Adventures in China: Strange Expat Jobs

Adventures in China: Strange Expat Jobs
Aug 02, 2011 By

Make the Meat Kosher

It was 9 AM on a beautiful Saturday morning when I got the strangest call of my life.

"Bobby it's Yi," said my good Chinese friend.

"Hey Yi, lets meet up for lunch today," I said.

"You're Jewish right?" Yi asked.

"Yes…why?" I responded.

"I have a job for you…only Jewish man can do…good pay too," Yi said with excitement.

An hour later we were in Yi's rickety van driving through the outskirts of a major city in Inner Mongolia. Soon we arrived at a slaughterhouse. There was blood everywhere and hundreds of sheep carcasses hung from dirty hooks. It was huge.

Look Kosher to you?
Look Kosher to you? Photo: traveladventures

We walked into an office, the only place without blood. A hefty Chinese man took a long drag on a cigarette and rose to greet me.

"Hello, Jew friend," he said in broken English.

He then started into rapid and heavily accented Chinese. For ten minutes he went back and forth with Yi. Finally Yi turned to me and said, "He wants you to make his slaughter house kosher."

"Kosher! I'm not a Rabbi, how can I do that?" I responded.

They conferred for a moment then Yi turned and asked, "What is this word ‘Rabbi'?"

It was the strangest job I have ever been offered.

In recent years, more and more foreigners have made their way to China to find a job.
According to China's national census, which was conducted last year, there are more than 600,000 foreigners living here. With China's economic rise these numbers are sure to increase in the future. Some get legitimate jobs, some work on student and tourist visas and others find themselves doing jobs that can only be described as ‘strange'. 

I'm just glad that I'm not alone in my experience. For the uninitiated, here is a summary of some of the strangest jobs foreigners can get in China.

The ‘Face Job': Rent a Foreigner

The ‘face job' refers to Chinese companies hiring foreigners just because they're foreigners. The most common ‘face job' is when a Chinese company hires a foreigner to pose as a fake businessman or employee. Many Chinese companies use these fake employees to give their business more clout, as well as the impression they have extensive foreign contacts or the quality and money to hire a foreign employee.

Foreign media outlets from the BBC to The Atlantic have run stories on the practice and it is more widespread than you might think. In fact, there are dedicated agencies that run around finding foreign actors and models to fill these roles. Most of the time it is limited to Caucasian males, which has led to the term, "white guy window dressing", but white males aren't the only ones that can get in on the experience.

So professional…
So professional… Photo: thedrum

The Fake CEO

Two years ago an African-American friend of mine had to pretend to be an oil tycoon from Africa. They told him to dress nice and picked him up in a car. Ten minutes from the destination they gave him the lowdown. The Chinese company that hired him had computer technology they wanted to sell to another Chinese company that made machinery for oil companies. The deal was if the machinery company bought their technology, my friend's oil "company" would buy the machinery for use in Africa.

My friend only had to play the part for one day, but some fake businessman jobs end up lasting for months.

The Fake Girlfriend

Another type of odd ‘face job' is the fake foreign girlfriend. For some Chinese men having a foreign girlfriend is a status symbol not only of their openness and modernity, but also of their bank account (after all, why would a foreign girl come all the way to China to date a poor guy?). However, many of these Chinese men are anxious about actually forming a real relationship due to cultural and language barriers, and therefore find it easier to just rent foreign girls. It is an odd situation to say the least, but what better way is there to show yourself off to family, friends and business contacts than with a platinum blonde Russian model.

The Foreign Face
Sometimes however, face jobs can just be as simple as turning up and showing that lovely face of yours. A few months ago all a friend of mine had to do to earn 1,000 RMB was to show up at a party at a posh hotel in Beijing and mingle with the Chinese crowd. His employer told him he got hired because he looked "cool", and he even got free drinks.

He’s tall, make him a bodyguard.
He's tall, make him a bodyguard. Photo: gochengdoo

The Foreign Muscle: Taking Advantage of Stereotyping

There is a stereotype among some Chinese that foreigners are bigger and stronger than them because they eat more meat. So if you happen to be large and strong looking, chances are you could have access to a booming job in China, the bodyguard. Chinese bodyguard providers are already taking advantage of this stereotype by offering foreign bodyguards over twice the hourly rate of their Chinese counterparts. Just make sure you get a little training, and practice your mainly grunt.

English Expert Extraordinaire

If you can pass off that you are from an English speaking country, a whole slew of interesting jobs open themselves up to you. Some of my favorites are dressing up like Santa Claus (yes the real Santa speaks English), high school dropouts teaching Chinese professors how to teach English and doing voice acting for Chinese commercials. But one of the strangest English related jobs in China is interviewing airline attendant candidates.

A guy I know does this almost every weekend. Group after group of young, attractive and slim Chinese girls pour into the room. He, along with the other judges, check them for scars and height, while judging them on their beauty, composure, English level and fluency of their Mandarin (in China there are many dialects and many of the candidates are from far flung provinces). If they pass they get to study to become flight attendants. Not a bad job for 200 RMB an hour.

So if you are tired of your desk job or just want a part-time taste of all the strangeness that certain jobs in China have to offer, start putting yourself out there and making some contacts. As more and more foreigners head to China, it will be increasingly harder to land some of these truly exotic, if not strange, jobs

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Keywords: Strange expat jobs China strange jobs China renting a foreigner face job China bodyguard in China


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Interesting article. I have heard of these "strange jobs" often, especially the rent a foreigner phenomena. Although I have lived in China for almost a year, I have yet to be approached for any of these type of jobs. But, I always wanted to try! Do they come to you or do you come to them? I'm wondering why nobody approaches me for these fun ways to earn some extra money. I'm a regular American guy. Where can you find these jobs?

Sep 04, 2016 15:30 Report Abuse



Please drop the "African-American"-type jargon. Some of us are here to escape that PC nonsense. Other than that, you're probably a swell guy. :-)

Feb 24, 2016 08:27 Report Abuse



Some time adventure, but some time not. Like you can not do BBQ outside like in some European countries.

Jun 16, 2015 12:48 Report Abuse



This adds to the charm of coming to China for me! I am looking forward to unique adventures, and these certainly qualify!

Jun 15, 2015 05:44 Report Abuse



A school I never worked at, in a city I left two years ago, uses my picture in their advertisements. It says I am their best teacher.

Nov 04, 2014 13:36 Report Abuse



i can't believe i spent half hour watching what you guys wrote here, so funny that i couldn't stop laughing. I never find out so much about expats life here in China in one time before (i am chinese). some of these did shock me, though. thanks for sharing.

Oct 12, 2011 07:50 Report Abuse



So anybody got details on these agencies dedicated to finding actors to play these roles?

Aug 03, 2011 09:12 Report Abuse



Very interesting stories. Thanks for sharing.

Aug 02, 2011 23:24 Report Abuse