The 6 Weirdest Jobs in China
There are some jobs every country has (cook, farmer, prostitute) and some jobs bred from unique cultural conditions in certain countries. For example: Only in America can you make a living selling trophies for champions of imaginary football leagues.
I think it's worth taking a look at jobs that are particularly Chinese, especially since they are supposed to take over the world and we'll all be applying for these jobs soon enough. Jobs like...
"Face Jobs" For White People
Just like Americans always need to find an Asian (any Asian) when they need a kung fu sidekick or villain for some hero, Chinese people need to find a white guy when they want to show off how big they are in business.
It works like this - China doesn't actually want any foreign firms to come in and own anything in China, or plant their own companies, but they do very much want to deal with foreign firms and bring in their money. So a successful Chinese business is one where a parade of assorted white guys in nice suits is constantly passing in and out of their offices.
But it's a lot of work to drum up that much foreign business when you pour lead and melamine into all your products. It's a lot cheaper to rent white dudes and tote them around at your conferences, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, press conferences, etc.
"Hey, that guy looks like a CTO!"
If you don't have any conferences or ceremonies coming up, you can just put them in the window, like mannequins.
Unfortunately, white women don't usually get to be pretend-CEOs, because women can't be businesspeople, that's silly. Women do get called on to pose as exotic foreign girlfriends though.
"Why don't you come over tonight? Cheryl is making the exotic dish of her people, chicken-fried steak."
Standing In Line For Other People
I assume this is a relatively new job since apparently Chinese citizens only learned how to stand in line about 4 years ago. After rigorous line-standing practice on the 11th of each month, I guess the line is respected enough now that a place at the front actually has some value.
And that value is about $3 US per hour. That's how much you can pay someone else to stand in line for you. In a city where it takes 5 hours to see a doctor, this makes sense. In America, camping out in line is only for wastes of time like Star Wars prequels or iPads, but Chinese people need to camp out for days to register for housing or even get into some kindergartens.
That is a lot of trouble to teach your kids how to eat crayons.
I wish we could bring this over to America and I could have someone stay on hold with Comcast customer service for me, but it's not going to happen. In China, people are dirt cheap. One of my VFX co-workers told me that on movie sets in China, they commonly use people instead of C-stands to hold lights and reflectors because hiring a person is a lot cheaper than renting a C-stand.
To be fair, this one sells for $165.
When China made the historical epic Hero in 2002, instead of hiring a small team of foreign VFX artists to create the massive armies, Lord of the Rings Style, for most scenes they just hired what appears to be about a million Chinese extras.
The director of this movie also directed the Olympics opening ceremonies, if any of this looks familiar.
Anyway, I realize unemployment is nuts right now in the U.S. but I still don't think you're going to convince anyone to hang out at the DMV for $3 an hour.
In China, collecting human waste is an ancient and noble profession. Well, okay, it's not noble, but it is pretty traditional.
We don't usually think of environmentalism and China in the same sentence, but China recycles a shit ton of shit as fertilizer, transporting 3.3 billion tons of human poop in 1994.
That would be enough to build Mount Rainier out of poop. I just made that up.
Despite the government's heavy-handedness in other areas of private life, I guess they can't get everyone to report to a poo-depository when it's time to drop a deuce, so that means somebody has got to go around to all the outhouses and public toilets and pick it all up.
You would think college grads wouldn't be jumping eagerly at the opportunity to join the brown patrol, but you would be wrong. In an internationally reported story, one sanitation company's ad for 5 shit-scooper positions brought in 391 applications from desperate graduates unable to find any other jobs. It's funny what stories catch the international media's attention, because another city had 2500 applications for 10 positions the previous year.
One of the 5 lucky job seekers.
It could be worse. They could be a funeral director. Chinese people are so superstitious about death that some buildings don't have 4th floors (because "4" sounds like "die") and you can't give people clocks as presents because it looks like you are counting the seconds til their death. Really. So people who work in funeral parlors don't even want to tell their parents.
"No, I swear, Dad, I'm a prostitute!"
But somehow a funeral parlor job fair attracted 5000 college graduates. Hey, times are tough and there's only so many poo-collecting jobs.
Fortunately for everyone, there should be more waste collector openings soon enough, as China has decided that poo is not enough (when is it ever?) and is looking to go after pee soon.
Anyone who's played or heard of online multiplayer games knows about gold farming - where people sell sums of in-game "money" to lazy people who want to buy imaginary horses.
Well, that's an unfair generalization. Sometimes they want to buy imaginary dragons.
But this isn't just some penny-ante game cheating, this is well-organized $3 billion industry employing up to 400,000 people worldwide, an estimated 80% of which live in China.
How do you get this wonderful job where you get to play games all day but don't get to explore or fight or do anything except one repetitive task all day, and get beaten if you don't meet your quota? Well, one way is to get arrested. Some prisoners are forced to break rocks, some prisoners are forced to gold farm. Let no one say China doesn't diversify its prison labor.
They can't ALL be assigned to build scale models of London Bridge.
There was a big uproar a couple of years ago when all the gaming blogs were reporting that China was banning gold farming, but that turned out to be a silly misunderstanding. Why would you ban a multibillion dollar industry that takes money from foreigners? That's as preposterous as China banning piracy.
China's bread and butter.
Another time-honored Chinese tradition is spitting wherever the hell you feel like. American grandparents embarrass their grandkids by joining the Tea Party or wearing golf clothes, whereas Chinese immigrant grandparents embarrass their American-born grandkids by trying to capture geese for dinner in public parks, and spitting randomly in public.
Here's a recipe if you're interested, by the way.
The government finally decided to take a hand in this leading up to the Beijing Olympics (the same thing that prompted the standing-in-line training) and launched a huge campaign to teach people that spitting in public is gross.
So someone's job was to find people who were spitting and write them a ticket. The only problem was that apparently spit monitors get as much respect as meter maids and people who were caught spitting would always counter with the uncounterable "No I didn't" argument, which somehow prevented the monitor from writing them up. I wouldn't think this would be a problem in an authoritarian state, but China is full of surprises.
Like anus hospitals.
So they put together the Spit Van, a sort of high-tech spit monitoring nexus connected to outside cameras that capture people's despicable spit crimes. Once the guy in the van spots a spitter, he sends a guy out to apprehend the blackguard. If he denies it, he is brought back to the van and shown his vile act, caught on tape for posterity, at which point I assume he breaks down and kills himself. Or pays a $2.50 US fine.
When that article was written, they were planning to expand the equipment to include devices capable of satellite communication. Overkill? Well, ask yourself this. Did any athletes get spit on during the Olympics? I'd say the Spit Van Crew has done its job then.
The "Granny Police"
A lot of journalists have made note of a group of old ladies in red armbands that regularly make an appearance on Chinese streets when the Chinese government needs to say, "Hey, we're watching you."
For example, a writer for the Atlantic saw this a couple of months ago, in the wake of the Arab Spring:
"One day in March, major boulevards in Beijing suddenly were lined with older women, bundled up in overcoats and with red armbands identifying them as public-safety patrols, who sat on stools at 20-yard intervals and kept watch for disruption. They had no practical effect except as reminders that the authorities were on guard and in control."
The Beijing News gives a hint of why all the old people, saying "Streets and alleyways are dotted by the red armbands and strangers would be immediately surrounded by questioning grandpas and grandmas when they walk into a neighborhood."
Old people "volunteers" are a lot less threatening as government representatives than official police or government employees in smart uniforms, and Chinese culture is all about respecting the elderly, so they're in a position to ask you what you're up to, tell you that you shouldn't be somewhere, or... tell you to have an abortion.
...wait, that actually is really disturbing.
That's right, part of enforcing the one-child policy involves making sure women have abortions should they get pregnant a second time. And the cops can't watch every lady in China, so old women volunteers are in a perfect position to monitor ladies in their work unit or neighborhood and badger them into an abortion in an authoritative but grandmotherly kind of way.
And what are they going to do when all the old ladies die off? Well, some young ladies are being trained for state-sponsored meddling pretty well at Nanjing University, where they get their own red armbands and are responsible for going around and making sure couples aren't getting too affectionate in public.
You know, that's actually something we should bring over here.