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.