Steve Schertzer

No pants (and no brains)

They're coming to a city near you and it could be anytime soon.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This one may be worth millions.


Just look at the expression on the faces of those sitting on either side of this idiot. Clearly, they are not amused; nor should they be.

Now let's look at a few more pictures. Insert stripper music here:

But wait! There's more!

Not to be outdone by men, foreign women have been known to be a stupid species as well.

What is this scene, you ask, just another night on the town for expats? This embarrassing nightmare is brought to you by a New York based performance art group known as "Improve Everywhere": a group of utterly bored people with so few brain cells, you can count them on one hand. According to what I've been reading about them on the Internet (and only for research purposes) Improve Everywhere began taking their attention seeking illness to the subway in New York City in 2002. Since then, the illness has spread to over 60 cities worldwide.

Dubbed "No Pants Subway Ride", it took place in Shanghai on Sunday January 13 of this year. It was the first time this was held on mainland China, and I hope it will be the last. Some reports say about 30 foreigners took part in Shanghai; some reports put the number as high as 50, while one article said "about a dozen." Apparently, the reporters must have left their math skills in their pants pocket.

There is no rhyme or reason for this kind of nonsense. According to their website, "The mission started as a small prank with seven guys and has grown into an international celebration of silliness, with dozens of cities around the world participating each year. The idea behind No Pants is simple: Random passengers board a subway car at separate stops in the middle of winter without pants. The participants do not behave as if they know each other, and they all wear winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. The only unusual thing is their lack of pants."

It is one thing to celebrate silliness in your own country; but, as a foreigner living and working in Asia, this kind of "silliness" has no place here. I have no idea what these foreigners do for a living or why they are in China, but I am willing to bet the family farm that not a single one of them is a brain surgeon. They may have Bachelor's degrees or Master's degrees, but all their years of education are useless without a lick of common sense.

It's bad enough that foreigners, especially foreign English teachers, are seen as low class, ethically-challenged, beer-swilling, skirt-chasing Neanderthals. It's bad enough that way too many foreigners in Asia spend their evenings and weekends drinking to extreme and posting their sexual exploits with Asian women all over the Internet. But do they have to go on the subway and take their pants off to prove what tasteless, morally-depraved, and vile creatures they can sometimes be? Did it occur to any of them that children may be on the subway, children with their mothers on the way to Wal-Mart, or grandma's house? Did they stop and think before taking off their pants that mainland China may not be the optimal place for this kind of Western silliness and stupidity?

According to, Johanna Hoopes, one of the organizers said, "We got stared at a lot. But actually foreigners always get stared at in the metro in China, so this was nothing out of the ordinary really."

Yes, we foreigners do get stared at a lot; especially when we remove our pants in public places. But if you're going to get stared at on the subway, why not be stared at while helping a youngster with her homework; or speaking a few friendly words to her like, "Hello" and "What's your name?" It may not have occurred to Improve Everywhere that riding the subway sans pantalon may not be the way to go when it comes to cultural exchanges between the East and West.

According to an article on, the organizers of the Shanghai event said they were not worried about getting in trouble with the police. "We're not trying to offend anyone - we just want to make people laugh," said Hoopes. "But if the police did come, we all had our pants in our bags so we could just put them back on."

On, Hoopes says that the event was pretty successful for its first time and that she was "just glad that no one got arrested or kicked out of the country."

No one got arrested or kicked out of the country. Now therein lies the problem and the solution.

The Chinese authorities are not blameless here as well. They could have (and should have) done something about this. I am currently living in Shenzhen China, right across the border from Hong Kong and teach in a public middle school. I have been here since December 7, 2012.

On January 24th and 25th of this year many public school teachers in the Futian district of Shenzhen, myself included, attended an orientation or training seminar on living and working in China. On the morning of the 25th a police officer from the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau gave a talk titled "Interpreting Relevant Laws and Rules." What was said was simple and to the point: We foreigners are not allowed to work on a tourist visa. We are to have all our original documents ready for the processing of a resident's permit, which allows us to stay and work legally while in China. We are not to engage in any part-time work outside of our designated school. It is illegal to take recreational drugs or narcotics and to visit houses of prostitution. Those who break these laws, or any other laws in China, can be faced with fines, deportation, and even prison time.

I can understand the strict prohibition against working on a tourist visa, taking illicit drugs, attempting to pass fake degrees and certificates to prospective employers, and even availing oneself to a prostitute every now and then. What I don't get is this: Why it would be illegal for a foreign teacher to spend one's free time helping a teenage boy or girl pass a TOEFL or IELTS examination (yes, for some extra money), while absolutely nothing happens to a bunch of foreigners who ride the subway in their underwear. Someone please explain this kind of Chinese logic to me. The "No Pants Subway Ride" in Shanghai was a perfect opportunity for the Chinese authorities to make an example of foreigners who seem hell bent on making fools of themselves.

What these brain dead foreigners did on the Shanghai subway was not a childish prank or a publicity stunt. It was a crime, and should be treated as such. The "No Pants" foreigners were not simply being silly; they were being offensive. They were being rude and crude. They were "sticking it" to the Chinese people. The "No Pants" display was equivalent to "flipping the bird."

But it was far worse. The unwanted public display of hairy, smelly buttocks is more offensive than any middle finger.

So here is what the punishment should have been: Johanna Hoopes, (pictured on the left without pants), was right to be concerned about getting "arrested and kicked out of the country."

So why not arrest them and kick them out of the country? Appropriate punishment, if I do say so myself. But before arrest and deportation, I have something more sinister in mind. Since they embarrassed the Chinese people with their tasteless display of public semi-nudity, it's time for some payback. Round up all those who participated in the first annual Shanghai No Pants Subway Ride, put them on their knees on prime time television, (I hear CCTV 1 is popular), and have them apologize to the Chinese people for disrespecting the Chinese nation and its culture. I know that it probably wouldn't be a sincere apology, but that's beside the point. What matters here is that these people be publicly shamed and humiliated for what they have done. Then arrest them, fine them, and deport them.

One more thing about foreigners with no pants: The fact that there were women at this event is doubly offensive. With all the discrimination of females in the developing world, with all of the visceral hatred of girls and women in culturally backwards nations, with all the sexual assault perpetrated against women and girls on a daily basis, it is tragic and unfortunate that one of the organizers, a woman, chose to join that circus dubbed "No Pants Subway Ride." As a woman, she should have known better. As a woman, she should have cared more and been more cognizant about what others would have thought about such a display. Miss Hoopes, and others like her, where is your dignity and self-respect?

Having said all this, I consider myself fortunate to do what I do. I have a challenging and rewarding job. I teach in a good middle school, have friendly co-workers, and some hard-working students. I have been blessed to meet some amazing and dedicated foreign teachers here in Shenzhen, some of whom are professionals with advanced degrees and many years of teaching experience in their home countries. That gives me hope that the TEFL industry may not be as sick and depraved as I sometimes make it out to be.

I just wish I could hear and see more stories about teachers in foreign countries who are doing some good work. Less photographs of foreigners on the subway in their underwear and more photographs of foreigners in distant lands like this:


I'd like to point our the irony that the picture you posted of your ideal "foreigner in a distant land" is very clearly a kindergarten teacher in some Western country with a very racially diverse class. If you want to get a more accurate idea of what most foreigners abroad are like, check out

So, Steve, let me guess... this is your first time working abroad? Instead of being a judgmental douche of the foreigners around you, maybe try making friends with one or two of them. You might find that they're sincerely intelligent and funny people.

By Alice, Wonderland (1st June 2013)

Get a life and stop worrying about offending a subjugated race. They need to be rattled by people like this.

By David Bonnie, Bangkok (21st May 2013)

Hey Steve, did you write something like this about Pussy Riot?

By Cli, Riyadh (27th April 2013)

There are many things in the world which are worth the time and effort to get upset over; a bunch of silly individuals taking off their pants as a tasteless joke is not one of the them.

By Jack, Not were I was yesterday (20th April 2013)

From what I can see... these "silly people" are all wearing underwear. Aren't they? Is what they are doing even illegal?

"Silly" article, Steve! Is this really all you have managed to muster up for a diatribe on westerners in the X amount of months since your last article?

Poor pickings, petal!

By Craig David, Bangkok (20th April 2013)

The limits of freedom should be the freedom of others. Whether anyone chooses to dress or not to dress, as long as nobody else is harmed, should be nobody's business. Getting offended, disrespected, or similar "injuries," depends only on the brains of the particular "offendee", if there is such a word. Somebody may be offended because females do not cover their faces in public, or males shave their beards. Is the whole world supposed to avoid offending such idiots? (No special peeve against Muslims, my sisters were harassed to no end for wearing pants in church, and that was done by Christians and back in the good old USA--yes, I am a little bit on the old side, but I sure remember that).

By Mike, Thailand (19th April 2013)

I was with you until the public shaming. That's a little bit too authoritarian state for my liking, sorry.

By Robin, Vienna (19th April 2013)

@John Miller, I think these people are just disrepsectful, attention-seeking beatniks. I think Mr. Scherzer does make a point that these people are thumbing their nose at Chinese society when they do something like this. Whether or not they have a degree isn't the issue in this case.

The real issue is that there are some (emphasis on SOME) foreigners in Asia who come over here behaving like idiots. It reinforces all kinds of bad sterotypes about the rest of us.

Whether deportation is warranted for the people on the subway is debatable. But certainly they need to be hit with a fine.

By Matt, Riyadh (19th April 2013)

Lighten up. It's only a bit of fun and what does having an advanced degree have to do with being a decent person? As you said some of these people having fun on the subway have bachelors degrees too. Sounds like you enjoy your job but possibly not the rest of your life.
To suggest that these people should be arrested and kicked out of the country is a bit harsh.

By John miller, Bangkok (19th April 2013)

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