Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Xiongmao in Zhejiang 2.0. Another Year In A Freezing Hell Hole Or Dating Paradise?

Xiongmao re-reporting in. Last year I reviewed my first 4 months living in Chinas's Zhejiang Province.

When I lived in Guangdong I found it was a dating paradise. In fact I was so much like a kid in a candy story that notorious HA Forum member Odbo trolled me for being like a kid in a candy store.



Sadly, Zhejiang has been a big fat disappointment, although some things are better than they were in Guangdong.


Anyway, here's a review of another 12 months of living in Zhejiang Province, and of trying to be Happier Abroad.

Yes, despite all the woes I ended up renewing my contract. More than anything it was a case of "better the devil you know". It was quite a smart move because by renewing I got all my paperwork done before I returned home in the Summer. Plus they paid me a retainer of around $750 a month during July and August even though I didn't have any teaching hours. Finally I was able to leave a load of stuff in my room, and didn't have to rebuy stuff I'd already bought.

On the "better the devil you know" thing, I read so many scare stories about fake jobs in China and the penalties are so harsh so leaving a legitimate job to move to another one is way more risky than it is in another country.

Dating


Well dating in Zhejiang sucks. I've still had zero dates in what is it - 16 months now?

I've had a couple of almost dates. I chat to one lady sometimes but she left Shanghai and went back to Hunan. She comes to Shanghai sometimes but I think I'm old and wise enough to not spend $150 going to see her one weekend.

Not that anywhere else would necessarily be better of course. Last Summer I spent 20 days in Bangkok while on the way back to the UK. I only managed a single date in those 20 days. I fared much better in the bars in Nana Plaza though 😍. Ha ha I fell in love every night there.

What's making Zhejiang such a dating wasteland? I think it's just a numbers game, as my research here shows. There are eight times less ladies from Zhejiang on China Love Cupid than there are from Guangdong.

To summarise my research:

In 16 months my experiences have been:

  • China Love Cupid - just not enough ladies to chat to in Zhejiang. I've chatted to some Shanghai ladies, but the place is too Westernised to be a great hunting ground for wife material.
  • Jiayuan - I finally got my profile made on this Chinese language only site. It has a lot of members (even in Zhejiang) but I'd say 99% of the ladies on the site aren't really looking for a foreigner husband. If your Chinese is at HSK 3 or greater level you might do OK on here, but as I just said, they're not really looking for foreign husbands on this site.
  • TanTan - this Tinder clone is really popular but I've not had much success on here. It requires a lot of daily swiping and the wifi in my room is so poor that I just can't be bothered with it.
I should just add that TanTan has recently added a VIP option and it's super cheap. It's just like $12 a year or something though the App Store. Whether I'd get more luck with a VIP option I'm not sure - maybe it's like Match.com or Jiayuan when you pay once then they demand even more money to make your profile more visible.

A Better Social Life... Then It Went Sucky Again


After I posted my last article my social life in China got better. I met a group of Professional Expats and hung out with them a couple of times at a 5 star hotel bar.

Well it was nice to drink cold beer and watch stunning Cantonese waitresses, but I never really gelled with the other guys. They were around a decade older than me and we didn't have that much in common. I met a few Chinese guys there but they were just so boring with their talk of money and house prices and stuff.

One highlight came from this - I appeared on local TV. It was a cool experience and something that would be difficult to do back home.

The best thing that happened to me since the last article was that a sociable outgoing teacher joined our school last September. He found out more about China in a few weeks than I managed in a whole year! He taught me how to pick up Taobao deliveries (something that has transformed my life in China), steal unlocked ofo bicycles and introduced me to the expat nightlife scene here.

Well the nightlife isn't that awesome to be honest but we had a few memorable nights out.

I use the past tense because he dropped a bombshell in December - fun laoshi thought Zhejiang was too boring and now he's gone off to work in a major Tier 1 city.

Teaching Is Great... Never Going Back To My Cubicle Of Hell

It's weird. Back in 2013 I lived in Thailand and loved that, but I was never seriously considering going down the whole TEFL route.

I did actually apply for an IT job in Bangkok but the guy said he would only pay me a local salary and I didn't want to move halfway around the world just to go and live in another cubicle for 40 hours a week.

While I was in Bangkok I almost got as far as ordering some books about teaching English. But the whole thought of doing something as daunting as the CELTA terrified the hell out of me.

To be fair, doing the CELTA at International House a couple of years later DID terrify the hell out of me. Lesson two was marked not to standard and I thought things were going to fall apart just as my IT career had twice during 2014.

Somehow I made it through the CELTA, but it would be another two and a half years before I would go back into the classroom.

In the intervening couple of years I tried to get my IT career going again. The CELTA made me much better at job interviews. I ended up completely dominating a couple of interviews. These weren't at your average employer either. One was at a financial services company with offices beside the River Thames, the other was a leading cash management company who service two immense FTSE 100 companies.

Sadly when it came to actually doing the job I sucked and had the humiliation of two more firings to add to my career total of five.

Was I ever good at programming? Is any programmer any good at programming? It's probably the career path with the most amount of imposter syndrome sufferers in it.

Maybe as many imposter syndrome sufferers as there are in teaching.

I still worry about whether I'm a good enough teacher. But I seem to be doing OK. I got observed three times last year and of course one of the lessons was an absolute disaster. I did do some teaching of IT though as well as ESL, and the IT stuff seemed to go pretty well. My mantra in the classroom is are they actually learning anything?

Now I'm happy to be a teacher for a while. I've definitely come to terms with IT being a young man's game. My bestie back in London is trying to stay in an IT career past the age of 40 and it's car crash viewing really. He should really think about the TEFL route too.

It's cool that 20% of my IT students in China are girls, but I still think they'd have been better off studying on the Accountancy stream instead.

The Medium-Long Term Plan Looks Great

Well despite the boredom of  Zhejiang and the cubicle firings I tend to give zero fucks about anything but the longer term picture.

I've had so many "important" work meetings over the years but I can no longer remember what any of them were about.

Only one thing matters - the plan to achieve financial freedom. Well in that respect I have largely achieved that goal:


Maybe I'll do another post about this chart because I know there's a lot of interest in how I managed to stash so much cash away.

Incidentally, the large drop in 2006 wasn't the financial crash, it was when I bought my rental apartment and had to put down 20% (the other 80% was financed with a mortgage). I had another crash in 2016 when I paid off 40% of the remaining mortgage debt.

Anyway, I've done pretty well in Zhejiang. I'd have done even better but the financial markets have not been kind to me in the last 6 months.

Can I Escape My Island And Go Elsewhere

Yes of course Zhejiang isn't strictly an island, but with so many rivers maybe it is. Anyway, I feel much like Winston and his rants about how boring and dull Taiwan Province is.

Last Spring I did have a job interview for a job in Chiang Mai. I did try to escape Zhejiang! Chiang Mai would have been a great place to live and at least I wouldn't have to mess round with VPN connections to actually post here like I'm having to do right now. But the job's salary wasn't great and there was no apartment. I did some rough math and realised that I'd barely have broken even there. Meanwhile in boring Zhejiang I can save around half my salary (~$750 a month).

This year thanks to fun laoshi being the missing link in my being able to buy stuff on TaoBao I've been able to save even more money. Like Tesco/Vanguard sell pillows for ~170 CNY but I got a hotel quality one on TaoBao for ~69 CNY (including free delivery!).

So that kind of wraps up another year in Zhejiang. I've still got the Spring Semester to come (it starts next week).

I'm not mentioning the weather in this post. Last year it was freezing cold and went down to 8°C in my room. This year it's much warmer as I invested in an oil filled heater on TaoBao instead of relying on the crappy airconditioner unit to heat the room.

At least last Winter was sunny so I could go out and about exploring. This year we've had two sunny days since New Year (the Western one, not the Chinese one). The rest of the time it's been cold, grey and wet.

My neighbours have got cabin fever and keep yelling at each other - a good advertisement for NOT getting married to a Chinese women or any woman for that matter.

Well I'll wrap it up now, who knows what will happen in the 16 more weeks I am in Zhejiang. Probably nothing at all I guess...

If you have any comments or questions about China, teaching or financial independence then post them here. And remember to check out my Chinese dating maps - province by province and numbers of ladies to date per province.