The following post makes references to study abroad “returnees” – also known as ‘HaiGui.’ Though humorous in intent, it reflects a broad and ambiguous social attitude toward the value of a foreign degree for Chinese ‘haigui’.

Jan 31, 2013

“You went to England, so why didn’t you go to Oxford?”

Correspondent Liu Weining reports that a list of “questions study abroad returnees are most annoyed by” has been spreading rapidly on the web since yesterday. “You went to England, so why did’t you go to Oxford”, “You probably speak pretty good English, why don’t you say a sentence or two for us?” and other questions are on the list. Black humor aside, the list reflects the many misunderstandings still held by society regarding returnees.

“When you come back from abroad, no matter how successful your studies were, you’ll be labeled by others as a ‘returnee’. Generally, returnees don’t intentionally reveal their status, because really there isn’t much to show off about. But if some friends know a returnee’s background, they definitely won’t let the person off the hook,” states the preface to the list.

The list of is composed of twenty questions. Among them are the two questions already mentioned, as well as “You went abroad, so why did you come back?”, “Did you decide not to immigrate because you’re afraid of becoming a second-class citizen?”, “Did you get used to life over there?”, “Were you able to fit in?”, and “I heard luxury goods are cheap abroad. When are you going back next time, and can you help me buy something?”

[pullquote style=”right”]There’s still a certain value to being tagged a returnee, but in recent years with more and more going abroad and coming back, it’s turned into a discount tag.[/pullquote]

Returnees have come up with some clever answers to these questions. When asked why they didn’t go to Oxford, they say “Oxford was my second choice.” Asked about fitting in, they say “I’m in the inner circle.” Still, some returnees are saddened, “There’s still a certain value to being tagged a returnee, but in recent years with more and more going abroad and coming back, it’s turned into a discount tag.”

“Study abroad has already become a commonly seen educational expenditure, and people should be giving study abroad students more respect,” said one Dr. Chen from Renmin University’s Education Institute. Since the number studying abroad is increasing, it’s becoming harder for returnees to find work, and stories of returnees accepting low wages have slowly piled up. “However, this is not caused by lack of respect for returnees. Difficulty in finding employment is a society-wide problem,” said Dr. Chen, who calls for people to have calm and respectful interactions with returnees. After all, these people have more knowledge of issues abroad and cross-cultural experience.

This translation was originally posted at Education News China. The original article in Chinese can be found at: 海归最讨厌听到的问题:去英国为啥不上牛津?

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