Living in China as an expat is like going to a jack-of-all trades vocational school. You’re building quite a resume for your next career.
1. Medical Doctor
You’ve become a pro at figuring out what ails you, mostly because you want to avoid joining the masses holding IV bags on laundry poles at the local clinic. Between WebMD, Where There Is No Doctor, and video chats with your mom, you generally get the diagnosis right.
Along with the self-diagnosis comes the self-medication. Back home, that refers to donuts and whisky; here it means OTC amoxicillin. (And yet you’ve still managed to have far fewer rounds of antibiotics than the general populace.)
3. English Teacher/Tutor
Because no matter what you came here to do, there is a good chance this made it onto your resume at least once.
Amazing how you never gave much of a thought to pipes before you got here, huh? But now you’ve cleared out sink drains, un-gucked faucets, installed shower heads, filled water traps, re-routed pipes and plunged toilets like never before. Extra sparkles in your crown if you’ve installed a bathtub yourself. Bigger, brighter sparkles if you’ve found a way to fix the sewer stench leaching into your bathroom.
5. Hipster Chef
Before coming to China, you honestly didn’t know certain things could be made in your own kitchen, like sour cream or apple butter. You’ve blown past all that, and now even your kombucha-brewing friends back home are impressed. You’ve made your own sourdough starter, cultured your own yogurt, ground your own wheat berries, and even made brownies without a mix. You’ve roasted, smoked, basted, and baked more than you knew was possible. And you’ve done it all with an oven the size of carry-on luggage.
You’ve gotten quite the education on 110V versus 220V, how to replace breakers, and why you can’t run three appliances at once if they’re on the same circuit. After living here a while, it’s not such a big deal to rewire a switch, run cables all over your apartment since there aren’t enough outlets, or install a light fixture to replace the unlicensed Garfield + Tinkerbell one.
7. Counterfeit Currency Expert
Sure, when you were fresh off the boat, you may have gotten slipped a few fakies. That was before you realized someone would actually make the effort to counterfeit 10 kuai bills. Now you know all the tricks: tilt the bill to see the iridescent strip, hold it up to the light to look for the watermark, rub Mao’s collar and the wavy bumps on the side, and, finally, glare suspiciously at the shopkeeper who just gave it to you before flicking it around a few times to test its crispness. Governments around the world need these skills.
You’ve learned more about cutting apart a chicken carcass and identifying its internal organs than you ever wanted to know. You’ve bought a whole rack of ribs just so you can cut them “the right way,” and you’ve possibly even cured your own ham.
9. Tour Guide
You get to practice this one every time friends or family come to visit. You know which places are tourist traps, which parks are hidden gems, what time to get to the restaurant to beat the crowds, and, as a bonus, how to bargain a souvenir T-shirt down to a price even the locals are impressed by.
10. VPN Salesman
You know the pros and cons of every VPN out there, and have probably convinced new China arrivals on the virtues of your favorite. You have a system for which remote server connection works best at which time of day. (USA via Singapore in the morning, Dallas 2 after lunch.)
Never before have you paid so much attention to exchange rates, or understood so intimately how the price of pork can affect everything.
You know what it’s like to have an entire restaurant stop and stare when you enter, to be “secretly” followed by groups of giggling teenage girls, and to have elderly men give you big smiles and thumbs-up just for being you. You’re now used to the paparazzi who photograph you everywhere you go, and the random strangers who want your opinion on everything from fashion to food to politics. You just need to practice your Jimmy Fallon lip sync battle songs, and you’ll be all set to join the ranks of the Uber-Famous.
13. Taobao Personal Shopper
Please, oh please, let this be a real career.