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Dear Mr. Bagel….

Below, find a few of dozens of letters of application sent to an Italian restaurant (Danny’s Bagel) here in Guangzhou. The names and schools have been altered so students won’t suffer any embarrassment. I should have started a collection a long time ago of the many others I have seen….

Typically only 1/10 will even show for an interview even after sending in a recommendation. Even with the dearth of good paying jobs with insurance and social security paid by an honest and caring employer like Danny. Most new graduates or senior students will think a restaurant job too menial and of little value for future appointments even with the tremendous skill set they can acquire while there. Some of the letters sent by no-shows for a full-time position. I am sure they went on to much better things, like CCTV announcer or QIDE (启德)/New Oriental (新东方)English language teacher:

Dear Danny,

Hello, happened to see your ad online. I am a college student at a prestigious college. I major in journalism and communication. Being with people could always excite me, I’ll find it fulfills life to be connected to society. So may I ask for a part-time in your Dannys BAgel at weekend?

If I were not admitted to your Bagel as a waitress then I would like to have meals there as a guest, haha.

Best Wishes,



I am very grad to make friends with you. I hope we can talk about some chinese and wesern cuisine. So we can study each other.


My name is XXXX, a student studying french in guangzhou. It’s a pleasure to have your email when searching the internet, don’t worry, i don’t have a scare attempt. I just want to make friend with some foreigners and to improve my english and french if its OK. i am looking forward to your reply.”


“Sorry for late reply. I have just finished my first job…. I have a bachelors in Russian. I like English very much…. I am a good girl I think.


One wrote a rambling three-page personal statement emphasizing her “sunny and careful and patient heart” and wrapped up with “suggestions” for the Danny, a 14-year veteran of business in China–I am still working on what she meant to suggest:

” Some companies especially cafes don’t want to hire short time waiter or waitress, because it will waste the training or other resources. But except for college students , where are young girls with terrific oral English? In other words, as far as I am concerned, hiring the right person may save the training time even can shorten the cycle of profits by so many orders. I think maybe I am not the best, but I am good enough.”


so, I want to work in your restaurant on weekend. What is more, i am good at cooking chinese cuisine. Thanking you!” XXXX

This blog is packed with my deep love for Chinese students and my own long and hilarious struggle to assimilate and acculturate into their culture, while trying to abide by government imposed constraints….I am sure my letters would be much worse, but then I am not an Chinese major at a “pretigious school.”

The barriers erected by, or in front of, students provide the fodder for many a novice writer or newcomer to the Middle Kingdom. For those of us who have been here a bit, it is black humor meant to release a bit of reflexive aggression so it is not misdirected back to the students we are committed to serving….Neither I nor Danny ever make fun of the students, rather we marvel at their lack of preparedness for even a wait-staff position.

One of the many failings of virtually every College and University in China is their inability to give students a sense of direction or prepare them for the future. I wish I had one yuan for every senior who told me that he/she had no idea what they wanted to do upon graduation. I could retire if I had another Yuan for every student that desired to get a “good job at a good company”without knowing what they might like do once there.

Every year I write three versions of every graduate school recommendation letter to cover: the path they “think” they might like to take, the mandated route their parents demand–invariably business or finance at a “top 5o” brand name school–or some easier alternative study plan that will give them time to finally decide on one of the former….

Most of them know the rules of grammar–they can do calculus like we Americans do addition and subtraction–and they can read and speak with astonishing alacrity and competence. But their cultural, vocational and social education has not equipped them to enter an increasingly  western etiquette driven job market without self study or mentoring by a patient teacher. I am hoping that the industrialization of education in China soon includes a module in vocational preparation–even if there is an extra charge.

American Professor in China,Cantonese Schools,China Editorials,China Expat,China Expats,China Humor,Chinese Education,Chinglish,Cross Cultural Training,Education in China,Humor,Intercultural Issues,New Oriental,Teaching in China

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Dear Mr. Bagel….”

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  3. ChinaMatton Dec 13th 2009 at 1:57 pm

    This makes me feel better about the cover letters and resumes my students handed in for their assignments.

    Maybe next year I’ll apply for a job at Danny’s. I’m sure he’d be happy to have a laowai waiter.

  4. Cary R.on Dec 13th 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Unless someone actually travels to or visits China, it’s almost impossible to explain the differences in socialization and education styles in the west, or at least compared to North America.

    I still find the focus on memorization, “collectivization” the drive and competativeness required to get into a good college so fascinating. I’ve spent many hours discussing these issues with my Chinese and expat friends.

    Thank you Lonnie for posting about these and other subjects.

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  6. adminon Dec 13th 2009 at 8:53 pm

    HAHA…..They pay ain’t bad….But, I think he wants bribes from New York and Jersey from you 😉

  7. Peteon Dec 14th 2009 at 12:03 am

    Right! Lonnie, we need to open a finishing school.

  8. adminon Dec 14th 2009 at 8:49 am

    Much, much needed……
    Wait for tomorrow’s post….You will agree on a Starting AND Finishing school….. 😉

  9. Megon Dec 14th 2009 at 9:14 am

    1 rmb for each “work at a good company” and another one for the amorphous “become a manager” and I think I could retire too! I spent a lot of time trying to encourage my Beijing high schoolers to share their future plans with me, thinking they were probably just uncomfortable with me and they’d share more when they were relaxed. Perhaps they were just used to their parents telling them what they could or couldn’t do, or maybe they really weren’t sure what kind of “good job” they wanted.

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