Heading abroad for greener pastures

By Pauline D.Loh ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-03-21 09:52:27

More and more Chinese are heading overseas, some for temporary work assignments and study, others to seek better living and working environments. But, they are only part of the big story as globalization shrinks the world and we are, to a certain extent, becoming citizens of the planet rather than of one country.

In Seattle recently, I met a lady from Guangzhou who started working here four years ago. She is now a senior chambermaid in charge of a small team and speaks a working vocabulary of basic English, which she proudly tried out on me.

My Chinese-looking face made her a little hesitant, added to the fact that my room had probably been bookmarked "VIP Media". I decided to take the initiative and speak to her in Putonghua.

Her face lit up and she gladly continued the conversion in Mandarin. From her accent, I next deduced that she was probably Cantonese. Our conversation became even more animated as we spent the next 30 minutes sharing the reasons why we were in Seattle, and where our grandparents originated in China.

It turned out that our ancestors lived in neighboring villages in Shunde, Guangdong province.

The shared lineage created instant rapport, and she was eager to tell me where the best Chinese meals in Seattle were, what food and vegetable costs were like and the best place to get Lee Kum Kee soya sauce.

She said she considered herself and her husband lucky to be recruited by the hotel chain they now work for, and they were provided training in English and given orientation classes when they first arrived.

Life is good here, she says, and the city is very pleasant. Fish, chicken and pork are a lot cheaper than at home, although beef is expensive. Vegetables are costly but they are so very fresh, she adds. There is no pollution.

They are saving hard for their only daughter's education in the United States, and perhaps they will decide to stay on and become American citizens. The only thing holding them back, she says, is that longing for home that hits at unexpected moments.

"Like now, when I talk to you," she says.

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