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Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed May 24, 2017 9:36 am
by Viktor K
Professional going-ons
While moving to China was a big decision, more decisions loom. Come June we may switch to a public school, as mentioned, which allows for 15 hour work weeks, 9 months of the year, at the cost of $4,000 less/year. Another option is to step away from the staffing company and commit to a training center or international/private school, increasing earnings to ~$35,869.78 post-tax without any change in spending. By my calculations this would lead to us being ERE (in China at least) by mid-2020, or by mid-2021 if I pay off the loans first. There is some discussion as to whether we should take this first year to travel more (i.e. switch to public school for 1 year in August, then switch to a training center or private/international school next year), which would push it back to mid-2021 or mid-2022 with loans paid first. Either way, both beat out my stretch goal of 7 years to ERE (2023), but depend on China level cost of living.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Thu May 25, 2017 3:52 am
by oldbeyond
Viktor K wrote:
Fri May 19, 2017 9:51 pm
@oldbeyond Some good tips. Thanks for the resources. I feel like I'm on the cusp of really starting to grasp the language at a rapid pace. I have a Bachelor's in Chinese, but have only been in China 6 months of my 3 years out of college. My base is there - my vocabulary is shrunken. It isn't a terrible position to be in for learning the language. I have a good grasp on the grammar, sentence structure, pronunciation - I just find myself using a lot "this" and "that" instead of the actual noun/verb/adjective that I need. And you're right about the street food, and have also basically summarized why I do want to cook some of my meals. Also, the cost of food near my workplace is high, so it would be nice to have healthy leftovers as an alternative.

@Scott 2 The permanent life insurance has reached the point in the policy where it is just about paying for itself. In another year or two, the cash value increases will higher than the monthly premiums. And, since the premiums don't increase with age, and stop @65, it is an easy, automatic way to save. The death benefit is small and nice to have. In case something happens, my final expenses will be covered.
Ah, sorry for underestimating your level, I was sure of you being a novice despite having read about your degree in your posts. A momentary lapse, I guess ;)

You're in a great spot then because you already have much of the foundation in place, with all the hard, frustrating work that goes along with it. The good thing about forgotten vocabulary is that relearning it is much faster than learning it in the first place. And this is of course especially true if you're in the country, surrounded by native speakers. For remembering words flashcards are great. To improve the flow in conversation, I found learning whole phrases worthwhile, so I had ready made patterns to select on the fly without having to think too much. Listening, working on it with a tutor and even flashcards of sentences helped me here.

As for flashcards, it's really how many new cards you add per day. When I was starting out I had Skritter which I was using at the time add 15 cards per day. So at first, the session was over in a couple of minutes. Say I got 3 wrong, then the next day would have 3+15 cards, and so on. But this quickly snowballs, in a year you'll have added over 5000 cards, and you'll have a few hundred to review each day. So you'll have to consider long term maintenance time costs. The "risk" you run if you add to many cards up front is that you'll get a lot of reviews piling up very quickly, and perhaps a lot of unlearned cards. Then you might have to spend some time simply reviewing without adding new cards to get through it. Some people take this later approach, adding cars in bursts, but I found it more manageable to add a few every day. I have recently picked up my flashcards after a bit of a hiatus, going through the HSK, and currently I'm adding 50 a day since most it is familiar. I guess this will be the case for you, too.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Thu May 25, 2017 11:04 am
by Viktor K
@oldbeyond So you were in China once then it sounds like? You're right about the vocabulary coming back quick. I've already mastered all the HSK 1. The tutor I work with here says I should try my hand at the HSK 3. I think I'll move on to the HSK 2 deck first, then HSK 3, and make that decision myself. Listening and tones are my weaknesses right now, but my diminished vocabulary is part of that. I took your advice and downloaded Skritter. If I have the right program, it is incredibly difficult. But I'm not sure that I do, since it doesn't sound exactly as you described. The one I got makes me feel like a real novice. Rather than just flashcards, it has the following:

1. guess the pinyin/meaning for the shown character (easy enough)
2. guess the tone for the shown character (I'm terrible at, but am able to get after a couple repeats)
3. draw the character given the pinyin (the most difficult for me, I almost always fail)

I can see this being great practice, though. One issue, it seems like it is a pay-to-use program, and I'm on a 7 or 14-day trial, after which it will be $14.99 (can't remember if this is monthly or one-time). To be honest, I'll need to take a closer look at it in the morning, since I was perusing it at work.

What my job is like
Speaking of work, today I finished a lesson plan (planned the last ~20 minutes of an 80 minute class). I clocked in at 3:00PM, finished the end of the plan (I already worked on most of it yesterday) by about 3:45 PM (I wasn't in a hurry), then literally had nothing to do until clocking out at 9:00 PM. Some of the things I did do: walked around the streets with my girlfriend 2-3 times for a break, went to the downstairs library and alternated between practicing Chinese via apps and reading a fantasy novel, went on a 60-90 minute lunch break with some of the other teachers, read the news, read the forums, hung out in another teacher's office talking about nothing, and then spent a good 30 minutes in the library hanging out with the girlfriend.

While I'm only a probationary employee currently and technically just at the end of "training," my work-load won't change much when work starts. I'll end up with an extra class here or there, a make-up lesson, or a special themed lesson here and there. Officially, so far I have two kindergarten classes (80 minutes each), and 1 reading class (60 minutes), both on the weekend, of which I'll only be responsible for 1 or maybe 2 of the lesson plans, depending on the week, since the school shares lesson plans and swaps who is preparing what and how many each week. Thus, my workload is small, but having to be clocked in at the center makes it somewhat lame.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sun May 28, 2017 2:37 am
by Viktor K
Getting our cat - 2015

In 2015, my girlfriend and I moved to China for the first time. I had graduated, had a couple jobs, and realized that the US lifestyle was not for me. She had just graduated, and thought it was a good time to travel. I can elaborate more on how we met as well as our relationship later. But when we got to China the first time, we had both talked about adopting a new pet. We felt a dog was out of the question, given that we would have to take more time to walk it, worry about cleaning up after it should we travel, and generally felt that a dog would have greater issues with our new lifestyle. Thus, we decided on a cat, but were still not ready to pull the trigger.

We moved to a tiny little city in Jiangxi province. This city was so small that we were the only foreigners besides two other teachers that had taught at our school for a year already. Outside of those two, and our Chinese teaching assistants, nobody spoke English. Signs were not in English, menus were not in English, and our students could barely put a sentence together. This city is just about as un-Westernized as you can get in China these days. So, we were happily surprised to find that our apartment was both way too big for us and quite nice at first glance.

As we got situated, however, we started to realize little things about our apartment. The sink was connected to the drain by a simple plastic hose which had been duct taped several times before we moved in. The cabinets smelled strongly of mildew and never seemed to lose their dampness. Windows and doors were not sealed completely, corners and under furniture was dusty and looked like there with little pieces of dirt everywhere. It wasn't long before we realized we were not the only occupants. Big, two-inch long roaches and fist-sized spiders welcomed us each morning and evening. The former would skitter along the floors at night. The latter would lie in our sinks and on the walls to greet us in the mornings.

The ultimate tipping point came one night when I introduced my girlfriend to an old Sci-fi show called Scare Tactics. I remembered watching this show as a boy with my Dad, and so had fond memories of it. When she had never heard of it, I felt compelled to share this past treasure with her. We started watching in the bedroom, and she promptly fell asleep during the first episode (this occurs quite often actually, where we lay down to watch something together, and 20 minutes in I find I am watching by myself). Undeterred, and thoroughly enjoying revisiting a show from my childhood, I kindly moved to the living room, curled up on the couch, and binged through a few episodes.

Now, this show isn't particularly scary. At least, I don't think it is meant to be. It is essentially a prank show where one friend/acquaintance/family member sells out another, and the show gets in on it, making noises, flashing lights, pretending to kill someone, showing up in a werewolf costume, etc. So it really is more humorous than scary, but on this night I was feeling a little jumpy. Sitting on the couch as I was, my feet off the floor, I caught something moving out of the corner of my eye. Expecting a roach or maybe even a spider making a quick run from one stalking post to another, I peeked up over the laptop screen. There in the middle of our big, white-tiled living room was what I remember to be a nearly football-sized, dark gray rat. This was no mouse, which we had previously, begrudgingly attributed the droppings behind the couch to possibly belong to. This was a big, beady eyed, orange tailed rat. I summoned all my manliness and machismo and let out a scream. This scared the rat who, rather than run away to wherever it was he was going, turned and ran right for me, diving under the very couch I was sitting on! I summoned some courage (see: ran for my life), grabbed the laptop, and leapt nearly all the way from the couch across the living room to the bedroom door.

The next morning, we visited a pet store who said they could bring in a batch of kittens for us that weekend from their main store in the nearby city. We asked for a female, but this town and the people at the pet store both found that very strange, insisting that a boy would be best and politely convincing us that this was a simple thing that everyone knew to be true. We also went and bought some duck tape, and went about taping up various gaping holes in the walls that we found around the apartment after moving around furniture. Our kitten, 小宝 (Xião Bão), or little treasure in English, moved in that next weekend. We never saw the rat again, which was probably best, given that when we first got him, 小宝 was probably a little smaller than that rat that we got him to help keep away. Still, we were satisfied with our new addition. To be honest, he didn't ever do much in the way of pest control. One day we found him throwing up and were pleasantly disgusted to find a cockroach carapace in the mess (apparently the hard exoskeletons makes them difficult to digest), but our co-inhabitants, minus the rat, didn't seem as inhibited as we would have hoped.

小宝 has since traveled from China back to US and back again this second time. He also now has a little brother kitten, who, as if almost on queue, just walked across the keyboard. We love these cats, their inability to serve as pest control doing nothing to deter that fact, but raising kittens in China, or any foreign country for that matter, is not without its own unique challenges. Traveling with animals is difficult, and exporting and importing them between countries is enough of a deterrent to prevent most travelers from even attempting to so. There are also varying views regarding animals, pets, and animal cruelty that present their own forms of culture shock. Still, we've surmounted these challenges multiple times now, and their companionship has been more than enough of a reward.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sun May 28, 2017 9:12 am
by Scott 2
Great story. I would have noped it out of there starting with the roaches, can't believe you stayed, and got the girlfriend to stay.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Mon May 29, 2017 11:45 pm
by Viktor K
Scott 2 wrote:
Sun May 28, 2017 9:12 am
Great story. I would have noped it out of there starting with the roaches, can't believe you stayed, and got the girlfriend to stay.
@Scott 2 There's a lot of things like this that would make most nope it out of China pretty quickly :D

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 1:02 am
by Viktor K
First couple days in China (2015):

When my girlfriend and I came to China the first time it was August of 2015. We had a general idea of what we were getting into, but with no true international travel under our belt, we couldn't really know how accurate or inaccurate our expectations would be.

I was a little more prepared in some sense since I studied Chinese in college and had a degree in International Affairs. Thus, lots of language courses, world politics and geography courses, cross-cultural communication courses, as well as Chinese culture and history courses. I did not, however, join my classmates in studying abroad, didn't study as hard as I could have in Chinese, and went to China a full year after graduating, with no Chinese language practice for nearly a year and a half. My girlfriend was a little worse off. She didn't study any Chinese, and had never considered China as a destination for visiting abroad, let alone living.

When my girlfriend and I first started dating, I knew she was special, but I was worried that she was too special A) for me, evaluating myself as somewhat of a recovering douchebag, and B) due to poor timing, as I had just started considering going to China for the foreseeable future. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised early on when I admitted to her my intentions of living and working in China. I didn't want to heap it on her later, when it was too late, nor did I want to get too involved if our futures clearly wouldn't align. She smiled and said she thought that would be fun, and, thus, 8 or 9 months into dating each other we were on a plane to China where we would share accommodations and all the difficulties of expatriate life.

We didn't use an agent, or a company, or any sort of intermediary. We threw our resumes online on some random Chinese internet job forums, and then did the best research we could to weed through the dozens of interview requests we received in the next 24 hours. We didn't exactly know what we wanted, but we more or less knew what we didn't want. We didn't really know what it would be like, or what we would need, or any of the serious logistical answers to our questions as finding information on China is notoriously difficult as you're led to reference outdated, inaccurate and misleading internet forums. There is no simple handbook, but we made a final decision on a nice company that would place us at a middle school in a cute, picturesque city in the middle of Jiangxi province that we had never heard about and could find nearly no information online about.

Fast forward a month or two, we visited my family and hers (who live in Hawaii, woo!), then departed from Hawaii to Shanghai. Lucky for us, we only had to struggle with our oversized luggage off the plane and through customs before being greeted by a waiting young Chinese man. He recognized us, instantly acquired a cart for our luggage and carried what wouldn't fit. He spoke near perfect English, found us a taxi, paid for the taxi to a hotel, paid for the hotel, and then offered to take us out to eat. It was pretty late, we were rather shell-shocked from our travels, but we took him up on his offer. We were thankful we did as we simply skipped down the street a bit to a middle eastern restaurant where we got food (some things which we had never tried before even) and drinks, which he also paid for. We would come to expect this sort of gratuity from our employer, as they were simply amazing, friendly, and exceptionally accommodating. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about our current employer, but that's a different story.

After that meal, we retired to our hotel, he stayed a few rooms down, and greeted us for breakfast that morning. Breakfast was a slightly less satisfying, hotel-provided meal which had little red bugs crawling around in the dishware. We ate little, but then our appetites weren't too big, given how we gorged the night before and everything was still exciting, new, and stressful enough to distract us. Our friendly chauffeur paid the hotel tab, found another taxi, and took us to the train station. We were to take a 5 hour fast train from Shanghai to our new city. Again, he exemplified our employer's gratuitous nature by paying for the taxi and the train, which likely all totaled to some 1,000 RMB or more. Up until this point, we were accompanied by our Chinese chauffeur our entire duration in China. He was able to take us all the way up to the turnpike, and that is when we were on our own, destined for a major blooper.

Disappointed and scared, we went through the turnpike on our own, with our oversized luggage taking up our hands, back, shoulders, arms, and legs. We did our best to hold our own as the Chinese masses pushed and shoved their way around us. We did our best and successfully found our specific platform that our Chinese chauffeur had described and pointed out to us on our tickets. We tried to push stories of lost limbs in Chinese escalators out of our minds as we tiptoed the entrance and exit of the escalator leading down to the platform. And alas, we reached the platform, and found our train's open doors waiting.

I stepped on, balancing several suitcases, a backpack, and a bag of snacks we had acquired somewhere on the way. I took a step up the stairs, and a second, and then turned to encourage my girlfriend. She took her first step towards the train and FWOOSH!! disappeared. I struggled to look behind me and over the suitcases, down at her, and was thankful at least to see she hadn't fallen all the way to the tracks. Rather she was squatting there, suitcases a mess around her, except one leg was missing. There was a significant gap between the train and the platform, and her first step had been right into that gap. Now she was stuck, one leg between the platform and the train, the other bent awkwardly in a one-legged squatting position.

Welp, China was nice while it lasted, is what went through my head, imagining a Chinese ambulance rushing us to the hospital, the hospital staff telling us they couldn't treat her grievous injury, and a quick ticket back to the US to repair her mangled leg. Luckily, after anxiously asking her if she was okay, she confirmed that she was pretty sure she was okay, but a little stuck. "Babe," I said slowly, "I can't help you," which was true, given my arms were full and there is a certain pace at which things are done here, thus a line was piling up behind us. "You're going to have to stand up." She tested her footing, and, with a grunt of exertion, she made her boyfriend proud and lifted herself out of the gap,luggage and all. Did I mention she was wearing a dress?

When we got aboard the train, and got our luggage situated, we took a look at the damage. She had multiple abrasions, a few deep enough to draw blood, all up and down her leg. It definitely needed to be cleaned, and of course, we had nothing. Thus, we were first introduced to one of the curiosities of China. As soon as we asked for help, but not a second before, we were surrounded by Chinese train attendants, who summoned a first aid kit and started administering their aid. It didn't take one, or two, or three, but four attendants as well as the whole train car apparently, as everyone, their mother and grandmother included, crowded around my, by this point, beaming girlfriend, pointing and instructing on how best to clean the wounds. She ended up all bandaged up, we made it to our apartment, and the horrible yellow and purple bruises that she earned that day went away after the first month or so.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 2:50 am
by Viktor K
Tracking expenses in China

In the US, I used my bank card for everything and my bank had a nice online platform which would break purchases down by category. It is a feature similar to, and makes filling out and sharing monthly expenditures quite easy. Unfortunately, even if our Chinese bank has such a feature, it is unlikely I would be able to navigate the website. Thus, the last month I haven't tracked expenditures at all. For one, the costs over the last month were so out of the norm that it would skew my graphs. Secondly, I simply hadn't come up with how I wanted to go about tracking my expenses, or if I did want to continue doing so at all. See my earlier post where I only had the net worth graph.

However, at work yesterday, I decided to take some of the hours of free-time I have here waiting to punch-out to make a small, laminated check-book of sorts. Each page has a date, a section for discretionary expenses, a section for living expenses, and a box to total it out at the bottom. The front and back are laminated and blue with a funny, needlessly elaborate title page, some inspirational quotes, and a small joke about fine print.

So far, I spent 37 RMB yesterday on food. Today, I've spent 23 RMB so far, with 10 of that being a refill for our apartment's drinking water tank, and I will spend a little more today for dinner once I leave here ("work"). Unfortunately, everything around my workplace is more expensive than around my apartment (one of the many inconveniences of this place that I will likely find a space to write about in a later post), so I tend to wait until 10 at night during the week before I eat dinner. I'm still considering cooking my own meals as a savings vehicle, not to mention it would be much more healthy.

On the 5th, rent and utilities for the first month are due, and the total for me: 2313 RMB. The plan for the rest of the month is to keep discretionary spending to a minimum, food at or below 30 RMB/day, and take the majority of this first paycheck and stick it in the US savings account. Also, 4 paychecks allegedly have made their way to my Mom's back in the US from previous jobs. Thus, looking forward to a high savings rate, come the July 1st update. If all goes according to plan, I may see my net worth bump back up nearly 1/4 or more of the 1-year growth that was lost getting here... and that's from just a single month of work.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 8:45 am
by halfmoon
Fascinating stories. You and your girlfriend show remarkable courage and resilience.

You mentioned the lack of online information about moving to China for work. Could you use some of your spare time to create a wiki sort of website that would pull together info and resources, and also share some of your experiences? Maybe generate a little side income from it.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 10:18 pm
by Viktor K
@halfmoon Thank you for the kind words. I haven't yet shared our story of our first run-away from China yet though ;) . The website is a good idea, and one I've considered. I have not put enough thought in how to implement it yet, though. I fear it would be a bigger undertaking than expected. China's changing all the time, and, as far as I know, there is no central record of all the laws and rules and practices, which vary by province, city even, and change without notice. For an example, we had to stay in Shanghai for 1 month in order to export our cat. In contrast, just last week a lady left the training center with her cat, straight to Shanghai, then the US with no issue! No medical check, microchip, official government document - nothing! But if I can figure a way... it will likely be highly valuable to expatriates coming here and thus likely be very popular/financially productive.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 6:09 am
by Viktor K
Per hour wages teaching English in China

Training center
  • $13.58 per hour, pre-tax, housing allowance included
Public school
  • $41.36 per hour, pre-tax, housing allowance included
Private lessons or part-time kindergarten
  • $44.11 per hour, pre-tax, no housing allowance
Come August, my girlfriend and I will switch to a public school and have the option for private lessons or part-time kindergarten jobs. We will be earning 2-3 times as much per hour as we were in the US, while capitalizing on a much lower cost of living.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 7:17 am
by Viktor K
Some thoughts after 1 month in China
  • This time around is much easier
  • Both my girlfriend and I are making serious efforts to learn Chinese
  • A friend from Chinese class lives here and has a great group of friends but most of them won't be here next semester
  • A healthy diet will take some effort
  • I was a body-builder for a whole 2 weeks
  • The training center is not what either of us wants
  • I think we both could see ourselves here for at least a couple years
  • ERE stretch goal is now the summer of 2021
  • Flash cards seem to be extremely effective for me
  • Flashcards combined with an online course from Peking University is proving extremely effective for my girlfriend
  • 1 year teaching at a public school equals 20%-30% of the hours working 1 year in the USA
  • I think this may be "my version" of ERE, something feels really right about it
  • Western beer, cocktails, fancy restaurants, etc. are more or less the same price as the US
  • Savings rate for June is looking like between 65-80%

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:42 pm
by Viktor K
Power issues yesterday
We're in Shenzhen, China, a hot and humid, extremely modern city. Personally, I think it is the best city for an expatriate in China, at this time. Just a few decades ago, Shenzhen was a simple fishing village near British-controlled Hong Kong. Now, it is one of the largest and most advanced cities in China. What happened was China declared Shenzhen a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), more or less giving Shenzhen's economy a hands-off approach, stock market, etc. Thus triggered a huge influx of human and financial capital to take advantage of a "free market" area with access to the world's largest market. Nowadays, you have hella foreigners here, you have a southern Chinese coastal city where everyone speaks Mandarin instead of just Cantonese (mutually unintelligible dialects that share the same written script), you have an extremely modern metro system and buildings, you are no more than 1 hour away from Hong Kong pretty much from anywhere in the city, Chinese restaurants alongside Western restaurants, etc. You basically get the best of both China and the West with a cost of living that is, while rising, still comparatively low.

However, it is still China, and China things do still happen. Yesterday morning, rather than sleep in before my 3PM training center start, I woke up in a sweat. It is 90°F outside, near 100% humidity, meaning our A/C should be going, but it wasn't. Get out of bed, look around for the A/C remote and I can't find it. So I turn on the light to try to get a better look, find my glasses, etc - but the light doesn't go on. Power's out. Water still works, which is good, because last week it was shut off for a few hours.

The apartment door is a key card scanner which thankfully still worked, so I mosey out into the hallway to see what is going on. The motion sensor hallway lights don't go off, and (we're on the 7th floor) the elevator isn't working. A walk downstairs, and I'm able to more or less confirm the whole building's power is out. Queue a morning full of sweating and a cold shower. My girlfriend and I decide it is best to head to work early, where there is A/C and wifi. Of course, as this decision is made, the sky opens up and we're now challenged even more with a downpour. That wasn't so bad, though.

Work comes and goes, and we're on our way back home. We have a group chat on WeChat where we learned from some other foreigners in our 12 story apartment building that the power came back on at about 8:00PM. We get home around 10:00PM, pretty stoked that we'll be able to have some A/C and wifi. Or so we thought...

We get in the elevator with a nice Chinese woman who reminds us before we head up that we haven't chosen our floor and presses the button for us. She gets off on the third floor, the elevator door starts to close and then BOOM! it slams shut. The lights go out. I don't know where our temporary friend went or maybe she didn't realize what happened, but we are now trapped, alone, in the dark, in a Chinese elevator in a building with no electricity.

I tell my girlfriend that we need to remain calm, and she seems pretty okay with that, starts taking selfies of us trapped in the elevator. I remain calm as well - on the surface. On the inside, I'm well aware that my own anxiety is starting to bubble up, but I don't want her freaking out. I try the alarm button on the elevator and it works, but I wasn't going to just wait. So I hit the call button, and the military guy that watches the lobby at night chimes in. I tell him in Chinese, "Hey dude! We're stuck on the 2nd floor in the elevator!" He says okay and we end the call*.

It's getting hot in the elevator now and a little stuffy. The first concern was whether this elevator was going to drop us to the basement. The concern mounting in my head now as I checked the top of the elevator for an exit vent is oxygen. It was getting stuffy, so I mention to my girlfriend nonchalantly, "Hopefully there's enough oxygen in here." Now, queue panic mode for both of us as each breath suddenly seems noticeably less fulfilling than the last. Were we really running out of air? Couldn't say. Did our anxiety tell us we were? Heck ya.

We have some options. Wait for rescue, pull a Mission Impossible and jump out the top of the elevator - wait, no exit that I can see, or die here. That's when it hit me - the doors. The power went off literally just as they closed on the third floor so maybe, just maybe....I try the doors, summon some inhuman strength (just kididng, it was hella easy) and pry them open. We fall out of the elevator into the dark hallway of the 3rd floor. We hit the stairs, check on our cats, post to all of our social media sites about our harrowing ordeal and then decide we both deserve an ice cold beverage.

On the way down the stairs, we chat with the Chinese tenants about the power being out. "Yep, no power." "Yes, we don't have power either." "Nope, whole building no power." "Everyone has no power." Etc. When we hit the lobby, we find a curious sight. A herd of Chinese people all standing around the elevator as what I think I see is the military lobby dude trying to open the elevator. We walk up, realizing this may be a rescue effort for us and casually ask, "Yǒurén ma?" literally "Have people question mark?" They let us know, yep, there are people trapped in the elevator.

At this point we feel a little guilty, remembering that we hit the "Save us!" button and made the "Save us!" call, then rescued ourselves and didn't elect to tell anyone, so I let them all know that it was us, I opened the doors and saved us, and we're all okay, nobody is in the elevator. The crowd disperses, we go and get our beers.

Getting the beers took a minute longer than normal since the corner store right across the street with the cheap beer was out of stock (probably everyone from out apartment bought them out when the electricity went off), but I had discovered a hidden supermarket just down the alleyway and I hadn't shown my girlfriend this gem yet so we went over there. She, despite needing to pee and doing the pee dance, wanted to check out the aisles in detail, but we eventually made it to their beer fridge, got our slightly more expensive beers (maybe $0.15 more than the corner store each), paid the lady and headed back. Little did we know, our initial guilt at seeing the rescue crowd was about to multiply ten-fold.

Outside the apartment we see a police car and the policeman hops out casual enough. We figure he's hear to fix the electricity or whatever and his slow pace made me feel he probably wasn't here for the rescue plus he didn't even go to our building but the one next door. The rescue crowd by the elevator is still dispersed so no big deal there. We start up the stairs, merry as can be, ready to enjoy our beers. On the third floor is when the guilt hit us in the form of a sweaty, disheveled, bounding down the stairs, army front-desk China guy. Apparently nobody had told him we were safe and he spent the last half-hour continuing his rescue efforts! I didn't catch everything he said, but eventually we communicated to each other that yes it was us, yes we were safe, we were terribly sorry to worry him and that we figured he had been told!

You see, I would have told him myself before we left because, remember, I thought I saw him working on the elevator. However, when I waded through the crowd, he must have sprinted away, maybe to hit us on the call button again, so I never got to tell him directly. I can only imagine what he was up to after. Did he think we had perished on his watch? Evaporated? Did he check the third floor elevator to find it empty? Did he run up to our apartment and find us missing? Think it was a prank? Call the cops and tell them two foreigners got stuck in the elevator and were now unresponsive? I can't be sure. As if a bit of karma, the power didn't come back on, except for a brief 15 minutes last night, until 5:00AM this morning. It was a hot and sweaty night, and not the good kind.

*Only later did I realize I had given him the wrong floor, since China counts floors as so: Ground floor, 1st floor, 2nd floor, etc. This likely further contributed to the craze we found him in on our return to the building

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:28 am
by Viktor K
June in review

Successes in June
  • Passed interview for a new company/public school (start in September)
  • Tendered our resignations
  • Got both cats vaccinated and healthy from worms, fleas, and ear mites
  • Won 2/2 games of 浪人 (lángrén, “werewolf”) against a bunch of locals
  • Kept track of expenses
  • Studied Chinese (90% competency @HSK 2 level, 77% competency @HSK 3 level)
  • Moved unmanaged (money market) IRA from Fidelity to a Vanguard index fund
  • Started my first video game
  • Free stuff: massage, roasted chicken, beer, fruit, movie tickets, and zòngzi
  • Savings rate: 75.47%

ERE graphs

A local at work has advised that cooking your own meals costs roughly half of eating out, but we didn’t talk actual numbers. It would certainly be more healthy.


Financial spending was more than the last 6 months combined.


I am leaning towards committing my savings to debt. I feel this thread here was successful in highlighting the pros and cons.


New graph: RMB is whatever I have in China, IRA is finally invested at Vanguard, USD is cash in US, and Permanent LI is the cash value life insurance policy.

ERE predictions
This is a prediction of when I could reach ERE if every month were like this one:
Debt forgiven 2033: ERE mid-2021
Debt paid off ASAP: ERE 2023

Friend circle: I’ve started hanging out with a friend from college and his friend group lately. I feel like I click with them more than our work group.

Girlfriend’s successes: My girlfriend has enrolled in an online Chinese course and is also using flashcards daily. I’ve seen her Chinese proficiency skyrocket this month.

A truck of dogs was stopped in Guangzhou on its way to the Yulin dog festival. 1,300 dogs were taken off it, so my girlfriend took two (expensive) days off work to go there and help out, and has started a Gofundme for the cause. If you're interested, take a look here and share on your social media.

Cats: We got a new kitten which we thought was a girl for a few weeks. We introduced him to our other cat gradually and they get along very well. Both cats ended up with with fleas, mites, and worms, but we fixed that.

Travel: We did a couple cool tourist-like things like going to a small mountain in the city and visiting Dafeng oil painting village. Both were free, besides metro fare.

Creativity: I started running a D&D game with the college friend’s group. I need to find a way to monetize my creativity. I am teaching myself how to make games.

Big spending: We spent ¥198 each for an all you can eat and drink in 2 hours teppanyaki.

Health: I hardly exercised, and ate a terrible diet of street food for every meal. I’m also living in an environment with an average of 3x the WHO daily AQI guidleine.

Training center: July 22nd will be our last day at the training center. We were going to stay through summer, but then we found out July 10th-August 19th we have 6-day 57 hour work weeks. Our overtime clause should net as much as $1300/week, but our company did not interpret the wording in our favor, and is paying about 75% of that.

Job search: We found a company that staffs public schools in the Nanshan district of Shenzhen and has a generous, no office-hours contract. We interviewed for two schools within 2 miles of each other and were both offered the jobs. Our current company is also trying to put us in front of some schools, but we have little interest.

Cancel letter: We face a risk that we won’t get our cancel letters (or we won’t get them in time, companies sometimes make this difficult). Without a timely cancel letter, we are hopeless to transfer our visa to a new company. This is partly the reason we are leaving ASAP.

Skills: On a different note, I feel I am improving as a teacher, which is good. My demo lesson felt so much better than what I was giving back in 2015.

Part-time: I’ve restarted the online tutoring on my off-days. It is less per hour than I could earn tutoring in person, so it may only be temporary.

Saving opportunities: The food, utility, and public transit bill are all opportunities for saving. We could also potentially save by taking a housing allowance instead of provided housing in September, but I don’t think my girlfriend would be interested in maximizing saving in this area. Food and public transit are the things we will focus on come August.

Retirement account: I moved my old rollover IRA from Fidelity to Vanguard and put it in an index fund. It was just sitting as cash for the last 2-3 years. I lost $0.68 on day one, which was quite exciting.

Income: We got our first paycheck and housing allowance this month. They were both a little smaller than our contract because we only worked 20/22 work days in May and because we were accidentally gypped ¥590 (now to come next month). Mom also deposited some pay from my jobs in the US which I had forgot to pick up. That was a nice and unexpected surprise.

Budgeting: Tracking expenses on paper this month helped and allowed me to keep updating this journal.

Hobby income: I made my first video game. It is merely a prototype of what I want to make. My goal is to spend about 2 months making the final version, and then try to sell it.

Goals for July
I haven’t set goals in a while, and I’m not sure how important they are for me. I figure I might as well try some simple goals for this month and see how I feel about them next time.
  • Full-body exercise 2/week
  • Study Chinese 20 hours
  • Savings rate >65%
There’s a lot I could share about pursuing ERE in China so please feel free to chime in with advice, comments, or questions.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:53 pm
by slowtraveler
Seems like all that planning last year is paying off. Nice work on the savings rate and job upgrade. Wouldn't be surprised if I see a 90% here by the year end.

A comment on my own indexing-first congratulations!
I felt scared indexing at first but holy sh*t am I happy about the results. I was certain I was going to lose money with the high valuations, now I wish I'd put all in rather than sitting. The valuations have gotten higher and I'm secretly hoping for a crash but my asset allocation is now more conservative so I'm okay either way.

I had a couple of questions about China
About ERE in China-You think your level of expenses is possible for someone new to the culture? Provided I'm willing to eat what the locals eat, take public transport, and live relatively modest?

About residency in China-I'll be claiming the FEIE and don't want to become a taxable resident anywhere. I know a Visa != Residency but all I found about residency in China is that it's like another legal status to apply for. It doesn't automatically happen by physical presence. Is that right?

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 1:35 am
by TheRedHare
Congrats on the new job! You seem to be crushing it with the savings rate too!
This game idea sounds interesting. I've really considered making a few games myself. I've heard of some indie game developers making a living off of games they made themselves. Make a decent game, sell it for $5 or $10 * 1,000 players (conservatively)...that's a whole year's worth of expenses for 1 Jacob lol.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 10:42 pm
by Viktor K
Felipe wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:53 pm
Seems like...
@Felipe Thanks. I should hit 90% working at the public school, and >90% pending finding, committing to, and capitalizing on part-time opportunities. To your first question, I can't think of anyway in which my language/cross-cultural skills have benefited me financially in China. I think they have helped me personally and professionally, but I don't see anyway in which another with the right focus, mindset, and view on spending (e.g. most on this website) would have to spend more. Actually, many on this website would probably find ways to spend even less here. A smaller home in a smaller city where the food is cheaper could cut costs by more than ¥1000/month, with the trade-off being likely a greater degree of culture shock and a smaller expat community. We had this option for September but decided to stay in Shenzhen for now :D.

As for residency, the only thing that comes to mind is a Residence Permit. You get this if you qualify on the right visa. For example, I came here on a single entry Z visa. Once I got here, I was stuck for about 1 month as my company processed my visa and documents to get me a Foreign Experts Certificate and a Residence Permit. This modifies my visa and lets me come and go from China as much as I want in the next year. You don't need this, though. If not seeking employment, it is perfectly legal to apply for the longest duration tourist or business visa you can get, and make border runs every 1-6 months, depending on your visa's duration of stay. AFAIK, that would still qualify you for FEIE, but I'm no tax expert, so I can't advise either way.

Optionally, you could still seek employment on one of these other visas (as many foreigners do), but this is technically "illegal", there's a risk of deportation (however small that risk may be), and you likely won't get any tax documents, if needed.
TheRedHare wrote:
Sat Jul 01, 2017 1:35 am
Congrats on ....
@TheRedHare Thanks as well. The savings rate will go up and down a bit this summer, depending on what/if we work in August, then should stay high through the public school year. As for the game-making, it is super fun and easy. I took inspiration from another user's journal on here who doesn't seem to be around anymore. I'm using the same program he did, called RPG Maker, to make a game that sold at least 300 copies on Steam at $10 each. I can't wait until the summer session ends to have more time to spend on the game. It has more or less replaced most of my free-time ;).

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:51 pm
by Viktor K
iPhone photos from June

1. outside training center
2. outside shāokǎo near apartment
3. outside training center
4. apartment balcony
5. pool hall
6. $1.47 quarter watermelon
7. walk to metro


Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 1:39 pm
by TheRedHare
Nice photos man!
You're in Shenzen right? Isn't there a huge marketplace for electronics there? I've always wanted to go there, I'd be like a kid in a candy shop haha.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:04 pm
by Viktor K
Yes, it is called huá qiáng běi. I went there once already for a computer screen and spent $26 on a pretty decent one. We didn't really have enough time to explore more but we will soon!