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Go East, young man

By Erik Nilsson and Thomas Hale | China Daily | Updated: 2012-12-31 09:19

Go East, young man

Looking for work in his field, Christopher Russell started working for a property company in Shanghai China

Canadian Clinton Hendry, who moved to Beijing three years ago at age 23, puts it this way: "China's like the Wild West but on the other side of the world. China has become the destination for the new 'Lost Generation' to seek adventure."

He likens it to how early 20th-century Spain lured such global nomads as Ernest Hemingway, who popularized the Lost Generation concept.

Hendry says that while he taught at his university in Canada, his job in China was his first long-term contract.

"I had a lot of job experience back home, a lot of it in not particularly good jobs," he says, citing work as a bartender and security guard in Canada.

"My goal was always to be a teacher," he says. "The idea that a university in China wanted to hire me was perfect."

Briton Mark Henderson says he had planned to put his career on hold when he came to Beijing after his girlfriend landed a job as an attache to the EU delegation to China five years ago.

"However, I quickly realized the opportunities were rather better than I'd expected," Henderson says.

"Compared to my hometown of 185,000 people, the opportunities here are exceptional."

After two years as a university instructor, he became an EU-China Trade Project II project manager.

"I'm now happy to say I have got the best job I've ever had, and it perfectly fits my career trajectory thus far," he says.

But the 32-year-old says China has offered him more than a career and adventure.

"I came to China as a young man, with a girlfriend and no job," he says.

"When the time comes, I will leave as a married father with some amazing experiences working and living here."

Human resources companies point out coming to China is a strategic move for young Westerners.

"Over the past decade, China has become a portal of wealth and experience for Westerners looking to further their careers," Direct HR Shanghai's founding partner Michael Maeder says.

Briton Christopher Russell, who works as a writer and editor for a property company in Shanghai, had trouble finding the kinds of jobs he wanted back home after graduating in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy from King's College, London.

"Straight after graduation, I worked a succession of jobs that weren't intellectually or creatively stimulating.

"There was little prospect of that changing, or that's how it felt," the 24-year-old says.

"Even if there had been no recession, though, I would have still come to China."

Paul Afshar left his position as a lobbyist in the United Kingdom to move to China to become managing director of

China offered new opportunities, the 28-year-old says. He visited the country as a tourist in June 2011 and moved to Beijing the following month.

It wasn't just a career move but also a quest for excitement.

"None of my friends were doing it," he says. "China seemed almost mystical and exotic, and I wanted to be the guy in the pub back home with something interesting to say."

But while most young Western professionals will boomerang home with tales to regale and with burnished CVs, some are here indefinitely.

"As long as the environment is right for me professionally and for my family, then I'll be in China," Wester says.

Contact the writers at,cn

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