One of the tough things about being an expat is the little things. Little things you know so well how to do at home, are maddeningly difficult in country. Banks here don’t send statements, no one uses checks, monthly bills do no carry over and late payments need to be done in person during bank-business hours, where to find the best deals on food, consumer products, etc…
The difficultly of daily life extends to the work place. It’s hard to navigate the company’s internal website. All in chinese characters, and several minutes of trial and error convince me I have to ask for help. I first call HR to see if they can give me, over the phone, the simple information I need, but they cant. Instead, they direct me to an admin. After some flattery, the cute admin sends me a detailed step by step screen shot of where to click, a picture book for the illiterate, a visual map through the HR hanzi maze. Tracking through the instructions I finally get to the goal, and I cant believe what I’m seeing. I retrace my steps, follow the guide exactly and only confirm my earlier finding.
The Amercian dollar continues to decline against the Chinese yuan (RMB). This is a great thing for Chinese consumers, they can buy American luxury goods cheaper. It’s also great if you export goods from the US, your goods become cheaper here. Its good if you want to help correct a trade imbalance. It’s not so good if you are the American good being exported. Not so good to have your dollar-tied salary adjusted monthly, based on the current (and declining) exchange rate.
I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but after two successful years, the company growing double digits, growing my group by over 300%, impressing the client, setting up a science based culture, and establishing a successful reputation for the company, I find that my salary is now 3% lower than two years ago. Not adjusting for inflation, which, in the heated Chinese economy, is running about 5% a year.
There are many reasons why I came to China, the opportunity to join those making their fortune here at this historic time, being only one of several, but unfortunately that part seems to be failing. Note to self: sign next contract in RMB, and like anywhere else, caveat emptor.