Dear Jamie: I'm Stuck in My Training Center Job

By That's PRD, February 8, 2017

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Dear Jamie is a regular series where our readers seek advice from Jamie, a Guangdong-based life coach.

Dear Jamie,

I feel a little stupid writing to a random email address from a magazine, but you gave some pretty sound advice before. 

Originally, I wanted to teach English for a year while I learned Chinese before moving to Europe. Now, I’ve been in China for four years and given up on learning the language. My girlfriend dumped me last week saying I’m a ‘party boy’ and next month I’ll be 27. On top of that, the training center I work at is pressuring me to sign a contract for another year.

I don’t really want to sign, but what else am I going to do? I’m having a good time in China, and if I go back to New Zealand I’ll work longer hours for money that doesn’t go as far. What do you think?

-Hesitating in Shenzhen

Dear Hesitating,

I have some bad news: you are coming down with Donkey Island Syndrome. It’s common among male expats in China and usually begins in the mid 20s. It’s usually not fatal, but beating it isn’t easy. 

The syndrome is named after a fictitious island in the movie Pinocchio where children are allowed to do whatever they want. Drink beer, eat sweets in the morning – you name it and those kids do it. But for each bad choice they make, they become less human and more animal.

The syndrome’s symptoms include weight gain and Monday morning hangovers. Serious cases can result in being over 30 years old and dancing for children while holding faded flash cards. 

The most effective cure is going back to your home country, where you speak the language and friends and family will goad you into making something of yourself.

The other cure is more difficult. Remain in China, but make some serious lifestyle changes. You need to find a sport or hobby group (see That's PRD’s monthly Social Skills articles for some ideas), enter relationships that don’t leave you thinking ‘I can always find another one,’ and, most importantly, begin pursuing your life goals. My guess is training-center monkey was not on your list of dream jobs. Online courses or weekend classes in Hong Kong are a good place to start. 

So make your decision, otherwise you’ll end up braying and pulling a cart in no time.


Got a pickle? Jamie has got a hamburger at

Click here for more Dear Jamie.

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