You love kung pao chicken and Jackie Chan, and now, with so many jobs supposedly going to China, it's time to pack your bags, hop on a plane, and go live where you truly belong. Surely this hasty adventure based on ill-informed stereotypes will pan out where all those others have failed!
Before you start boning up on kung fu films, however, hear me out: My name is Michael Pearce, and during my career as a teacher and writer living in Shijiazhuang, I've discovered that moving to China has its own unique challenges that in no way involve kung fu, pandas, or kung fu pandas.
#4. The Counterfeit Problem Runs Way Deeper Than You Think
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Cracked has written about insane Chinese fakes before, but at least with faux Apple stores and prehistoric fossils, you're not slathering your counterfeits in soy sauce and then putting them inside your body. (And if you are, you're really using that ePad wrong -- there's no way the warranty covers attempted digestion. Or anything else.)
You're prepared for fake Rolexes and bootleg movies. What you're not prepared for is the counterfeit meat. Take this highly publicized case from last year involving rat, fox, and mink being passed off as mutton. It wasn't exactly a freak occurrence. The whole Chinese fake-steak situation has gotten so bad that I now refuse to eat meat unless it's from a place that hangs the animal's carcass outside for me to thoroughly inspect and deem worthy of being devoured.
You. You ... amuse me.
Dead animal bodies hanging outside of shops aren't just exotic set dressing -- they serve a purpose. They're a sign for expats these days, one meaning "This meat is probably legit." A slightly less gruesome example are the counterfeit textbooks. As a teacher, I often find myself ordering a bunch of books for my class and ending up with only two copies that contain the same material. Perhaps the inability to tell fox from sheep was not duplicitous in nature, but just one long-term consequence of shoddy off-brand textbooks.
And that's just the start of the counterfeit problems. Picture this: You're getting money from an ATM, but you accidentally put an extra zero in there. You turn right around and try to deposit the excess back into the same machine, only for it to tell you that the bills you've inserted are counterfeit. This is a pretty common problem for people in China, who are now surely nurturing an inherent distrust of robots that will serve them well in the inevitable uprising.
"You son of a bitch. I'm coming back with a gun."
You can of course go inside the bank and try to straighten the whole mess out, but only if you have the entire day to waste, because ...
#3. Inefficiency Permeates Every Aspect of Daily Life
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I have never spent less than an hour in a Chinese bank. One time, just changing a 20-pound note took nearly two hours and involved scans of my passport, six forms, a dispensation from my childhood priest, and three different people with stamps to make it proper. This is from a country that has managed to put up a 30-story hotel in 15 days. Usually when this type of amazing feat is accomplished in China, it's done by utilizing a cutting-edge construction technique known as "half-assing it." To be fair, that particular building was more "assembled" than "built," and there's no reason to suspect it of being more unsafe than anything else. It's just that, from what I've seen, quality control and maintenance are virtually nonexistent in the Chinese infrastructure. Deputy Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing himself said that Chinese buildings are meant to last 25 to 30 years. And the roads are even worse.
But what are you gonna do? Take the train? Godspeed, noble daredevil. If you want to experience the joy of traveling on Chinese rail, try shopping on Black Friday in the United States. At a Walmart. After the meth guy hands out his free promo samples.
Just hundreds of angry people pushing against the closed entrance to a platform until the train finally arrives, the human floodgates open, and you find yourself rioting your way to the passenger car. You call it a good day if you don't have to bite somebody's ear off.