travels with my barang-barang

workin’ it

Posted in Beijing, Miscellany, Yellow Fever by ejl on 26 March 2009

Yesterday evening, J and I attended a networking event hosted by various Chambers of Commerce. We thought we might be able to get to know some other expat professionals in Beijing, so it was 85% a social exercise and 15% a work-related event.

On both counts, initially – FAIL.

Socially, most of them were male and middle-aged. Okay, maybe not middle-aged, but definitely not mid- to late-twenties like J and I are. And the male part… well, J was hoping to score some lady-friends. First comment of the night from J as we walked in, “this is really cock-heavy”. I’m sure we’ll return to this topic of how cock-heavy Beijing is, but we’ll leave that for another time.

The men were, for the most part, not that yummy. Even the ones that looked relatively young, in their early- to mid-thirties, just didn’t cut the mustard.  Ok, they weren’t all ugly, there were one or two fitties, but I was more intent on getting to that scallop canapé. They weren’t so handsome that I’d pass on those grilled scallops. As a result, cock-heaviness aside, I didn’t chalk up any man-friends either.

Work-wise, we just weren’t in the mood to be plying our trade. And the crowd didn’t seem to be interested in talking to lawyers. Look, we know how we get work, and it’s not by passing our cards round at some networking event. It’s by responding to RfPs and by sitting on panels, and also by undercutting everyone else on our fee proposals.

But, just as we were giving up on the enterprise, we got to chatting to a girl who worked for an energy MNC. After our introductions, and about 5 minutes into our conversation, she’d already invited us along to her massage appointment (?!) but we were so taken aback that all we could do was mumble and decline the invitation. She’d also asked if I liked Chinese boys and on hearing that I have no preference one way or the other said she’d introduce me to her male friends. She, on the other hand, liked white meat, which was probably why she invited us (i.e. J) to the massage.

Massive WIN for both J and I.

So, we don’t think we’ll be going to any more of these networking things any time soon. They’re rubbish. For us, anyway.  They’re not particularly well-suited hunting grounds for my industry or my social life. 

But this girl, we’re seeing her this weekend for dinner and drinks, so who knows what might develop? Maybe J will score with the lady, and I’ll get to know some cute English-speaking Chinese boys. And highly unlikely, but perfectly possible in the world of infinite maybes, she might pass some work our way (after enough wining and dining, perhaps).

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Speak good English

Posted in Beijing, Yellow Fever by ejl on 11 March 2009

It’s very difficult, in Beijing where a large number of expats are male and quite a number of those males are afflicted with a massive case of ignoramusia extremus, to not roll my eyes when within the first 5 seconds of conversation the topic turns to be fluency in English.

For the record:
1) I am female
2) I am a Singapore-born Chinese
3) I speak English as my first language, and Mandarin a not-so-close second

I do understand the initial assumption that I might be PRC, but surely the question as to my origins could be couched in a more sophisticated manner? Perhaps the belief that London-accented English should not be coming out of a Chinese-looking face that throws that person off the track of normal etiquette?

I have no issues with someone asking me quite directly ‘So where are you from?’. I take offence at ‘You speak very good English, where did you learn that from?’. The first is polite and vague, the second has an express assumption that someone that looks like me shouldn’t be able to speak English at any passable level – insulting not just me, but also numerous PRCs who are able to speak English extremely fluently.

It also seems to be a phenomenon that happens only to females, inflicted by males. Other women have never seemed taken aback by my speech, and all other X-born Chinese men I’ve asked have never been subject to such condescension. It’s very disturbing, no?

Anyway, gripe over. I just wish more people would understand that outside of China live a very large Chinese diaspora, many of whom speak, read and write English natively. I don’t assume you’d speak English just because you look caucasian, right?