For people of pallor China is a paradise for finding employment. They’re not necessarily the best jobs they are jobs. Competition for candidates is so fierce that even defective candidates can easily be placed. In urban centres of any size Europeans, Antipodeans and North Americans under forty seemingly can’t walk for ten minutes without receiving at least three job offers. Huzhou being relatively small I’ve escaped this exercise in tedium. Then again, I’d actually need to leave my flat to be seen and in the past weeks that’s been too much to ask. Problems arise when the Chinese assume that they can treat Westerners in the same way they treat Chinese. In China, the massive population allows for employers to treat employees like rubbish and arbitrarily change their wages. It is not unheard of for employers to not pay all wages. An acquaintance, a Briton who teaches in another province, told me the story of an American he heard of who was not paid for the last two months he worked. They only finally paid him after he threatened to smash all the windows at their school.
My situation is not nearly that serious; despite the rapidly growing list of insufferable experiences I will spare you this time. Nor are the teachers I met especially defective. Two have experience teaching elsewhere and I am only marginally defective; at least on a good day. What this does, however, is allow us to compare out experiences with our current situations. All three of us have experience living and/or travelling in Asia. Sadly, all three of us compare China negatively to our past experiences. The most experienced of the teachers enjoyed his time in south-east Asia thoroughly, save for Singapore which he found sterile. He loved Malaysia and Thailand. He also spent a fair amount of time in India. Yes, I know that India is in South Asia. Their other teacher, as I mentioned before, worked in the Philippines for several years. Both say frequently that China is more expensive, that the people are far more conservative and possess a pride well in excess of their real circumstances. I, naturally, am to borrow a Chinese phrase, as close as lips and teeth to the Japanese. Strangely, the Chinese who know about the situation are least distressed by my negative comparison of China to Japan. They may not like Japan, but they have a grudging respect for the country. By any measure Japan has a vast economy and among the most sophisticated civilisations. The profundity of their achievements economically and culturally is only magnified by the fact that Japan has virtually no natural resources. The Chinese also admit that Japan is a far more modern, well-developed country. For the Chinese to be compared negatively to countries they consider simply inferior is too much.
The way we cope with frustrations is rather different and is seen differently by the Chinese. The most experienced teacher, before he quit, went to massage parlours and attempted to actively engage people. His idea of actively engaging people, inconveniently, is akin to spitting on Nan’s grave to the Chinese. He’d frequently put them in the spotlight; attract the attention of crowds in overwhelmingly awkward situations. In short, made them lose face. Their other teacher tends to putter about on his scooter and spend time with a handful of his mates. He’s known to be a bit of a whinger but he doesn’t make anyone look bad. Me? I usually close my eyes and think of England. I spend precious little time outside my flat. I fail to see the merits in making any effort. I’ve largely re-created a little Europe filled with classical music, operas, BBC Radio on the weekends and classics of Western and Japanese literature. To their annoyance, my excursions into the Oriental involve two-to-three Japanese lessons each week. I can scarcely deny having more than a little of the colonial mind-set. This grates the Chinese as much as it does the other teachers.
I find it amusing that the company president and other teachers encourage me to holiday in South-East Asia. Oh dear, could any of you imagine me happily wiling away the hours on a third world beach with cheap mixed drinks and beer? Egads! The food is often excellent but I’d much rather savour it in a country with proper health regulations. My holidays are planned out! In winter I am looking forward to visiting mates in Taiwan and Japan – and visiting one of Japan’s most beautiful historical towns, Kanazawa. Kanazawa is often referred to as “Little Kyoto” because of its wealth of heritage buildings and cultural richness. In summer I will visit mates in New Zealand and Australia. Do you think I’m too snobbish?
11 thoughts on “Augen Zu”
Can’t see you lasting a year there!
Not snobbish seemingly a culture that you just can’t get along with.
Of course your refusal to partake of society must appear very rude to your fellow workers and employers, reckon they will fire you at the first chance if they can!
CO, just between us girls, I think C likes the sheer unpleasantness of it all. But hey! This is a family site! 😊
Ah Ha masochism rearing its ugly head!
Mind you anything East of Calais these days appears to be a total immersion in masochism!
No place like home to be sung in a resounding chorus!!!
CO:it’s hard to imagine. Still, I suspect I will have to. Thus far the Chinese don’t have a problem with me. I cause them no trouble and little extra work. They also can’t easily replace me. There’s a general expectation that foreign employees will socialise with foreign employees. I’m not their typical employee and I have very different standards and expectations. They’re used to free spirits and candidates for a revived Hippie Trail. They’re not used to the bastard love-child of Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun with all the patience of a chain reaction.
I had a dream last night that I found a pleasant desk job in Dorset. I lived in a small cottage with a garden. Then I woke up. Bugger.
Oh, and they finally gave me my work schedule yesterday. After proving that I had absolutely no talent at dealing with young children they assigned me to work exclusively with young children. They also advised me that I was to essentially work as a child-minder providing entertainment to them, assigning them songs and games. I’m tempted to make them read Shakespeare publicly and to pronounce Welsh place names! Mr Llewellyn from Llanelli will go to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch!
Christopher, ref. your dream: are you absolutely sure you don’t live in Dorset and have nightmares about China? What is reality after all?
Janus: being left immobile by a bad case of food poisoning removed all doubt.
OK, that’s real. Hope you feel better soon.
Janus: I have recovered but for a few days it was pure misery. I finally started work today and things are already very confused.
That is interesting. They knew full well you didn’t ‘do’ children. I personally think it is an attempt to ease you out. It would, no doubt, make it easier for several people if you left voluntarily. Suggest you reassess your ability to survive a year and replan trips to accommodate getting the hell out of there one way or another in due course earlier than anticipated.
CO: you make the mistake of assuming that they have a modicum of common sense and ability to plan ahead. They don’t. They’re not malicious, they are this incompetent. I asked their veteran teacher about this and he said that they are chaotic and they do this as a matter of course to everyone. Strangely, the children and I are generally building a mutual report. I have more confidence in them than I do the administrators.