Reading time: 7 minutes
My story starts in July 2014, in England; I had just graduated from University, and like so many, I was at a loss as to what to do. I subsidised my living costs by working on various creative projects around the south of England, but as the pressures of life soon cottoned on, I realised that I needed a full-time job, fast. My biggest problem has always been that I am too proud, I didn’t want to settle for any old job, working in a petrol station, or in the local supermarket, and the truth is, I felt as if I was entitled to better. Arrogant, maybe, but I had just completed seven years of higher education outside of school, and I didn’t work so hard and for so long, to end up doing something that didn’t require all that dedication and time.
As time had passed, those projects that occupied my time, and my mind, had come to an end, and the pressures of social convention started to take its toll on me. It’s worth noting that like many countries, people in the United Kingdom are quick to label you for not being in full-time work. By full-time work, essentially, I mean an office job, your typical 9 to 5; you see, working from home, or doing anything consider slightly unconventional to the consensus of what a full-time job is, won’t suffice. Thus, with pressures from both sides, i.e. social convention, and my ‘pride’ (or you could say ‘shame’ for not landing that dream job) I began to panic, and panic I did.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “why didn’t you just settle for any old job, and then just look for your dream job whilst you earn money?”, but as I said, I’m really proud, and the notion of doing anything other than what I had thought I could achieve, just brought my confidence down even more so, and at this point, that’s all I had, confidence, confidence in my abilities and education. Around this time, I had applied for at least one hundred positions in nearby cities, writing personalised cover letters to each and every position (yeah, I was devoted), but I just wasn’t landing those jobs that I so desperately wanted.
I began doubting myself, which in turn, took its toll on me; so much so, I started to lose motivation entirely. I became somewhat stagnant, and like stagnant water, I attracted the attention from pests (pests being, ‘concerned’ people), which only fuelled the pressures of finding that goddamn office job. I’m fully aware that so far, this all sounds very ‘poor me’, but I think this is an important reflection and consideration for how I was feeling at this time and can illustrate or exemplify that this philosophy is damaging, so if anything, let it be a lesson to you.
I will refrain from going into too much detail of how I went into the depths of despair, as after all, this isn’t some teenagers High School diary. After some hazy, unbeknown period of time, I recall starting to get my act together, and accepting that I may have to find an alternative to what I had always planned on doing. I sought to fall back onto other skills that I had outside of my educational background, as trying to find work in my field of study, was like trying to buy the last mutton-chop from a crowded market stall, and with my non-existent confidence, I didn’t stand a chance of getting my hands on it.
“What skills did you fall back on?”, I hear you ask, well, the only skills I saw possible potential in, my mountaineering, volunteering, and climbing experience. I quickly made a resume relevant to this and started applying for positions with the likes of the Forestry Commission, and even the B.A.S (British Antarctic Survey), whereby, if selected, I would live and work in the Antarctic for half a year and make a very silly amount of money. Whilst waiting impatiently for three or so weeks for them to reply to me, I started doing something that would change my life.
I began to see myself in the Antarctic, I started preparing myself, mentally, to go to the Antarctic. I sat in front of my laptop for hours on end, reading people’s experiences of what it was like to live there, and I was completely enamoured with the idea of realising something so truly amazing and otherworldly. I believe that all I wanted, was to be proud of myself and achieve grandiose things, and not fall victim to the expected way of life (cue Radiohead’s ‘Fitter Happier’).
So, what did I do that would change my life? I began to have new expectations, and this time, I was full of passion. To give you the answer, no, I didn’t get the job with B.A.S, but that was okay, because that expectation I had of leaving England and moving overseas had spilt over into my pot of ambition, and no longer was I limiting myself to just working in one particular field, and in one particular area. I believed that if I could just find employment abroad, I would have done things differently, at the very least, I would have achieved something. With this new desire, I began eagerly researching day and night for a position abroad, So, I went onto Google and I typed in ‘work abroad’ (a nice generic search).
If, like me, you have looked into working abroad, you’ll know that when doing your research online, you’ll be bombarded with an overwhelming barrage of advertisements for volunteering projects; such as going to Africa and building huts (no thanks, I’d rather send them money for the building supplies, and let the professionals do it), or babysitting some turtles on a beach; but with a quick skimming of these websites front pages, and you’ll soon decipher that the majority require large fees (paying to volunteer is a crime).
After frustratingly sieving my way through all the complete nonsense, I started to finally locate the direct sources of employment (no agencies), and nothing seemed more realistic of finding employment, than applying to be an English Language Teacher in Asia, simply because I matched the criteria. I applied for a few positions, but after reading into them, and seeing pictures of people like myself working in Asia, my inhibitions got the better of me, and I began to doubt that I could even do it. I remained persistent and somewhat pessimistic, and kept looking; I applied for one position that stood out to me, mainly because it didn’t scream an unbearable, “have an awesome exciting time together, yeah!” This advertisement seemed sincere, and downplayed; it was for a teacher’s role, located in Guangzhou, (south of China), and to my surprise, I received a response only days later. The email roughly said,
Thanks for your interest in this position. I’d like to invite you to a Skpe intervew.
(for the sake of privacy, I’ll call him Dick. Spelling mistakes are included)
Of course, I was jumping for joy, finally, I had landed an interview for a job abroad, and in China too, a country that was interchangeable with Japan (note my naivety and cluelessness at the time).
To save on living expenses, I didn’t have a WiFi router in my home, so I was only using my phones data plan; concerned though, that this may slow down, or glitch my Skype interview (I really didn’t want anything to go wrong), I arranged with a friend to use his internet at his house. Of course, I told my friend why I wanted to use his internet, and by doing so, I expressed my excitement.
Skip ahead a few days, and it was interview time. I put on my suit, packed my laptop, and arrived at my friend’s house sweating and anxious (because of the interview, not because of my friend). I walked in to find that his family were visiting, all congregated downstairs in the living room; it would have been rude of me not to exchange pleasantries, so I engaged in slightly stiff chit-chat for ten or so minutes. I needed to excuse myself and head up to my friend’s room, where I could have some quiet to conduct my interview, but of course, it looked rather strange that I was going up to his room without him, so I had to tell everyone what I was doing. At the time, I was so excited and nervous about this interview, as it was finally the break that I had been waiting for, so I couldn’t help but grin as I told them all, “I have an interview with a company in China”.
The interview was scheduled to take place at 5 pm, of course, being the eager beaver I was, I was sat there from 4 pm, preparing some answers and getting myself nice and stressed. Ten minutes before the interview, Dick still wasn’t online, nor had he accepted my contact request (cue the worrying). Two minutes before the scheduled interview time, he still wasn’t online, nor had he still accepted my contact request, this of course only fueled my anxiety, and I slowly started to doubt that this was ever going to happen.
A full hour passes of me sat there, whimpering looking at the screen, begging for someone to give me a break, crossing my fingers under the desk that he would come online, because there are people downstairs who I’ve told, confidently, that I have an interview with a company in China, and what shame and sheer embarrassment I’d feel if I went downstairs, only to tell them, “he never showed up”. The pity that they’d show me was too unbearable to comprehend.
More than an hour had passed, and I felt like I had just missed the last train out of my dead-end life, and then there it was, “dun dun”, my laptop gave me a notification that someone had messaged me, it just read:
I replied with a, “hi”, and then he video called me.
There he was, Dick, in all his glory. He had positioned himself directly over the upwards pointing camera, basically, I was greeted by a double chin, it seemed odd, but I didn’t care. He asked me (in a thick Scottish accent) the questions that I had assumed he would ask me, and I confidently read my premade answers from my Word document. After answering a few more questions (that I simply guessed, as I wasn’t entirely sure what he was saying), and telling me about life in China (including the price of McDonald’s and Cola), Dick had offered me a position with his company, which for the time being, shall remain nameless (that’s a bad sign). Not being able to conceal my joy, I went downstairs to reveal that a Scottish chin had offered me a job.
So, here we are, you can breathe now, the beginning of how I finally gained employment to live and work in Asia. What comes next is a series of true events that took place from leaving the south of England as a clueless alumnus, and flying to the south of China, and being clueless in Asia.
This is the beginning of Clueless in Asia.