Thursday 16 January 2014

How to be a clueless China-expat

If you're a fan of hathos, this post on the NYT's "You're The Boss" blog is a treat. It's a list of the things that Deb Weinhammer, a small business owner who I'm sure is a nice person, misses between China and Arizona, and it has this awesome opening:
United States: Brushing my teeth in running water. I have earned to love that I don’t need a bottle of water to brush my teeth at home in Arizona and can just use the tap without any fear of contamination.
Errr . . . Deb, why are you worried about brushing your teeth when further down you say:
China: Fruit and vegetables. There are so many different kinds of produce in China that aren’t available anywhere elsewhere and have only Chinese names.
If you're eating fruit, Deb, you're likely getting just as much exposure to contaminants as you would using tap water to brush your teeth - though personally I didn't worry about either of these things, though I boiled all my drinking water and drank tea everywhere. Hell, given the concerns about bottled water in China, simply drinking bottled water may not be a panacea. And what are these fruits and vegetables that only have Chinese names? Even something like Bok Choi is known by what is at least an Anglicised version of its Chinese (Cantonese?) name.

Then there's this:
United States: Driving my car. Foreigners can’t drive in China, and I love to get in the car and go.
I must just be imagining all those expats I know in China who not only drive there, but got their driving licenses there, and have been for years. What IS the case is that China doesn't recognise the international driving license, but if you want to drive there, and are willing to jump through a few hoops (I understand you can now even take the test in English), you can do so. Driving in China was, at least when I was there, a bit hairy given the rather lax enforcement of traffic laws, and most cities now have fairly good public transport, so I can understand not wanting to drive there, but it simply isn't the case that you can't drive there.

And then there's the references to the economic advantages that expats have in China:
China: My driver, Mr. Li. It is very inexpensive to have someone drive you around in China, and it allows me to catch up on my reading.
Personally, I've always felt a slight distaste for expats bragging about things being 'cheap' in China. Obviously things are not 'cheap' for local people, and saying that they are in front of them is bound to offend them. People do not like to be thought of as 'cheap'.

Like I said, I'm sure Deb Weinhammer is a nice person, but I wish they had learned a bit more about China before sitting down to write this piece, and the NYT should have read it a bit more closely before publishing it.

(H/T Ryan McLaughlin, AKA the Lost Laowai)

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