Some week or so before I got sick I met with a fellow female expat: a middle-aged, immaculately dressed business queen, that had already climbed much higher than me on the career ladder.
As we sat there, drinking our coffees, I realized how little she in fact knew about China. She’d been here for quite some years, but not by her own choice, and that came through in our conversations. She didn’t say anything racial against Chinese people, but it was just the way she spoke of Chinese, as if they were a lower class of citizens. And when I gently tried to turn the conversation, or share some good stories of some of my great Chinese friends, she wouldn’t listen. In her world, having local friends was not even something she’d consider.
Fair enough. Her choice. Her loss. And she’s more successful than me. At least at this moment.
But when I left the café I couldn’t help but thinking that women, or people like her, are going to become a distinguished breed in China. Think in 20 or so years time: when all those youngsters that are now rushing to schools and universities to study Chinese language and Asian culture, have graduated, gained some work experience, maybe spent some years in China. Then this market is going to be tough for those who doesn’t wanna be here, doesn’t speak and language, and doesn’t care one iota when it comes to learning about the culture. I see so many western men and women on top positions in China right now, some with very little knowledge, or even interest in understanding how China really works (note: I'm not generalizing here. I said I've seen a lot of those kind of expats. On the contrary, I've also met some really cool CEO expats with an amazing China knowledge and experience, who speak fluent Chinese and who I really admire and look up to).
Not saying that I do. Oh no, allow me to be humble. But I’m not a CEO, neither am I running my own business, and I am definitely not walking around thinking that I’m better than everyone else. I seriously don’t understand what those kind of people are doing, living in China.