Every nation in the world offers work opportunities that are both the same in scope as everywhere else and others that are unique to the particular national culture. For example, a cook or farmer or even a prostitute may speak different languages, but their functions in all societies are virtually the same. Conversely, China as a world power has some jobs that are unique to its culture and others that may be found elsewhere but are interpreted differently.
1. Face Jobs
Consider the avocation known as “face jobs.” This does not refer to plastic surgery, but rather appearances, which in this case are completely deceiving. Americans will seek out an Asian for a kung fu sidekick just as Chinese businessmen utilize a white guy to fraudulently represent their companies as bigger and more successful than they otherwise might be.
It is an odd and rather hypocritical illusion, as China really doesn’t want foreign ownership of any of their companies, but they do desire the lucrative coffers that only successful international firms can provide. Renting white men in nice suits as one might rent a nice car, and having them attend press and business conferences and ribbon-cutting ceremonies renders an apt but completely fraudulent impression.
In keeping with the absurdity, white women don’t usually get to be pretend-CEOs, because they cannot be business people according stereotypical thinking. They can, however, pose as exotic girlfriends to the fake white guys in business suits.
2. Standing In Line For Other People
In Beijing where it takes 5 hours to see a doctor and sometimes days of camping out to register for housing and also some schools for children, paying someone to do the “standing” nets about $3 US per hour. It is said that on some movie sets in China people are used to hold lights and reflectors instead of C-Stands because hiring a person to do the job is cheaper than renting a C-Stand.
The idea of standing patiently in line is deeply rooted in the Chinese concept of competition, which is driven by the need to “get there first.” The best deals come to those who wait (or hire someone to wait for them). Standing in line is a fact of life to be not so much endured as to considered as a path to a goal. Whether or not the Western world can learn from this remains a moot point.
3. Poop Collectors
China is a large recycler of human waste and the profession of collecting it has been a tradition since ancient times. In one reported instance last year, 391 desperate graduates unable to find any other work, answered an ad placed by a Chinese sanitation company for five poop collectors. Another Chinese city the year before last, had ten positions available to which 2,500 applicants responded.
Despite severe regulations, the Chinese do not respond to orders when it comes to this very private fact of life. The job entails picking up waste from all the public toilets and outhouses. Although far from appetizing, it is steady work. There may be even more openings in this arena in the near future, as China may be looking to collect urine as well.
4. Funeral Parlor Work
As a superstitious nation, the topic of death is anathema to most Chinese, so much so that alarm clocks are considered unfit presents that count the seconds until death arrives and many buildings don’t have a 4th floor because the Chinese word for “four” sounds like the word for “die”. Societal prejudice only adds to the pressure of performing this type of job, and younger people who may find positions in funeral parlors often hesitate to tell their family and friends.
Part of the prejudice also concerns the mistaken belief that funeral home workers are highly paid. This is not so, as these jobs are all subsidized by the government and salaries are actually very low. Despite this, some 500 college graduates attended a recent job fair sponsored by funeral homes.
Any job that is honest work has its purpose in the universal scheme of things. If nothing else, it pays a bill and buys some food.