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vellocet
2 hours ago, realmayo said:

I admire long-term expats who can barely speak a word of the language. Think of all the time they've saved doing stuff they enjoy.

This is the weirdest perspective I've ever seen.

 

2 hours ago, realmayo said:

But I've had countless conversations in Chinese about where are you from, how many children do you have, do you like China, etc etc. Very superficial conversations - they're not going to provide any kind of deep insights which the monolingual expat is denied.

Superficial conversations like the one I had the other day with the building management when my sink's pipe was backflowing from the building and I told them to send a repairman to fix it.  Or when I ordered dinner today.  Or when I called the kuaidi guy and told him to hurry up with my package with the essential part of my Halloween costume for tonight, I need it today and not tomorrow.  Or when I wrote some amusing comments on people's videos on Douyin.  Or when I saw one of my buddies boating on the big river and I said "next time I wanna come too, bring me along!"  

 

Speaking Chinese allows you to just run your life. Without calling anyone or resorting to phone translators or gestures.  You can just do things for yourself.  You can have Chinese friends who don't speak English.  You can participate in activities.  You can bask in the warm glow of being accepted as just one of the boys.  Because Chinese people will accept you.  But you gotta speak the lingo, or else you will eternally be The Other.  But...you have to want to participate in the first place, and that's where I think a lot of foreigners aren't interested at all.

 

And I must confess there is a tiny part of me that heartily enjoys making people green with envy when they see I can speak Chinese.  The new crop of foreigners got here last month and I attended one of those ubiquitous welcome dinners.  At one point a non-English speaking Chinese person joined our mixed though all English-speaking table and we casually started chatting.  One of the new foreigners eyes almost popped out of her head.  Then he told a joke and all the Chinese speakers at the table laughed while all the non-speakers looked at each other uncomfortably. Getting the joke made me feel like a million bucks. I am ashamed of this and in some ways it makes me a very small man.

 

Honestly I pity the long-termers who don't speak Chinese.  I know a Dutch guy who has been here since 2001 and barely speaks a word.  He has a Chinese wife and two mixed kids.  Dealing with the "where are you from" is an annoyance, but the rewards of dealing with it are profound. 

 

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roddy
19 minutes ago, vellocet said:

This is the weirdest perspective I've ever seen.

I get that it's weird, but it's also a view I have increasing sympathy for. If you end up in China for some reason, and you have no particular interest in languages, and you find yourself able to live quite comfortably without any Chinese, and you're not doing any harm - so be it.

 

A reporter (or other professional) might be dispatched elsewhere at short notice, or be refused a visa. Work pays for an interpreter, he has access to the best English-language resources about China and he has an assistant to read and summarise the rest. It would be years and years of hard work before he could get his Chinese up to a level where it'd be useful in his work, and his social life flows along quite smoothly in English. 

 

Yes, you're missing out on something, and yes, learning Chinese would improve some aspects of your life. But we're always missing out on something, and learning Chinese has opportunity costs.

 

It does seem weirder when you're dealing with people who have families. But... ah, if it works for them, I'm not going to hit them with the judgey stick.

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889

A bit of honest self-awareness is called for. You look down on other foreigners because it makes you feel good about yourself and what you feel are your achievements.

 

"Thank God, I'm not one of them."

 

You think.

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realmayo
1 hour ago, vellocet said:

Superficial conversations like the one I had the other day with the building management when my sink's pipe was backflowing from the building and I told them to send a repairman to fix it.  Or when I ordered dinner today.  

 

Yes, superficial ones like those - basically, trivial. 

 

During my first two years in China, when I arrived speaking no Chinese and had a full-time job*, I made several friendships which remain extremely important to me, but I don't think that would have happened if they'd been conducted in beginner-level Chinese (or beginner-level English, for that matter). And without those friendships, I'd never have been that interested in China or Chinese, nor would I have been motivated to spend much time learning Chinese.

 

Imagine if I'd have told those English-speaking Chinese people who quickly became close friends that I had no time to chatter with them in English because I was too busy trying to attain sufficient Chinese fluency to one day summon a plumber!

 

1 hour ago, vellocet said:

But you gotta speak the lingo, or else you will eternally be The Other. 

 

Speaking Chinese shows you're giving China a lot of face, but I don't think it'll change any Otherness.

 

*16-hours a week teaching spoken English

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Lu

There is a lot of room between 'spending every free minute studying Chinese from day 1 to the detriment of all other activities' and 'not speaking a word of Chinese after ten years in country'. Neither extreme end of that scale is reasonable, in my eyes.

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pan.kasper

I do understand some people's frustration and personally I am still a bit uncertain whether or not i would study Chinese in the first place if i knew how hard it's gonna be. But i cannot say I regret it now, I'm really happy I can speak some half-decent Chinese and simply couldn't imagine my life in China without it. I mean, it's probably possible in cities like Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou, but trying going elsewhere (like Chongqing, Chengdu, Guilin, Kunming) and you will find there is not a soul who can speak any English. Life without Chinese in second or lower-tier cities is a nightmare. But that's what real life in China is and just staying in Shanghai can barely count as living in China in the first place. Without Chinese I would not be able to travel the country, I would never understand it's rich culture and Chinese way of thinking. Without Chinese I wouldn't get my scholarship to study my Masters degree here and my employability in the future would be much smaller. 

And yes, it took time and effort. Reaching my current level (which is HSK5, nowhere close to call myself really fluent) probably took me more time and energy than finishing my entire Law degree before in England, but it was worth it. It's the thing about studying languages: you only need to "study" it at first, after you reach certain level you don't really need to study anymore - just do things you like in that language. I did that when i was learning English as a teenager and I'm doing it now with Chinese. I believe that each person should have one special ability that distinguishes that person from others. I think for me it's Chinese language. Even after I will move out of China, being able to speak the language will be an ability that i will always value and be proud of.

Truth is, we could probably learn 2 to 3 Western European languages fluently at the time necessary to properly grasp Chinese. But learning to speak Spanish, Italian or French was never as satisfying or rewarding for me as learning Chinese

I do understand some people's frustration and personally I am still a bit uncertain whether or not i would study Chinese in the first place if i knew how hard it's gonna be. But i cannot say I regret it now, I'm really happy I can speak some half-decent Chinese and simply couldn't imagine my life in China without it. I mean, it's probably possible in cities like Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou, but trying going elsewhere (like Chongqing, Chengdu, Guilin, Kunming) and you will find there is not a soul who can speak any English. Life without Chinese in second or lower-tier cities is a nightmare. But that's what real life in China is and just staying in Shanghai can barely count as living in China in the first place. Without Chinese I would not be able to travel the country, I would never understand it's rich culture and Chinese way of thinking. Without Chinese I wouldn't get my scholarship to study my Masters degree here and my employability in the future would be much smaller. 

And yes, it took time and effort. Reaching my current level (which is HSK5, nowhere close to call myself really fluent) probably took me more time and energy than finishing my entire Law degree before in England, but it was worth it. It's the thing about studying languages: you only need to "study" it at first, after you reach certain level you don't really need to study anymore - just do things you like in that language. I did that when i was learning English as a teenager and I'm doing it now with Chinese. I believe that each person should have one special ability that distinguishes that person from others. I think for me it's Chinese language. Even after I will move out of China, being able to speak the language will be an ability that i will always value and be proud of.

Truth is, we could probably learn 2 to 3 Western European languages fluently at the time necessary to properly grasp Chinese. But learning to speak Spanish, Italian or French was never as satisfying or rewarding for me as learning Chinese

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歐博思
On 10/31/2019 at 11:20 AM, DavyJonesLocker said:

Contrary to what might people might expect I often see people with Chinese partners to be the worst of all. Namely because they let their partners handle anything related to a required use of Chinese (online shopping, ordering at a restaurant etc), whereas other expats are almost forced into figuring these things out for themselves. 

 

Be Ugly

 

 Learn Chinese 

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NewEnglander
On 10/31/2019 at 5:09 PM, vellocet said:

Lots of foreigners hate China and only came here because they have to pay back their student loans, and they chose a major that made them unemployable back home.  That's why they stick to Shanghai and Beijing, they are the most Westernized cities in China and if you live there you hardly have to deal with China at all.  They live in the English bubble and despise everything that's different from their home countries.  You're right about them being deadly dull to talk to.  They feel frustrated and want to vent their unhappiness on others.  

Quite a pessimistic view. Precisely how many foreigners do you know who fit this description?

 

I haven't met any who "hate" China. On the contrary the people I've met enjoy the country and embrace its differences. I refer to it as my home away from home. I haven't met any who are here to pay back student loans or to escape employment issues elsewhere.  I can only assume that maybe you speak of younger generations of newly minted graduates. The professional circles in which I travel are nothing like what you've described.

 

I suspect many foreigners "stick to" metropolitan areas for the same reason so many native Chinese choose to head toward the cities....in pursuit of better jobs, resources and income. I'm not aware of any rush by natives to move to rural areas of Yunnan or Xinjiang, are you? Of course not. In English your claim is known as a "red herring."

 

If you find foreigners "deadly dull" to speak with...it isn't simply because they're foreign.  Perhaps they're just dull. Perhaps one or both of you had nothing interesting to discuss. It's impossible to say without having observed your exchanges. Boring/dull/vacuous isn't a nationality or ethnicity...it's a personal trait independent of where one was born.

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realmayo
17 hours ago, pan.kasper said:

Life without Chinese in second or lower-tier cities is a nightmare.

 

The only Chinese city I've lived in properly is a second-tier one. For my first year there I spoke basically no Chinese - and I absolutely loved it! Had a wonderful time, met so many people.

 

 

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ChTTay
6 hours ago, NewEnglander said:

I haven't met any who "hate" China

You haven’t actually lived in China though, right? 

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NewEnglander
19 minutes ago, ChTTay said:

You haven’t actually lived in China though, right? 

Hi ChTTay,

 

That's correct. I've spent a grand total of just shy of 2 full years out of the past 5, typically a month at a time. And my experience with foreigners is mostly limited to business professionals such as myself. Unlike me, most of them have considerably more experience here (~25-30 years each).

 

 

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roddy

That sounds like a group self-selecting for not hating China. The complainers mostly wander off to more agreeable climes by the 25 year mark. 

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ChTTay

Old China Bros 

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NewEnglander
1 hour ago, roddy said:

That sounds like a group self-selecting for not hating China. The complainers mostly wander off to more agreeable climes by the 25 year mark. 

Perhaps.  Or a group experienced and measured enough to avoid engaging in contextually poor greener-grass comparisons.

 

I suppose one can find reasons to "hate" just about any locale if one looks long enough. Frankly, I prefer to leave words like "hate" for people prone to histrionics. 😉

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roddy

Vellocet? Prone to histrionics? Nah, he's a teddy-bear. Like me. 

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vellocet
On 10/31/2019 at 9:40 PM, realmayo said:

Yes, superficial ones like those - basically, trivial. 

I don't think summoning a repairman when your floor is flooding with other people's dirty dishwater is trivial at all.

 

On 10/31/2019 at 9:39 PM, 889 said:

A bit of honest self-awareness is called for. You look down on other foreigners because it makes you feel good about yourself and what you feel are your achievements.

I wouldn't have even brought it up had that lady not given me the staredown. It was like I just stepped out of an alien spacecraft.  I was like, 'jeez lady this is China, speaking Chinese is normal here' but kept my thoughts to myself.  And the part about the joke was great.  Wasn't there some world leader who was outed as a secret English speaker by laughing at a joke before the translator had a chance to begin?  I said it makes me a small man and I'm ashamed it happened.  But those new foreigners kind of yanked me out of my reality with their reactions.  

 

Being able to hold a conversation in Chinese is a legitimate achievement and I'm proud to have done it.  Honestly I'm pretty crappy - I advertise my low level in my avatar on this site.  I've got a long way to go before being 'good'.  But you're damn right it makes me feel good.  

 

On 10/31/2019 at 9:39 PM, 889 said:

"Thank God, I'm not one of them."

 

You think.

That's an amazing bit of mind reading you did there.  Can you read my thoughts again?  Can you tell me what I had for breakfast?

 

14 hours ago, NewEnglander said:

I haven't met any who "hate" China. On the contrary the people I've met enjoy the country and embrace its differences. I refer to it as my home away from home. I haven't met any who are here to pay back student loans or to escape employment issues elsewhere.  I can only assume that maybe you speak of younger generations of newly minted graduates. The professional circles in which I travel are nothing like what you've described.

Well you really need to get out more.  Sounds like you live a sealed environment and don't hobnob with people outside your narrow specialty.  Get some diversity.  The days of foreigners in China being primarily "professional circles" ended a couple of decades ago.  

 

14 hours ago, NewEnglander said:

I suspect many foreigners "stick to" metropolitan areas for the same reason so many native Chinese choose to head toward the cities....in pursuit of better jobs, resources and income.

They stick to the tier 1 cities because they're a lot like home.  They've got pubs and restaurants that serve familiar food and drink instead of that weird Chinese stuff, a super-good English speaking infrastructure, and insta-friends from any of the various social platforms like meetup or whatnot.  They might as well be in Mumbai or Buenos Aires or darkest Berkshire.  They have zero interest in dealing with China, and more's the pity.

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889

"Well you really need to get out more."

 

And who are you to tell other people how they should spend their time in China?

 

Which comment reflects my basic reaction to the condescension here towards other foreigners who follow a different path. Their life. Their path.

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anonymoose
3 hours ago, vellocet said:

Well you really need to get out more.  Sounds like you live a sealed environment and don't hobnob with people outside your narrow specialty.  Get some diversity.  The days of foreigners in China being primarily "professional circles" ended a couple of decades ago.  

 

On the contrary, since the requirement for a university degree and two years of experience was introduced, the overall quality of foreigners legally working in China has risen noticeably.

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ChTTay
9 hours ago, anonymoose said:

On the contrary, since the requirement for a university degree and two years of experience was introduced, the overall quality of foreigners legally working in China has risen noticeably.

I feel like it’s not old well paid “business” expats who’ve been here 25 years though. From my reading this is what Vellocet is talking about. The days of having extravagant expat packages are long gone.

 

Equally, the overall “quality” of foreigners has improved due to above mentioned requirements. It seems like many foreigners seeking a life here are on the younger side. Equally though, most are not fresh graduates as mentioned above as, again, the requirement above means you need 2 years experience. 

 

What NewEnglander is describing doesn’t seem to hold with what I experience actually living here. 

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NewEnglander
15 hours ago, vellocet said:

They stick to the tier 1 cities because they're a lot like home.  They've got pubs and restaurants that serve familiar food and drink instead of that weird Chinese stuff, a super-good English speaking infrastructure, and insta-friends from any of the various social platforms like meetup or whatnot.  They might as well be in Mumbai or Buenos Aires or darkest Berkshire.  They have zero interest in dealing with China, and more's the pity.

 

There will always be people who seek out familiarity. About that there is no doubt.  But the fact remains that the vast majority of employment opportunities and resources for foreigners are in the larger metro areas. People follow the opportunities.  There's nothing wrong with that.

 

Think it's any different in the States?  Of course it isn't. Does it mean that a vast majority of city-dwelling Americans haven't experienced "real America" because they're not out cow-tipping in rural Kansas? Of course not. Just as the inverse isn't true. I suggest you re-evaluate your very narrow definition of an authentic experience.

 

15 hours ago, vellocet said:

Well you really need to get out more.  Sounds like you live a sealed environment and don't hobnob with people outside your narrow specialty.  Get some diversity.  The days of foreigners in China being primarily "professional circles" ended a couple of decades ago.  

Odd that you'd suggest I "get some diversity" by getting out to meet more foreigners. I'm not in China to spend more time with foreigners with differing opinions. I could do that back home for free.

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