How do transplanted Chinese in Manhattan feel about Sex & The City? What with the media's acknowledged reluctance to cover anything related Sex & The City, it's little wonder they hadn't gotten around to approaching it from this fascinating angle. Until now! Bilingual Wall Street Journal contributor Li Yuan, whose column "Beautiful Country" chronicles her life as a Chinese expat in New York for audiences in the US and Asia, attacks this subject in today's column, which she reported the way Carrie would: by asking her friends! "The show didn't mention how the characters became successful and rich," points out a 24-year-old banker. "I'm sure they worked very hard when they were my age." A 28-year-old trader has a more jaundiced view. "I find some of its content pretty disgusting," he said. "To me, New York turned out to be more like the city in Friends.
The characters in Friends are poorer, but their lifestyle is healthier and closer to that of me and my friends." As for herself, Li Yuan ends her column on an "empowering" note that is Carrie-esque in its hollowness:
The city hasn't let me down. In my five years living here, I've worked very hard, made mistakes and had a few sleepless nights. But I've also met many fascinating people, made a few great friends, have a job I like a lot and feel great about myself.
I can't afford Manolo Blahniks but I do have many pairs of shoes — too many for anybody visiting my small Brooklyn apartment. I don't feel the pressures to settle down, get married and have kids that a woman in her mid-30s would face in China. Nobody has told me — yet — that I'm weird. Above all, I don't feel guilty about enjoying my life. I'm proud of my choices, just like the characters in the show are.
Which is, you know, just great, Li Yuan, but I couldn't help but WONDER if maybe, speaking Chinese and all, you might have been able track down one of those rare transplants who does feel a little bit let-down, like one of the guys working 14 hour days and living in 6 bedroom apartment that used to be a 2 bedroom apartment after enduring months-long trips in container ships like all the characters in that story about Chinatown in Sunday's Times:
The journey that brought Mr. Zheng to Forsyth Street from Fujian Province in southern China began in 1991 on a fishing boat. The boat broke down in what he called "the sea of nowhere," and the passengers were near death from starvation when they were rescued by another boat. Eventually they made their way to Guatemala. On his arrival in New York the following spring, Mr. Zheng moved into a one-bedroom apartment on East Broadway that was already occupied by 10 other men.
Seventeen years later, Zheng's doing okay for himself, but poverty among Chinese immigrants in the neighborhood has actually gotten worse.
Lin Ah-jiao, a pixielike 43-year-old from Fujian, sells tickets for a company called New Today's Bus. She works 13 out of every 14 days, often from 10 in the morning until 11 at night. "Chinese people work very hard," she said proudly. "Every day, working."
Her family's bedroom is dominated by a bunk bed that her husband built from scraps of wood. She and her husband share the bottom bunk; their daughter, 21, sleeps on top. Because there are no closets, the space beneath the bottom bunk is packed tight with bunches of clothes, and bulky plastic shopping bags hang from nails on the wall.
In the kitchen, a tight passageway with grease-spattered walls, a gold-and-red paper decoration bears the saying, "A good family brings in money." Scrawled in pencil on the same wall are hundreds of tiny Chinese characters.
"My uncle likes to write poetry when he gets drunk," Ms. Lin explained one day through an interpreter. Most of the poems, she said, were about drunkenness, though at least one of them was not. She read a few lines: "In the morning I go to the restaurant to work. I come back to my bed in the evening. My sweet dream has come true: I have turned into a ghost."
Yeah, that guy doesn't mess with Cosmos.