The different Expats in China
In China, and especially in Shanghai, you can meet expats from all over the World. We classified them into 5 different stereotypes, so you can identify them in which stage of their life they are.
1) The Students:
Those who came to China to start their Bachelor/Master degree or the ones that stayed here just for a year or even for an exchange semester. This group cannot really be considered expats due to their short-term stay. They are usually very excited and therefore change their Facebook location upon arrival. Despite the fact that they don’t have much money, they spend everything they have on overweight baggage fees and first aid kits, which might never be opened (but who knows what can happen 7,000 Km away from home). They have a diet based on noodles, rice and dumplings; the exact same things, during their first months. After a while, they will be sick of it and start spending a lot of money on Western food caused, in part, by homesickness.
2) The Teachers:
Here we are referring to those young teachers with fresh degrees in their hands. It is usually a pleasant job since having a Western face helps being well paid as it attracts tons of students. This stage of life is basically based on trips around Southeast Asia – especially Boracay and Bangkok –, running into class in their pajamas (because who the H*** actually wakes up after the first alarm?), already sick of Chinese food and realizing they can't drink fake alcohol anymore. In other words, the exact same student life you used to have but experimenting more with adulthood responsibilities.
3) The Young Professional:
Young adults working for start-ups, international companies, magazines… These expats are usually found in big cities since they cannot live without a Western meal – yet. This stage in life is defined by spending too much money on delicacy (imported food, specially cheese and alcohol), experiencing the underground at peak times of the day, traveling to discover real China by going to shady parts of the country, and being ignored by their Chinese landlords. It's a time of real independency.
4) The Professional Professional:
These are the actual expats, the root of the meaning EXPAT. They are characterized by having Western salaries, stay half a year in China and half a year abroad. These are the ones that the country is sooooo desperately trying to attract more of. It's a time of career growth, without forgetting buying Starbucks coffee everyday because they can; spending tons of money on the best air purifiers, and become best friends of their drivers – psychologists as well –, who stay with them all day long.
5) The Family Expat:
The professional expat with a family at the back. In most cases, their companies set them up in houses that look like a fake version of … (I would say) any nice European or American neighborhood you can imagine. (I know what you are thinking, but not everything in China is copied from Western countries). Their kids study in international schools, they buy even more air purifiers so can cover every single corner of their gorgeous house, fill their kitchen with delicatessen Western food, letting “ayis” - nannies and cleaning ladies - raise their kids. It's a time of extremes, comfort and anxiety.
Being an expat in China has its ups and its downs, like everything else. But it is a great experience that will definitely change your life and make you learn and grow.