A new report was released regarding expats in China. According to UniGroup Relocation, a moving company, twice as many expats are leaving China as entering. The largest group of expats leaving China? Americans.
This has been starting conversations on all sorts of expat message boards and blogs. (I personally feel the survey is a bit flawed as only the business population was considered and not people, like me, who have come on my own.) But I get the point.
Things have changed in my six years here. Regulations have gotten much stricter. (Not just for foreigners, but Chinese people as well. And when they tighten a regulation for a Chinese person, such as needing your ID to buy a train ticket, it becomes a million times harder for a foreigner.)
And not just regulations but crack downs too. In the big cities police have started raiding foreign-favorite bars. No one can leave until they show their passport and legal visa. And there have even been some stings. (Like the fake “casting call” for models. Anyone without a proper visa was deported.)
Then there is just general government shenanigans which get more and more tiring the longer you live here. The recent campaign against western values is laughably stupid. But things like the recent internet crackdown has made everything more of a hassle. And why oh why did they block instagram right when I started using it again?! *Le sigh*
Legally getting a job here had gotten worse in the past few years too. Besides the health check, you now need a criminal background check from your home country (which can take months if you aren’t actually in your home country), and some friends of mine had to submit their marriage license as well. And everything needs to be translated, and stamped by your embassy or consul.
And no article about China’s problem would be complete without talking about the pollution. I live in Xiamen, one of the cleanest major cities in China and the PMI in winter is between “unhealthy for sensitive people” and just “unhealthy” levels almost every day. I don’t even think of the health ramifications, I’m just tired of looking out into the haze all the time.
So I get why people are leaving. I can’t blame them. But I’m gonna buck the trend and stay here. Why?
The truth is, I like it here. A lot. Sure, things have changed over the years, sure there are more and more hassles than before. (I wait with baited breath everyday as I log into my VPN wondering if today is the day it will fail.) But who’s life isn’t filled with hassles and annoyances? America might have cleaner air and open internet, but then you’ve got GMO’s in everything and the nightmare that is election season. So if we have to pick our poison, I’ll take China.
And anyway, if the majority of Americans are doing something, I think it’s best to go the other way.