2012 Dec 05 Why I’m Coming Back to China
Two months ago I decided, like countless expats before me, that it was time to leave China. Well, after spending two months home in America, I’ve decided to come right back.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t I just go to this guy’s going-away party? How the hell did he get his old job back? Didn’t he just sell me his bookcase?
I don’t have time to explain all that right now, but whoever bought my bookcase: I’m going to need that back.
Since arriving back here, I’ve had many people ask me, “I thought you were sick of China. What convinced you to come back?”
First of all, I never said I was sick of China.
Second of all, I’m even more sick of the United States.
So why did I do it? Why did I come back after leaving with such fanfare?
This is going to sound crazy but I missed not having to use coins. Buying a pack of gum and getting three pounds of change back is just crazy. Plus they make your jeans sag.
Another reason is that I couldn’t find a job worthy of my extensive resume. Most employers didn’t give a lick how much China experience I had, and those who did were surprised that I didn’t pick up Mandarin in the five years I spent in Beijing. As if a language made up of squiggles is that easy to learn. In the end, I couldn’t even get a job teaching English in the States, because apparently you need like a Ph.D or something.
Honestly, I thought I’d feel more at home back home, but let’s just say that home wasn’t exactly where the heart is. In fact, being home is downright unbearable when your parents are constantly nagging you. When are you going to get a job? When are you going to move out of the basement? Did you take $40 from the cash drawer?
If I’m being perfectly frank, I also missed not being the center of attention just because I was foreign. I hadn’t counted on the fact that going back to my home country meant that I was not going to be a foreigner at all.
I hadn’t anticipated the reverse culture shock of going back either. Cars stopping for me at crosswalks made me feel self-conscious. I’d talk shit about people in English, forgetting they could understand the language. More than once I was thrown out of Abercrombie & Fitch for haggling and insisting that their clothes were knock-offs. And the prices. $2 for a bottled water? $20 for an ironic T-shirt? $7.95 plus tax for Kung Pao Chicken, not including rice?! Financial crisis my ass.
Then one day, after my mom made me clean the basement, I delved deep and asked myself: Sure, you can get ice water everywhere, but what good is that when you can’t hire an ayi to clean your room for you?
So I told my manager at Starbucks to shove it, took $40 from my parents’ cash drawer, and bought a one-way ticket back to the only place that could handle a pimp like me.
And what can I say? It’s nice to be back. It’s nice to not tip and not be harangued by the waiter or chased out of the restaurant by the maître d’.It’s nice to illegally download movies and not have Comcast cut off your Internet. It’s nice to not have to use coins.
Go ahead, call me a Loser Back Home. Just know that this LBH makes 300 kuai an hour tutoring rich people’s kids. I wouldn’t trade that for all the YouTube and Facebook in the world.
If this trip home has taught me anything, it’s that the country you live in is like a wife. Sometimes, when you’ve been in one place too long, you start to wonder what else is out there. So you flirt with other countries and realize that, holy shit, they are all crazy or super high-maintenance.
What I’m trying to say, China, is that those other countries didn’t mean a thing.It’s obvious we still need each other. No more running around, I promise. No sir – this time, I’m here to stay.
This article originally appeared on page 92 of the December issue of the Beijinger.
Click here to see the December issue of the Beijinger in full.