Despite the initial cultural shock, the immense geographic and time differences, he quickly adapted to the environment and succeeded in his career in this foreign nation.
José is a Venezuelan immigrant who has spent more than 4 years in China. At the beginning, he just wanted to make a change to his life. However, he soon fell in love with the country and decided to stay there as long as possible.
“I just feel so grateful because this country has helped me to discover myself, like speaking other languages. Before coming to China, I only spoke Spanish… I learnt English in my country 4 months before and I had no notion about Chinese like pinyin or something related to the language. Even if you asked me 5 years ago where I saw myself in the future I wouldn’t say China”, he told The Prisma.
The Chinese government is being extremely generous in attracting more people to learn Mandarin “the government sponsors those who want to study Chinese…”.
And he adds: “I know that because a friend of mine received a scholarship and he is studying Chinese. The government covered the tuition, accommodation and gave him about 1000 RMB living expenses. That was four years ago, I don’t know if it has changed”.
Although José needs to renew his visa every year, he does not seem to be discouraged by the rule at all. “It is not because you are Latin American, you have this difficulty, everyone has it”, he added.
In recent years, China is becoming extremely selective in issuing working visas. As a university graduate, he personally does not have any trouble prolonging his stay. Yet this does not apply to some of his friends.
José continued: “They are musicians and they have a special kind of working visa… 3 years ago, you just needed to record a video of you playing an instrument and have an agent in China. Now, if you play the drum, for example, you need to have a certificate. It is quite hard because no one wants to go to university for that. My friends did not have a problem (in getting a visa) before, but now they do, and some of his friends have no other solution but leaving”.
He felt lucky having come to China earlier, as nowadays even a university degree is not enough. “For example, now you need to speak Chinese and have a master’s degree… now it is more and more difficult. China, especially Shanghai, is introducing a kind of visa system where you need to get 100 points. If you can speak good Chinese you will get a certain number of points for instance”. When questioned if he is eligible to apply for a green card, he laughed: “if you are like Einstein”.
Due to the huge population, the authorities is trying to be as discriminating as possible when distributing longer residence permits. Therefore, only the most brilliant applicants get the opportunity.
In terms of cultural difference, the strangest part for him is that sometimes even acquaintances ask about his salary and rent. Although he found it a bit rude at first, he later understood that they did not have any bad intentions.
He believes that the main difficulty here as a Latino is the long distance, which discourages him from going back to his hometown.
“It is hard to be absent from Christmas, New Year, everyone’s special dates, birthdays, family members’ growing up and newborns’ coming into the world. Not to mention not to be able to be present when some relatives pass away and not be able to say goodbye; this is the saddest thing”, he says.
He also finds it really hard to see people whom he has spent time with leaving and new ones arriving like a cycle. “Things are constantly changing everywhere”. However, when asked how long he is planning to chase his Chinese dream, he simply replied: “I am going to stay here for a very, very long time”.