16 December 2008

Whiny LaoWai ExPats

Recently at Hao Hao Report, (A site like Digg and Mixx for English language China stories) a story was mercifully buried where a foreigner in China was complaining that the average foreigner wage for someone with a degree and experience was "only" 131,000.00 RMB (Chinese Yuan Renminbi). Currently, that equates to over $19,000.00 USD (United States Dollars). Now, that very well may be low for an Americans working and living in the United States of America, but this is for people living in the People's Republic of China where EVERYTHING is cheaper! Keep in mind, that the average Chinese citizen earns only 10,000.00 RMB a year. I mean, even university graduates are only asking for 18,000.00 RMB a year!

Now at Lost LaoWai's community blog, a site I respect and enjoy a lot, one of the great authors is complaining about having to work 6 Sundays a year, meaning there are 6 6-day weeks to allow for some week-long holidays! I would love to work a 6 day week to get a week-long holiday! Wouldn't you?

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that Christianity gave us the popular 5 day work week (Saturday off for the Sabbath and Sunday off for the Lord's Day, the day of Jesus' Resurrection), and I am glad that Henry Ford started the standard 40 hour workweek of 5 8-hour days, with 2 days of rest, but occasionally working 6 to get 3-7 days off is not a bad trade-off either!

Seriously, anyone who goes to China should know what they are getting in to, but this complaining about making "only" 10 times as much as the average Chinese person, or occasionally having to work a 6-day work week, because you have a week-long vacation strikes me as whiny and petty. Am I alone in this opinion?

For the record, I work every Sunday and Saturday and work 5 days a week. 4 of those days are 12 hour days, and 1 day (Sunday) is a 7 hour day. My wife works 7 days a week. She works 12 hours a day, from 9:00-21:00 like me, but she gets the standard 2-hour Chinese lunch/siesta time in the middle of that day (like these complaining expats most likely have) too. For this, she earns 12,000.00 RMB annually and 2 vacation days per month that can be accrued and used all at once. Maybe that is why I have no patience for this seemingly petty whining?

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  1. we aren't talking about people who are farmers or construction workers, the average stats, even for college grads, are completely irrelevant. A lot of these people are in professional jobs, some where their peers are making 6 figures back in the US, and yet they are earning below the US poverty line (or close to it) in China. Yes, you do wonder why they bother coming to China, which is what I think the original post was so shocked about. And working weekends (and counting the weekends as holidays) is a joke and there's nothing wrong with complaining about it. Give me the weekend off and cut the holiday short by 2 days, I have no problem with that.

  2. Again, when you are translating their earnings to USD, you are comparing apples to oranges. It is completely irrelevant! When you are speaking of how much they are being paid in China, you should be comparing it to the Chinese standard of living. But even you had some issues with that original post, giving some reasons why it was "so low". As for working 6 Sundays a year in exchange for some long holidays is still a good deal IMO.

  3. So I agree with most of what you say, but I have a problem with your reasoning. I don't appreciate foreigners complaining about their wages either and I personally am a bit embarrassed to tell my co-workers what I make because I know how ridiculous it sounds to them. Anyway, my two points of disagreement are:

    1) The fact that you and your wife work 7-day weeks is not a good response to foreigners complaining about wages or time off. To me it sounds just as bad. You overwork yourselves...take a break! (or at least give a break to those who haven't put themselves in your position!) Now I realize that that's just the way it is for a Chinese job, but that doesn't make it good. Two days off per month is ridiculous. Ever taxi driver I know in our city gets maybe one day off a year if he's lucky - but why? It's not like there's a shortage of labor, and he actually makes more money than I do! A day or two of rest per week has been shown to make people work more efficiently.

    2) I think foreigners, especially me, complain about the holiday schedule because it just seems like a big lie. This new year holiday for instance, they tell me that I get three days off - Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Not true. I get one day off and then a 6 day work-week the following week. Like most foreigners that you're referring to, I'd much rather just have two 5-day work weeks or a three day weekend. You're expecting too much from a person who is just arriving in China to understand this. EVERY new expat has to go through the shock and disappointment of realizing this.

    John at Sinosplice explained it well back in 2003 on his blog:

    Like I said, I agree with most of what you said and get just as annoyed with any whiny foreigner, but I also try to remember what it was like for me to first arrive here in China years ago and figure all this stuff out. You can read and prepare to come to China all you want but you'll never be fully ready. I wasn't.

  4. Alex at HaoHaoReport.com PM'd the following to me about the original whiny story about which I comment...

    "I was going to add a comment on your blog, and maybe it's just me, but I find Blogger very frustrating when adding comments - they're tied to a Google identity and I have privacy issues with Google.

    Anyway, I wrote it and found out when nearing the submit button, so here's a cut and paste:

    It was an inflamatory story designed to gather a 2nd-rate blog traffic, IMHO. I've not seen any content on there that was either breaking news, or bringing an original or insightful perspective.

    They might have been buried by HHR but CLB picked it up. So it worked for them. Such blogs get an auto-negative response from me."


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