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There is talk around the globe about how China’s staggering population and economic development will be the next driving force in the world economy, sometime in the twenty-first century. Is the mass media all hype? The answer is unclear even with scholarly peer-reviewed journals, and trend analysis reports by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), and a comprehensive China Book. There will always be some mystery and uncertainty about the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to non-Chinese natives and individuals who have never lived in the country.
However, what happens when a person, specifically an American, gets the opportunity to work and live in the PRC for six or more months? The feedback from the Chinese locals on how things operate in China contains greater validity and credibility than what textbooks, classrooms, social media, and the critics have to say. It seems as if television channels, such as “National Geographic” and “The Discovery Channel,” prefer to show the masses illustrations about China that concentrate on tourism destinations (in Beijing), the metropolis (in Shenzhen), and the colossal building architectures (in Shanghai).
My life drastically changed in July 2013 after I achieved a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Six weeks before my commencement, I had a “when in doubt, send it out” moment. A business internship had caught my attention on a popular job board (Indeed.com). At first, I was skeptical of applying, unaware of the scope of the role because the job description was vague. What I did know was that the internship would be a six-month program, with a Chinese organization that preferred a candidate with an MBA degree. After I had applied for the position, I told myself, “They are probably not going to call me. I’m not an ‘all American’ looking type of guy that went to ‘prestige’ Ivy League schools.”
During college and graduate school, I never had envisioned a self-fulfilling prophecy about working and residing in China or overseas. Five days after my graduation ceremony on my thirtieth birthday (July 18), I landed at the Beijing airport in the Hebei province, prepared to embark on a journey abroad. My residence would be in a community at Yang Guang Jia He in Langfang. The apartment complex didn’t have a street address and was untraceable on Google Maps.
More than ninety percent of the locals in a city with a population of over seven hundred thousand, couldn’t speak or understand English. The number of foreign expatriates that I saw was about a dozen. According to the conversations I had with some of the locals, there were certain Chinese scholars, economists, and business professionals, who believed that Langfang would be the next Silicon Valley of China in the future.
In Langfang, I had an internship with a large Chinese corporation that specialized in oil and energy. My second unplanned occupation happened after three months, working at a five employee Chinese startup as an English (ESL) teacher. Outside of work, I explored five cities in China, which included Langfang, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Beijing, and Shanghai.
Working, residing and traveling in the PRC for 180 days (from July through December 2013) allowed me to compile some facts on the Chinese way of living. Thanks to a few locals whom I befriended, I learned more about China than in any of the business courses I took during my college years. Textbooks and classrooms are helpful theoretically and hypothetically in academia. They provide a gist of how things work, how things are supposed to be and promote objective reasoning and critical thinking. A flaw of schoolbooks is that some of the information centers on perfect world scenarios, not real world situations.
The human brain has two hemispheres operating in different functions. For example, the left part recognizes theory, controls logic, mathematical computations, and is the critical half of the cerebrum. On the other hand, the right side of the brain is in sync with creativity, imagination, intuition, and realism. Theory (the left half) and practicality (the right half) are on two different spectrums and are interdependent of each other.
Before I took that leap of faith to the PRC, I took a conventional approach to conducting research on the country, which I elaborate on in chapter two and certain sections in chapter six. This China Book is more geared toward unconventional wisdom. I have incorporated dialogue from the Chinese locals with some details that I logged in a journal during my time in Langfang.
In 180 Days Abroad with the Chinese Locals, I explain how I was able to observe rituals and Chinese cultural beliefs firsthand. I share how I was able to adapt to an entirely different lifestyle and culture and pop the culture-shock bubble in a short amount of time. This book discusses various aspects of the Chinese way of life, the unforeseen surprises, Chinese business practices, my highs and lows, the aftermath of Langfang, Hebei, China, and so on.
All right, let’s cut to the chase and put on our snorkel gear. Now, let’s dive in!