What’s your name?
Desmond Wiggan Jr.
What brought you to China and which parts have you visited?
I came to China as part of my MBA program which allowed me to study here while also teaching some Undergraduate business classes. I live in the Henan province, and traveled throughout the province to many cities. Also, have been to Shanghai and Beijing.
What was your first impression?
My first impression was that life here was so different for obvious reasons. With the way the government controls media they don’t live the same life as we do in other parts of the world. Yet, I used my personality and people skills to learn the culture.
How has it been traveling within the country? How do you get around?
I learned some basic Mandarin when I got here which helps me move around. I travel with friends or solo and I am fine. I normally travel by speed train, we have a station that goes everywhere in China which makes life pretty convenient. I live in a rural area so I take DIDI everywhere or public transportation when available.
Moving to any country is an adjustment. What’s been your biggest adjustment as an American in China?
My biggest adjustment was the mentality of not having first world conveniences. The fact I have to log into a VPN to see my friends on social media, can’t watch tv, and the fact going to the grocery store is always an adventure. But, the trade off and experiences make it worth the adjustments.
Other people have commented that they stand out just by being black in China. Have you experienced this?
I attribute the reactions to the poor education on life outside of China. People here don’t even know black people can be American. Literally had that conversation yesterday. Stares and kids pointing everywhere I go. I think my biggest interaction with this was when I traveled to Shanghai and went to a local bar/club with some newly met European fair-colored friends. As we were walking in security only stopped me. Long story short, they thought I was African and had some troubles with Africans before so nobody who “looked” African could get in. Lol
If someone wants to move to China but they don’t speak Chinese, will he or she be able to survive?
In larger cities yes, in the smaller places it would be rather tough. Learning basic Chinese takes some time but it’s needed to feel comfortable, get around, and not getting taken advantage of.
Can you compare the Chinese food in China to the Chinese food most Americans are accustomed to in the United States?
It’s TOTALLY different. The first settlers were Cantonese and brought the Chinese foods which spread across America. Those foods are not a true representation of food from China. It get’s much better than fried wings or sesame chicken.
Have you noticed any differences and similarities in schools or the workplace?
Again, total different. School system is crazy hard and demanding in middle and high school. No after school sports, or activities just school from morning until the evening and more studying when you get home. Students are taught to memorize instead of critically think. As for the workplace I’m exposed to a VC company out here and their values, and working culture is more demanding than what I see or experienced in the states. Longer hours, higher stress, and crazier deadlines. But, it’s definitely pushed me to work even harder, be more proactive and productive.
If you had friends staying in China for just 24 hours, what would you suggest that they see or do?
I’d bring them to one of the local villages where people have never seen them and eat and talk (with a translator) with the people. That is where you see the true spirit and essence of the Chinese people. Very hard working, driven, passionate, caring, closed-off culture.