Jack finished his last class and coming out the door he lit his first cigarette of the day.

At his apartment door, Jack crushed his fourth cigarette and took the fifth inside. He checked his phone messages. Then he stepped back out and lit number six and headed to McDonald’s.

Although Jack loved Mcdonald’s coffee, he did not much care for McDonald’s itself, or KFC for that matter. 5,000 years of continuous civilization, blown away with the frying of hamburger patties.

Shanghai was full of such places, just as it was full of laowai who wanted to be Chinese, and Chinese who wanted to be laowai. Jack had tried to talk some sense into two pretty young girls he’d followed to a Starbucks, laying out in simple terms how that capitalist fraud Deng Xiaoping had stolen Grandpa Mao’s classless, agrarian utopia and sent it hurtling towards mercantile oblivion. Alas, his words fell on deaf ears; they sipped their frappucinos and ignored him. Score two more for the capitalist roaders.

As Jack entered McDonald’s, he thought that his trip to that polluted Paris wannabe had permanently put him off traveling to China’s Westernized cities. If anything, it just reinforced what he’d long suspected: Wuhan was the real China. Since surviving Shanghai, he had not left Wuhan. That had been four years ago.

Inside McDonald’s, a cardboard Ronald McDonald cradled a plastic box of toxic toys. Kids ran to, they ran fro, they just ran everywhere, yelling and screaming. A group of lovely girls was eating ice cream, and in front of him, a newly bourgeois Chinese couple took their little daughter up to the counter and let her choose from the menu, allowing her to betray her five millenia heritage. Jack knew. The corruption was complete. It was already too late for her.

,” the girl said, tugging at her father’s sleeve and pointing at Jack. “Wài guó rén!” Her mouth opened wide. “Dùzi hǎo dà!

“Hi!” Jack called, and opened his own mouth wide, in a big smile. The girl screamed and hid her face with both hands. Jack chuckled as the parents shielded their daughter. Chinese girls were just so shy.

It had to be genetic.


  1. Wuhan is totally full of expats. Don’t know what the author is thinking, other than to perpetuate the stereotype that expats who can’t make it in Shanghai go to other, lesser places to continue their loserdom. I guess I won’t be seeing the author at Jay-Z. So sad!

    • Respect to Shanghai, but I think it’s likely got its fair share of expat losers. It’s just a difference in ratios. There’s no way you can compare the expat populations of Shanghai or Beijing with a 2nd tier interior city like Wuhan. Suzhou’s expat population comes close, and I’m sure it’s entirely related to proximity to Shanghai and the types of expat jobs on offer there.

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