Foreigners Leaving China – Mike’s Blog 101

In vlog by Michael Michelini4 Comments

Foreigners Leaving China

Mike’s Blog 101

The China In and Out

Moving to a new place is always a stressful one – but especially China. It is a “whole new world” – both online and offline. The adjustments one needs to go through are significant, and when I see a new group of people coming here, I always wonder how long they will be able to stay.

My old friend Terry Lin is one of them. He came in February of this year with a bunch of friends to work here, but they are already placing out after a few months. A common trend I have to deal with over the years unfortunately.

The mindset shift needed for China is significant. I left in 2010 thinking I would never move back. I was transitioning to Philippines, taking trips back and forth between Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Manila. I think the time mentally checked out of China helped me to re-prepare for the moving back that year. I couldn’t complain anymore and I willingly moved back knowing what to expect.

Maybe that should be a requirement for all foreigners who want to live in China. Come here for a while, maybe a month or two, and see how you adapt. Most of us do complain about China and there of course are bad things about it. But its a process, and we either need to accept China for what it is, or leave.

It is clear from the stacks and stacks of books about – you cannot change China. Either you adjust, or you leave.

Makes me think of one of my friends Andrew (aka Boozer, RIP) who I met when first moving to China. He told me I was too high strung here and trying to make things happen too fast, so one of three things would happen:

1) I’d leave China
2) I’d deal with China for what it is
3) I’d have a mental breakdown.

I have been through all 3 of those cycles (well not a full breakdown, but there have been some of those “China days” as many foreigners here can relate with me on) – and for the most part I have settled to option 2 – I’m dealing with China for what it is. And no, I didn’t “give in” – instead of that I would say I have a clear understanding of how the system works in China, as well as the system overseas and I know how to quickly adjust between the two “worlds”. That is a skill that is extremely valuable, and I think is required for you to do business not only in China, but anywhere outside of your home country. You need to respect the countries you are visiting in and doing business in and realize it is a different set of rules.

Now I almost get annoyed when I see another foreigner rushing into China thinking they can apply their MBA skills to “make China efficient”. There is so much more to it. China is the way it is for a reason – and they resent it when a smart MBA comes here thinking they can teach Chinese how they should live and do business.

##What’s the Future?
To be honest, I don’t think it will get easier for foreigners in China. I see it getting more divided and more different. I see a Chinese internet that is totally cut off from the rest of the world’s internet. Almost like those AOL days when you would click the WWW icon to go to the “world wide web” and a warning would pop up:

“Its dangerous out there, are you really sure you want to leave the AOL walled garden and enter the wild and open internet?”

I think it would make you re-confirm after as well. So I see China building up more and more infrastructure, systems, and technology so that it has everything inside of the firewall and physical wall so that it can further separate itself from the rest of the world. I won’t comment if that is right or wrong but that is just the way I see the trend going.

So for those who want to rush into China and think you can take the bull by the horns and fix it – realize – you need to adapt for China – not the other way around.

  • Andrew

    I gotta hear more about your 2010 departure and why you eventually returned. I know so many people that will say how x, y, and z (usually) Southeast Asian country is better than China, but they always end up coming back to China to live and work. I’ve experienced the feeling a few times where I thought I’d leave China for good, mainly after my 1st year, but I’m 6 years deep at this point and as happy and optimistic as ever. Plus, I could never go back to America because they don’t have WeChat 🙂

  • it is crazy how America is now falling behind in the tech world….its insane – guess both of us are here for the long term – really excited to build stuff up together soon!

    I’ll definitely catch you up on my 2010 departure and return – but it did help me a lot to appreciate and prepare for china on my return and was helpful.

  • Anonymouse

    You can either adjust and accept china for what it is, or you will leave.

    Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks will either accept America for what it is, or they will leave.

    Immigrants, including chinese immigrants will come to western countries and if they don’t like something how it is, they try to protest, lobby, or whatever to change it. Kind of a double standard I’d say. The biggest thing that affects us in China is the racial discrimination and social segregation we face. Few people who make blogs like this will ever talk about it. But I believe that the local immigrant aociety in china should bond together and they should find ways to confront the discrimination the same way Martin Luther King jr did in America.

  • CommonSense1

    After 6 years, the nationalism for me is too much. Nationalism is rising everywhere but I just run into politics wherever we go. The staring is accustomed and we come into contact with nice neighbors and people on the street. However there is an increasingly nationalistic fervor growing as well as extraordinary state control over social aspects of daily life like going online. I have grown a lot in this country and I am grateful but I have the right to vote, get untainted food, rule of law and the right to fair trial based on evidence in the States.
    . I appreciate America a lot more now and realized that in China a foreigner is a welcomed guest until he no longer is. A foreigner in China is always an outsider and has no rights. Everything is great and rosy until it isn’t. God bless those who stay for many years to come in China, because I feel your going to need to count your blessings as time goes on. If your astute politically and have stayed for awhile in China you’ll know what I mean and how I feel. Good luck.