Ten reasons I may never live in China again

I've written alot about my experiences in China.  Good times, etc.  But China has changed alot since I left.  Indeed, it might harder to go back then before.  China has become more complicated.  One could even say it is "no country for foreigners".

China has successfully built a wall around itself.  Chinese know nothing about Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.   And the ubiquitous presence of WeChat within Chinese society makes it harder in many ways for people like me to fit it.  One cannot simply be only "half immersed" within Chinese culture, but rather be all in.   It's hard to be all in. 

People that brag about being all in I'm increasingly wondering perhaps have no place within their own native society.  Be it Denmark, Spain or Brazil, or anywhere.   These are all future posts for me, but for now I want to speak about the top challenges a middle aged man returning to China will have.

Aside from the above, you see, China is increasingly simply for young people.  It is certainly no place to settle down, and if you think it is, then  you must be running from the law within your own society.  As such, I've often wondered if I was to live in China again what it would take for me to survive, and what I would need to do to flourish?  I'd rather talk about the mental barriers.

Let's start with the obvious:

I'm mentally too old to club.  That is, when a younger man in China, I hit the club several times a week, but not for what you think.  I'd long since stopped going to a club to pick anyone up.  Rather, I just needed a damn drink to calm down from a long day.  Maybe two.  A few times, simply being nice to someone would lead to fun afterwards.  But as I've said before, when in China, regardless of your life experience within China, everyone will still assume you know nothing about the place, it's your second day in China and you certainly cannot speak Mandarin. Thus don't expect women to come clawing over you Mr. Blue Eyes, because they will assume you cannot communicate with them. 

Still, I've seen too many old white men in tight jeans, their guts hanging WAY over their waistline, at the bar just hanging out, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.  I don't want to be that person.  I'll still need that drink, buy you see, I'm less inclined to drink a cocktail nowadays, and am more inclined to drink straight bourbon.  I'll just have to find somewhere else to do it.  Are there any clubs in China for anyone like me?

Another reason is WeChat will own my soul, and I don't want that to happen.  I am stubborn about this.  Perhaps out of step with progress.  Fair enough.

WeChat is an obvious topic of the future, but Chinese laws dictate one must hand over one's Existence to the WC Gods before one can even begin to live a proper and normal life.   Yes, they've made it easier.  Previously one must download WC in China, not from overseas, AND have a Chinese bank account in order to buy things on WC.  Without that I found I couldn't even get a subway card.  I guess they expect all foreigners visiting China  to NOT take the subway?  Then by default perhaps I will be taking a taxi?  I think they still take cash......?

Now I believe one can actually spend $ on WC with one's native country account for 45 days or so before the local Chinese account must be opened.   Again, I want to be fair, because I remember all too well my experience in Italy trying to exchange USD for Euro's.  It took close to an hour.   And I have no idea if I can use ApplePay in China or not, but if I can, that's even faster than WC.

But I find those that brag about how good life in China is with WC are probably right, but as a professional, I'm really not interested in getting a Chinese bank account if I do not have to.   My employer, you see, unlike perhaps an English Teacher, pays directly into an American account. 

I just felt life in China for the laowai was easier a decade ago, and selfishly speaking I'm not convinced it has become easier now.  But that doesn't matter of course.  It is easier for the Chinese, and that is all that matters.

But when China becomes a fully cashless society then what? 

I have the same problem about using my passport when exiting a train.  What is the point? To the Chinese it is progress.  But it is also control.  The Chinese have no concept of privacy.  They are not meant to.  The point of this "progress" is "control", but that is only an issue if you've been a bad, bad boy.   Because Privacy equates to Freedom.  And Freedom in China would only bring Chaos, right?  And America recently has not been a shining exemplar of the concept anyway, so until we get our shit together, I'm going to stay mum on the subject.

My point is I'd rather use a simple ticket when exiting a train station, rather than a passport I could lose and never find again in the mass of people.  I'm too old to be wowed by the technical progress of Chinese society.  Technological progress has been vital to herding China's cats so to speak, but this progress has made me more of a fish out of water.  And no one wants to be that floppy fish on the beach.

I'll address the rest of my top ten in another post.


  1. Why? Why are you so anti-WC? Life using WC is really convenient... After Snowden-PRISM news it is a known thing that everybody spies... Why would you be so anti WC? Wherever I go, whichever app I use, it is known that somebody takes my data and looks at it as it is... What is the difference if it is a China government or US one?

    For me the EU/USA is just boring. I do not think I could find myself working or living there full-time ever again.

    Of course I am not uncritical of China. A sane person will not set the roots here - unless they got married and have kids, but still it is not something for me.

    Why not take the money earned in China and buy properties in other Asian countries etc? One does not need to choose China vs EU/US lifestyle. You just go to China, make a buck and then plan your exit in other country...

    Not sure if this resonates with you.

    For all the newcomers, I'd say that China is no longer a provider or "China dream". For an expat starting a career now in China there's no big bucks to be made.

    Here's question to you: Would you advise somebody to come to China right now and make a living and career there? It was still possible to do in 2010- but not in 2020-. Better to stay in one's own country.

    We no longer get high salaries for speaking Chinese and for our knowledge. We no longer get a shot at GM positions at EU/US sourcing offices... They'd rather hire cheaper Chinese (who are well educated and have lots of great working experience - all these professional jobs within many industries have been actually exported to China). Try to find a costing engineer...

    Also whenever a CFO changes in the EU/US headquarters of a company, they love to get rid of highly paid foreigner...

    1. First of all there is alot to unpack here, and I thank you for your thoughtful reply. I'm not anti WC. But I may possibly have an opportunity to be spending more time in China than I have been, and my heart tells me to live there, but my brain fights me all the way. And the problem for middle aged dudes like me we are inclined to listen to our brains.

      China Wife already has a bank account in China. Maybe I can use that? But do I really want China Wife seeing my expenditures? Nope. Nor would I say I am being overly critical of China. The technology is cool. The first time I used my passport to exit a station I mocked the train staff with a "this isn't gonna work", and when it did they had the biggest well deserved smirk on their face.

      To try and answer you one by one: Yes once you've been to China Baby, you can't go back....life in the West is BORIIINNNNGGG! I want the frontlines. I want the action. The energy. The sweat, and the stares. I admit it. I come home to America and my biggest concerns are buying the bread and gassing up the Odyssey. WTF?

      Yes, it's not worth it coming to China now to make your "fortune". Too many traders showed up, and a few folks opened up businesses as middlemen, and started sourcing companies...like me. Still my advice is learn the language first! Then get a job and gain fundamentals....have an education. The education get's one the job as much as the Chinese does. All this shit takes a decade. Language, experience, niche.

      But if you have passion, it will happen. Those that go to China and don't learn the language or the rules don't have the passion. They just want a quick buck and some easy pussy. Very, very few people can go to China unless their dad is a CEO and just open up shop. Good luck with that. But China isn't going away folks....it will be back in vogue, just not for the next thousand days.

      Finally...I disagree with you on one point . Using Chinese within American companies in America is suddenly out of vogue. They are all considered corrupt or spies. Wrong or right, that is the perception. Even in China, the US companies now what an American leader in the top job. What about the EU? On a tagent, Tesla in my view made a big mistake going to China. A future post.


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