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May 25

“Canada, I’d like to say goodbye”

Written by Buxi on Sunday, May 25th, 2008 at 1:10 am
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Over the past three decades, hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese have emigrated to Western countries. In the United States, many enter using a graduate student or lab researcher visa, and after several years of hard (nearly unpaid work), most eventually stay on in their host country after graduation. Those who stay apply and receive the right to work locally, and many eventually formally emigrate and take on citizenship. In Canada, the path to emigration is even easier.

However as the standard of living in China has steadily improved in the last 5-10 years, this trend shows signs of changing and perhaps even reversing. Some of those who now come to the West show little interest in staying after their studies are over; even some of those with successful careers in the West believe their opportunities are even greater within China.

This is the story of one man who thinks he might be happier returning to China.

—————- translation begins ————–

I’m 28 years old, and I’ve been in Toronto for more than two years. Thinking back over these two years, I have had many different experiences and thoughts. The bottom line is… “emigrating was my biggest mistake!”

I’m a lucky guy. All the way from elementary school, to junior high, to university, I’ve never faced much frustration. Right before graduating from university, at 21 years of age, I found my first formal job, and I kept it until I left China. If I’m not remembering wrong, at 23 my monthly salary was already 5000 RMB. Two years later, I was in charge of software development and the product roadmap for my entire company. I was also able to take on numerous personal consulting jobs on the side. I thought I was doing pretty good in China, at least there was no financial pressure. But my parents and I weren’t satisfied, espcially since many of the relatives on my mother side had sent their children overseas. At the time, it seemed like regardless of how well you were doing in China, as long as you weren’t able to emigrate… you were a loser! So, I took a deep breath and did it. I was pretty fortunate, I was accepted.

After I came to Canada, I had two interviews. I’ll never forget that first one. After a week in Canada, I received that first interview invitation. I was living in North Yorkshire, and the interview was at Mississauga. I left home at 9 in the morning for a 2 PM interview; after taking the subway, bus, and walking for another two hours, I finally arrived right before the appointed time. The interviewer welcomed me warmly, and showed me their products. But my interview was over within 10 minutes; the interviewer told me “you have to improve your English”. Now that I think back, my English really was pretty bad. My emotions were really in the dumps at that point, and I forgot to change trains on the way home. I didn’t get home until 9 PM, 12 hours after I had first left; I hadn’t eaten or drank anything all day. I had left home filled with tension, and now returned empty with depression. My second interview was three months later, but this time very fortunately I made it through. And let me give everyone a small piece of advice here: if you feel your English isn’t good enough to fully reflect your abilities, there’s no harm in bringing a laptop with previous projects: give the foreigner a demo. That’s exactly what I did, and after the demo, he was clearly much more polite, and skipped past many technical topics. After I entered the company, I worked hard and earnestly, and quickly earned my coworker’s confidence. Starting from the end of last year, all of the new products launched by my division was implemented by me; I also assisted on the development of four other projects. For all of this, the VP of my division separately give me a check, and said it was “Annual Achievement of Last Year”; he also gave me a healthy raise.

I’m not writing here to brag about my achievements. Because even after all of this, my heart is still filled with only one thought: “I want to go home!”

Is Canada really universally recognized as the best place to live for mankind? Do people really only live for pollution-free air, vast green spaces, and free healthcare? Back in China, after hearing the sales pitch from the emigration company bragging about Canada’s virtues, in my heart I had decided only Canada could be my future home. But I think I had forgotten that people live for culture, spiritual exchange, and the comforts of being surrounded by friends and family. I am nostalgic of the time I spent chatting, laughing with friends, classmates, and family; I miss climbing mountains and playing in water, visiting famous sites with friends. At the time, I always felt we had an infinite selection of entertainment choices. But after coming to Canada, I finished all of the so-called must-visit sites (if we include casinos) in 2-3 weeks. During all of these sites, scenic views represented 90% while cultural sites represented 10%… and the sites quickly forgotten represents 50%. All of the pictures I took in Canada are stored in separate named folders in my computer, because you know, all trees look pretty much alike. Occasionally I get together with a group of friends, and we’re always struggling to find our next activity. Whenever I see someone pull out a deck of cards, my wrists get limp. The key is that this just isn’t our country; the education that I received and the 20 years of culture that I absorbed just doesn’t fit in here. Besides, foreigners (laowai) are always laowai. They will be very polite and friendly towards you, but without 10-20 years of time, it’s just very difficult to merge into their lives.

Will my work experience in Canada make me more competitive if I return to China? Based on what I’ve seen, Canada is a country that’s extremely backwards in terms of technology, with little passion for science and technology. After my years in Canada, other than improving my English I really haven’t achieved anything else at all. The leader of my division, his brain is still stuck in the late ’90s, and refuses to accept new things. When I first entered the company, he basically refused to accept any of my thoughts; he always felt new things aren’t reliable. It was only after numerous successful projects that he slowly began to change his perspective. I don’t know, if this continues for another two years what will I become? I’ve tried to pickup a few projects on the side from within China in order to stay current with progress in China.. but that’s really tiring!

My friends have asked me “well, why don’t you go back to China”? Actually, that’s a question I’m constantly asking myself. But, if I go back now, I really have to start from the beginning. To get back to the senior position I held previously, it’ll take another few years! I’m not someone who succeeds quickly in a new environment. Besides, once a Chinese person leaves the country, everyone expects you to return filled with accomplishments and wealth. But if I go back now I won’t be much different from what I had before, and am perhaps even worse… and face is really important to me. Ah, it’s just so tiring!

So, I really wish I had a time machine that could let me return in time by 3 years. If I had another chance to choose A) “live 80 boring years in fresh air”, or B) “live 60 happy years in polluted air”, I wouldn’t hesistate in selecting option B.


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26 Responses to ““Canada, I’d like to say goodbye””

  1. Buxi Says:

    I want to be very clear about something: the purpose of this story isn’t “China is now better than Canada”. Every individual has a different set of priorities and challenges, and many (perhaps even most) Chinese in Canada feel very differently from the author of this article.

    Many Chinese have had a far easier time integrating into Western society, and many Chinese would never choose to spend another day in the polluted air (and chaotic society) that defines China. In fact, on the original discussion site above, numerous follow-on replies from other Chinese in Canada basically said: “goodbye, and don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”

    But I do believe that these messages, these sentiments are growing more common every year. I find that to be a significant trend. In previous decades and centuries, Chinese were willing to suffer tremendous humiliation and back-breaking physical labor just to stay in the West… even only 15 years ago, the only question amongst Chinese coming overseas washow you’d find a way to stay, not if you wanted to stay. I knew many world-class professors from mainland China who preferred a career washing dishes in the United States to staying in China.

    But things have clearly changed. When I speak to both recent arrivals and long-term residents, when I speak to unskilled illegal immigrants and highly desirable PhDs, the question on the mind of many is… should I go back? Now in the 21st century, more and more Chinese have the option of picking and choosing between the best of both worlds.

  2. MutantJedi Says:

    I can absolutely understand what he is saying.

    For many people, isolated suburban life with the long daily commute to work (my commute is not bad 30-40 mins) is what they want. They feel safe. They believe they are doing something positive for their kids. And that is fine.

    A big difference between China and Canada struck me when a friend of mine and I swapped videos of our neighborhood. She lived in a city in northwest China that is about the same size as mine. Winters are about as cold there as they are here and the summers are similar but much hotter there than here. We made our videos during the summer.

    When she took the video of her and her mom walking out of their apartment and down the street, they met all sorts of people. There was the guy with the loud friendly voice. There was the mom with a baby. There was the little girl walking along. My friend’s mom asked her where her mom was. There was the couple of ladies who were teased by my friend and her mom about eating too much. There was the old man walking along the road who gave a friendly smile as he passed. There were people selling vegetables. The place was active.

    I took my video camera out and walk out of my apartment. I walked down to the river. I walked along the river. I got to the downtown core of the city. I walked past city hall… There weren’t any people. Oh, there were cars driving by. But no people. It’s not always that deserted but the point of the contrast was made to me.

    These two samples of experiences in China and Canada are not meant to be indicative of what everyone experiences. Some people coming here will have a very hard time coping with the blandness (some Canadian cities are better than others – I love Vancouver for example. If I had to pick a place in Alberta, I’d go for Calgary over Edmonton, where live next to). Other people will find it suits them just fine. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Buxi’s point is important. I think it is more of a choice now than it was before. 20 years ago, people figured out how to stay. The ones that went back were almost morned as though lost. Or they held very high ideals about going back so their commitment to China was noted. These days, the friends that I meet in University are mostly here to study, perhaps get some work experience, and then go back to China. Nothing like it was 20 years ago.

    This is one of the observations I’ve made over the last few years that make me feel very optimistic about China’s future.

    I touched on this topic in April in my blog.
    http://mutantjedi.blogspot.com/2008/04/mr-li.html

  3. Wu Di Says:

    Yes, I agree with Buxi and MutantJedi’s comments, these days China is a viable option for foreign-educated Chinese, in terms of money and career opportunities and of course for cultural reasons. However, it helps if you don’t worry too much about freedom of expression or information or such issues — because if you do, the option of relocating to China becomes much less viable, for some.

    I just hope that those who return to China will bring along their passion for change, together with their experiences and different perspectives they got from living/working in other countries this would certainly be great for China.

    Worrying about face and other people’s expectations, however, in my humble opinion, has never amounted to much. Prejudices in China that all foreigners or overseas Chinese are filthy rich without having to do much work will change eventually. Why not contribute to this change?

    Btw, having a stupid boss does not automatically translate into Canada being a technologically backward place. I know some Chinese who moved to Canada and who would seriously disagree with that poster on this. Maybe it’s better to focus on finding a suitable and challenging job with a good work environment and an open-minded boss, regardless of whether that’s in China or Canada or elsewhere. Certainly would help that guy to alleviate some of his anxieties and frustrations.

    Just my 2ct.

  4. BMY Says:

    This person’s experience is very typical among new skill migrants and I personally know many similar stories. Some went back to China and some stayed. Everyone is different and choses the place/life style he or she likes. I think Chinese people’s unrealistic expectation from someone studied or worked aboard has changed in some degree if not totally. We have “Hai Dai” now. This was unbelievable 30 years ago that foreign educated graduates couldn’t find a job.

  5. ChinkTalk Says:

    Being Chinese Canadian I must say that on the people level Canadians are the most kind hearted and loving people in the world. I must also say that the rise of China through the good works of the Chinese Government and the Chinese people has benefited the Chinese diaspora. There are a lot of things Canadians can learn from China and Chinese people can learn from Canada. And I believe the poster failed to learn more about the Canadian way of life when he had such a privileged opportunity. The poster should have gone out of his way to make Canadian friends and immerse himself into the Canadian culture. He will find that from backyard barbeques to wilderness camping, Canadians are a fun loving lot. Especially with a few good Canadian beer or BC wine in them. Perhaps the poster’s diatripe derives from a bit of homesickness, but my friend, you have travelled this far, don’t feel sorry for yourself, be a man and have a bit of fun. I am a proud Canadian – just don’t get me started on our present government and the Canadian media.

  6. byte_me Says:

    Hmmm, in Australia, the Chinese undergraduates I know are quite intent on getting their PR and eventual Australian citizenship.
    Personally, I think the Chinese diaspora is a ‘blessing in disguise’ and should be encouraged. There are much benefits both ways, especially if the Chinese are more positively involved in the society and are better represented in communities.

    On another note, I wonder what are the general sentiments of 2nd/ 3rd generation overseas born Chinese towards China?

  7. Opersai Says:

    I think the person had too much expectation for Canada. There is a myth about the west in China, which was very prevailing the year our family left China. To this day, I do not feel this myth has vanished.

    On the other note, I do agree with Buxi, even about 7 or 8 years ago, I knew friends who regretted to come here. They were older than the poster, in their 30s, achieved much that they could be pretty proud of themselves. When they came here, they suddenly became dish-washers! It was a huge distance from what their expectation of life in Canada, or from life they had in China. However, much obstacles were in the way before they could clime back to the level they had. Language, work experience – work experience in China for many profession was not recognized here, among the friends I know, the doctor friends I knew had it worst. Not only their work experience was completely unrecognized, their study, degree was not recognized. They had to work extra hard, extra long to achieve the same level.

    Some of them faced same question as the poster, should they go back? But they had already gave up what they had in China. If they go back, they’d viewed as losers. Should they stay? And what? Keep working in restaurant on a penny wage? Or go to school to pursuit a new degree? But where do they get the money for that? Some of them came to the west with a unrealistic expectation based on myth. They got stuck in a very uncomfortable situation.

  8. MutantJedi Says:

    … Just to be clear… I’m Canadian and I think this is a great place to live. And I think most people, if they come with the right sort of expectations, would be able to find a good life here. And the people are nice.

    Just don’t underestimate the culture shock. You’re not in Beijing anymore. 🙂 If you find yourself in Edmonton, for example, you’re not going to find the same sort of food or the same sort of markets. You won’t see people in the park doing Taichi or singing opera. You won’t find old men playing with their birds.

    ChinkTalk is right, the poster didn’t or couldn’t discover more about Canada and Canadians on their terms. Thus it would have been very hard on him. 35 years ago, he would have consoled himself that at least his children would grow up here. My ex-father-in-law moved to Canada with his family for his kids. He went from being a successful accountant in Hong Kong to running a little cafe in an industrial park. He did okay but it wasn’t the same as his old life. But his kids got the education and the opportunity that he wanted.

    Today, the choices are not so clear cut. And that is a good thing. The bad thing is that the myths still persist and people immigrate with inadequate preparation. So, in a sense, it’s become more “normal”. I know of three Germans. Two I know pretty well and the third through one of the other two. The two that I know have returned to Germany deciding that Canada wasn’t quite right for them. They miss Germany. The third one couldn’t be happier. The Chinese that go back shouldn’t feel like losers. Moving to a different country is very very hard. Nobody should judge them harshly.

    The sad thing about the young man’s story is his expression of regret for being in Canada for (only) three years. What a unique growing opportunity – living in a foreign country for a few years! Sad too is if he did not make friends and connections that would persist long after he returned to China.

    On a side note, Alberta (and Canada) is very short on medical doctors. Foreign doctors just can’t come across the border and set up shop. But the problem is recognized and there are programs to help. How well these programs work, I have no idea.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080129.wcomment29/BNStory/specialComment/home
    http://www.aimg.ca/

  9. Opersai Says:

    MutantJedi,

    Exactly, I think the problem is people came with the wrong expectation and poorly prepared for the difference they would face. As for the doctors, well for many other professions as well, in recent years, Canadian government had made efforts to help new immigrants to integrate into the Canadian work force. Letting a person who holds a Engineer PHD degree to work in a restaurant washing dish is certainly a lose lose situation for both Canadian society and the individual. Also, the Canadian government had realized perhaps international student will have better chance integrating into the society and provided more flexible immigration policy.

  10. Buxi Says:

    Interesting to see the Canadian responses here.

    I don’t think there’s a “problem” with Canada, per se. I think the point is just that increasingly there’s less reason to emigrate out of China.

    If you step back for a second and ask yourself… how many Canadians are emigrating to Germany or China? That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but it’s certainly very rare. Should or could the Chinese government do anything to make Canadian visitors/scholars/ex-pats more “comfortable”, so that they’ll consider settling down in China?

    Think about the days when the Canadian government charged a head tax, and United States government policies riled up anti-Chinese sentiment throughout the American West. Chinese were still emigrating to North America in large numbers, because they had no better alternative.

    Regardless of what the Canadian government does, what will ultimately drive emigration patterns will be circumstances in mainland China. You can look at what happened to emigration out of Taiwan, for example; I actually only know this anecdotally, but my impression is many Taiwanese worked desperately to emigrate to the West during the ’60s-’90s. But in recent years, this emigration has gradually slowed.

  11. Jun Says:

    Well, this guy is like many other Chinese, who shouldn’t go abroad because it’s not for them. If they stay in China, they’ll have lots of people they can give orders to.

    All they want to do is to go back to a country where they are of the upper class, because making 15 000 rmb a month will allow them much more than 2000 CAD in Canada, and their compatriots will bow to them, admire them, etc.

    Another important factor is that they will be able to show off their “overseas life experience” (like, foreigners are this way, that way, “我现在非常了解外国人”等废话) and give the usual BS to their compatriots, who have no way to compare given their own lack of first hand experiences.

    Also, the “face” thing at the end of the text is really despicable, but eh, that’s how East Asians are. 没办法。

  12. anon Says:

    Never understand why Chinese flock to places like Canada, Australia/NZ. In my postgrad time I shared a house with some Chinese students who spent a whole year telling me how boring it was in Australia. They didn’t like the outdoor life, beaches, swimming or pubs/cafes restaurants (except Chinatown). They were all really bright but either couldn’t or wouldn’t get motivated to work for local companies – they all wanted to be bosses of their own business. One of them worked in our company but was palpably unhappy, he just didn’t seem at ease with the wdstern informal and independent way of working, has a chip on his shoulder and showed no initiative.
    Before you accuse me of racial stereotyping against Asians, we also had an Indonesian, a Filipino, Indians, Koreans and a Hong Kong guy, who all seemed settled, adjusted and didn’t feel the need to return to the mother country.
    My own impression is that many mainland Chinese work phenomenally hard and under a lot of family pressure at school/uni and have falsely high expectations of life and work overseas. When they find they’re nothing special and are even at a disadvantage because of language and cultural differences, it’s often easier to return to their comfort zone and to a place with lots of people/opportunities.
    The complaints about “backward” attitudes to technology in Canada also sound familiar. My Chinese housemate was obsessed with technology for the sake of technology. His misplaced faith in technology could not be overcome, and he would not accept that his electronic translator was wrong and that a native speaker, backed up by the hard copy Oxford Dictionary was right.
    So I’m not surprised that many Chinese return to China. Some people like “renao”, some of us prefer a different quality of life.

  13. Will Says:

    I can understand his sentiments. When I was in China, as much as I enjoyed my stay I often grew tired of the place. At the time I would chalk it up to pollution, or traffic, or whatever, but at the end of the day I just missed home. Chinese love their homes just as much as Westerners love theirs. It’s understandable that a guy who grew up in a place as jam-packed with historical and cultural institutions as China would find Canada a little lacking. I, on the other hand, see the wide open spaces of places like Canada and the US as full of history, just history of a different kind. There’s a type of frontier mystique that appeals to many who grew up in the US and Canada. However, I understand that the significance of it is lost on many who weren’t raised here, just as when I was in China the significance of many attractions was lost on me.

    But the most important thing I noted in his article is that his family and friends are all back in China. Different people regard their families differently, but I can definitely sympathize with someone whose family is halfway around the world. No matter how great the country is, if your family isn’t with you you’ll get homesick.

  14. Buxi Says:

    Just to add a little more… well, here let me do something that isn’t speaking “for” China, but instead acting like a fool trying to move a mountain.

    I think all of the Canadians here have in my opinion a very balanced and healthy understanding of what it means to emigrate. It’s just moving to another place; it might make sense, and it might not.

    But the truth is for many in China, emigration has been something else for 20 years. The Western world isn’t just a place to live, it’s where your dreams come true. China isn’t just a place to live, it’s cruel, competitive reality.

    There’s a reason for this obsession. 20 years ago, very successful workers in China were making about $8 month. If they could get their hands on a visa and working permit in the United States or Canada… they could count on at least $1000 a month. If you could get a 125x raise on your current salary just by moving to China, wouldn’t that interest you a little?

    If I gave you a job in China that paid you $625k a month (as opposed to the $5000 a month you’re making now)… is that a good enough reason for you to REALLY want to move to China? 🙂

    China has a thousand other problems, even for those who loved their homes. It’s always been very difficult to succeed on your own accomplishments, for example; many believe you have to play the guanxi game and hope to get lucky.

    The truth is for many Chinese, emigrating has become a national obsession. What the author described… feeling only those who emigrated are “successful”, afraid of losing face by returning… these are incredibly common emotions shraed by basically all Chinese.

    But China’s growth will gradually erase this unhealthy obsession, and that’s what excites me. Those who emigrate to Canada will be those who truly love what Canada has to offer… not just because they’re looking to leave China.

  15. Pudongren Says:

    There will always be those who don’t feel comfortable in a foreign land. This guys deserves some props for not just bashing Canada, but recognizing that he may (of his own fault) not have found a place in the Sun.

    That said, I have to wonder how much he really knows about either place. If he has exhausted all that Canada has to do in 3 weeks, then his entertainment tastes must indeed be narrow. Canada has a vast array of performance venues – concert and opera halls, independent and commmercial theaters, university lecture series – with a continuously changing and updated schedule. Could it be he expects to be entertained, effortlessly and endlessly, without any moxie or thrust on his part? Subscribing to a theater would mean monthly trips to see live acting and becoming part of a community. I also assume that he has mastered French and already grown bored with French Canada’s offerings?

    No matter where he were, I suspect he would be out of sorts. Were he more introspective or thoughtful, he might suspect he suffered from the same existential angst or alientation many young people the world over face. His lament might be insightful were it not the lament of the everyman: I’m bored, someone come entertain me. Instead, he’s decided on a nostalgia for an idealized China that is fast disappearing. Did it ever really exist? The Shanghai I left in 1999 looks nothing like today’s Shanghai, and the changes are what could only be termed American style urbanization – lots of suburbs with odd names like “California villas” and featuring tacky American ranch homes around a central area with a gazebo, and where everyone drives (further and further) to get to work. Then there are the cities themselves, for example in Shanghai, we have places like Xujiahui, Hongqiao, and Dongfang Park, where the beloved food streets are disappearing and people now can afford comfy highrise apartments with IKEA trappings, so why should they go sit by the curb to eat xiaochi and drink Tsingtao out of a plastic little cup?

    If thats what you miss, go home now brother, because it’s going the way of the dinosoaur. 🙁

    True, in China we have tons of cultural sites (not institutions) and a good deal of performance, but even in flagship cities like Shanghai and Beijing, there is a decided lack of serious “culture” that is more than a historic site. Shanghai’s Museums are a joke for the most part. though the new performance venues (in Pudong, ha!) are really nice.

    I suspect that what the author of that post truly misses is a racially, culturally homogenous environment where one does not need to challenge himself to be entertained, and where he might have an understanding of more than just the language. Its too bad that everyone laments China’s sameness – yes it causes some problems but at the same time nothing can really beat knowing that no matter where you are, you still belong. Multiculturalism might make Canada diverse and interesting, but so far it hasn’t been good at building true community, not from my POV!

  16. Eugene Zhao Says:

    I feel for the original author. The article is well written and fairly even handed, and the dilemma he faces is very real. It is a tough issue.

    If I were in his shoes, at the age of 28, assuming he is unhinged in his personal life, I would make serious effort to relocate back to China, but with good preparation. He might have made a mistake, he might not have, in coming to Canada, and wasted 2-3 years career wise. But taking a longer time hirozon, it is not time wasted. First of all, it was a self-discovery process for the author, he now knows more about life in Canada vs. oportunities in China, but more importantly he now knows what is more important to himself – fresh air can not replace his desire to have a more fully engaged lifestyle and better opportunities in his career. Secondly, a diversivication of life experience and cultural interaction he gained whiling living in Canada will servce him well in terms of having a broader perspective on life.

    The decisions will be his to make, but judging from his article, he will be much happier if he can make up his mind now, start serious preparation work to return to China, and put on a much more positive attitide about his experience of trying out Canada. No need to worry about “face” or what other people will think or say, I know that this is easy said than done, but to do it is part of maturing process.

    I wish him luck and am confident that he will go on and live a fullfilling life.

    For the rest of us who have invested 10, 15, or 20 years in our life in the west, with family in tow, kids who barely speak Chinese, we would have a very different set of conditions to work with.

  17. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Tough call for the guy. Sounds like he came over at an age where he was already culturally/socially established, if not financially so. Must have been hard work to establish himself here, only to call it quits after a relatively short time. But I certainly can’t judge as I’ve never even walked a fraction of a mile in his shoes. It does seem that he was more focussed on what Canada isn’t (ie China) rather than what Canada is.

  18. FOARP Says:

    Frankly, I think this guy is A) An obvious nerd, B) A total idiot, and C) Simply not outgoing enough to get on in another country. Anyone who says that Canada has no culture obviously knows very little about the place, in terms of modern culture Canada has just as much if not more than China does – does Shanghai have a music scene that matches the one found in Montreal? Does the Beijing art scene match that found in Vancouver?

    “Will my work experience in Canada make me more competitive if I return to China? Based on what I’ve seen, Canada is a country that’s extremely backwards in terms of technology, with little passion for science and technology. After my years in Canada, other than improving my English I really haven’t achieved anything else at all. The leader of my division, his brain is still stuck in the late ’90s, and refuses to accept new things. When I first entered the company, he basically refused to accept any of my thoughts; he always felt new things aren’t reliable. It was only after numerous successful projects that he slowly began to change his perspective. I don’t know, if this continues for another two years what will I become? I’ve tried to pickup a few projects on the side from within China in order to stay current with progress in China.. but that’s really tiring!”

    What obvious rubbish! Canada is home to some of the most ground-breaking R&D projects around – the Sudbury Neutrino experiment, NINT, and the Canadian Light-Source Synchotron are all examples of cutting-edge R&D that China is yet to match. As for carrying on about how his division leader is stuck in the past and won’t listen to new ideas – welcome to the real world. I’ve worked in Chinese companies and found little difference in the credence given to ideas coming from below – in fact top-down management seems the rule in all large companies.

    “The key is that this just isn’t our country; the education that I received and the 20 years of culture that I absorbed just doesn’t fit in here. Besides, foreigners (laowai) are always laowai. They will be very polite and friendly towards you, but without 10-20 years of time, it’s just very difficult to merge into their lives.”

    My guess is that this guy has zero non-Chinese friends, and what the hell’s with calling folk native to the country you are living in ‘laowai’ – 你才是老外好不好!?

    “My friends have asked me “well, why don’t you go back to China”? Actually, that’s a question I’m constantly asking myself. But, if I go back now, I really have to start from the beginning. To get back to the senior position I held previously, it’ll take another few years! I’m not someone who succeeds quickly in a new environment. Besides, once a Chinese person leaves the country, everyone expects you to return filled with accomplishments and wealth. But if I go back now I won’t be much different from what I had before, and am perhaps even worse… and face is really important to me. Ah, it’s just so tiring!”

    Total nonsense, if this dude is as good as he says he is, my former employers (Foxconn) would welcome him with open arms, as would companies like Huawei and Lenovo – give me a break! The only thing they wouldn’t do is give him automatic seniority over people who had worked hard to get where they are – but that’s only if he wants a management role (which he wouldn’t have after three years anyway) and can’t hack a job in R&D. Hell – why not save up some cash and start up a company of your own? Or is it just that you can’t stand the world outside of the big corporations? At any rate, I don’t get why he is complaining so much after just three years.

    I call propaganda on this guy, unless you can get him to come here and confirm this story I’m going to at least half-think that the story is untrue.

  19. Buxi Says:

    I call propaganda on this guy, unless you can get him to come here and confirm this story I’m going to at least half-think that the story is untrue.

    I wonder if you realize how silly that comment sounds. If someone came here and posted a comment saying: “yes, I’m the guy in the story”… this would satisfy your doubts? If you want to follow up with him directly, the link above goes right to the BBS that he posted in, and you can either message him or post a follow-up.

    智者见智. Anyone who’s familiar with the Chinese community in Canada and the United States would already realize these stories are a dime a dozen.

    As far as your stories about “advanced R&D” and working for Foxconn… I can only say you probably do not possess the same technical training + background that the above person has (which I also happen to have). 隔行如隔山, coming from different industries is like coming from different sides of a mountain, you really don’t know what he’s talking about.

  20. Opersai Says:

    Such hostile and angry tone. Surely, some of the things this poster said about Canada probably isn’t correct, and generalize too much based on his own experience.

    But this person wasn’t writing an academic paper, or even a paper. He is voicing his own opinion, talking about his own experience. Looking at Canada from his perspective, he feels that he isn’t as happy living in Canada as he had been while living in China. He was ill prepared and had different expectation of Canada. Even in same country, some people find living in the east is better than west, some find living in Vancouver is better than Edmonton, and vice versa . This doesn’t say anything about whether a place is really good or bad. It’s all very in perspective.

    In addition, the kind of culture, entertainment you find enjoyable might not suite the person. Someone posted earlier, there’s opera, theatre, great, but will this poster enjoy it? Perhaps, perhaps not.

    What’s with the personal attack and generalization you assume? idiot? nerd? So anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable living aboard is now an idiot or a nerd?

  21. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Sounds like the guy lived in Metro Toronto. With all the Chinese people in that area, and the multitude of Chinatowns, I’m sure he could’ve associated exclusively with Chinese people outside of work. Yet that wasn’t enough. Perhaps it was family that he was truly missing, and if that was the case, then his needing to go back to China would’ve been a foregone conclusion from the day he left.

  22. FOARP Says:

    I wonder if you realize how silly that comment sounds. If someone came here and posted a comment saying: “yes, I’m the guy in the story”… this would satisfy your doubts? If you want to follow up with him directly, the link above goes right to the BBS that he posted in, and you can either message him or post a follow-up.

    It would at least allow him to explain himself, especially the particularly dumb bits where he tries to make out that Canada is a backward place with no culture – something which, as a Physics/Astrophysics graduate and Arcade Fire fan I heartily dispute.

    As far as your stories about “advanced R&D” and working for Foxconn… I can only say you probably do not possess the same technical training + background that the above person has (which I also happen to have). 隔行如隔山, coming from different industries is like coming from different sides of a mountain, you really don’t know what he’s talking about.

    I worked in in-house IP at Foxconn, so I got to see all the patents from the various R&D units – including the new software development place we’re setting up in Nanjing. Now, I can kind of half-buy that he might be such a specialist that there’re no companies doing what he’s doing back in China, but the dude could always retrain (I understand this is common in software). If this guy really is a hot as he says he is he could get a job pretty quickly back in China – they would have loved him at Foxconn, and just so long as he has his foreign citizenship they could justify paying him a foreigners wage at any of the MNCs. I guess what really gets me is that he obviously thinks he could get more money/power/二奶 back home – but that’s not certain at all, and he shouldn’t simply blame Canada for that.

  23. EugeneZ Says:

    FOARP,

    I did not see the original author mentioning “power/二奶 back home” as his motivation of considering to return China. Did I read wrong or are you imagining?

    I sense, from reading your psotings, that anger management training is in order for you.

    Sort out your own issues that make you angry! And may you live in peace in the country you chose. You deserve it.

  24. Buxi Says:

    FOARP,

    I think you’re “projecting” whatever drives you, rather than trying to understand what drives other Chinese.

    Working at Foxconn anything doesn’t sound like much of a career highlight for someone working in software development. As he said, his goal isn’t necessarily finding a job, but getting a position managing an entire company’s product road-map. I’ve never had much interest in working for a large company (speaking as someone who’s worked for both Microsoft and Intel), and the truth is, the most exciting opportunities in China *by far* are in the small companies popping up like bamboo after the rain.

    I believe it was Bill Gates that recently said 20 years ago, he would have rather been a dull man in the West than a brilliant man in China. But now, he’d rather be a brilliant man in China. The economic opportunities in China right now are absolutely tremendous.

  25. bill t Says:

    the only question amongst Chinese coming overseas was how you’d find a way to stay, not if you wanted to stay.

    I haven’t seen much of a change in reality — in rhetoric, yes. But virtually ALL of the Chinese I know in the US (graduate students, etc.) all ended up staying here. A few tried to go back, but found that they had an even harder time “re-adjusting” to life in China than adjusting to life in the US. Virtually all of them say they are going to go back, but virtually none of them do 5 years down the road when they get their PhDs. So, for the most part, I think this whole idea that there has been a great shift with Chinese students flocking back to China is just a myth.

  26. FOARP Says:

    Sorry to go digging up ‘old news’, but I just saw this quote on Ta-Nehisi’s excellent blog and thought it far more appropriate to describe the challenges facing Chinese (and other East Asian folk) in the west (including the UK) than the original article:

    “An adept battle rapper uses his voice, timing, rhythm and wit to humiliate the opposition and win over the crowd. But early on, it was Jin who was humiliated, succumbing whenever his opponents hit him with an Asian joke, which they always did. ”I used to not know how to handle it, and that’s how I’d lose,” he said. ”I’m battling, kicking my rhymes, and he would come out and say something like: ‘I’m hot; you’re cold. You should go back home and make me an egg roll.’ Something that simple, but he would have the crowd in a frenzy, an absolute frenzy. I would fall victim to it and just wouldn’t know what to say.”

    Battle rappers like to say that there are no rules in the ring, but Jin knew that if he retaliated in kind — if he made any allusions to watermelon or fried chicken, say — it would be a grave transgression. Asian slurs, by contrast, ”are absolutely too common for me to get mad at,” Jin said. ”That’s a shame, ain’t it?” Ultimately, Jin did what all sharp-witted children of immigrants do — he used humor, disarming his opponents with cracks that recast his ethnicity as a weapon.

    ”Every person he battled had an Asian remark,” said Cedric Reid, a high school classmate of Jin’s now at Miami Dade College. ”He was ready for stuff like that. He would flip it on them so they knew, ‘You got to come at me like a rapper, not like a racist.’ And he’d have the crowd on his side.”

    As Jin raps on his new record, ”In every battle, the race card was my downfall/Till I read ‘The Art of War’ and used it to clown y’all.” “

    Check out the rest here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/21/magazine/21JIN.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&sq=ta-nehisi&st=nyt&oref=slogin&scp=1

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