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Oh, where have all the rugged expats gone?
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A new wave of expats are surfing in on your break, says Ernie Diaz, editor of In his post, titled Flooded by the Third Wave, Diaz describes a richer, more motivated "third wave of expats", who pose a threat to their predecessors in Beijing. Identifying himself as part of "the second wave", Diaz says he, "can't throw a rock in this city anymore without hitting two or three earnest white collar Westerners with defined career paths, paying Tokyo rents."


"They are level-headed, ambitious, and want a privileged Western lifestyle just like the one they left back in Wonderland," writes Diaz.


In contrast, he describes expats of his own era as, "the gentlemen of fortune who set sail for the Orient to escape the Man, sleeping in 40 yuan bathhouses instead of apartments".


"Where are the buccaneers I used to trip over outside the Den, the ones with the outstanding warrants back home, the ones with nothing in their pockets but a billion dollar business plan on a Heineken-soaked cocktail napkin?" writes Diaz.


He concludes that most of his contemporaries have likely set sail for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, or Vientiane, Laos - "places where $200 still gets you a month's rent, maid included, and the rumble of the WTO is still far away enough to avoid the stampede of global capital and the winds of inflation it leaves in its wake."


"Grisham's Law of economics holds that bad money drives out good money. Jack's law of ex-patriotism states that laowai with more money drive out those with less," Diaz writes.


"Don't take it the wrong way, third wavers - welcome to your party. You gotta wonder what the first wavers thought of us second wavers, with their Pigeon bicycles and kungfu jackets. I'd like to go ask one, but they're like snow leopards nowadays. Economic arbitrage makes endangered species of us all."


Diaz's post drew a response from a reader using the name, "male man", who compared the sentiments with people in Germany reminiscing over the "good old days" before the wall came down:


"I remember in Berlin around seven years ago, everyone on the West side would tell me, 'Oh, it was much better before the wall came down. Back then, the best clubs were hoppin' and a boppin' here. Now, those Russian-mafia types have wrecked everything'," the contributor writes.


"Meanwhile, on the East side, folks would lament for the 'good old days' when you could get all the essentials for a happy life without the sky-high Euro prices ... sure you had to wait in line for a couple of hours for some toilet paper, but what the hell, talking to your neighbor/citizen-spy... much better than those Romanian soap operas."


He comforts Diaz with the prediction that post-Olympics Beijing will lose some of its appeal for this new breed of expats.


(China Daily February 1, 2008)


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