It's easy to feel outnumbered in a country of 1 billion people, especially for non-natives. But more and more foreigners are finding ways to make China feel like home. We profiled seven of them in Issue 010. Here are five more.
David Ben Kay
age 53Where did you move from?
I moved to Beijing from Hong Kong, moved to Hong Kong from California.How long have you been in China?
Eighteen years in Beijing. And if you mean greater China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, then 25.What do you do?
I work for Microsoft China as their piracy czar. I had previously been their general counsel and before that I was in private practice in a number of international law firms. For my "other job," I'm a designer and operate an art gallery-which is also my pied-à-terre.Why did you move?
In a word: yuanfen, often translated as "destiny" or "fate." It comes from a Taoist concept that views the cosmos like fabric, with people, time, events, and places running along the continuum of the warp and woof of the fabric. Where the warp and woof cross is where yuanfen occurs. A thousand seeming coincidences from childhood on brought me to China. It's where I'm supposed to be.What do you miss?
There's only one thing I miss: really good Mexican food-okay, Tex-Mex food. Every time I land in Denver (where I was born), I immediately head to Señor Pepe's for my fix: a chile relleno, cheese enchiladas, a smothered burrito, and guacamole.Any plans to come back?
age 30Where did you move from?
Rotterdam, and before that Los Angeles.How long have you been in China?
Four years between Shanghai, Hong Kong, and now Beijing.What do you do?
I work for design companies working within the architecture field.Why did you move?
I came to China to see what this building boom was about. Unlike the States or Europe, where getting experience required waiting for positions to open up, here they just thrust you into responsibility and new project possibilities.How much Chinese do you speak?
I'm able to order food and navigate a taxi, thanks to the best tutors, waiters, and taxi drivers.How much do you hang out with other expats?
I just want to relax and hang out with friends whom I can relate to easily. Unfortunately, this is 70 percent so-called expats. I don't understand this whole expat classification. No one views immigrant communities within the States with such loaded connotations of colonialism.Any funny stories?
When I first moved to China, I went to several grocery stores only to find that the milk expiration date was the same everywhere [and that it had all expired]. What I didn't realize was that the date on milk cartons was the date when they put the product on the shelf.Any plans to come back?
I have been saying for a couple of years that I wanted to leave the Chinese rat race, but the opportunities and projects that have come about make it hard to leave.
age 26Where did you move from?
San Francisco.How long have you been in China?
Five years.What do you do and how did you end up doing it?
Chinese creatives-musicians, artists, writers, designers-are underrepresented by mainstream Chinese media and lack effective distribution options. My company, Neocha.com, helps these young and emerging "creatives" promote themselves by aggregating their work online and organizing a variety of offline events ranging from creative bazaars and concerts to art exhibitions and online contests.Why did you move?
My father is Hakka Chinese and, while I was raised in the U.S., I always wanted to reconnect with the Chinese half of my heritage. After graduating from college, I moved to China and have not left.How much Chinese do you speak?
I speak it fluently. I went to graduate school in China, 90 percent of my work is in Chinese and I have a Chinese blog.What should people in America know about China?
The gap between the young and old generations in China is huge right now. The urban youth are driven by a capitalist mentality, are uninterested in politics, and live in a digital world. One of the most common observations made by my Chinese friends is how they don't understand their parents and how their parents understand them even less.Any plans to come back?
Yes, I'll move back in a couple years. I think it's healthy to continually change your perspective on the world and staying in China for too long can make you jaded.
age 36Where did you move from?
South Africa.How long have you been in China?
Thirteen years.What do you do and how did you end up doing it?
I own and edit Danwei.org, a website about media and news in China. I started it four years ago after working in the media and advertising industries for most of the previous decade.How much Chinese do you speak?
I can speak, read, and write, but Chinese people still laugh at my mistakes.How much do you hang out with other expats?
Beijing is not a happy place if you don't like the company of Chinese people, but I also need friends from other countries. One of the best things about living in Beijing is the variety of foreigners here. It easy to meet people from all over the globe-from Azerbaijan to Zambia.What should people in America know about China?
It's not all kung fu, silk, Communists, and sweatshops. The country that most reminds me of China is the United States: both are huge countries with socially and geographically mobile populations that have an incredible work ethic and an inflated sense of self-importance.What do you miss?
What do I miss? Free media.Any plans to come back?
Come back to where?
age 30Where did you move from?
Boston.How long have you been in China?
Seven years.What do you do and how did you end up doing it?
Here in Shanghai, I manage a children's learning center, teach children ages 5 to 9 and am completing a children's storybook.Why did you move?
I originally came to China to work in education, learn about the educational industry here, and study Chinese.How much Chinese do you speak?
I have a working proficiency in Chinese. My friends are constantly helping me with my poor grammar.What should people in America know about China?
China is developing and changing faster than a growing child. I advise all those interested to hop on a plane and check it out, while it is still moderately inexpensive. The demographics of cities like Shanghai and Beijing are changing quickly as well. I am a black American female with Caribbean parents. I have been surprised by how many black Americans and Caribbeans alone have settled in Shanghai since 2004.Any plans to come back?
I do plan to return to the U.S. sometime soon, although the time is not yet set in stone.