Sunday, November 25, 2007

Foreign Devils

Foreigners in China, or Beijing at least have a strange existence here.

In some cases, they are reluctantly welcomed for their superior English skills and in others they come here to set up their company's office.

And overall most of their expat packages are several times more than the average Beijinger. Foreigners' benefits can include things like housing, car and driver, ai yi (maid or housekeeper), a return ticket home, and health insurance.

So it's no wonder many locals resent expats coming in, costing their companies a lot of money, or getting perks they can only dream about.

But at the same time, there are some foreigners like myself who are interested in getting to know the Chinese better, at least beyond the work environment. But many of my colleagues are in a rush as they have a long commute, or they need to save money and eat dinner at home.

One expat friend told me today that the locals in his state-owned company were so annoyed by the number of holidays the foreigners were entitled to, that management decided to cut the days down to avoid more resentment. But this only brewed more furor on the expat end.

While it's true my friend and my salaries are considered high, they are no means exorbitant. By Chinese standards we live quite well. He even has an ai yi clean his apartment, wash his clothes and iron his shirts every week.

But at the same time, we're taking major pay cuts compared to North American standards -- I'm making a third of my previous job's salary.

Everything's relative, but in the end I wish the locals would understand that some of us aren't here to be obnoxious expats, but to witness the changes China is undergoing and try to make sense of it all first hand.

We're trying to bridge the gap, not exacerbate it.


ks said...

i would be jealous too if i were in their shoes. why not same work same pay. but due to the lack of experise china has to pay a price for it. same is true for the western countries who are admitting a lot of ' cheap labor' immigrants and suffer the consequences, eg. turks in germany, moslims in australia, england, the netherlands. there need to have a happy medium somewhere.

Dai Lang Jite said...

Expats (on expat terms) have always been a problem in Asia, whether it has been in Beijing, or Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bangkok or Manila. Some came/come to Asia because of their genuine interest in learning another culture; but many, if not most, simply come because it allows them to make a lot of money in a short time. Nothing wrong with that desire, in itself, but the effect is that it gives Asians the idea that all Western-born people are widely greedy, spoiled, arrogrant and lacking interest in anything besides their own personal finances. And thus very BORING as well.

But I suspect that Beijing people will learn from the overfed expats very quickly and then dispense with those who are only there for a quick cash reward. The best expats, in my view, tend to be teachers and journalists. Ironically, they are the worst paid of the species!