The Halfpat Life: Lauren

Friday, April 20, 2007 0:20
Posted in category The Halfpat Life

Originally from China, Lauren Kwan recently left China after 2 years in Shanghai.

A graduate of Harvard (Major in East Asian Studies), living and working in China was “just something I knew I wanted to do in my lifetime, so I made it happen”

Instead of taking the expat route and finding a company that would send her over, she took the plunge and moved to Shanghai on her own.

Getting involved with organizations like ORIENTED early, Lauren worked for a large PR/ Media firm before returning to the States to focus on her new project.

She is now working on a startup company and is traversing the Pacific once a quarter to work with the Shanghai based co founder and team.

Language Background:
On a scale from 1 to 10, what level is your Mandarin? 7
How often do you use Mandarin in general? Daily
How often do you use Chinese language skills at work? 50-75%

To get ready, Lauren studies the language, culture, or business climate, and wishes she has studied more

for those looking to learn more, she suggests, Autobiography of Mao Ze Dong, Lonely Planet China guide, That’s Shanghai; Smart Shanghai,,

Living in Shanghai:

Top 5 Things about living in China:
1. Learning from expat community
2. Access to high level executives
3. China and Asia travel
4. Awesome authentic, diverse Chinese food;
5. Really seeing how things work on the ground

The bottom 5 :
1. Terrible pollution
2. Overall sanitation level
3. Rude people
4. Smoking everywhere
5. Unreliable everything – things breaking down in the apt., takes weeks to get something really simple done, etc

Career path:

Lauren is not concerned about what career opportunities and she is hard at work putting together a new company with her business partner Kevin.

Do you have a business plan on the shelves? Yes … and it is in play
Have you ever carried 2 cards? No

While in China, she developed skills in Project management, media relations, business development that she believes were the most transferable skills from her time here.

Hindsight being 20/20 … Lauren WOULD do it again if given the choice, but before recommending anyone else to take the plunge:

I would have lots of advice about being really clear about what you’re trying to achieve, and depending on that goal, where to go and how to go about getting the most out of it

What keeps her in China? Lower cost of salaries (for developers)

Anything else?

There’re lots of great things about being in China, but depending on where you are in your life, returning to your home country crosses everyone’s mind at least a few times a year. Quality of life, especially in the intangible things like clean air, good customer service, being able to trust that common sense will prevail…etc. is still something China is far from being able to offer. One day, it will get there. I guess precisely because of the things China doesn’t offer yet, there’re opportunities in business, education, etc. that are unmatched in other parts of the world

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5 Responses to “The Halfpat Life: Lauren”

  1. Emily says:

    December 7th, 2007 at 10:11 am

    This is interesting. I actually know Lauren Kwan. We hung out together a few times when I was based in Shanghai between 2004-2005, before I relocated to Beijing. Like Lauren, I took the plunge and headed straight to China after graduating from college. After spending close to 4 years in China, I must say that I’ve probably survived China. In spite of the inconveniences and certain discomforts, I haven’t felt that it was a great sacrifice. The people, history, sense of moment, and fast paced business environment (in my line that is) make up for all of it.

  2. Rich says:

    December 7th, 2007 at 10:58 am

    hi Emily,

    It is a small world. I will actually be seeing Lauren (good friend) next week when I visit SF (her home base now).

    What line are you in? PR/ Media as well?


  3. Emily says:

    December 7th, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Nope. Real Estate. I’m not sure if she still remembers me because we lost touch, but maybe you mention Bedy, Sylvie…it might ring a bell. You can also tell her that I’m the Singaporean who went to college at Penn.

  4. Alan Paul says:

    December 9th, 2007 at 7:52 pm


    been meaning to write you for a while to say I’ve been enjoying these profiles.

    Glad I could provide the inspiration, even if it was somewhat satirical. I’m a big boy. Keep up the good work.

  5. Rich says:

    December 9th, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    hi Alan,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I have been enjoying your column as well, and even thought you are writing from the expat perspective, I can relate to a lot of what you have written when I was first starting in Asia (particularly your holiday post lately).

    Glad you are enjoying the profiles. I am in the process of gathering more…

    Have a good holiday