Wanted: Gringos With Lax Morals

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Here in Guatemala, we call them, “The Token Gringos.” Sometimes, when we send our attorney or other high-ranking employee out to a governmental meeting, we´ll have a foreign volunteer with feeble Spanish tag along, often in a suit and tie. It´s usually a good learning experience for the volunteer. It´s also good for us; gives us that sought after international vibe.

Apparently, this is not novel. As CNN recently reported, “Token Gringos” are regularly rented by Chinese companies, some even willing to pay top dollars for gringos to pretend that they are employees.

Some call it “White Guy Window Dressing.” To others, it’s known as the “White Guy in a Tie” events, “The Token White  Guy Gig,” or, simply, a “Face Job.” Regardless of what you call it, appearing to have an international presence, whether you actually have one or not, helps you play with the big boys in China as well as other parts of the world.

“Face, we say in China, is more important than life itself,” said Zhang Haihua, author of Think Like Chinese. “Because Western countries are so developed, people think they are more well off, so people think that if a company can hire foreigners, it must have a lot of money and have very important connections overseas. So when they really want to impress someone, they may roll out a foreigner.”

These rolled-out foreigners often give speeches, pretend to answer questions through pseudo translators, act like the head honcho, and, in general, just try to look as foreign as possible. Something foreign gringos seem to do with apparent ease.

All ethics, morals and racial discussions aside, you can at least file this one under “ways for travelers to make money overseas.” It is certainly selling your body, but with less health risks.

By Luke Armstrong


About the Author

LukeArmstrongLuke Maguire Armstrong lives in Guatemala directing the humanitarian aid organization, Nuestros Ahijados. His book of poetry, iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About (available for sale on Amazon.com) is especially enjoyed by people who “don’t read poetry.” (@lukespartacus)

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