In general, it works both ways. China’s exotic for Europeans. Europe’s exotic for Chinese people – often in a somewhat undiscriminate way, same as we pack together Vietnam, Thailand and Japan under the label ‘Asian.
Still sometimes, the results of that Euro-drive can be surprising – like that weird affection for all things German in Tianjin: German products and German bars on 1902 street, German beer stalls outside JinWan plaza or, even stranger, the ‘Golden Hans’ bar in the Tesco centre.
One particularly interesting manifestation of this exoticism is linguistic. Not so much the famous ‘Asian-English’ on signs, t-shirts and stationery (my favourite was a girl wearing ‘panda, panda, I love to cuddle the cute animals’). But rather, the relatively well written, yet weirdly kitsch sentences about happiness and freedom, like this one on the walls a PingAnJie concept cafe – fashion shop.
Sometimes, the foreign word is a commercial argument in itself – like ‘c’estbon’ water (literally, ‘it’s good’) – made in China, with added French glam.
Sometimes, a touch of euro-language can glamour up a whole room – like this Italian wisdom clock from a design shop in 798 district.
Or sometimes, it’s just a spray of Greek alphabet on a black wall which, somehow, will appeal to the customer – conjuring up a dream of classic elegance, romaticism and sophistication.