In full uniform and towering over most people, Dutch Dick Croon, 33, gets stares everywhere he goes—from Chinese and foreigners alike. "Why does that guy always dress like a security guard?" people ask. Because he is one—trained as a bodyguard and in martial arts, Croon has worked as a professional freelance bodyguard for nearly a decade in Chengdu. He lives with his wife and son.
How did you become a bodyguard?
Actually I wanted to be a police officer, but one of my friends became a bodyguard, and he was traveling around the world, and I thought that would be more interesting.
Who are your clients?
Businessmen. Sometimes a deal goes wrong, and people want to take some kind of revenge. I have a Chinese client who is worried about his kid, for kidnapping or ransom, and then sometimes I'm a babysitter, or sometimes I go out with the wife shopping. Some people just use my face; they think it's better for their business if they have foreign bodyguard.
For foreign officials or managers I think it's better to have a foreign bodyguard than a Chinese one. You don't have the language barrier. I know how to go around in this place, because I stayed here for many years, and I think I'm good at what I'm doing. And I'd rather work for foreigners because I don't get in so much trouble. If I work for Chinese people, I interfere in Chinese things.
What's the biggest difference between doing this job here and in Holland?
Here I can solve a problem easily, because of my height and the way I look at people. In the West they are not scared of you. In Holland they even beat the police; they don't have any respect. The main thing I have to do in my job is keep my client safe. Most Chinese bodyguards just know how beat somebody up. I prevent things. I don't even need to use any violence if I do my job right.
Which weapons are you allowed to carry?
As I'm registered at the police as a bodyguard, pepper spray, tazer, baton. If I walk around with this stuff on the street, I don't have any problems. If the police asks me about it, I just call a number, and it's over. But I'm not allowed to carry a gun. .
Have you ever used them?
I did, yeah. I don't rely on my weapons; just a normal conversation with somebody should be enough. But some people don't want to listen, so I give them a few warnings.
What's the worst situation you've gotten into in Chengdu?
When my Chinese client had an argument with somebody. That guy went out, and I thought he left, but he came back with a knife and wanted to attack my client. I jumped in front of my client, and I got the knife. I wore a vest, but it was quite frightening, because it wasn't a small knife; it was a machete. So he hit my vest, luckily. A few inches higher, and he would have hit my throat. I've been hurt several times. In China, I've not been stabbed, but sliced and beat.
Do you like your job?
Let's say I like the money. Meeting many interesting people, that's the best part. Some people say I must be suicidal to do this kind of job. I don't think so, especially in China; there isn't that much crime. The thing is I'm best at what I'm doing now.
What's the worst part?
Getting into a fight. A bodyguard is not somebody who likes to fight. You do everything that is necessary to avoid a fight. That doesn't mean it always works. But it's not like the movies—tough guy with sunglasses that beats the shit out of somebody. That's not the job. In training they already let you know that there might be some situations that really can do damage or even get you killed. It's not that I want to be killed. But if it's necessary to put myself in front of the life of my client I will do it. That's the job. It's not so glamorous. But you have to be a guy that stands for his principles.
How would you advise a foreigner in Chengdu to behave in a potentially violent situation?
Walk away. The most powerful weapon of the Chinese people is the mobile phone. I had a situation in a bar I thought was solved, and when I walked outside there were six people waiting.
You've been in fights with foreigners.
Yes, sometimes. Some foreigners think I'm a con-artist, a fake person. So sometimes they try to challenge me: "You think you are a tough guy, you just dress up. I can do your job." I try to be nice to people—hey, we are both in this strange country, so chill. If they really insist on getting into trouble—they can get it.
You're also a musician, right?
To compose music is actually my hobby. My mum, who is now a grandma, comes twice a year to China, and she supports my music, she believes in my music. So whatever I need she will buy it and get it to me. I'm an only child in a very far away country. She doesn't want me to get hurt, so if there was another way to make my living she'd be more happy. I hope [someday] I can make some money by making music for commercials or movies because I can do it at home. Have a cup of coffee, compose some music. It's relaxed.
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