In my previous post, I discussed methods of dealing with Chinese trying to cheat or lie to you, especially in the employment context. There are some ways to use this pervasive (and to some, unseemly) aspect of Chinese culture to your advantage. Getting angry at the locals isn’t going to accomplish much. People who come here hoping to “change” or “improve” China, will be sorely disappointed. You won’t even succeed in shaming them. The Chinese don’t have as deep seated a fear of shame as the Japanese do. Instead they will use blatant lies to prevent “losing face” because it’s more embarrassing in this country to admit to making a mistake or failing at something than to be caught covering it up. I will discuss the reasons for this in a future post…So since being lied to is inevitable in this country, what can you do about it?
If you can’t beat them, join them! Follow “ru xiang sui su”—a very popular phrase in China which literally means “when you enter a village go along with its customs” akin to the Western “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
Some Practical Ways to Implement This Proverb
Yes, you do have a diploma
If you are looking to work as an English teacher in China (which is inevitably the job most foreigners wind up doing when coming to this country), most employers require a college diploma. But what if you don’t have one? Or if you have a bachelor’s degree but want to benefit from the salary bump of having a master’s or a doctorate? The advice below will also help when applying for various jobs at Chinese companies that require a college degree in a particular field – but of course – hopefully you have the requisite skills to make up for lack of formal education-but let’s be real, even if you don’t have the skills you can likely still “wing it” better than a Chinese with an actual local diploma. Ok, so you partied too hard in college and didn’t quite graduate? And the “dropping out of college” career plan didn’t work out as well for you as it did for Bill Gates? No need to fret, the print shop comes to your rescue. Go online and find a picture of a diploma for a college you like and Photoshop your name on it, modify the graduation date, etc. Then print it out on thick professional paper; even better, spend a few more RMB to get a gold leaf stamp with the college motto emblazoned on it. If you are still in your home country, don’t waste money on actually printing it out since the colleges are only going to ask for a digital copy. Now you’re all set! When applying for jobs, you can email out your doctored doctoral diploma (that’s an example of alliteration by the way-use that in your English class) and they will be impressed. No need to worry about getting found out. The foreign affairs office workers are too lazy to actually do any verification (I will discuss pervasive laziness in China in a future post), or if by chance you run across a motivated department, their English ability is so low they wouldn’t even be able to communicate with the registrar’s office of your supposed alma mater, or for that matter be able to navigate the college’s website to even find the registrar’s contact info. And if the stars align and they do get that far, they would still be too cheap and lazy to be bothered to pay for a copy of your transcript. But I know some of you out there really don’t want to take risks. You might be thinking: What if having crossed all these hurdles, they still find out? They still don’t care. This was my experience… During my third year in China, the foreign affairs office of the University I was working at asked me to look at the resumes of potential new foreign teachers, so I could give them advice (I agreed to help mainly because I wanted to minimize the risk of more douchebags being hired and to build guanxi). They showed me one guy’s resume and his diploma from “Frankland University” in New York City and asked me if he seemed suitable to work at our University and mentioned they did a Bing.com (yes Google is blocked here) search for “Frankland University” but could not find it. I told them in no uncertain terms that the University was fake and, necessarily, so was the diploma. Their response?
But look at his diploma. It’s on such thick paper and the printing is such high quality, and this gold stamp in the corner looks very professional. Even if it’s fake, he must be a very smart man. He will probably be a good teacher.
You’re not Russian, you’re Canadian
The same principles can be applied if you are not a “native English speaker” which is a requirement for most jobs for foreigners. The solution? Don’t tell them you are in fact Russian or Polish. No, you’re Canadian or a New Zealander. Those two native English speaker countries have such a (relatively) small population that the Chinese have no idea what accent to expect from them. But what about my passport, you ask? That’s okay. Often, you will not be asked for your passport until after the interview, by which time the foreign affairs office feels they’ve already invested sufficient time in interviewing you so when you show your Russian passport, they will just go with it because laziness wins every time here (as I will discuss in a future article). And of course if you are working for private schools, they generally cannot arrange a visa for you anyway, so you won’t ever have to show them your passport and in fact I suggest you don’t as you are “breaking the law” so providing a record of that is a not the best idea. Lesson to be learned here? If you are in China, lie, but lie effectively and you will be respected for it. Since you can’t fight them, join them! Have a good time and get paid for it! There are of course many more opportunities to benefit from these principles of living in China and I will share more of them in part 3 of my “Land of Flexible Truths” essay series: specifically, I will discuss taking advantage of “fake foreigner” job opportunities in the next post. If you have not read part 1, you can read it here…
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