We always love hearing from people out there that are studying Chinese, or live in China and want to share their stories with us. Some of you might have already listened to our spin-off podcast, the Two White Chicks in China, which is hosted by Nora and I. Each week we answer and discuss a question asked by a listener. We recently got ourselves a new listener, who, like us lives in China.
Bob Conrad, known to us as ‘Chinabob’, is what we have come to name ‘a lifer’. Meaning he has spent a large proportion of his life in China and has no plans to leave. Due to his 18+ years in China, he’s pretty much on the ball with life in China, and if he’s unsure, I’m sure he can ask his wife, Sun Ming Hua.
Bob has started posting and sharing his thoughts about many of our podcast episodes and so I’ve used his quotes and an email introducing himself to tell his ‘China story’. I will link back to his comments so that you can read his posts in full.
If you’re interested to know what it’s like to live and love in China, keep reading…
Bob Conrod started the conversation
I’m Bob. A new listener who’s been mainlining your podcasts since discovering them with TWCC59 just a few days ago.
I will send you a voicemail shortly but you have asked previously for China Stories and I fear mine is too long for a voice mail so here it is:
Bob on…Women in China (well, one in particular)
First I must say that I felt your view of Chinese women and what western guys look for in a woman (TWCC10) is one I’ve heard often from western women. Maybe there is some truth to it sometimes, and I know we all tend to generalise but I must say that my own relationship with my Chinese wife is very different.
There are a lot of people who will say I must’ve had "yellow fever" because I married a Chinese. I had dated a few Asian women but not exclusively and I had previously married and divorced a ‘white woman’. It just so happened that whilst working in NY as a Sightseeing tour helicopter pilot who preferred night shifts, my customers were nearly 95% Japanese. Due to this fact, I had enrolled in a Japanese language class so as to help me in my job and ended up meeting more and more Japanese people.
I met her one day in Connecticut, USA. At the time I was working in NY and living in Connecticut. As a pilot, my work schedule was such that I didn’t need to live so close to the hangar. Anyway, there I was driving on the Merritt Pkwy when I noticed her on the side of the highway with a very flat tire and obviously in need of assistance. (Yes ok, damsel in distress 😉 ) I stopped to help, we talked, I changed her tire and got her phone number. The rest is history; we’ve been married 20 years come this October. Only my luck that I was studying Japanese and met a Chinese girl. I enjoyed learning that language and found it much easier, at least in speaking and listening than Chinese.
When we met she was a Grad Student at a University in Connecticut. After we married she continued. A year or so later, with my career not progressing as well as I’d like, by some fluke I found a job that would help me jump ahead. It happened to be in Macao which at the time was a sleepy little backwater still under the control of the Portuguese. It was not an easy decision [to make] and it was not like she was going home, as she is from Jilin province in the Northeast and this was Guangdong. After much discussion, we decided to make the move thinking we would go for 2 – 2 1/2 years only and then we could go back to NY and I could walk into any job easily. Well, life worked differently, when we made the move she was then 4 months pregnant. We settled in, our son was born, she later got a job in Marketing. We stayed in Macao a couple years then moved across the border to Zhuhai while continuing to work in Macao.
In 2011, I quit my job and she transferred to the Beijing office when we decided to move there. As she is no docile little sheep, by then she had risen through the ranks of the local company and into the parent company and continued to rise to the post of Senior VP in charge of much of China. A few months ago she was named as CEO of the parent company’s (a Global Giant) largest company in Asia. Although her salary now towers over my own we have still maintained a very even, equal partnership.
…Regarding reactions to this from Chinese when we first meet and they find out [our situation], we get a mixed bag. Girls and younger women immediately seem to look up to her, while the older ones, I feel seem worried for us. Guys, at whatever age tend to joke that I must be very tough to "stay in control" of our marriage, though I feel that often there are unspoken thoughts that I must be weak in reality. You can see it in their faces…
Read the rest of Bob’s comment here at TWCC61.
[My wife is now] one of China’s most successful business women. She was the one that hosted the visit of France’s President Hollande a few months back when he came to China to her office in ChongQing and some time here in Beijing as well. She has even attended State dinners when President Xi JinPing 习近平 (xí jìn píng) and Premier Li Keqiang (lǐ kè qiáng) 李克强 were present. But with all this she has not let it go to her head and it has not affected us. Feel free to Baidu or Google Image search her name, she always pops up near the top of the front page; Sun Ming Hua 孙明华 (sūn míng huá).
So as you see, they are not all little princesses that turn into old fishwives. Some just start sweet and stay sweet!
…I will admit I am sensitive to being called a "House husband" and she thinks I am being silly for that. Our relationship is very good as we have always had a bit of a competitiveness in our home regarding many aspects, including salary. It is that competitiveness which makes me strive for better and is why I am trying to get this helicopter business off the ground (pun intended).
Truthfully I do not think the reactions we get here are very different than we would get in the States but in China, it is just more obvious. In a place where ‘face’ is so important, I think it is harder for a Chinese man to be in a position like mine than it is for me…
Bob on…Family Life in China
My son was born here 17 years ago. At the time we were living and working in Macau so we used the Macau hospital and it cost next to nothing. He was raised partly in Macau and partly in Zhuhai then later here in Beijing. Raising kids in China compared to the US is SOOOO CHEAP!
Find out Bob’s other thoughts on bringing up kids in China at TWCC23.
…Next year will be [our son’s] last year of high school. He was born in Macao and for the first 10 years of his life was completely Tri-lingual, speaking Cantonese, Mandarin and English. Having been away from Guangdong for a while now his confidence in Cantonese may have waned a bit but he is still fully bi-lingual. My wife speaks Mandarin, English and French and I speak English and Mandarin (Intermediate lazy student level). Although it’s hard to say what will happen in the future as my son is planning to attend University in London, we have no plans to leave China and no wish to ever move back to the States. My wife’s career is good, and while I am not an active pilot anymore I have been consulting countrywide and am now in the middle of trying to start up a helicopter company of my own down in Ningbo.
Bob on…Being a Foreigner in China
…Foreigners have since been referred to as "Laowai" 老外 (lǎo wài): a term used for brotherhood or intimate friendship in China, as in "Laozhang" 老丈 (lǎo zhàng) [meaning sir] or "Laowang" 老王 (lǎo wáng) [meaning pharaoh].
As is known to some foreigners, "Lao" 老 (lǎo) is a term of respect and intimacy in the Chinese language, which suggests a change in Chinese attitudes towards foreigners: the Chinese are beginning to treat foreigners as equals and accept them as close friends.
Considering this, "Laowai" is neither a bad term nor does it convey a negative meaning. The change in reference to foreigners represents historical evolution and social progress that could be understood and accepted by most foreigners…
…When we first arrived here in 98 and my wife was about 6 months along in her pregnancy, we would be out walking sometimes and I do remember hearing the odd comment from one or two Older Chinese men, muttering to themselves about the "American wolf" 美国狼 (měi guó láng) in reference to me, as in the "American wolf feeds on the Chinese lamb." But rarely have I heard negativity since then, on a day to day basis.
Read more about Bob’s experiences of being a foreigner in China at TWCC13.
Bob on…Chinese Food/Insects
I’ve had the silk worm cocoons too. Thanks to my tricky wife not telling me what it was first! Because I certainly wouldn’t have tried it if I had known. I had several, a little pasty, not particularly horrible or tasty either. We were in her hometown JiaoHe 蛟河 (jiāo hé), Jilin Province 吉林 (jí lín) and it was the next day when we were walking through the market that I saw them in their raw form, AND THEY WERE MOVING!!!! Ack! Nearly lost my stomach right then and there… Yuk. Between that and another occasion I have learned to go get a clear answer from her FIRST about what it is before deciding 吃不吃 (chī bù chī) ‘eat no eat’.
Read Bob’s post here at TWCC21.
Oh for me personally, I find that Baijiu 白酒 (bái jiǔ) is an acquired taste. For my first 10-12 years here I did think it was vile. But after this, because I would be drinking it one way or another I did start to not only get used to it but to be able to taste the differences in different bottles and qualities. Now, while I still prefer a good glass of red or a nice whiskey I can handle the odd Baijiu.
More on etiquette here at TWCC24
Life in China is good. I am a permanent resident and I love it here.
Keep up the good work!