Foreign bums, Chinese scams and looking for job in Beijing

 

Posted By Jan Piatkowski on November 12, 2014

I bet everybody has heard some weird stories about getting strange jobs in China. It’s about the things which seem to be impossible back home and about which you hear on the TV sometimes. Thus, probably a “fake orchestra” would be considered a scam in Europe but in China an orchestra in which performers have never performed or even learned anything about music before, is not difficult to encounter. Of course no beholders are directly aware of this and nobody is really talking about it even if some people may suspect something. Another example, If you choose to teach English you are forced to tell your students that you are American even if it’s really far away from the place that you are really from and your feet have never touched American soil.

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If finding a job in Europe is difficult and e.g. in the UK after sending ~500 CVs I got ~4 interviews, in China after sending 15 CVs you will get more invitation to interviews than you had actually sent CVs. Of course it’s more than just numbers and in the end it’s all really different. Imagine for example that you‘ve been invited to a job interview. The website is nice, e-mailing was quite professional, neighborhood seems posh enough. Nevertheless you find yourself in an inhabited apartment and people who are “interviewing” you are in their (really) early 20s and during the interview you can see a middle-age woman cooking something in the background. Paradoxically they are trying to be really professional, enquiring what you want to do in the future, your career plans etc. All is so surprising that you don’t even know what to do. Fake companies in Europe usually at least have an office. (http://www.sageworldwide.com/ – company’s website) This story, I actually mentioned at another interview to a guy who was interviewing me. He just laughed and said that he “got one of those as well”. (himself a foreigner) The very same guy (since he forgot about our interview), after pretending for 10 minutes that he is interviewing me, gave it up and I simply went away. Tw hours on the metro and getting up at 7 on Saturday went to hell.
That’s of course no surprise that people who hire you, want to use you, your skills and your time but here even among foreigners it has a different aura. Even expats here after a while start to think like Chinese.  Once I’ve been asked to work 60 hours per week+ having random working hours because “That’s what Chinese people do.” by a French restaurant owner. Avoiding to pay the workers calling them “interns” is already a common practice around the world however in China usually it will be something that you will find out already coming to the interview or even after that.
Maybe some of you’ve heard the coined term “odd white jobs”?  2 months in China made me already participate in a music video, play in an orchestra and unconsciously take part in promotional campaigns which used foreigners. Yes: If you play it out well, you can drink for free in clubs just because white face will attract rich Chinese customers.

 

Drummer at a shopping mall opening. 
How do you imagine an English orchestra hired to celebrate a commercial event would look like in China?

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Participating in such event as a performer I got a drum to play on, while other guys were playing pipes or different kind of drums. We were dressed up in Scottish kilts and some taller guys wore the hats that king’s guard wear in the UK. All was fake. Nobody practiced anything and people who were participating usually did it for the first time in their lives. There were only 4 Chinese people who could play – two of them were playing Scottish pipes and two others drums with all the rest of us (around 20 people) de facto creating background for them. That event, was an opening of an extremely expensive shopping mall. But the orchestra was just the tip of the iceberg. There was more than 200 white “fake shoppers” who got paid and shuttled there, just to walk around and make the environment more international. In the hall where we had our lunch break, I’d seen around 300 hundred Chinese people (separated from foreigners by a provisional fence) who probably got paid for being there as well but had some different roles probably also shoppers. The way to make “performers” obedient was however really interesting . They made us come there at 5 a.m. to “practice”(what didn’t happen) however we started at 10. Everybody got up at least at 4 or even earlier what in expat communities usually will mean that there were maximum 2 hours of sleep for an average person and some of people who came smelled like brewery. Maybe I’m wrong and it was just a matter of bad organization but such practice fits the picture really well, especially taking into account the fact that most of people there were totally random and it was the first day they saw the organizers. They paid 100-200 Euros per day depending on what you had to do. Another thing was that only complete not-much-too-loose people came. Eighty percent of performers were Russian speaking with majority coming from Ukraine.  When the organizers mentioned something about paying on the next day, the bus that we’d been shuttled with was literally hi-jacked by the angry Russians from our team and the organizers “got it back” after paying. After a driver went out of the bus to negotiate with people gathered outside the Russians closed the door behind him screaming and laughing wildly. After this the money was delivered in five minutes by a sweating guy who came running.

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Nevertheless, I was really surprised why they make such efforts and spend so much money just because of such thing like a small shopping mall in the suburbs but when I saw the prices there, a powerful thunder of enlightenment struck my brain. Even the simplest things were terribly expensive. Small pocket toys for kids costing at least 20 euro, an average mountain bike 3-5,000 euro. There was basically no cheap cars at the parking lot, however that could be another trick since some Chinese people that I saw there were clearly not so wealthy. Long story short, here everything is about labels. Having an interview with a Chinese boss I showed him my phone and he, seeing that it’s not an Iphone started to laugh saying “haha that’s a Chinese one!”. I hadn’t even been asked what are my qualifications, where I did go to university, what languages do I speak etc. etc. It was only commented that I look young, my Chinese is really good (what meant that it is not), that Germans are better than Polish and other Europeans, and I was asked if I can go with the boss back to Poland to help him do business there.(even though it had absolute no connection with the job itself). Wanting to teach English, at the interview you will hear “Actually I don’t care where are you from but the customers must think that you are a native speaker.” Don’t listen to the crap that Anglo-Saxon bloggers usually write that to teach English you have to be a native speaker. Actually you just have to make the parents of your students believe that you are. Actually you don’t even have to speak much English sometimes. As simple as that – at least if you are white. I used to know a Russian girl who spoke virtually no English and didn’t even wanna learn. Guess what she was doing as a job.:)
I have no intention of teaching English but just as an experience, I attended a few job interviews where I learned a bit about teaching business in China. You can without any feeling of uneasiness be told that they don’t hire black people and that they really need white teachers now because of parents complains regarding teachers’ skin color.
There is another important issue: Actually working in China for most of foreigners is illegal. You can get a “foreign expert visa” that allows it but it’s not as easy as it seems and most of people don’t have such “privileged” status. It happened even that I had met businessmen who pretended to learn Chinese to get a student visa. Thus you can formally be a Chinese language student for like 5-10 years and as far as nobody will ever tell on you, you will probably get away with this. At least that was his case.

Some examples of English language job advertising found at www.thebeijinger.com

1.I good agent director producer I’m 40 years old male looking for long project in film I’m ready to travel to any place i china as actor i have to travel inlay deferent age man i do kungfu, comic play well ,t,v series t,v add I’m 175 sm toll my often sing in pub bar restorant change r for deferent caricature in comedy film ,

2.i am a star agent,i have a lot of TV Show,we need many foreigners who can speak chinese well,if u can sing or dance that will be better ! i want u to know more about chinese history,if u r interet about u can connect with me, u konw the salary is not the most important,if u r famous ,u can earn more money

3.Hi prospective employers, just call me Daddy, I’m a qualified and experienced English teacher from the United States of A…. with many years of teaching experience in Beijing……………………..Btw: MY SKIN IS NOT WHITE AND I DONT HAVE BLUE EYES; SO I EXPECT ONLY SERIOUS EMPLOYERS \ PARENTS TO CONTACT ME.

 

 

 

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