Saturday, June 9, 2018

Goodbye, China

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that I now live in Vietnam, but didn't give any details about why I am here now. I'll try to catch you up, but be warned. I may get a little negative in this post. Something I typically try not to do, but we've had a rough couple of months. Not "stuck-in-a-hotel-room-with-Harvey-Weinstein" rough, but it has not been enjoyable.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you have read many of my adventures already. Here are a few of the highlights.

Click the links if you missed any of these or they sound interesting.

Token White Guy -Learning what my actual job was
I Have the Power -The perils of just paying our bills
My #2s Should Be Someone's #1 Priority -Taking a crap shouldn't be this difficult
Don't Rub Me the Wrong Way - First experience with Chinese massage
Star and Torch Competition - Being a celebrity judge on television
English Lessons - Working with children
The Chinese Language is All Greek to Me - Us trying to learn Chinese
Life is Rough - My incredibly light work schedule

China was great and we learned a lot about adjusting to life in another culture, but…at the same time, China was awful and we learned a lot about adjusting to life in another culture.

When things went really south, I never really mentioned it on my blog. I like my blog to be a happy place where you can let your children play with having to worry about men in trench coats circling around in their van with the windows blacked out. Today, I'm going to let the creeps drive around.

For example, the school that brought us to China wasn't exactly honest with us about how employment regulations work. Shortly after arriving, Red and I were both pulled out of our schools for fear that government inspectors might find us working there.


We had government contracts and worked in government schools, but that same government didn't know we were in their schools. It's a complicated mess that I'm not going to explain here (to protect certain people), but our bosses hadn't told us everything.

By the time it was all fixed, we had been in China for seven months before I received my first full paycheck. Until then, we were running around trying to make money doing odd jobs (all illegally) to get enough money to pay our bills.

We lived in China for a total of 20 months and my wife never succeeded in getting her work visa. This means she was never legally allowed to work. The reason for this was due to the job she had (yes, she had a job despite not having the proper government permission). She was an online personality doing videos to teach very young children English. According to the Chinese government, she is a teacher, despite the fact that she never enters a classroom or works with children. They would force her to apply for a teaching visa instead of the standard work visa. However, she does not have the required certificates and experience to qualify for a teaching visa, so it would get rejected every time.

For myself, my contract ended in December and I really wanted to leave my primary school job and teach in a university. And I got job offers from five different universities while we were there. However, none of them wanted me in January. They were all hiring for the next school year, but when the next school year came around no one wanted to hire me because I was locked into a contract at my current school until the following December. These contracts mean everything in China. You can't just walk away from a job. This meant I was stuck where I was unless I was willing to be unemployed for 6 months to change jobs. Although, even if I was willing to try this, my visa would expire and I would have to leave the country. So, I stayed where I was.

Add to all this the air quality issues in Beijing
that are almost always in the HAZARDOUS level
and we decided we just needed to get out.

Getting a job in another country would free me from having to abide by China's contract rules. We did a little research and settled on Vietnam as our new home.

But we still had to get out of China first. It was not easy. I received dozens of phone calls from my school trying to understand, bribe, coerce, threaten, guilt, and beg me to stay. A government inspector even offered to make me the principal of a Beijing school.

After a reconnaissance trip to Danang Vietnam to check out our new future hometown, we settled back in Beijing for one month to wrap everything up (close bank accounts, shut off services, etc). It was awful. It seems that everything in China is designed to be purposefully difficult.
  • I returned the router to the internet company on my last day of service. They required my passport to cancel my service. I had left it at home and didn't want to make the trip back, so I showed them the picture I had of my passport page I always kept on my phone. NOPE. They have to have the original. I didn't see the point. I was not purchasing anything or starting new service, I was ending service. I owed them no money. I eventually told them, I'm just leaving this here. Do what you want with it. The manager got involved and objected to me leaving. After a bit of arguing, I discovered they only needed to make a copy of my passport. "SERIOUSLY!?! If all you need is a copy, I have one." I sent them an email with the picture of my passport attached. It took 5 people standing around discussing this before they decided that that picture would be as good as a picture they took themselves. Uh, yeah. Why wouldn't it be?
  • I had three separate bank accounts due to insane banking regulations and spent an entire day trying to close just two of them. And one of them insisted that I didn't have any money in the account after it was closed. I did, but there was nothing I could do about it.
  • Due to my bank account being closed, our leasing agent couldn't give us our deposit back. Because, apparently, the ONLY possible way to give us our money is a direct deposit into my account.
  • Foreigners pay into social security the same as locals. And when we leave the country, we are to go apply to get the money we have contributed. After all, it's our money. However, the laws and regulations involved all contradict each other in such a way that it is nearly impossible to get that money. I was not able to get it because I cannot legally stay in the country long enough to complete the process required.
Here is my Facebook rant from that day about Chinese social security regulations that further explains it.

Here is my Facebook rant about how our leasing company stole our money.

Moving is expensive. That is to be expected, but we didn't expect to lose an additional $6,000 due to government theft, corporate fraud, and bureaucratic inefficiency.

As of today, we have been in Vietnam for almost two weeks and it has been an entirely different experience from day one. I can honestly say that we already have more friends here than we had after a year in China. The people here are incredibly friendly. People always talk to us on the street and approach us to find out where we are from. Everyone wants to to help. Genuinely help. Not just try to get something from us. After being here only five days, we threw a party on our rooftop and a dozen people attended. It has been great.

There is still much we don't understand about Vietnam and are learning how paperwork and laws work here, but it has been a wonderful experience so far. I love this country already.

We'll return to our regularly scheduled happy posts now.


  1. I wonder if Vietnam being a smaller country makes a difference? Or being tropical? Certainly both are communist, but handle things differently.

    1. I think it's the oppression of free thought that has been forced on the people of China for so long. They are just now starting to open up a bit, but it will take generations for the damage to be undone.

  2. My friend's daughter was in China maybe five years ago and loved it so much-she recently went back and said it had changed so much (not for the better). Glad that Vietnam is a better fit so far!

    1. It had its moments, but we will never go back to live.


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