Don’t tell Jimmy Bishop, but it turns out I might have lied in my interview for the China gig. See, I gave it all the big kahuna about how I wanted to come over here so I could act like a Chinese person, make friends with the locals, stay away from the ex-pat community, learn the lingo, absorb the culture, fall in love with the food, yadda yadda. Instead, all my friends are Westerners and English teachers or people I play football with. I speak enough Chinese to survive, in the way that a two-year-old survives – a few poorly-formed words here and there, and the missing bits filled in with pointing, gurning and gurgling. And shitting. Everywhere. Because the one thing I did do as promised was fall in love with the food. Unfortunately, the food doesn’t love me back and can’t get away from me quickly or loudly enough.
Butttttttt, I think I have a valid excuse for all this: I’ve been indulged like a shitting, squawking, gurgling, whining brat since I got here. The Chinese are almost painfully hospitable – everything is geared towards making you, their guest, as comfortable as possible. Despite the fact that I’ve never taught before, and nobody seems to care whether I’m actually any good at it or not, as a white-skinned, more-blond-than-ginger haired (let me have that one), blue-eyed (ish) native English speaking male with most of my own teeth I’m suddenly a valuable asset to someone. I have no less than 3 mentors at my school – teachers at my school whose job it is to make sure everything is OK for me. Anyone looking for a job right now in the UK might prick up their ears at that, or whatever you prick up when you’re reading. Most people my age have never known what it’s like to be appreciated by an employer and to not be instantly replaceable. This means that not many people my age have ever been mollycoddled and pampered or, as I like to call it, “treated like a human” in this way since they were little kids. Being pampered or indulged or allowed to just crack on with it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but like the Chinese, sometimes parents can be a bit too indulgent – see the article below about a boy whose parents have let him be a girl*:
My parents could be indulgent too. When I was about four or five, one day I decided that I was now going to be called Colin. I wouldn’t answer to anything else in school and I scribbled out “Steve” on all my exercise books to make a point of it. Mrs Hawkins finally lost patience with me and called my Mam in despair. My Mam was pretty cool about it though, and said to Hawkins “quit yo’ jibba jabba, ain’t nobody gon’ die if you name the boy Colin, you chicken-gristle eatin’ pickle juice drinkin’ nappy-headed fool! Quit jivin‘ me!” So, suitably intimidated, Hawkins gave up arguing with my mother (who, as some of you may know, was a 1930s Harlem street hustling pimp) and from then on I was known as Colin X. Obviously at some point pretty soon after I grew out of this phase – presumably when I realised that, of all the words in the English language, Colin is probably the worst. And that the Nation of Islam was a sham. So in this case, indulgence won out in the end. Great anecdote, that one. Colin Farrell to play me in the film. Or maybe that kid he shot in the face in that film, In Brussels. SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read the sentence before this one.
Sorry. Point? Well, being indulged like a bairn can make you go one of two ways. One, you sort of thrash around a while, letting it go to your head for a bit, then you chickity-check yo’self and go back to normal and appreciate the level of hospitality and the respect that you’re not used to back home. Or two, you become a jaded 48-year-old corporate middle-manager who’s been here 13 years and can’t speak the language beyond abusing taxi drivers and negotiating with hookers. Or to use the scientific term, rickity-wreck yo’self. Stuck in a job with too much money, too much respect and too much power for your skill set, and probably totally under-qualified to do anything back home on remotely the same level even if there was an economy to go back to, how could you ever go home? So you end up stuck here, bitter, jaded, thousands of miles away from what’s left of your family, desperately seeking out anything that looks or smells like home (or a brothel) and paying through the nose for it, thus totally defeating the point of earning a buck out here in the first place. There is a definite correlation between “age of ex-pat” and “likelihood that they’re a complete and utter Tuesday” which I have helpfully illustrated in this graph:
By the way, don’t take the preciseness of those figures too much on face value – I promise I have no-one specific in mind. It’s actually a combination of two people.
On a side-note, the word ‘ingenious’ is one that’s sometimes chucked about a bit too often. Tuesday, in case you were wondering, is an ingenious way I’ve come up with to call someone a “cunt” without actually swearing. As in, “see you next”. I’m hoping it will catch on, but I don’t think I’ve ever said it out loud because it just wouldn’t sound right coming from me, so maybe someone else can give it legs. I’m pretty sure I did actually come up with this, but I’ve been wrong about this stuff in the past. It sounds like the sort of thing a student would probably dream up. We each have our own deluded claim to fame, though. My brother once tried to convince me that him and his mates at Gossy High School had started the mobile phone craze by pointing out that text messaging and paging were basically the same thing, thus making everyone bin the pagers they bought two months ago and buy one of those massive Motorola bricks. Maybe he still believes it, who knows. Mine is inventing the phrase “penis colada” when I drank a litre of pineapple juice before getting a nosh. Well, I was about to get a nosh but I burst out laughing at my own genius. My ego, heart and penis were all trampled when I learned that, actually, not only would it later be used on Shameless without crediting me but her Dad had actually already made it up before either of us were born anyway:
OK, back to the topic. So aye, older folk tend to be a bit bell-endish over here if they stay for a long time but don’t really settle properly. That’s my own little theory based on my limited experience, take it or leave it. Like pretty much everything written above though, it’s not going to win any prizes for originality – or for being factual, insightful or even for not being total shite – but this is the age of the Internet and I will have my say. In fairness, lots of people stay here for a long time and settle well, integrate, speak the lingo, marry locals, have kids here – basically do what foreigners have been doing in the UK for generations. Pretty much the opposite of what I’m doing, as it happens. Which probably means that without turning things round pretty soon I might turn into one of these pampered old dickheads before long.
*I just said that so I could link one point to the next. They’re not indulging him at all; the poor kid’s in turmoil. He tried to cut off his Johnson, fer Chrissakes!