Great Expat-tations

To say that there isn’t a divide between the ESL teachers of China and those expats that are here with ‘real’ jobs would be a complete falsity. Nothing paints this clearer than a trip to a local Western-style bar. The teachers are all bitching about their classes whilst sucking back cheap Qing Dao’s or some other domestic generic, while the realjobbers gloatingly enjoy a proper pint of Carlsberg, Smithwicks, Heineken or a variety of other pricey imports.

This divide has caused resentment between the two camps, I don’t mind telling you. It’s subtle, and often not spoken of openly, but it’s there. Sure, there may be occasional truces in the interests of some good ol’ China-bashing, but as soon as one of the realjobbers makes a comment about their aiyi not cleaning things properly, the chilled relationship returns.

The teachers smolder over the outlandish salaries and luxurious apartments the realjobbers live in while resting comfortable in the knowledge that they’re touching the ‘real China’ (nothing says ‘real China’ like instant noodles + 7th Fl., no elevator apartments) and doing so with no ‘real’ workload. On the other side of the line, the realjobbers scoff at the teachers’ hippy lifestyle and token pay while envying their minimal work hours … and hippy lifestyle.

I’m happy to report that I’ve semi-bridge the gap. Last week I started some part-time work editing for an international company located here in Suzhou. They do market research for other international companies looking to break the Chinese market and I’m part of a team making sure the reports are all gooder sounding and free off speeling erors.

It’s nice to return to editing. I would not have suspected I missed it as much as I’m finding I did. Well, anyone that I’ve ever dated will tell you that I’m quite good at finding other people’s flaws. Guess it’s a natural fit.

Anyway, the other bonus of a new work environment is that I’ve met some fantastic new people. Sunday I was invited over to a BBQ at a co-worker’s place, and it was fantastic. Seeing how the other half (realjobbers) live is a trip. The few hours I spent there made me forget I was even in China. I had beautifully BBQ’d ribs, drank more than my share of Heinies all while sitting on a massive roof-top patio. As well, and much to the confused looks of local Chinese, I got to play bocce ball in the park. Frigin’ bocce ball.

The downside to this double-life is that I’m working a crapload of hours – all in an effort to bank some cash for my looming wedding. It’s still less hours than I’d be doing in Canada at a full-time job, but for someone who is used to working 16 hours a week … it’s a bit much.

I get a nice break next week though as it’s time once again for Chinese National Day. One of China’s three national move-around-the-country days, Chinese national day is a day when all Chinese stop and remind themselves of why they are so proud of their country. Of course, to many this is a daily ritual, and so they spend their time clogging up all available train cars and tourist spots instead.

One such Chinese-on-the-move is my soon-to-be mother-in-law. She’s making the 23 hour trip down from Dalian to visit her only daughter. I’ve never spent more than a couple hours at a time with her, so this should be an interesting experience all around. Maggie’s got big plans for trips around Suzhou and Shanghai, but whenever I’ve mentioned this to anyone else here they look at me with an expression of pained disbelief that I’d be so stupid as to attempt anything touristy during the holiday.

I tend to agree. I think I’ll stock up on instant noodles and Corona (straddling the line) and hide in my apartment for the week.

7 Responses

  1. Interesting topic since one of my best friends (okay, my best friend) is in the teaching field while I fall into the “realjobber” category. Except that he actually does alright and I think is resented by the really low paid teachers who I have also encountered. But even they earn more than most locals so really there are many layers rather than just two I guess and it’s a sliding scale as you youself have found now that you are blurring the lines by taking up some extra “real” work.

    I do resent his low number of working hours and late starts, and the fact that he can stay out whilst I have to “rush” home before 4am because I have to work in a few hours time. But I don’t think it works the other way – he doesn’t really resent the big wads of cash I flash around!

  2. I sympathize. On the great stick of ex-pat chuan’r, I’m so low that I’m almost charcoal. Grad students are so numerous and so berated that I’m thinking of changing my business card to simply say “academic pimp” so people will respect me more.

    Congrats on your new job.

  3. @Peter: I’m sure he does… just tries to pretend he’s “above all that” no doubt 😉 I agree though, many expats here find a way to blur the line. At the business I’m editing for there is another teacher also doing editing work, and the guy that runs the editorial department is a former teacher.

    @J.: Hey, the charcoal is essential to any flavourful stomach cancer stick … plus, if it wasn’t for you brainy guys, the rest of us wouldn’t know anything about China’s history. Well, I guess we could ask the locals… BAHAHAHAHAHA…. wait, wait, wait… BAHAHHAHAHAHAHA…

  4. hehe,sounds like you are really enjoying your new life in shuzhou, I’ve never been shuzhou before, maybe hanshan temple is a good place to go, to hear the sound of carillons. But on the National holiday, Nooooooo way!!

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