Why I'm Leaving China

And the reasons you're dying to know (aren't you?)

First of all, you won’t believe the deal I got on airline tickets. Seriously, someone at Ctrip must have left off a zero because I’ve paid more for foot massage. Even so, I’m sad to be leaving China. It’s been a great five years but it’s time to move on.

To many of you, this may come as a surprise. You’re wondering, why would someone so young and talented leave at the top of his game? Who will take over as dungeon master at our D&D nights? Are you really going to leave without paying the rest of your rent?

I’m afraid I can’t offer a satisfactory answer to all of your questions. Suffice it to say that, for me, China has changed. And no, I’m not going to pay the rest of my rent.

Let me start at the beginning. Like many others, I originally came to China in search of job opportunities. I was drawn by promises that even an abject loser with no measurable talent could make it in this country. But now I’ve come to realize that this so-called “China Dream” is just that: a dream.

Five years ago, I had no marketable skills and even less ambition so China seemed like the perfect place to coast by on my foreignness and rugged good looks. But the job market has changed so much that even the lowest standard of what employers are willing to accept has risen beyond my reach. Schools now demand a teacher that won’t hit on students (a right I’m not willing to waive) and companies are looking someone who will show up on time and keep their pants on, even in the summer.

What’s more, the people have changed as well. Five years ago, the friends I made were just like me – drunken reprobates who couldn’t give a shit what country they were in so long as the beer and women were cheap and went down easy.

I wish we could have stayed like that forever but, alas, time goes on. Those same friends who used to give street sweepers something to clean up after a night at Propaganda now have “rewarding careers” or are in “committed relationships.” Some have given up on life completely and have gotten married. Not me, though. I’ve kept it real this whole time.

But there are deeper reasons as to why I’m leaving. One is that it’s so hard to communicate with Chinese people; their English is really bad. It’s hard for them to understand me, especially when I’m yelling in their face about how I asked for ice water, not room temperature water. And my boss never knows what I’m saying, even when I’m saying it really, really slowly. It’s almost enough to make me want to learn Chinese.

Another issue is that Chinese people are very exclusive. After five years here, I’ve come to see that I’ll never be Chinese, no matter how many funny hats I wear. Chinese people will always be dismissive of my ideas just because I’m a foreigner.

“Mongols and Manchus are not the same,” they tell me. Or they try to convince me that ninjas didn’t exist in the Tang Dynasty. They just can’t accept that a foreigner has figured out their culture.

So that’s why I’m hanging up my hat, packing my bags, calling it quits. China’s been a fun ride but it’s time to get off.

I’m staying positive, though. I see this as a new beginning. I’m going to find a job back home that can fully utilize my China knowledge and insight.

Some of you may laugh at me. You’ll say good riddance because I never contributed anything of lasting value to China but you’re wrong. So many Chinese people have told me, “Thanks to you, we’ll never see foreigners the same way again.”

This article originally appeared on page 88 of the October 2012 issue of the Beijinger.

Click here to see the October issue of the Beijinger in full.

Photo: invensis.net

Comments

I know how you feel about the frustrating nature of China. I've been here nearly 8 years now, and I too am planning on leaving very soon. From 2005 to 2009, I really felt I made incredible progress in my own development. Things during that time were so awesome for me here. But since 2011, I have accomplished absolutely nothing. It's been a year of utter stagnation. I go to work mon-fri, get wasted at the weekends, and then do it over and over again. I've wasted countless thousands on pointless endeavours, and all I have to show for it is probably 1,000 less words in my Chinese vocabulary because I'm hanging out with expats too much and speaking English all the time, haha. It's good to get out, get home and re-assess things. It will give us time to get to grips with what we really want to do with our lives.
And as for people not understanding you - Chinese language doesn't help. They just plain refuse to accept anything that foreigners think, as you point out. It doesn't matter how much you experience and explain back to them - even a know-nothing 19-year-old will dismiss you as "just a foreigner". Good luck to you in your future travels and experiences!

haha! "It’s hard for them to understand me, especially when I’m yelling in their face about how I asked for ice water, not room temperature water."

I have been living in China for 6years now, and I am gonna leave this country in less than 3 weeks. Difficult to express my exact feelings toward my departure, since I have grown love and hate relationship with China, especially Beijing.

"Another issue is that Chinese people are very exclusive. After five years here, I’ve come to see that I’ll never be Chinese, no matter how many funny hats I wear. Chinese people will always be dismissive of my ideas just because I’m a foreigner." ---> Don't even try. I am practically Chinese (since I am Chinese descendants with thick Chinese culture in my family), speaks fluent Chinese, yet my boss and colleagues who are local Chinese treats me differently because for them, I'll never be Chinese.

Good luck for your new journey. I will miss reading your articles.

You MUST be kidding about the teaching standards becoming too lofty. I have had Russian colleagues who sounded much worse than my Chinese colleagues teaching their unique brand of "English". My only fear is losing the 'shuai' and thus losing the only necessary qualification.

Great fucking satire! This is brilliant. Are you really leaving China, though? I'm curious now to the real reasons why.

This blog appears to be a satire of one or more recent "Why I'm Leaving China" articles. The problem is, whether people get the satirical angle or not, it promotes the negative stereotype of foreign men as depraved and stupid. I can't see how this website can post a blog like this after previously reporting on local incidents of abuse of foreigners. I assume this is an oversight and I kindly ask that the editor of this site carefully consider the ramifications of such writings.

I should clear this up. I am not leaving China. This column is a parody of the recent "Why I'm Leaving China" articles. I don't think ninjas existed in the Tang Dynasty; I don't yell at waitresses for ice water; and I am fluent in Mandarin.

@panjialang - Thank you for recognizing this for what it is.

I would never classify you as a foreigner in china anyway, so stop giving it large about you being an outsider. If a dog is born in a stable it does not make it a horse.

A lot of people don't get parody

Quote:
I would never classify you as a foreigner in china anyway, so stop giving it large about you being an outsider. If a dog is born in a stable it does not make it a horse.

That's some spurious (and not so subtly racist) logic there - so because George was born in China but raised and educated in America (and has US citizenship), this disqualifies him as (as you put it) an "outsider"?