German Federal Express Likey Chinaman Velly Much

Here’s a current banner on the German homepage of Federal Express: Fedex_asia_bag_de_2   

["Federal Express — The Art of Simple Shipping to Asia"]. Isn’t Ching-Chang (or Wing-Wong, or Ting-Tang) adorable, with his little conical hat, slit eyes, and traditional robe?

There’s nothing unusual about racial caricatures at an ordinary hotel in Essen. But on the front page of the main portal of an multinational corporation? On a webpage that could be seen by thousands of Asian potential customers? That’s new. Ancient Chinese philosopher once say: he who put ethnic stereotype on advertising risk losing market segment!

18 thoughts on “German Federal Express Likey Chinaman Velly Much

  1. Germans are totally clueless about it!

    The statue of a black guy (ops, afro-european, since he was in a german hotel) was really disgusting. I´ve seen it on the premises! It was an ordinary, but part of an international chain, american, I suppose.

    Well, call me racist, but I fancy the cute chinese guy … these stereotypes are mostly bad. I fly of the handle, everytime I see the “image” of brazilian women abroad: mostly almost naked. But I wouldn´t mind of they´d portrayed the brazilians in that ad with a Carmen-Miranda-like-caricature.

    Ai ai aiai aiiii, heve you ever been to the tropics? 😉


  2. Next time some hapless US corporate dump dares to stereotype my poor, abused compatriots ethnically, say, with dirndls, lederhosens or beer mugs, I’ll have the UN send some Blue Helmets to shove’em some cuckoo clocks up their rear entrances!

    Then again, I just could get a life like very many chinamen, who might not get the finer points of star spangled PC at all.

    …ok, ok, the Essen hotel guys, er, persons, are nitwits indeed. Oh dear, make that ethically challenged, lest the marines come over and send me to Guantanamo.


  3. I may be thick, but I don’t see what’s so shocking about the statue at the Hotel in Essen, except that the lobby(?) looks ugly and really needs to be renovated, and that I wouldn’t put a statue in it personally, but it’s not the first time I see a statue sitting on a chair in a bar, café, lobby or restaurant, and it’s not the first time I see someone going out with a parrot. The guy is dressed properly in a style that has existed in Western countries. What is it that I’m missing? Could you enlighten me?
    What surprises me every time after 15 years of living in Germany, is to see people disguising as caricatures of Africans, blackening their face, etc. for Carnival… and even to support Togo during the World cup (seen in Cologne). It’s not the kind of idea someone growing up in a multi-cultural environment would have. I bet the creative director for this FedEx ad is a member of a Carnival society.


  4. Marek has a point here, as long as you deal with black, asian, latino or indian (sry american natives)people, you are all for Political Correctness.
    But as soon as you can make jokes about or talk about stereotypes of german, french, italian or some others you loose your sense of PC. Don’t missunderstand me here I’m not a saint either and I don’t think I want to be.

    Ok an example:

    Oh I find it funny too and I’m a German, but PC, can you really imagine that same guy doin such a joke about africans or asians. Oh, what do you say, that guy is white so what the heck? Yes white but not German. Nonetheless it’s funny, I like it.


  5. >What is it that I’m missing?
    In olden times, black folk wearing western attire were the object of mockery, as they were supposed to run around half naked or in rags. In many parts such a guy would have been in for a bashing, …or taken as model for a funny statuette with a parrot. Exceptions did apply.

    >What surprises me … is to see people disguising
    >as caricatures of Africans … and even to support
    >Togo during the World cup
    We might not be all that neurotic if there were Multi-Kulti over here worth speaking of, and not social segregation, both forced and deliberate.

    >It’s not the kind of idea someone growing up
    >in a multi-cultural environment would have
    Living in multi-cultural environments like Kreuzberg, Neukölln or Köln-Kalk tends to yield astoundingly little New York-style Multi-Kulti, but rather tense and disgruntled bi-kulti between turkish Muslims …and the others, those others being 95% teutonic plus the occasional dash of yellow, brown and black, so the tourist office can take some nice pictures on carnival.


  6. Oh, please stop crusading! I know that this picture surely isn’t “political correct” for most US citizens but so are Christmas trees, too. Yesterday, I saw a similar picture of a Chinese as part of a Chinese restaurant’s logo. Do you think that the little Turk of “Hasso Kebab” ( is also a racial carricature? Personally, I see no great difference in comparison to the FedEx Asian. I’m very interested if concerned Americans will complain to the Özdemir family which is responsible for the website…

    It’s an “ethnic sterotype” to show a nice cartoon picture of a friendly Chinese but it seems that it’s absolutely OK to sell “Surrender Monkey” beer in the US ( with a Napoleon-like monkey on the label. That’s really insulting.


  7. Please note that nowhere in the original point did I use the phrase “political correctness” (which, in any case, is a meaningless catch-phrase) or suggest that Federal Express be punished in any way.

    The comments make two points clear: (1) Many Europeans don’t find the caricature Chinaman offensive; and (2) Many Europeans are at least bemused, and sometimes offended, by caricatures of their own ethnic group (“Surrender Monkey” beer, lederhosen, dirndls, etc.).

    Perhaps people who are members of a particular ethic group are the best judges of whether a particular portrayal of that group is insulting. Even if they aren’t the best judges, they will always claim the right to judge whether a particular portrayal of them is honest and respectful, or a mere caricature.

    Put another way, the European cannot simultaneously dash off an angry letter to the Edenton Brewing Company to protest “Surrender Monkey” beer and, at the same time, mock those hypersensitive Asians who might take offense at the FedEx site, or an African who might take offense at the laughing, barefooted dancing Sambo that’s the logo of an Italian espresso brand.

    So, it’s pretty much an all-or-nothing situation. We can either live in a world in which ethnic groups feel free to propagate insulting caricatures of each other, or we can live in a world where this is frowned on (not prohibited by law, mind you, but simply frowned on). I rather prefer number two. Note that I’m talking only about insulting, superficial caricatures, not honest engagement or critique.

    And yes, it’s the target of the caricature that gets to judge. Generally, caricatures that highlight the unchangeable aspects of someone’s appearance (skin color, shape of eyes or nose) tend to offend the most.

    Here’s some free advice to FedEx: if you want to highlight your delivery service to Asia, why not put a picture of an actual Asian person on the website? And when you do, you’ll probably want to portray them in normal business attire, since I rather doubt that FedEx makes many deliveries to rice paddies.

    And as for “Surrender Monkey” beer, it probably tastes better, right about now, than, say, Coalition of the Willing beer.


  8. Thank you Marek for your explanations about the statue. I was only aware of the opposite kind of thing. (Sending some Canaks from New Caledonia to Germany in the 1930’s, as a present from France, undressing them and teaching them some animal screams to make them look more “real” in order to show them in an exhibition as the crocodiles that were planned for it had died. Many of them went mad after the experience.)

    As for the “Multi-Kulti” environment, I was talking as someone who grew up in a French suburb with a majority of immigrants, mostly North Africans and Africans, but also Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Lebanese… at a time where no Muslim woman wore a scarf or a veil and where the situation of suburbs was not rosy but not as hopeless as it is now. The first time I’ve seen a child growing up in a city pointing at a black man has been in Germany. My point is that in my experience, German are less used to living with different looking people and tend to find it less offending to caricature these people than I do. For an American, it might look that generally, Europeans have less experience with living with “non-caucasian looking” people, and thus produce more caricatures.

    As for Dirndl and Lederhose, people were wearing them on the Bavarian TV programme I caught last night, and it looked very much like they do wear these kind of attire most days. (I do find it bemusing.)


  9. Andrew,

    thanks for your answer. You’re absolutely right that FedEx should be sensible by using this picture for the Asian market. There are cultural differences and honestly speaking, I don’t know how Asians will interpret it, so I will ask some Korean and Japanese friends the next week. But there’s a difference between ethnic stereotypes you play with and an offensive carricature or a racial insult. Seems to me that the criteria are different in Germany and the US. Another example: When George Bush gave Angela Merkel a shoulder rub at the G-8 summit, some US bloggers named it a “sexual harrassment” saying that a CEO runs the risk of losing his job for such behavior. Well, nobody in Germany, especially no women, spoke of a “sexual harrassment”. It was an inadequate behavior for a president but in the Germans’ perception it had nothing to do with “sexual behavior” and it’s surely no reason for losing the job.

    But I never heard of any German who found the stereotype of Schnitzel and Sauerkraut eating Germans in Dirndl and Lederhosen *offensive* and therefore went to the court or started a boycott. Quite the opposite – at the beginning of the Soccer World Cup you saw a lot of men in Lederhosen and girls in Dirndl! German breweries and Bavarian tourism managers would be extremly stupid if they wouldn’t use this stereotype in their marketing campaings. French Bashing à la “Surrender Monkey” beer IMHO has another quality because it has a decided political meaning. Note that I’m absolutely against a ban of this beer. I don’t think that French people will find it funny but they have to accept this special kind of bad taste. If I want to make fun of English kickers missing penalty or the driving behavior of Dutch tourists with their caravans I also have to accept their special kind of humor about Germans.


  10. Some comment makes a point clear: I should have used <sarcasm> tags, as I couldn’t care less, should some twerps use dirndled maidens to sell off their stuff. When I studied there, I didn’t even mind having a padre giving me the ol’ Heil Hitler salute. Firstly, he was a fan of that guy (Adolf being popular in Latinolandia), but even had he tried to offend, I wouldn’t have bothered – he was a twit either way.

    As for the frown power attack on insulting caricatures, ready to wreak havoc on the world’s equanimity, I’d weigh in the intention of the perp: FedEx wasn’t cleverly advised choosing such a trite idea of inept execution. However, it’s unlikely they were intent to put off any customer, while most Chinese are likely to understand that. Besides, they’ve got 4000 years of history behind them, and some great years to come. Unlike some other, shaken, insecure, and quite prickly civilisation, left behind by modern times, they are not all that likely to give a damn or burn an embassy™.


  11. Another unreqested rant No 1:

    >German are less used to living with different looking people
    Yep, instead of shanghaiing the world’s most upwardly mobile people of any creed or colour, as the USA or Canada do, Adenauer, Erhard and Kiesinger had the good thinking of giving 2 year contracts to gastarbeiters from southern Europe. As those guys knew what trade unions were good for, the Arbeitgerverbände had the government switch to Turks. Besides, the Turkish government wanted to join the program to make some bucks. Requisitions: cheap labour, skills not needed, trained not to cause trouble by the local landlords of yore. Coming from eastern Anatolia, poverty stricken, barely grade school or not even that? Welcome, the conveyor belt is waiting, WWII having used up all the ingrown cannon fodder.

    When the first 2 year period was over, our capitalists realised that sending them home to train new ones was costly – big surprise. So they had the government cancel any time limit. When the left took over, they just let things roll, till 1973, when the oil crisis and an economy slump made Willy Brandt declare the Anwerbestopp. Now only Familiennachzug (the right to have your family come over) was the only way to get in. So our country bumpkins had their bumpkin brides come over. Don’t speak German, trained to obey hubby and Imam? Merhaba! Since then, 60% of all Turkish grooms go to Turkey to marry. The family is happy to get another one a visa, and would be quite unruly if he didn’t care for the little service, besides, only Turkish brides born over there have got what it takes. So even the second and third generation gets born having a father who might speak broken German (and broken Turkish), and a mother who doesn’t speak German at all. On the other side, very many Turkish girls get sent to Turkey, so they don’t get corrupted by Western ways, say, in school. When they reach nubility, they get a husband and a trip back home to raise children to be faithful to forefather’s mores, being fluent in broken German and Turkish, future Hauptschule dropouts largely. Those who pass, having absolved tenth grade, mostly have forth grade skills. Mind you, the labour market not even having much use for good tenth graders anyway. (1,2) Those of the world’s poor not having a chance to get to USA, CN, AUS or NZ for lack of requirements, took to come to Europe’s holy lands – political asylum being the magic ring. Good thinking of their part, I’d do the same. As unskilled labour is less and lesser in demand, and asylum seekers not being allowed to work anyway, the welfare state chipped in what was needed. As our asinine electorate still yet feels we’re not an immigration country, these guys don’t get language classes, lest they are very resourceful and enterprising, like, say Hirsi Ali. They don’t get any professional traing neither, but hey, they receive vouchers for the supermarket.


  12. Another unreqested rant No 2:

    As my compatriotes’ nationalism and racism at least partly could be, well, explained with not being, er, used to foreigners, lest they belong to the pariah class we cultivated with zeal, all parties catered to the “Wir sind kein Einwanderungsland” (we aren’t a country of immigration) credo to not get dumped. So expressly no-immigration-policy rules in our non immigration-country: no checking immigrants for needed skills, no language training, much less asking for proficiency in German, no giving a damn to what happened in schools, where immigrant percentage reached up to 100%. Other European countries acted with similar wisdom and foresight, the shit hitting the fan in slightly different ways, according to local customs, history and the colourful national ways of making an ass of oneself.

    When Islam began to turn nasty elsewhere, we checked at home, and, lo and behold, we had a problem too, but no Houston control. Now the clever guys know that we *are* an immigration continent, the really clever ones even know that we *need* to be an immigration continent to halt social and economic sclerosis, lest China, India and the USA make of Europe a very, very old continent. So the really, really clever begin to emigrate. Thank God for our ingrown anti-Americanism, else Europe would be a natural park already. As anti-Semitism and authoritarian rule are quite the hype, we’ll get along, when demography cares for some regime changes in a couple of decades.


  13. Another unreqested rant – finis:

    Heck, our querfront guys from left to right even discovered that “Islamisten, Nationalisten und Linke” should close their ranks against the “aggressor,” that’s how things are, in a “Weltkriegssituation.” (Junge Welt, 8/2/2006, free copy at weltexpress) Should you not know, the Junge Welt, together with the Neues Deutschland, is the unofficial PDS party rag. Some smart PDS guys and dolls feel it’s embarrassing, but they don’t have much clout.

    Some plain urls to circumvent some typepad comment spam filter:


  14. So what? The caricature would be “racial” and an example for “ethnic stereotypes” too, if it would show a “white guy”. So the only solution is to completely hide the messenger’s “race”. Maybe we should only show his shape, or a stickman. But unfortunately then maybe the women feel discriminized, because it clearly shows a MAN. And so on. So we better do not display any human caricatures anymore. Never. Nowhere. Right? No? So what’s your suggestion?


  15. My God, people are really getting upset here!

    I agree with Andrew that a good alternative would be showing a chinese native wearing an ordinary ocidental business attire. Anyway, I think the main subject from the post is the (lack of) cultural awareness from germans. Well, let´s consider then that americans have different “concepts” of intercultural awareness than germans, as brazilians, chnese pleole and others may have. I think FedEx should (or already had) consult(ed) their partners in China to check if they think that the cute caricature is offensive to them. If it´s not, go on.

    BTW: other FedEx´s local websites do not portray any kind of “ethnic stereotype” like the german.


  16. I asked two guys, one from Singapore and one from Japan – they laughted and raised their eyebrows when I asked them about “racial stereotypes”. Note that this is neither representative nor very convincing because both are born in Germany and live here for more than twenty years. So I hope that “Mr. Mong” ( won’t get angry letters from concerned Americans, too.

    Véronique, your comment is very strange, to be friendly. Your wrote: “What surprises me every time after 15 years of living in Germany, is to see people disguising as caricatures of Africans, blackening their face, etc. for Carnival… and even to support Togo during the World cup (seen in Cologne).”

    First, in carnival people disguise as pirates, cowboys, Indians, Chinese, Sheiks, Turks, Popes, nuns, kings, queens, clergymen, bears, cats, mice, devils, angels, etc. Men disguise as women, and in Colognia, an old man as part of the Kölner Dreigestirn disguise as a VIRGIN! Is this sexist? I hope that you don’t understand the Büttenreden… Blackening your face is nothing more than part of your costume. Are you familiar with the “Sternensinger”? Little Catholic kids who went from house to house in January, playing the “Three Kings Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar” for collecting money. One kid always has blacked his or her face. What’s the problem?

    Second, the support of Togo was a great enjoyment, especially for the Togolese who hadn’t much possibilities for going to Germany and cheering their team. The few Togolese in Germany were really fascinated that people from other countries went to “their” matches and that they were supporting the Togolese team with “their” national colors. They had a lot of fun because of this and therefore they party with their new “Togolese” after the matches. I haven’t heard one single complaint about the black faces which typically weren’t simply black but were also colored in red, green and yellow. For what reason? Actually, sometimes it were the Togolose themselves who colored the faces of white fans…

    Ligia: I wrote neutraly of different criteria, you wrote of (lack of) cultural awareness. This is your interpretation but a lot of people here disagree because they don’t see such a lack. And this raises an important issue. My personal experience is that especially Americans very quickly complain about “racial sterotypes” and “discrimination” where other people don’t see this at all, especially the supposed “victims” who typically weren’t asked. Maybe they’re sometimes right, mabe not.

    American non-Muslim feminists write a lot about headscarfs in Europe and poor discriminated Muslim women in their blogs without even basic knowledge of the background and the real situation of these women in European countries. Actually, it’s the European feminist movement and feminist Muslim women in Europe who strongly argue against headscarfs. If you try to tell this to US bloggers, they suddenly become angry or feel affronted. It’s a very childish behavior like “Well, but I had only the best intentions and now, the people I selfless care about don’t thank.” We know this argument from the Iraq war…


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