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Warning To Foreigners In China

Popularity 19Viewed 6389 times 2015-6-4 18:33 |System category:Life| especially, culture, living, people, before

Many foreigners come to China with great expectations. They are excited about living in this ancient land and experiencing the culture, language, food and especially, the people. They will find all of those things and more. However, as I have posted on my other blogsites that get a lot more views (mostly in the USA), there are some things that foreigners need to know before coming here. There are some warnings that they would be wise to heed about living in China.

One of the first things that they need to know is that some conveniences they enjoy in the West, will not be available to them here. There are a few food items that won't be available here, however, with the wonderful Chinese cuisine that they'll discover, they likely won't miss those items too much. I won't list them all now, but, they should be aware that they will likely encounter this.

I guess one of the more important aspects of living in China is to know that Chinese society is largely a self governing society. Most people have told me and I've found this to be true, that society runs by relationships. It is a 'who you know' world that you'll be living here in China. 

The rule of law, as is so prevalent in most Western countries is not black and white here. There are definitely laws, but, in some parts of society, the laws are not followed and sometimes completely ignored. One only has to go outside to the street to see this. There are traffic laws that aren't much different than laws in the West. However, most people ignore them unless they are near the occasional police officer or near a traffic camera. Westerners aren't used to this. The good news is, the majority of Chinese people are far less likely to experience road rage. The give and take in traffic works pretty well from my observations.


I found out that laws regarding fraud and scams are not so prevalent here in Henan (I really can't speak for all of China). I was defrauded out of 25,000 RMB with no recourse or help from local law enforcement. When called upon to help resolve my loss, I was ignored and told there was nothing that could be done. In the West, the man who defrauded me would already be arrested (he cheated dozens of others and not just me) and would be facing not only paying back those that he cheated, but, he would facing criminal charges as well.

In good faith and trust, I paid a year's advance on an apartment and the management company didn't pay the apartment owner. The owner then took matters into her own hands and threatened me because she'd not been paid. I have full proof of the lease, the owner's consent to allow the management company to rent to me, receipts, everything that was needed. I even had a copy of her agreement with the management company where she agreed that she couldn't take any action towards me due to a disagreement between her and the management company. None of it was worth as much as the ink and paper it was written on. 

She threatened me (she threatened to change the locks of the apartment and steal all of my belongings) until I finally moved out. Even then, she didn't want me to leave. She wanted to take everything I owned. With the lack of police response and no one to help me, I tried to get away from there as fast as possible. The only way I could finally get out of the community is to threaten to call the local television network (who I know and who were willing to come out and expose the situation).

This kind of situation would be easy to resolve justly in the West. A judge would look at everything involved, arrange complete restitution to those who were wronged and the instigator of the entire matter would be held accountable. To my knowledge, the man who did this to me is likely in another office somewhere in this city doing the same thing to other people with no fear of law enforcement. I have needed to resort to call upon high officials in Beijing and the U.S. Embassy to act on my behalf in order to get any justice.

Another story involved a foreign teacher who came here with a passion to help Chinese students. He was highly qualified as a professional and teacher. I met him the first day he got here. He was like me. He didn't come here for money or self gain, but to help Chinese students. He had a law degree from a good university in the USA. 

He was robbed one night by a taxi driver here, beaten, stripped of his clothes, all of his money and possessions and left in the countryside. Apparently he had drank too much at a local bar and was not completely aware of the goings on until he woke up (likely from the alcohol and the beating) nearly naked in the countryside during the midst of winter. He nearly died there that night.

In desperation, he found his way to a nearby road and encountered a man on an e-bike. The man was obviously startled at seeing a half naked foreigner on the roadside. He asked the man for help, but the man refused. They got into a scuffle. He took the man's e-bike to the nearest place that he could find a phone and get some help. When the police came, they accused him of stealing the e-bike (which technically, he did). He was forced to leave Henan after spending a few days in jail. He did wrong by getting drunk and taking the man's e-bike. However, he did it in desperation and nearly died there in the Henan countryside. He was forced to pay the man nearly 30,000 RMB before he could leave China.

I don't know how rare these stories are about foreigners in China. I've certainly encountered other situations where I know I was cheated or treated wrongly because I am a foreigner here. Regardless of my desire to help give good English education to Chinese children, there are some who don't appreciate that and will treat you badly. They are predators and will especially prey on foreigners (they perceive you as being 'rich').

Some have said, "Yeah, that's just part of living somewhere. Bad things will happen." Well, let me say that in my 56 years of living, I've never encountered this kind of treatment in the USA. The injustice is what has surprised me the most.

Now, let me finish this post by saying this. Most Chinese people are wonderful. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't stay here. However, there is a larger percentage than you'd expect who will treat you, as a foreigner, bad. When they do, you have little recourse unless you have powerful friends (preferably in Beijing). I'm lucky. I do have some. Most foreigners don't have those kinds of friends here. They need to beware before deciding to come to China. That is my warning.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)





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Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.


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