Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A more cynical 'bucket list': 10 things you probably will have done before you leave China

My earlier list of things to do before you leave Beijing was mostly rather jolly and upbeat, wasn't it? Most out of keeping with my usual year-end curmudgeonliness and depression!

This selection might seem more in character.

10 more-or-less obligatory expat rites of passage

Spend several months in full-time Chinese studies, culminating in an immersion experience and a failed attempt to pass the HSK

Discover that you can learn all the Chinese you will ever need from taxi drivers

Start dating a Chinese girlfriend/boyfriend, and find yourself railroaded into marriage in under a year

Invest in a bar or restaurant

Have your bar or restaurant stolen out from under you by your Chinese business partner

Divorce your Chinese spouse (who was probably your errant business partner, or one of their relatives)

Open a t-shirt shop (as being the only kind of business small enough for you to have a chance of being able to set it up without a Chinese partner/spouse)

Forget almost all the Chinese you ever knew, apart from the swear words (which provide most of your t-shirt slogans)

Make enough money to retire back in your homeland, but then find that revaluation of the renminbi has taken 30% off the value of your savings (and/or that the bank has frozen your account because, as a foreigner, you have no truly valid form of ID in China)

Get yourself arrested on your last night in China for some minor drunken indiscretion such as spitting in public or urinating in public, and spend another big chunk of your savings bribing the police to release you


Mike said...

None out of ten for me :-D (Shelley got me after 18 months, for which I still feel grateful!)

Froog said...

You are an outlier, sir. Not going into business with your in-laws is one of the keys to domestic happiness, I believe.

I don't think there are many people who can honestly claim they haven't notched up at least one of these. And I fear it's almost inevitable we'll all run into some problems in trying to get our money out when we finally go.

I know a lot of people who've got 3 or 4 or 5 of these under their belt already, and they haven't even been here that long.

Froog said...

And I think just about everybody has had that experience at some point of feeling that nearly all the worthwhile Chinese you've learned, you picked up from cab drivers. (Maybe that's becoming a less common perception, now that cabs are so damned hard to get?)

It's also relatively common, I think, among longer term expats to find their Chinese starting to wither from disuse. Certainly, once you go back home, if you don't work hard to keep active in using it, it fades pretty quickly.

Froog said...

And I know four or five people who managed to get in trouble with the police just prior to leaving (well, in a few cases, had to leave because of the trouble). So, that's one we all have to be fairly wary of, too, I'd say.

And the long-term success percentage of business ventures with Chinese partners is close to zero within my sphere of acquaintance.

Mike said...

We've occasionally thought about opening an Scottish-themed bar or restaurant, but I know how much damn work these places take!

Froog said...

I'm sure that could be a huge moneyspinner - provided you don't mind it pitching it towards Chinese punters only, making it an ethnic petting zoo like the World Park and the Minorities Park (formerly the Racism Park).

Froog said...

You'd probably be expected to show Braveheart on continuous loop, and have all your staff wear kilts.

It there was more of a Local Hero/Whisky Galor! kind of vibe, I'd be there.

Do you have any plans for Burns Night?

Froog said...

A missing 'e'?! I hate that.

Time to invest in a new keyboard, perhaps.