Yada Yada Yada....

This country is no place for you.  Go home.  It’s crumbling roads.  It’s rusty subways, and long ribbons of headlight each and every morning heading into the city.   It’s Blacks, and Hispanics.  The Arabs and whoever else you want to call out.   People you never came across in your own country you now must deal with every day.  Does it unsettle you? The white men killing themselves in droves, stuck in a life with no rainbow in sight, working more from fear of losing ones’ health insurance than any joy or optimism for tomorrow.

Why did you come here?

You’ve made this place your adopted homeland yet you probably have no earthly idea who Bill Cosby is.  Or Seinfeld.   Or even Wolf Blitzer.  Few of you have cable TV.  Because you don’t watch American TV.  You are completely unassimilated and yet you have an American passport.

Now how the hell did that happen?

You maybe have heard of Martin Luther King, but I’m thinking most of you haven’t and you sure as 
hell didn’t watch the Super Bowl.  

Why are you here?

You Chinese.  The sadness in your eyes.   The body language says it all. 

You don’t want to be here.  

It’s hard for you I understand.   I watch you struggle with your English at work.  Surrounded by people you look down upon.  Perhaps rightfully so. 

And our skyscrapers aren’t as tall as yours. 

Am I being harsh?  Nope, not at all.  I know how you feel, and I know how you talk.  I’m enveloped by your vibes on a daily basis.   And I feel sorry for you.  America, or France, or Scotland, or South Africa, or wherever you are, just wasn’t what you thought it might be.   

“Los Angeles sucks.”

Yes, I am aware of that.  Very much so.  The traffic bothers you.  I get it.  But do you really think your laowai husband is really gonna want to go back to Shanghai?  Become a subway rat?   We like our cars. Sorry you can’t drive one very well. 

You dream of returning.

“Maybe when I retire”, you say.

That’s what my wife says.  Frequently.  Often.

It pains you to work for a person who in turn couldn’t find China on the map if it meant saving the planet from an asteroid.   And who in turn does not speak a foreign language.  And of course would never understand what it is like to live in a foreign culture. 

Yada yada yada.

Your boss even sees your “Chineseness” as a negative.  Something to hold against you of course.  Because like most of us, what a person cannot relate to they will demonize.   And the Chinese are increasingly becoming demonized. 

But you know you can never bring this up, because you know all too well what the response would be right?

“But you chose to come here….”

And they would be right, and you know they would be right.

I see the weekend release.  The joy on your faces when you all gather round somebody’s house.
Every single country in the West is the same.

We are all full of scattered weekend gatherings of Chinese on a Saturday night.   But never mind the Chinese.  In my neighborhood the Japanese, the Germans, the Indians, the Russians, the Brazilians, all have their weekend cultural schools as well.  The language lessons, the dancing classes.  


These weekend gatherings are in every American city, every enclave.  The Chinese here are quite strong.  But there’s nothing like knowing you can’t go back.   Dorothy was only a movie afterall. You are stuck in America.  (or whatever country you live in now) You know the bitter reality of it all. 

You thought America was the land of milk and honey until you came across the traffic, and its superhighways.   And the realization you really have nothing in common with the other 99% of the folks that live here.   Your five thousand year old culture can only get you so far right?  Funny in China you thought otherwise.  You are stunned at how little your neighbors or colleagues know about China.  Or your hometown.    

And it annoys you to know end how no one, just no one “over here” cares about your 5000 year old culture.  Hoping to leverage that eh?  Sorry. 

My CEO told me very recently, discussing a trip I will have to possibly make soon;

“I’d rather go to Texas than China”

And now your kids are growing up here.  And their English is better than yours.  And they know it, and they innocently wonder why your English sounds so funny?

What is your revenge?

“You could never survive in a Chinese school,” you smugly reply.

And of course you are right.

But you are also glad they don’t have to endure the gaokao. 

But you are stuck here.  Because your life is here.   Your friends’ too.  You look at China’s rise and wonder everyday, “what if?”

“What if I had never come here?” 

“Was it a mistake?”

My short reply is of course it was.  Probably the biggest mistake you made in your life.  How can you be proud of China if you no longer live there?    If you cannot partake of the rise?  It angers you that you “missed out” on the pot of gold everyone “over there” brags about having made.  

Your sense of remorse is overwhelming.    You wanted your “fair share” and didn’t get it….well, because you left!

Now what do you do?  You spend your life explaining away China as we see it.    China is the “Good News Society”.    The rice is plentiful and the grass always green.   Oh, and we built another carrier and signed another agreement with a fawning power.

Then you leave Oz and come here.  Where the news is bad and all is gloom and doom.    Kids with guns and where the good news is not fit to print.    And suddenly not everyone looks like you, or knows how great your culture is.  To them, you are just another foreigner with a shy smile and a thick accent.  Not the welcome you expected, is it? 

And it annoys you so.

“What?” and “Excuse me?” your most oft spoken phrases.

But you stay, and learn how to “play the game”.  You realize very quickly that neither piano nor violin skills will get a Chinese kid into Harvard.   Maybe not even a full SAT score!  But you adjust.  

You put your younger kids into….


And you endure.  Qualities any person, any country would admire.    In sum, I’m sorry you didn’t get rich.  And I’m sorry there is no pot of gold here for you.   China is a special case.  It brings out the regret and sense of chagrin more forcefully amongst its immigrants here than with any other nationality.

I doubt the local Serbian violin teacher my daughter now has will have the same sense of regret you probably have.

And your kids will never “know” China.  They will never wear that red scarf.  Or really appreciate the “culture” either.    But we promise they will know all they need to know about George Washington and Lincoln.  Apple and Facebook.   They will “learn” and “know” about China, trust me.   Does it bother you they will learn about China from a point of view that is not necessarily yours?  Not promulgated from a proper Chinese classroom or official Chinese textbook?  

But you came here didn’t you?  The “whys”……the “regrets”….only you can justify within your own mind.   Good luck with that.


  1. Hey mate,
    Its Kurt here I emailed you a year and a half ago regarding my gf and you helped me alot, I wanted to ask you some more qs about potentially moving back to China, if you could email me again at kurtbm88@gmail.com i would appreciate it.

    Thanks, Kurt


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