I have to fight for my future'

Expat zone

I have to fight for my future'

It was in September, nearly seven years ago, that Li Jun Jie’s plane landed on the tarmac of Bengaluru’s international airport. This was the Chinese national’s first visit to the country. Since then, he has transitioned from a student of Dayananda Sagar Institutions to a self-employed entrepreneur in the City.

Li, who comes from a small city called Chizhou, close to Shanghai, chose Bengaluru to pursue his studies. “I first came to India in 2008. The first year I was here, I went for an English language course. Then I did my BCA for three years,” he says. Instead of heading back home after the completion of his studies, he took up a part-time job. “I worked as a translator in my final year of college. And I continued doing this even after I graduated; if a company or people had a Chinese project and required a translator, I helped them out,” he adds.

But then he began to worry about not having a stable job. “I realised I can’t do this for the rest of my life. None of the companies I freelanced for would hire me as a full-time employee, so I had to figure something out. Since I had done my BCA, I thought I’d do something of my own.” With India’s burgeoning corporate sector, he decided to start his own e-commerce portal.

“I’ve always liked the IT world so I thought I’d start an e-commerce business. It started with a Facebook page and small shipments of fashionable goods from China. I told my friends about it and I received a good response.” It was this encouragement that gave birth to ‘Ni Hao Fashion’, a store that imports the latest fashionable clothes and accessories.

On why he chose Bengaluru as his home, he says, “When I finished high school, a friend of my father’s suggested I go to Bengaluru to study due to the opportunities available here. Also, since I didn’t know much English, this was a chance for me to improve that. When he suggested this, I said I didn’t mind.” He adds that he didn’t feel too lonely on arrival because he had some company. “I came here with 120 other students so I wasn’t alone. I was happy with the decision I made.”

He had a little trouble adjusting the first year but soon became a Bengalurean. “When I first came here, I would eat at KFC, McDonalds and other fast food joints because I wasn’t used to the food, and we weren’t allowed to cook in hostel. But a year later, I started having Indian meals and moved into a house with few others where we could cook our own food.” Now, he eats ‘idlis’ and ‘dosas’ for breakfast! “My favourite Indian cuisine is from Andhra Pradesh. Whenever I crave Andhra food, I head over to Meghana’s.”

Although he likes the climate here, he calls it “boring”. “It’s very pleasant here but it’s boring. In China, we have snowfall, spring and autumn. Here it’s just summer and monsoon! But this temperature is perfect for people to live in.”

Coming from a city that hardly spoke English, he says, “The first year, I could hardly communicate, even when I went to a supermarket or store. But I picked up the language quick because almost everyone speaks English. This is the best way to learn a language.” Talking about home, Li adds, “At home, we used to study a lot, starting from 5.30 am to 11.30 pm; we hardly had any time to play. During lunch, I would come home from school, eat and sleep for half an hour. And after dinner, I would head out to play basketball for about 30 to 40 minutes. The weekends were different because we would sometimes go to an internet bar and play computer games for an hour or so. Other times, we would go to tea houses, which are like the coffee houses here, but no one would order coffee. We’d just hang out and chill.”

According to Li, there was never a need to learn English back home. “We had an English class but it would only be for 40 minutes. And in that 40 minutes also, we didn’t speak English; only the teacher would speak it and we would look at our books. Since there’s no opportunity to communicate and practise the language, it’s useless.” He adds that his college days enriched his experience here. “There were a lot of foreigners in college – Thai, Arabian, African, Korean, Iranian and a few Europeans as well – and that made the environment international.”

He heads back home every three months to visit family and friends. “It’s like a vacation! I miss my family and friends but I’m not a kid anymore – I have to fight for my future and career. If you work hard, it doesn’t matter where you are, and you’ll be successful. The culture, traditions and food might be different from China, but everything else is the same.”

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