Musing About Hard Work in China

In America and many other Western countries, the Chinese are a “model minority.” They’re known for their incredible work ethic, financial position in life, and likely their looks and those good wallz. Living here in China, and Loser Laowai can vouch for this, I see plenty of Chinese folks that exhibit behavior that is far from ideal, but I must admit that I encounter quite a bit of inspirational people that make me kick myself for my comparative laziness as a spoiled so-called Westerner.

Delicious Chinese noodles

From time to time, however, I see examples of Chinese people working diligently to provide for their families. One such example is the owner of a noodle shop that my girlfriend and I often frequent. This man left home when he was fifteen and traveled all over China with the railroad until he became an engineer. After living an interesting life in his youth, he started breeding cats to make money independently. Business was good for him until his son got married and had a child of his own; cats are not good to have around the child due to his allergies.

Eager to care for his family, the man decided to open a noodle shop. It was trial-and-error, with his original recipes being too spicy. After about a year of perfecting the flavor of his dish, he runs a highly successful restaurant that attracts customers from all over Guangzhou. This is another wonderful success story, and an example of how hard work and keeping an open mind can lead to success and financial freedom in life.

Not All Hard Work Pays Off

On the other hand, China is full of examples of people working hard and spinning their wheels in the mud. Just like back home in the States, there are those of us that work hard for others to make them rich or to help them reach their goals without getting anywhere in our own lives. As much as I may complain about my hours and salary, I live like a king compared to many locals that work for peanuts.

I spotted one such example last night when my girl and I saw a woman that suffered burns while we were eating in a local porridge restaurant. Most of the patrons were young people, smiling and having a good time while she suffered pain and had to work regardless of her condition. On one hand, it is easy to feel sorry for her, but maybe her life is good compared to others; at least she has a job and a way to support herself instead of living on the streets with her injuries.

People work hard but barely get by.

These people work themselves to the bone and still seem to get nowhere in life. Is this really a life worth living? Are we really working one more day to build resources in order to strive for our dreams, or are we just fooling ourselves, giving ourselves a bit of hope while we exist one more day in our prisons? If we could work as hard for ourselves as we do for others, maybe we could all be financially free. It’s up to us to decide, but the playing field is certainly not even. Time constraints, injuries, location, race, genetics, and so on make things unequal. All that I can say is to get it while the getting is good, if it ever is really good.

Somebody always has it better, and somebody always has it worse, as they say. Regardless of this being the truth, it sounds like a cop-out when people mention it. In the end, we must try to make sure that you have it good, and that we are on the ascent.