Expat Exodus: Emigration Me-Too-ism

March 30, 2013

After the latest “Why I’m Leaving China” column came out and the usual tongues started wagging, I realized that many of these missives are simply thinly-veiled advertorials. “Hey, I’m leaving China after a bunch of years, and by the way, here’s the name of my new company and a brief bio of my past achievements. If you have some money or an biz opportunity, ping me and we’ll do lunch.”

Congratulations to Marc van der Chijs for getting some free pub, not to mention grabbing yet another opportunity to tell everyone that he can run long distances (enough already, please).

I was glad to see that Matt Schiavenza, international raconteur and friend of the show, responded with an Atlantic blog post, reminding everyone that there is in fact no expat exodus. Someone has to keep the tongue waggers honest — thanks, Matt.

I’m also quite pleased that no one has written to me and asked why I left China. Aside from a two-week trip to suburban Philadelphia, I haven’t, but the serious decline in blog posts over the past few months might have made some folks wonder. If anyone is still paying attention, that is.

Speaking of which, here’s some me-too-ism from yours truly, something I would like to entitle: “Why I’ve Partially Left China, Although Only Sort of in a Mental/Philosophical, or Perhaps Just Professional Context.” Not the best title, I suppose, but that’s the only one that came to mind. I have a cat sleeping in my lap who is purring quite loudly, and it’s pleasantly distracting. (How’s that for stereotypical blogger behavior?)

So how can I be sitting here in Beijing and yet say that I’ve left China? Well, for the past 14 years, most of my days have been spent dealing with China law issues. That was my job, you know. Even if I wasn’t blogging, my profession kept me squarely in China one way or another.

That has now changed with my new job. I didn’t quite realize this before I took it, but my new position has me spending my days dealing with legal and commercial issues in a wide variety of jurisdictions. On some days, I might not touch on a China legal matter at all.

I didn’t really notice the change much until I attended a meeting last Thursday, a China group meeting of a software association. I found myself in a room with a bunch of software guys, all of whom are China based and China focused. As we discussed new regulations and initiatives, I realized that drilling down into such detail on China matters was simply no longer in my job description and, although I found it fascinating intellectually, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to justify the time spent doing any China sub-committee work for the organization.

So you see, I’ve already left China, or to be more exact, I’m now mentally travelling to other places in Asia these days in addition to China. The end of an era, and pollution and traffic had nothing to do with it.

Not quite the same thing? Well, I tried. Gotta give me that. My feeble attempt at remaining topical.