Strange Chinese Jobs You No Longer See in the West

Strange Chinese Jobs You No Longer See in the West
Feb 22, 2023 By Beth Green ,

China, of course, has the usual doctors, chefs, street sweepers, taxi drivers, etc. But with 1.3 billion people to keep out of trouble, the country has also invented some rather unusual roles for those willing to do anything for a little bit of cash. Here are some examples of strange Chinese jobs you no longer see in the West.

Strange Chinese Jobs You No Longer See in the West

One thing that’s always amazed me about China's mega-cities is that there are enough jobs for everyone. Not only are the country's top-tier cities packed in their own right, but there’s a continuous flood of migrant workers from far flung provinces, most of whom manage to find jobs of one kind or another.

Many of these jobs seem superfluous to Western eyes. So why do they exist? Some were created as China changed from a traditional family-based culture into a more, dare I say it, capitalist economy. Employers might tailor-make a position for a friend's daughter or a poor nephew from the countryside—in other words, we’re talking about nepotism. Another factor is that more employees means more “face” for the boss or the company.

What’s interesting, however, is that many of these odd professions were at one time important in the West as well. As labour prices rose, however, employers cut payrolls to increase profits. The automation of some processes also eliminated the human element—for example, using a street-sweeping car instead of a phalanx of city employees with brooms, as we still see in China.

So let’s take a look at some of the odd China jobs we no longer see, at least in quite the same way, in the West:

Restaurant welcomers

We’re familiar with the concept of Front of House in the West — someone who greets customers in a restaurant, keeps the bookings in order, takes coats and guides you to your table. At some big restaurants in China, however, this is less of a someone and more of someones. Some times you’ll be greeted by a whole row of identically-dressed beauties, all of which are only employed to bow and say “huanying guanying” (welcome) to each new customer.

Store-front clappers

In congested Chinese city centres, shops have to pull out all the stops in a bid to attract customers. One rather misguided marketing idea holds that the loudest shop will make the most money. To that end, shops, especially those in touristy areas, often blare club music at full volume while megaphone-wielding barkers shout the shop's special offers at the top of their lungs. Barkers, also referred to as touts, are not unique to China, but their co-workers, who are paid to clap their hands in unison to get the attention of passersby, may well be.

Free ticket sellers

You may have noticed that every attraction in China requires a small army of employees to assist in the extremely complicated task of issuing and checking tickets; a few people sitting in the ticket booth to take the money and issue the ticket (tasks which are sometimes done by separate people at separate windows); a few people sitting inside the gate to examine and punch the ticket; and another guard or two a few feet away to double-check the ticket they’ve just watched you buy and have punched. While I recognise the necessity of regulating ticketing at national monuments with an entrance fee, even free attractions in China seem to insist on a ticketing army. Tourists wait in line to get a free ticket, which they then give to someone to validate, and then that validation is duly checked. I suppose it stops tourists sneaking in – for free?

Receipt stamper

A receipt stamper serves a similar, less than clear, purpose. At many Chinese department stores and supermarkets, a (usually, very bored) person lurks by the checkout counter stamping shoppers' receipts with a red chop as they exit. This one has baffled me for years. I suppose in theory it could be an anti-shoplifting procedure, but I’ve never seen the stamper check the contents of a shopping bag against the receipt. Maybe there are people out there making fake receipts in order to “return” items bought for less elsewhere? Or maybe, like many others in China, it’s just a job for the sake of it.

Fake significant other

This odd job is not necessarily as seedy as it sounds. Hired significant others can find good work in China, particularly around Spring Festival when young city workers travel back to their home towns only to be badgered by their relatives about why they aren’t married yet. In a bid to quell the questions and perhaps increase their status a little, both men and women sometimes hire fake fiancés for the holidays. Foreigners could even find some work in this line with Chinese professionals who really want to make a splash on their trips back home.


The job of a porter is not, in itself, remarkable or unique to China. What makes this job a little odd in China, however, is the fact you can hire a porter for almost anything. Need your broken washing machine carried down eight flights of stairs and to the repair shop? There's a guy out there whose job it is to pack it down those stairs or pulley it out of your window, bungee-cord it to the back of his long-suffering motorbike and whiz it to a back-alley repair shop. In rural places with higher rates of unemployment, for-hire porters may wait outside markets and offer to follow behind and carry your shopping. At parks that feature steep hills, you can even still find porters to carry you in a sedan chair if you're not up to the hike. Halfway between a servant and a deliveryman, porters in China provide services most people could do for themselves, but at such cheap prices, the service becomes attractive to higher-paid, white-collar workers.

Of course, the diversity of strange jobs in China is as vast as the nation. What other odd jobs have you come across during your time here? Drop them in the comments section below.

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I have yet to encounter a real "Fake significant other" job or person who has done it. I remain convinced that this is primarily a rumor.

Apr 08, 2023 16:07 Report Abuse


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Mar 26, 2023 20:38 Report Abuse


it is strange to you, but common to us.

Mar 15, 2023 23:15 Report Abuse