Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It's a beautiful May 1st...but I'm not going outside

Because I'm an American in China, I feel almost obligated to make some sort of comment regarding the recent events concerning Tibet, the Olympic torch relay, CNN, and Carrefour. Since these topics have already been discussed to death elsewhere, I'm not going give a full length commentary. Instead, I will provide you with a few good links and pictures to explain why my wife and I are staying indoors on this beautiful May spring day.

All the recent trouble has been focused on Tibet. I have found an article by Peter Hessler best sums up the problem and presents both sides of the issue. Click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3. If you are too lazy to read this well written article, here are the main points:

Chinese side:
-Tibet has always been a part of China
-Before Chinese rule, Tibet had an oppressive feudal society with a few powerful figures (Dalai Lama, etc.) enjoying a good life while the rest were practically slaves
-China has invested a lot of money in Tibet, improving the infrastructure
-China has provided free schooling for Tibetans, allowing them to have an education that they would not have had otherwise
-Overall, Tibetans have a better life than before
-Tibet needs to modernize and the Chinese are helping them do it

Tibetan side:
-The level of Chinese control over Tibet has fluctuated throughout history
-Religious oppression-Atheism "for a better socialist society" is taught in schools even though most of the students are Buddhists. Also, it is believed that Beijing has taken the liberty of choosing their own Panchen Lama (an important religious figure in Buddhism) for the Tibetans rather than allowing the real Panchen Lama to take his rightful place.
-Free schools, but Chinese language, culture, and love for the Communist Party are forced on the students, in the process diluting Tibetan culture
-Lingering resentment over the destruction of their temples and the murder of their people at the hands of the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution
-Even though life may be better than before, without the necessary connections in China, Tibetans are still second class citizens in Tibet

So, as you can see, Tibet is a rather complex issue. It isn't as simple as the "Free Tibet" or "Tibet is a part of China" protesters would have you believe.

Of course, protesters in foreign countries have seized the opportunity that the Olympic torch run presents, using what should be a non-political event to make a political statement. The Chinese people are taking this personally, protesting both CNN for its biased coverage of Tibet and statements made by one of its journalists, and Carrefour (a French version of Wal-Mart) for allegedly supporting the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan separatist movement. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, the Chinese people are very patriotic. On top of this, the Chinese people are not used to hearing international criticism due to the fact that the media in China is heavily censored. These two factors combined can lead to a volatile situation. Here are a few links that sum up the mood in China right now:

From the Economist:
"Flame On"
"Manage That Anger"

This is a forum that my wife reads where Chinese people discuss living in other countries. If you can read Chinese, you will see that the discussion is now (as of May 1st) 90% patriotic drivel, totally off-topic. This is the case in quite a few Chinese online forums.

CNN/Western media protests-The Chinese people are angry over the biased reporting displayed by CNN and other western media outlets. To top it all off, Jack Cafferty of CNN made some disparaging remarks about China, further fanning the flames.

-A petition with over 3 million signatures protesting CNN a website dedicated to exposing the western media lies. I have to admit, if what is on this website is true, some of the things that the western media did were downright deceitful.

It is just my personal opinion, but I find this stuff is simply hilarious. First of all, the Chinese government is stooping to the level of someone that is essentially a "shock-jock", demanding an apology from him and CNN. This really shows how far the Chinese government is willing to go to pump up Chinese patriotism. "Look how powerful we are! We can force Jack Cafferty to apologize to us for hurting our feelings!" This just gets the Chinese citizens worked up over the fact that some nobody editorial commentator in the US gave his own personal opinion. If the American people protested every time someone in the Chinese media criticized the US, the protests would never end. If George Bush made derogatory comments regarding China, I could understand national outrage...but Jack Cafferty? Secondly, it seems like nobody here in China sees the irony of protesting the western media over unfair coverage. The Chinese media never censors the news or presents a one sided view of things, right? Yeah............

Another victim of the Olympic torch relay is French retailer Carrefour. An unsubstantiated rumor got out that Carrefour is funding the Dalai Lama and everyone is getting all hot and bothered about it. To tell the truth, if the Olympic torch was not extinguished in France, I don't think that the Chinese would have a problem with Carrefour. The rumor concerning the relationship between Carrefour and the Dalai Lama magically appeared right after the protests in France. I would show you some examples of Chinese netizens protesting Carrefour, but the Chinese government, in an attempt to control the patriotic fervor that it has created, has blocked the search for "Carrefour" in Google.
Translation: You cannot access the results for
your search term. Search for something else.

Trying Yahoo yields the same result:
Translation: Your search is not in accordance with Chinese law

Just yesterday the internet was full of anti-Carrefour rants, but today it is illegal to do a search for Carrefour and all cyber-discussion concerning Carrefour has mysteriously disappeared. Seems strange... Why is the government trying to calm the Chinese people down by directing attention away from Carrefour? Why am I staying inside today? Because today is the day that massive protests against Carrefour are to be staged. The buildup has been brewing for weeks and today is the big day. Given the anti-foreigner sentiment in China right now, and the fact that a Carrefour is only a 5 minute walk from our home, I think its best that my wife and I don't go out today. People are starting to behave irrationally. For example, recently my wife received a crazy QQ (Chinese version of MSN messenger) message from one of our friends telling her to always trust the Communist Party and to stay away from anything foreign. This person attended our wedding and ate dinner with us many times, so we considered her a good friend. I thought that she approved of our marriage, but I guess that deep down she didn't. Our "friend" is a college educated, seemingly rational person. It makes me a bit nervous that this sort of person can get caught up in the patriotic fever currently sweeping through China. Just 2 months ago this person was fine with our marriage. Now she is anti-foreigner. Crazy, huh?

Grace Wang-Click this link to see what happens when a Chinese person is perceived as disagreeing with the "Chinese people". I don't want anything like this happening to my wife. Some people call her a "traitor bitch" for holding my hand on a regular day. What could happen on a day like today?

Here in China everyone has seen the picture of the French protester attacking the Chinese wheelchair bound torch runner, along with commentary telling us how savage the foreign protesters are. What we don't see in the Chinese news are pictures of Chinese protesters/supporters of China acting in the same manner.

Destruction in a Carrefour...actions praised in Chinese discussion forums

These photos were taken in South Korea. The people we see being attacked were protesting China deporting North Korean refugees back to North Korea.

Although today is supposed to be the "big" protest against Carrefour, there have already been many smaller ones.

Here is a story about an American volunteer that was harassed by a mob protesting Carrefour in Hunan Province

Some quotes from the article:

"Last night, a Zhuzhou volunteer walked into Carrefour despite the fact that there was a sizable protest going on outside. This volunteer chose not to become verbally or physically involved in the protest, but like I said before, choosing to shop at Carrefour while protests are going on is making a statement in and of itself. When the volunteer finished shopping and tried to leave the store, the protesters did not let him leave at first and a mob mentality quickly ensued. The volunteer was forced to run through the crowd to safety while a couple people threw punches at him and others were chanting and verbally threatening him. The volunteer managed to jump into a taxi and close the door, but the mob surrounded the taxi, trying to break in, tip the taxi over, and smash the windows. The police were finally able to get the volunteer to a safe place and the situation was settled, for the time being."

"网友最新回复:昨天被打的外国人是我们学校的外教别个是美国的,周末到家乐福买东西,结果被打得上不了课了.今天的课全改自习了.作孽呢?他平时蛮好的一 个人很活泼,估计以后都不敢来中国教书了.呵呵.多讲道理,少动手.今天接教育局通知:所有学生都被戒严了,不允许出校门,要家长来接才可以哦.
Response from Netizen 1: Yesterday the foreigner who was attacked was a foreign teacher from the US who works at our school. He was buying something at Carrefour, but ended up getting beaten so badly he was unable to teach today. All our classes today were changed to self-revision. He is a nice guy and normally quite active. I guess he will never dare come to teach in China again. Hehe. Talk more reason and use less brute force. Today, the Ministry of Education imposed a curfew on all students. Students now can't leave school unless their parents come pick them up."

So, as you can see, Chinese protesters can get just as nasty as foreign protesters. Therefore, my wife and I are not leaving the house today. Its possible that, like the protesters in Hunan, some Chinese protesters might take their anger towards the western world out on anyone with a white face. I know that the chances of getting hurt are almost nil, but why take that risk given our close proximity to Carrefour?

My 2 years in China have been a wonderful experience. I have met so many nice people that I can't even begin to count them. It is sad that my last days in China are under these tumultuous circumstances. I won't let recent events change my mind about China or the Chinese people. I still think that China is a nice place and the Chinese people are generally good. However, I have to admit that I am grateful that I won't be here during the Olympic Games. If this much anti-foreign sentiment can be generated by people protesting outside of China, what is going to happen if some crazy protesters hijack the Olympic games inside China's borders? I am hoping that the Games come and go peacefully, and that China can get back to normal as soon as possible.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Foreign Specimens in China Part Three- "The Man Sluts"

Note: This is part 3 of a series. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

It's just a regular Thursday at the office...or is it? What is this? A new guy from England? He seems nice enough; I'll go over and introduce myself. seems as if I can't. He's surrounded by all the female employees. They all seem to be hanging on his every word. For some reason he just seems wittier, perhaps more charming than the other guys in the office. On top of that, everything he says has an educated, high class ring to it. The women are just eating this up. Damn him to hell...

Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I think we all have seen this happen. The new guy or girl from Australia/South Africa/France/etc. enters the fold and everyone of the opposite sex goes bonkers. The new person's accent is just so sexy, so exotic, so different!

Take this effect, multiply it by 100, and you get the situation that foreigners in China are in. In China, foreign men not only sound different, but also look different and act differently than the locals. If a Londoner is considered exotic in middle America, just imagine how a white man in China is seen. Not only can foreigners in China play the "exotic card", they are also on average much richer than the average local citizen. For example, English teachers that work in the city where I live make 4 to 5 times more than what is considered a white collar salary. If an English teacher is this well off when compared to the locals, you can probably imagine the position a business expat is in.

The result? Every foreigner's "attractiveness quotient" increases by approximately 2.5 just by stepping into China. If one was a "5" back home, he or she is a "7.5" in China. If a guy was a "7" in England, he becomes a studly "9.5" in China. Predictably, many guys take full advantage of this situation. It is quite common in China to see a foreign guy, that in theory has no business having a girlfriend, walking around with a girl on his arm, or a foreign man that is only mildly attractive surrounded by 3 or 4 girls all vying for his attention. The men that become full blown man sluts are usually the ones that were around a "7" back home. In their home country, they were able to pick up ladies at a decent clip, so in China they become full blown male model studs. Many foreign men in China have 3 or 4 Chinese girls in the rotation at any given time.

Obviously the "Man Sluts" are enjoying themselves, but what about the women they leave in their wake? Normally, I think that anything that goes on between consenting adults is fine. As long as both people know what they are getting into, then I think that there is nothing wrong with having a little fun. In the United States, I think that a 21 year old girl you meet in a bar is fair game. She is old enough to make her own decisions and probably knows that marriage isn't implied if the relationship goes to the next level. If a 21 year old girl in the US is fair game, a 21 year old girl in China is as well, right? Not necessarily. In China, people are considered to be children for a much longer time than in America. Therefore, the maturity level of an average 21 year old Chinese girl is vastly different than that of an average American 21 year old girl. Whereas the average American 21 year old girl has already lived on her own, had a job, and been with a few different guys, the average Chinese 21 year old girl has probably not done any of these things. On average, Chinese college students are much more innocent than American college students (although this is changing). Let's look at my students for example. I am teaching a public speaking course to a class of sophomores. Even though I have told them many times not to, quite a few of them begin their speeches with, "Good morning boys and girls." In another class I am teaching oral English. The students all giggle like little schoolgirls any time something even remotely sexual is mentioned. Sometimes during the break between classes, I see the girls playing "patty cake" hand slapping games that pre-teen girls in America play. They still consider themselves to be children, even if they are 20 years old. Consequently, perhaps it isn't quite right for a man to handle a 21 year old Chinese girl in the same manner in which he would handle a 21 year old American girl. Although the girl looks 21 on the outside, she is probably at the emotional maturity level of a 16 year old American girl. I have a feeling that many Chinese girls get burned by foreigners. Yes, the foreigners warn the girls that the relationship isn't anything permanent. Yes, the girls acknowledge this. However, like inexperienced girls in America, deep down they feel like they can change the "bad-boy" foreigner and somehow entice him into a more permanent relationship. Remember, in China, something as simple as walking closely together or holding hands has rather deep significance when it comes to relationships. If two people sleep together, they might as well be married. The "Man Slut" usually doesn't take this into account.

So, what do Chinese men think of the "Man Sluts", or foreign men dating Chinese women in general? Obviously, I cannot act as spokesperson for the Chinese, but I can relay my own personal experiences. My wife and I get different responses in different situations. My students are fine with our relationship. They think we have a "cute" love story. Men on the street are a different story. We have been spit at. My wife has been called a "foreigner loving bitch" or some other variation of the same theme quite a few times. I have had a drinking glass thrown at me in a restaurant. My wife and I feel nervous whenever we walk past a group of middle aged men because they always give disapproving stares and begin talking about us as soon as we pass. I wouldn't say that the majority of men in China disapprove of us, but if you pass 100 people in a given day and one of them throws a glass at you or calls your wife a "bitch" while the other 99 do nothing, who will you remember?

Why does this happen? I think part of it can be chalked up to a lack of education. We can see the same sort of behavior in the trailer parks of the US whenever a black man dates a white woman. Rednecks go crazy whenever they see someone "tekkin thayr wimmen!" Another part can be contributed to the level of nationalism in China. For those of you that don't know, China is a very patriotic country. Some people from foreign countries say that Americans are too patriotic, but I think the Chinese have us beat. The training begins from an early age, starting in kindergarten. If you walk past any Chinese kindergarten in the morning, you will probably hear one of the 10,000 songs that glorify Mao Zedong. My wife knows approximately 1000 patriotic songs whereas I only know 3 (1st verse of our national anthem, "My Country Tis Of Thee", and "Born in the USA"). The programming continues as the child grows up, as cities are plastered with patriotic slogans (For China! For the People!) and children are taught a "politics" course in every grade. You can imagine what is taught in "politics" class. In the USA, it is in college that people usually begin to learn about what is wrong with our country and our government. This isn't so in China, where the indoctrination continues even into college. At the University where I teach, all freshmen must undergo a month of military training, which means that they must run around spouting Communist Party lines in cadence. Even in the classrooms one cannot escape the all-encompassing patriotism, as classroom walls are adorned with patriotic slogans like "我是中国人民的儿子。我深情地爱着祖国和人民!" (I am a son of the people of China. I deeply love both the motherland and the people!) written in calligraphy. I am not saying that all Chinese people are flag waving, overzealous lunatics, but I think an average Chinese person is usually more patriotic than the average American person.

One of the main drivers behind all the patriotism is the fact that in the past 200 years, the outside world has pretty much walked all over China. For those of you that don't know how the outside world has treated China in the past, here are a few examples in the form of a "Quicky-Wiki" history lesson: The Nanking Massacre, The Opium Wars, and the Unequal Treaties. The Communist Party takes a "never forget" stance on these incidents, constantly reminding the Chinese people that they happened. It is hard to make it through a whole day without being reminded of the evil of the outside world. On (State controlled) Chinese television, besides the biased news, there are countless "docu-dramas" depicting the heroic Chinese and the despicable foreigners during the World War. There is a segment called "Red Memory", which is a quick 5 minute program that is placed between shows throughout the day. From the name "Red Memory", you can probably deduce that the segments are about Chinese triumphs and foreign atrocities during the war. If you turn off your TV and open up a newspaper, you will see more of the same. Memoirs of people that suffered at the hands of evil foreigners during the war are commonplace in Chinese newspapers. Even if you put down the newspaper and surf the web, you still cannot escape. Chinese online discussion forums are full of people spouting anti-foreigner dogma. Even mainstream websites like Yahoo regularly feature pictures of Japanese war crimes as well as pictures of foreigners kissing or hugging Chinese girls in public, often with captions along the lines of, "Disgusting foreigner and traitor bitch." Let's say that you want to get away from all the media and go on a trip to take in some culture. Small shrines and mini-museums are constructed to remind the people of the evils of foreign colonialism (click here for an example).

The "official" reasoning from the Communist Party is that this sort of patriotism and these kinds of reminders are necessary to keep the nation strong and avoid a repeat of the past. There might be some truth to this, but I think that the Party also benefits from all this nationalism. If the Chinese people are busy coming together against the "enemy", they will be too busy to criticize the government or notice that they lack in human rights(just like George Bush, the "terrorists", and the Patriot Act).

Anyway, all the aforementioned drivel about politics and whatnot is irrelevant. Being the selfish bastard that I am, the most pressing question is, "How does all this affect ME?" Given that the Chinese people are bombarded with reminders of foreign colonialism, I can imagine how seeing a "Man Slut" might set them off. Nothing smacks of colonialism more than foreigners coming in and pillaging the women, right? When the person that threw a glass saw my wife and me, he probably lumped me in with the guys that come to China to get their rocks off and then go home. Little did he know that my wife and I have been married for almost 2 years and had been friends for many, many years before getting married. Thanks to the "Man Sluts", with a little help from the Chinese government, my wife and I have to endure racist slurs, judgment, and the occasional physical attack simply because we have the gall to hold hands in public places.

"Man Sluts", we salute you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Carlson Full Time MBA statistics

I have a neat little program called Statcounter running on this website. It allows me to see the location of the people viewing my blog as well as any referring URLs that led them here. I can see quite a few people found my blog through searches for things like "Carlson GMAT" or "Carlson GPA", so for the sake of convenience, I will post some relevant Carlson stats here.

Carlson Full Time Class of 2009 (taken from here)

Class size: 93
Average GMAT: 661
GMAT Range- Middle 80%: 610-720
Average GPA: 3.38
Average Age: 28
Average Years of Work Experience: 4.49
% International: 29%
% Women: 27%
Foreign Countries Represented: 11
US States Represented: 18

Undergraduate Major
Business: 32%
Economics: 11%
Social Science: 12%
Humanities: 11%
Engineering: 15%
Science/Math: 18%
Other: 1%

Due to financial restrictions (my whopping $600 per month salary), I was unable to attend the Carlson admitted students weekend. I can't really provide any insight into this coming year's class, but by looking at the profiles of current students I can see that the Carlson Full Time MBA student body is made up of capable people from all professional sectors and all walks of life. Click here and here for a small sample of the high-caliber students that attend Carlson. A few highlights:

-A financial consultant from Wells Fargo
-A marketer that worked for the largest infant formula manufacturer in China
-A naval officer that trained students in the principles of nuclear power
-A Director of Marketing and Advertising at a non-profit youth camp
-A man that worked with the World Bank to develop businesses that are environmentally friendly

As the competition for spots in the Class of 2010 was even more fierce than that seen in the past few years, I can only assume that this year's incoming class will be as good, if not better, than the class of 2009.

Employment Statistics (taken from here)

Accepted Average Salary: $87,118
Accepted Range: $52,000-$122,000
Graduates Employed within 3 Months: 93%

Average Salary by professional function

General Management--Average:$93,834--Range:$66,000-$122,000


Percentage receiving bonus: 70%
Average Bonus: $15,582
Range: $2,500-$30,000

MBA internships

Percentage of students with internships: 97%
Average pay: $31.45 per hour
Range: $12.00-$50.77

As Carlson is a strong regional program, it places most of its graduates in the Minneapolis area. When considering salary statistics, one needs to remember that the quality of life that a $75,000 salary in Minneapolis affords is equal to (taken from here):

$102,336 in the New York City area
$88,318 in Boston
$85, 514 in Seattle
$86, 916 in Miami
$105,841 in Los Angeles
$119,860 in San Francisco

Ok, I hope this helps out anyone searching for Carlson's statistics. This is a nice little summary, but you can always check out Carlson's main website for more detail.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Foreign Specimens in China Part Two- "The Alternate Reality Creators"

Note: This is part two of a series concerning the different types of foreigners in China. To see how it started, click here to see part one.

Moving to a new area is a great opportunity to reinvent yourself. Going to a new place where nobody knows you allows you to try a new haircut, break out a new fashion style, perhaps fudge a bit about your past...Maybe in the previous city your position was "assistant manager", but in the new city it suddenly becomes "manager". I'm willing to bet that most anyone you meet that has just moved from another place has tweaked their life story just a bit. The "Alternate Reality Creator" turns this sort of tweaking into an art form.

The best way to explain the "alternate reality creator" is to just jump right in and give a few examples. Let's begin with "Bob". My wife and I had gone out one night to get a drink and watch a soccer game when we met "Bob", sitting at a table with a girl on each arm (coming up in part 3-"The Man Sluts"). If you believed everything he told you, "Bob" would be a renaissance man of sorts. "Bob" was not only a model, but also had a successful business back in Canada at the ripe old age of 26. His hobbies included traveling to NYC for photo shoots, skiing in Switzerland, and taking trips to France just for the cuisine. To top it off, his father was a member of the Canadian version of the CIA, giving him access to all the latest electronic gadgets (At the time, he had a 350 RMB=$40 cell phone). He had been in China for 2 and a half years as an English teacher by the time we met him, and was planning on staying for another 3 years. Why would such a successful man be teaching English in a second-rate (Without giving up too much detail, I'll just say that I am not in a city like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc.) city? To quote him, "To do a good thing and make a positive impact on the world." Right........... Upon further inspection, his story had a few cracks.

Me: "Since you have been in China for 2 and a half years, how do you run your business?"

Bob: "Well, I've got a guy that does that for me. I don't need to do anything."

Me: "I used to live in NYC. Where did you like to go when you visited?"

Bob: "Oh, all over."

Me: "Right, but which places? Bars? Restaurants? Maybe I have been there before."

Bob: "Well, you know...just everywhere."

When my wife and I couldn't take another lie without calling him out on it in front of his little "harem", we left. He gave us his business card. "Bob X, ABCD University, Assistant to the Deam". That's right, his card said "Deam". Nice.

Next up we've got "Harry" from the UK. This guy was a real piece of work. He was over 40, reeked of BO, and I am willing to bet that 90% of the things that came out of his mouth were bold faced lies. His story was that he is an ex-lawyer, teaching English in China for the adventure. He had written a book detailing his Chinese sexual escapades that was scheduled to be published in Australia in the next few weeks. Among his conquests were a CCTV9 (China's English television channel) news anchor as well as a 19 year old student of his that he was currently sleeping with. At that time he was planning on leaving China in the next 30 days to escape the backlash that his book was sure to create and was looking forward to living the high life from his book's royalties. Seriously, this guy's BO was so bad, his face so ugly, and his belly so fat, that I couldn't imagine how he could get ONE girl to sleep with him, much less enough women to fill a whole book. It must be nice to live in his alternate reality.

I've saved the best one for last. The following is the story of "Jake" and the three-year scam he pulled on a girl that lives in the same apartment complex as my wife's family.

"Jake" started to date a girl in my wife's apartment complex in 2003. They got engaged, much to the delight of her mother. When I was studying in Qinhuangdao during the summer of 2005 my wife and I ran into the mother. The conversation between that woman and my wife went something like this:

Girl's Mother: So, this is your foreigner? He is so sunburnt. Not like the one at my house. He always wears sunglasses and sunblock. His skin is so sensitive and nice. Is your foreigner rich?

My wife: Not really. (I was a student at the time, putting myself through school. Of course I wasn't rich.)

Girl's Mother: Well, my daughter's fiance is so well off....etc........

Well, "Jake" had this family going. He had told them that his parents were not only oil tycoons, but also were doctors that owned their own publishing house. "Jake" had convinced the girl that after they got married a 6 bedroom house in Miami was waiting for them, along with 2 BMW convertibles and a Mercedes SUV. The girl's mother just ate this stuff up, bragging to anyone that would listen and becoming known in my wife's city as the lady whose daughter was marrying a rich American and going to America.

As soon as I heard the full story, alarms went off in my head. First of all, this guy was working two jobs, teaching English at two different places. I can see a rich person taking a year off to teach English in China for the sake of traveling, but this guy was busting his hump for the equivalent of $1000 per month. Secondly, he was living with his fiancee and her family, eating up all their food. The son of an oil tycoon couldn't afford $300 per month to rent his own luxurious apartment in the middle of the city? Third, he kept putting off the marriage, saying that he wanted to wait until after she graduated from college. Why? Fourth, any normal potential bride would want to see proof of their future husband's alleged fortune, right? Guess what he provided as proof: pictures of a house and a few cars! He was nowhere to be seen in the photos. I'm guessing that they were just photos that he found on the internet. Also, a wife-to-be usually wants to talk to the future in-laws sometime before the marriage. All the poor girl got was an email that could have easily been written by "Jake". What about the fiancee's visa to the US? "Jake" assured her that he "saved her place in line at the American Embassy" and all they had to do was go and pick it up when they were ready. Oh, just as a side note, "Jake" also had bad BO like "Harry".

Any rational person would tear "Jake's" story to shreds, but for some reason the victim and her family didn't catch on. Maybe they were simply blinded by his beautiful, creamy, milky white skin. After meeting the girl's mother in the summer of 2005 and hearing her story, I hypothesized that "Jake" had no intentions to marry the girl and would be long gone within the year. Sure enough, he was gone within the next few months. After he left, the poor girl he victimized had to have an extended stay in the loony bin and after she got out she relocated to another city for a long time.** Naturally, her boastful mother severely lost face and is now as quiet as a mouse.

The effect that these lying foreigners have on the Chinese opinion of foreigners is obvious. The State media already instills a dash of mistrust towards the outside world and these foreigners only validate that message. I'll offer up my own experience as anecdotal evidence. When word got out that my wife and I were engaged to be married, there certainly was no shortage of people advising against it. "He'll probably just run away!" "He's just cheating you!" "He probably has AIDS!!!" "Jake" had effectively poisoned the community against me. I had to "prove" that I wasn't a prick because the people in the community automatically assumed that I was due to their previous interactions with an American. It was nice to prove them wrong, but I would rather have not had to climb that hill.

"Alternate Reality Creators", we salute you.

**Just as an aside, it seems to me that it is quite common in Chinese people to have their sorrow over being dumped or shame over losing face manifest itself in physical or mental illness. In addition to the example I mentioned above, here are a few more examples:

-Another girl in my wife's apartment complex had managed to land herself a player in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). They were living together for years, but the guy refused to get married. Of course, this didn't stop the parents from bragging to everyone that their daughter was marrying a sports star. They even went as far as to redecorate their house to accommodate the CBA player's high social status. If a guy lives with a girl for years and refuses to marry her, he probably won't end up marrying her, right? Right. He ended up dumping the girl for a younger, richer, and prettier girl. Upon hearing the news, the girl's father fainted and required a two week stay in the hospital.

-One of my wife's best friends was dating a guy for years, fully expecting that they would get married. The guy was a bit of a mama's boy and when his mother ordered him to marry an ugly, fat, rich girl he obeyed. When he broke the news to my wife's friend, she came down with a mysterious illness, requiring a couple months of bed rest and causing her eyes to bug out a little bit. Her eyes are still not quite right.

-One day my wife and I were out clothes shopping and this crazy young woman came up to me, held up a T-shirt and said, "Esssaaaaaahhhh! Esssaaaahhhhhh! One for you and one for me! Only 90 RRRRRR Emmmmmm Beeeeeeeeee (RMB=Chinese currency)." The shop attendant told us that she used to be considered something of a local beauty until her boyfriend dumped her. After he broke up with her she went insane.

Lesson to be learned? If you date a Chinese girl, you hold in your hand not only her heart, but quite possibly her sanity/health as well! Be careful!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Foreign Specimens in China Part One- "The Attention Seeker"

Technically this blog is classified as an "MBA blog", but seeing as how classes at Carlson don't start for a few months,until the end of August, I'm going to write a few posts concerning life in China. As I am preparing to return to the US after 2 years living in China, I have been reflecting on my time here. The places I've seen, the people I have met, and the things I have done all add up to equal a wonderful overall experience.

I do not intend on turning this blog into a "China blog", as there is already a countless number of blogs (including one of my favorites: China Law Blog) that provide valuable insight into China. However, while waiting for the Carlson MBA experience to begin, I would like to allocate a bit of space in my blog to explaining my take on life in China.

Although one could fill a thousand books on Chinese culture and the Chinese people, I am going to write a series of posts on the various "species" of foreigners in China and how they affect the Chinese perception of foreigners. When considering the Chinese perception of foreigners, two things need to be considered: the Chinese concept of "foreign" and the sources from which they form their opinions of foreigners.

First of all, the average Chinese person views the world in terms of "Chinese" vs. "Foreign" (or "The West", which really means "Everywhere besides China"). In their eyes, all people in the Chinese category are similar and all people in the Foreign category are similar. The logic goes something like this: Americans should be similar to French, which are similar to Brazilians, which are similar to Nigerians...etc. I cannot begin to explain how many times I have heard statements along the lines of, "All foreigners like X", or "Foreigners have an X personality, Chinese people have a Y personality," as if someone from England is just like someone from Argentina simply because they share the "foreign" designation. Along the same lines, many of my students erroneously think that they can improve their English simply by speaking with a foreigner, regardless of where the foreigner is from. In other words, they think that practicing English with a French person whose second language is English is just as good as practicing with a native English speaker just because the French person is foreign. In fact, when discussing the study of English, many Chinese people will substitute
外语 (foreign language) for 英语(English). For example, someone might say (in Chinese), "My daughter studies foreign language very well," meaning, "My daughter studies English very well." The meaning behind this? ALL foreigners must speak English.

Secondly, one must consider the inputs into the Chinese opinion of foreigners. First of all, there is the Chinese State media. Much like the "liberal" American media is decidedly slanted against China, the Chinese State-controlled media is slanted against America or the west in general (i.e. "The capitalist pig American whose hobbies include spreading AIDS…"). Secondly, the movies play a big part in shaping Chinese opinion (think "American Pie" shenanigans or the violence in "Speed"). Lastly, foreigners that are actually in China play a small part.

So, if you combine the Chinese concept of "foreign", the actions of foreigners in China, and the fact that an average Chinese person might only see a foreigner 3 or 4 times in their life, you can see where it may lead. If an Australian acts the fool in public, then Americans must enjoy behaving in that manner as well. If a French person is a prick, then people from the Philippines must be pricks as well. If one foreigner rapes a Chinese girl, then the Chinese media will be quick to show that it verifies the "savageness" of foreign culture. Notice I used the word "culture" rather than "cultures"...

This brings me to the different kinds of foreigners that are in China. Of course, by dividing and putting labels on any sort of people, one runs the risk of over-generalization. Naturally, not all foreigners in China fall into the categories I am going to mention. Conversely, if a foreigner does “fit the mold” of one of these categories, it might only describe one aspect of his/her personality. Also, you must remember that this post is for entertainment purposes only. This is not an academic research paper; it is just my way of explaining all the crazy people I have met in China. If you take into account these foreigners’ actions along with the factors I have mentioned above, it totally explains why some Chinese view foreigners the way they do.

The foreigners that stay in China for an extended period of time can be divided up into 3 groups: Students, Business expats, and English teachers. Most of them fall into the English teacher category. I have met all kinds of English teachers, ranging from intelligent, educated people that value traveling and life experiences over money, to the dregs of western society. Although the range of the types of English teachers is wide, the population distribution is heavily skewed towards the dregs. (Yes, I have been reviewing Statistics for my future MBA classes…) There are the “Attention Seekers”, the “Party Kids”, the “Man Sluts”, and the “Alternate Reality Creators”, to name a few. Today I will be discussing the “Attention Seekers”.

Merely being foreign in China warrants the status of a semi-celebrity. Foreigners stick out like a sore thumb. This effect is even greater in the smaller cities/towns in China. Being able to speak even an infinitesimal amount of Chinese AND being foreign catapults one into the status of demi-god. If any foreigner says as much as "Hello" or "Thank you" in Chinese, the result is a torrent of undeserved praise and wonder. The "attention seeker" not only feels this praise is warranted and takes it to heart, he/she will also take full advantage of their undeserved "status" in China, going out of their way to be seen and heard. You can actually see their chest begin to puff out and their nose slant towards the sky as their ego is stroked 1000 times on a daily basis. Yes, I have seen an "attention seeker" walk up to a group of musicians playing in the square and request a song in Chinese, knowing full well that he will steal the musicians' thunder and all eyes will be on him because (gasp!) he is a foreigner that can speak Chinese. He had no real desire to hear a specific song, he just wanted everyone to praise his Chinese ability. The "attention seeker" will walk down the street talking or singing as loud as possible just to MAKE SURE that everyone stares at him/her in all of his/her glory. The "attention seeker" will constantly go to the various English Corners (places where Chinese people go to practice speaking English) so that he/she can be the center of attention simply for speaking his/her native language. Never mind that the people at the English Corners are just using them as human English-practicing devices. Never mind the fact that these people probably wouldn't have anything to do with them if they weren't English speakers. An English speaking robot would be just as good as the "attention seeker", but attention is attention, right?

Some foreigners take attention seeking to a whole new level. In China, there are a multitude of television shows that feature foreigners. Click here for a perfect example. If you are too lazy to click the link, here is the basic gist: the Chinese have created programs that feature foreigners simply because they are foreigners. 9 times out of 10 these foreigners have no business being on television. They have no talent besides the fact that they can speak some Chinese or perhaps can sing a karaoke song. The producers of the show make the foreigners dance around and sing in Chinese, much to the delight of the Chinese crowd. Sadly, my wife also enjoys watching these shows. The other night we watched one and after a performance one of the "judges" exclaimed, "Wow! It is so amazing that a foreigner like you can master Chinese!" How condescending is that? The stupid foreigner can actually learn Chinese??? Amazing! I just cringe in shame as these talentless foreign attention whores make asses of themselves on TV, taking advantage of the fact that the Chinese are simply fascinated with anything foreign, especially foreign "things" that speak Chinese. I mean, it wouldn't be so bad if the foreigners actually had some talent and deserved to be on television, but if these people were back in their home country, the only television show they could be on would be "Funniest Home Videos". Some foreigners with exceptionally good Chinese skills go on to become national celebrities in China (see Dashan and Da Niu). These are “attention seekers” of the highest order. I’m serious; these guys are household names just because they can speak Chinese and for no other reason. Can you imagine what would happen if they were in the US?

Dashan: I’d like my own television show please.

TV Executive: Ok, what do you do?

Dashan: I can speak Chinese.

TV Executive: And….?

Dashan: Oh, that’s it.

TV Executive: HAHAHAHAHA Security, see this guy out please.

Let's imagine a hypothetical situation. Let's say that a PhD in mathematics is sitting in a classroom of 5th graders studying math. This PhD obviously knows the answers to all the questions and his fellow classmates will be in awe. Should the PhD raise his hand for all the answers to demonstrate his ability? Should the PhD feel proud in the fact that the 5th graders are amazed by his math prowess? Of course not. He has been studying math all of his life and shouldn't try to hog the spotlight. He wouldn't feel the need to steal the glory because there is no glory to be had! The "attention seeker" takes pride in being foreign/speaking English/being able to speak a bit of Chinese even though there is no real merit to any of these things. Does a Chinese person get praise in the US for speaking English? I've never seen it.

What part do the “attention seekers” play in forming the opinion of foreigners in the mind of the Chinese people? They simply reinforce the false notion that all foreigners are outgoing, loud, and love attention. Many times I have been told that my personality is “not like a regular foreigner’s” because I am not loud and I don’t talk simply to hear myself speak. Thanks to the “attention seekers”, I must explain that all foreigners are not like the crazy talkative foreigner they met in the English Corner or like the dancing, Chinese-speaking foreigner monkeys they see on TV.

“Attention Seekers”, we salute you.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I am an unconventional applicant...There, I said it. Being an unconventional applicant can be rather lonely, as I have scoured every forum and blog but have yet to find an applicant like myself. People from more "conventional backgrounds" have no problem finding others like themselves in order to gauge their chances at MBA admittance. For example, let's say that you are an engineer with 4 years experience and a 730 GMAT score. If you search any online MBA forum , you can find around 5,000,000 similar profiles, along with their accept/ding results. We unconventional applicants have to fumble around in the dark, beating our own path in the jungle that is the MBA application process. This blog will serve two purposes. First, I hope it can serve as a point of reference to any other unconventional applicant that happens to find it. Secondly, I would like to offer up my experiences in the University of Minnesota's Full Time MBA program to anyone else cruising the web looking for information on Carlson.

My profile:

Program: Full Time MBA
GMAT: 720 (45Q, 44V) ; 5 AWA
GPA: 4.0 graduating GPA
Passed CFA Level I exam
Work experience: 2.75 years by matriculation, mostly as an English teacher in China
Nationality: American
Age: 28
Gender: Male
Extra-curriculars/community: minimal. While I was in college, I had to work full time to support myself. In my current position, I have designed an optional lecture series that explains American culture for the students that attend the University that employs me.

As you can see, you don't see a profile like mine too often. From the beginning...

I suppose I should start with my educational background. At first, I went to a State Uni in NC for 2 years. When I first went to college it was so that I could party, drink, and escape a small redneck town, not for the education. I managed to obtain a 2.5 GPA before I left. I decided to move to NYC to give music a chance and try to start my own band. While there I waited tables at night and worked as an accountant intern for a very small company during the day to gain experience. I figured that since I wasn't going to school I might as well do something productive. The band thing didn't work, so I went back to school at a State Uni in NJ. I kept the accounting internship and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Finance in January 2006. When I returned to school I actually applied myself and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Thank goodness, all those annoying “C’s” from the first University changed to “transfer credits” at the second University. In December 2007 I took the CFA level I exam and passed.

I suppose many of you are asking yourself, "Why is a Finance major teaching English in China?" Here is where it gets strange... A friend of mine that I had met in NC that was living in China told me about a Mandarin summer program at a Chinese University. I asked my University if I could take this course to satisfy my foreign language requirements. My University allowed it, so I went to China in 2005 and stayed with my friend for the summer. Things happened, yada yada yada, we fell in love, yada yada yada, and I asked her to marry me. She said yes, so I returned to the US to finish my last semester of college and shortly afterwards went to China to marry her. Around graduation time I had a few good interview opportunities, but I turned them down because I didn't want to be apart from my current wife. I didn't want to marry her, then come back to the US and wait months or years for her visa to be approved. I naively came to China with a semi-inflated ego, thinking that because of my 4.0 GPA I could find a job in Corporate Finance easily. However, I found that in China only foreigners with advanced degrees and experience are needed. I sent my CV everywhere, but in vain. Companies in China don't need foreigners that are fresh out of college. If they need someone for an entry level position they will most likely hire a Chinese person. In order to obtain a visa so I can stay with my wife, I took a job teaching English. Now I am in China teaching English at a University, only making around 600 dollars per month.

It was around January 2007 that I got the "MBA idea". My wife wants to end up living in China. She doesn't want to permanently immigrate to the US and I'm fine with that as long as we live in a place like Beijing or Shanghai. Obviously, I don't want to teach English forever, so I need the MBA to be able to compete with the other foreigners in China.

Because I am an unconventional applicant, I felt that I had to go above and beyond in order to be able to compete with the "normal" applicants. I simply didn't have the money to travel to each school I was researching, so I had to show my interest in the various schools through other means. Perhaps it was a bit of an overkill, but I contacted around 10-15 students/alumni for each school I was researching. I made each school's website my personal Bible, pouring over every little detail. Of course, the essays were critical in my application, so I spent an ungodly number of hours writing and re-writing. I guess the extra effort paid off, as I was accepted by the school I most wanted to attend.

In the end, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I ended up going with Carlson at the University of Minnesota. Why? First of all, Carlson offers great experiential learning through the "Carlson Enterprises", which are basically student-run businesses. Given my lack of experience in the business world, participation in one of the Enterprises will give me something to talk about in future employment interviews. Secondly, if I cannot find a job in China immediately after graduation, I would like to live in Minneapolis while gaining experience leading up to the move back to China. Carlson has great connections in the Minneapolis area, an area that was recently voted the #1 city for business (Click here). Also, my entire extended family resides in the Minneapolis area and I would like to be close to them.

So, there you have it. As classes don't start until the end of August, I don't have much to report now. I'm sure this will change as I make my way through what promises to be an exciting and mind-opening 2 years as a student in the University of Minnesota's Full Time MBA program. Stay tuned.