residents are working-class Chinese, most of whom immigrated to New York from Fujian province in the '90s.


The newcomers are mostly surprised—or thrown off—by the buildings' long-term Chinese tenants, who chat with each other in a strange language, leave their doors open so their neighbors can see them eating soup in their boxers and sandals, and let their children play in the hallway. These newcomers, meanwhile, do their thing: They rush out of the buildings with their cell phones pressed to their ears, go on Snapple runs because there's no food in the apartment, throw house parties, and stumble home drunk from nearby bars.


One thing I need to add right off, is that not all Chinese people are the same. Some older Beijing people might occasionally be seen in their pajamas, but if you see anyone eating soup with their doors open, wearing boxers and sandals, they're guaranteed to be one thing — waidiren. They're definitely not people from Beijing.

In the Village Voice article, the Chinese immigrants they're talking about are all migrants from the southern province of Fujian. They're the same transplants you see in Beijing and Shanghai spitting on the sidewalk, throwing ice cream wrappers in the gutter, pushing and shoving to get on the subway, sneezing without covering their mouths, and letting their kids take long, slippery bowel movements in the gutter.

The difference between a Fujianese migrant and a person from Beijing is as pronounced as the difference between a gang of Gypsy thieves roaming the streets in Italy and a group of German mechanical engineers. I suppose that to an author unfamiliar with the different regions and people of China, the details could be overlooked.

If I were editing the Village Voice, I'd have done a find-replace and changed all mentions of "Chinese" to "Fujianese" in that article. It kind of irks me that everyone got lumped together with the litterbugs and spitters from Fujian.

It's a good article to read from start to finish if you have the time.


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