An American apprentice barber in Fuzhou

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70 hours a week for 24 cents an hour
Benjamin Ross is an American blogger, originally from Kansas City, now working for a month as a trainee (学徒) at a barber shop in Fuzhou and writing about 7 work day a week employment at the lower end of China's economy.

Now about half way through his month-long stint, he has made a fascinating comparison of working hours:

American job: 1,936 hours per year (242 work days)

Teaching English in China: 919.2 hours per year (230 work days)

Job in Chinese barbershop: 3,542 hours per year (322 work days)

So there you have it. My job in the barbershop requires me to put in almost twice the hours I would put in had I been working in the US and nearly 4 times the amount of hours I would have put in as an English teacher in China, not to mention that it also requires nearly 100 more work days per year as well. All this for a job which pays 800 RMB ($105 USD) per month.

Your correspondent hates to be the first to make this joke, but Benjamin Ross is truly not in Kansas anymore.

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There are currently 7 Comments for An American apprentice barber in Fuzhou.

Comments on An American apprentice barber in Fuzhou

Maybe I'm thinking the wrong kind of barbershop, but hey, I can't wait for the post when he tells us about dressing up in a miniskirt and giving drunk men whack-offs...

It depends on who you ask.

Goto your nearest Chinese restaurant, ask them how many hours they work. And I'm talking about constantly busy doing stuff work...

You may hate to be the first to say it, but I'm pissed off that I failed to say it when I did a post on this a week or so ago. Damn.

Regarding the Kansas comment, it may not be applicable to Benjamin as he may not be from Kansas. There are two cities called Kansas City - one is in the state of Kansas, but the bigger and generally more interesting Kansas City is just across the state line in the state of Missouri.

Still not Kansas brah!

Benjamin is a hero for taking that job but he is much aware of the non monetary benefits for sure. First he will certainly learn the very difficult language (free immersion)and earn the respect of the people around him. Having lived and worked in China several years for the government, I had an assistant and a driver at my disposal and my workload was 12 hours a week and going out to fancy dinners and banquets nearly every night with the result that my liver aches and I packed on the pounds and aside from learning how to order a beer and how to bargain in the shops learned nearly none of the language.
So good on you Benjamin for taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity and making the most of it.

from a novelty perspective, this is interesting.

however, from an anthropological perspective, I don't get it. Apart from phd-defining observations about wages and conditions as detailed above, what does he hope to get out of this?

he will always be a foreigner working in a chinese barber shop and will always be treated as one. he cannot hope to assimilate and truly experience what a chinese worker would experience, so what is the point (apart from being able to write a blog and improve his chinese)?

but if he is doing it for the novelty and for something to tel his friends back home, then great and good luck.

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