Beijing vagabond, do you wish your parents to visit you?

Beipiao: 北漂, Literally “Beijing vagabond”, referring to the group of people who do not have a Beijing hukou (permanent residence), who migrated to Beijing from other places of China seeking opportunities and better life. Beipiao is also a life style of being a drifter in Beijing.


(MOP) My mother came, stood at the exit of the Beijing train station, waving at me. I took her bag, my father followed in silence. I took them to eat Peking duck, my mother said, “Ay, going to get fat again.” I frowned in anger and said, “You can eat less then.” She picked up the chopsticks and said, “You should have said I am not fat.” Afterwards, she stood in the street of Beijing, looking at me cautiously, and asked, “Where are you taking us?”

How do I know? I was very impatient, why did they come? Ask all the Beijing vagabonds busy running on the streets of Beijing: do you wish your parents to come to see you? Perhaps half of them will have the same answer as me, shaking their hands and say, no, forget it. Because no matter how you “guard and defend” to hide all sorts of unpleasantness, it only takes one look from them, they can see though that you are a low-status Beipiao who is straggling and fighting for the future. No rice in the kitchen, no blanket on the bed, shampoo is all used up in the bathroom, a thick pile of takeout menus on the table, everything is in a mess that displays the gloomy life. We have a precarious life, constantly having to worry about tomorrow and the next meal, but we also want to save some face in front of our parents. You know, the words which has the most “killing power” is: if not living well then hurry up and go home.

A friend of mine maybe was trying to express his dedication to his career at the time, when his parents came to Beijing he just worked and did not even accompany the parents to go out once. He said, “I am really busy”. Now he regretted, “should have treated them better”. But he said that he probably will do the same next time since they come very often. Some people had calculated and came up with an estimate that you (Beipiao) probably can only see your parents 20 times or so, but so what? Anyway, the worst is there will be no next time; no one seems to be thinking about cherishing.

My mother is not even 50 years old. She looked at my room for a while at the door then started cleaning agilely. Dug out all my dirty clothes and shoes, mopped the thick layer of dust on topped my TV, picked up an empty alcohol bottle from the corner and said, “You are incredible, drinking by yourself?”

My mother started to ask me questions, where the comb was, if I have eaten dinner, if the clothes needed to be folded. Deviated from her comfortable environment, she seemed to be confused and bored out of her mind. These were clearly not the words she used to say. I pretended to be busy in order to avoid those more serious topics, for example, She would say, “You are now 25 already, why do you still spend everything you have, what are you going to do later? You still don’t have a boy friend? When are you planning on to get married…”

In fact, after 12 hours, I already felt tired of it. The feeling right after attending a luxurious party at the World Trade, after getting to know all kinds of rich people, getting to see all kinds of luxury items, when the midnight bell sounded, traveled through the entire city to get back to the rental home, suddenly realized that I am only a low-status Beipiao that only makes a few thousand a month. When you saw your mother dressed awfully, that overcautious way of walking, deep down you knew clearly that she was just an ordinary middle-aged woman who has the unique small town rustic style. You once worked so hard to get rid of that look, even now you still carry the great dreams and determined not to compromise with that kind of rustic, but your mother reminded you a thousand times, that is you.

So in the end, we had no choice but to hope them to leave quickly, only to become a worry in the telephone, and continued to dream the success and the fame one day, to pick her up in style, to give her everything.

  1. “if not living well then hurry up and go home.”

    Don’t need to say anything more than that.

  2. I could interject a nasty crack about the Hukou system, but… there seems to be more here that meets the eye. Both parents are visiting, but only comments about the mother are relayed in this article?

  3. “She looked at my room for a while at the door then started cleaning agilely. Dug out all my dirty clothes and shoes, mopped the thick layer of dust on topped my TV, picked up an empty alcohol bottle from the corner and said, “You are incredible, drinking by yourself?”

    Seriously,, anyone here who HASN’T experienced this? When my mother visits I rigorously clean everything but she still manages to find dusty areas of my apartment I didn’t even know existed. She isn’t being coy about it though, just wants to help out. I honestly think she enjoys it sometimes, helping out, now that her babies are all grown up and don’t need their folks so much anymore.

  4. Just replace Beijing with USA, then many Chinese people working in USA can feel the same.

  5. You can’t see the future if all you do is look to the past.

    If your parents can’t understand that – that’s their problem.

  6. I read this article thinking how sad it was to keep chasing salaries like this just to eak out a meager living for oneself.
    truth is that I live in south africa in my home country , on my own and I can relate to the person in this peice.

    I think most of us , in this day and age, feel this way.

  7. rat’s race to the top. Its a tough existence for millions of migrant workers as they battle discrimination as well as the daily grind to make a living and support one’s family and eventually buy a pad and start family.

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