What 10 Years In China Taught This American (laowhy86)

Jun 20, 2021 177.8K Views 1.8K Comments

Join former Chinese resident Matt Tye (laowhy86) and me as we chat about lessons learned about the USA after living abroad and returning home after 10 years overseas.► MATT’S CHANNEL (LAOWHY86): https://www.youtube.com/user/laowhy86
► MATT’S INSTAGRAM (LAOWHY86): https://www.instagram.com/laowhy86/

Alright! Here I am with Matt Tye,
Lao86. Yeah! He’s got a
fantastic YouTube channel about
all things Chinese and today,
I thought it’d be a great idea to
get in a conversation with him.
We’re here in Carlsbad near San
Diego, we met up here. Both live
in different cities but we had
to meet up in a nice place
here. Yes, we did. And I wanted
to talk to Matt about his take
on the US after living abroad
for what? Ten years? Yeah, ten years.
Ten years in China, in Taiwan. I lived
abroad. I just got back from 4
years abroad, but 10 years is a
serious stint and he was in
deep – for those that don’t know
his channel – he was in deep
in China, speaks fluent Chinese,
and I think he’s done one of
the deepest dives I’ve seen
online. All things China
related. Sure. And how’s it
feel? I’m just gonna start with
that. How’s it feel being like
been about what? 2 years now?
Yeah. So, I’ll be honest with
you, I was dreading it. I mean,
one of the reasons I left the
US is because I disappointed
and that’s that’s the truth of
the the whole thing is that
when I left in 2008,
I was over this place.
You know, I traveled around,
I was in debt
from college. Yeah. And I was
like: is this all there is?
You live the white picket fence
dream, you know? Right. You pay
off the your college debt for
the rest of your life?
And that’s pretty much where
I was at. So, I was thinking
about what can I do outside of
this, and I just backpacked through
Europe, a little more of
that. So, I ended up trying to
move to Taiwan, ended up in China
but um… When I got back here, it
was a completely different
story. When I got back here,
I saw everything not from a
21-22 year old’s eyes
anymore. Right. It was a
realistic… It was sobering…
It was a realistic
perspective. Not that
I had it so good before and now I
see like what I was missing.
Right. It’s more like… from an
outside perspective, when you
live away from this country for
so long, you can see
the general nature of
America is what you make of it.
Instead of: oh, this is what
I’m supposed to do, oh this is what mom
and dad did. Right. I can come
back here with a new renewed
perspective from being abroad
for so long and say: listen,
I can do so much here and America
affords me so many
opportunities. It’s a massive
benefit of the country!
Whereas I was, China was
testing my limits of what I
could do, what I could get away
with, right? I was going around
shooting these documentaries
and SWAT team, PLA, police at
every corner, getting harassed
all the time. Just doing
something like this, right? Just
doing something like this!
Just going around, like, I was up
filming camels up in Inner
Mongolia and the next thing you
know what I’m being
interrogated by the the SWAT
team and the People’s
Liberation Army, right? Okay.
It’s… it’s those sobering
moments when you realise, holy
sh*t! Right. Like the fact that
I can’t just go have uh… and I’m
already tiptoeing around my
subject matter in China, right?
Right. I’m only covering
positive things cuz I know
what’ll happen to me otherwise.
Right. So, when you come back
here and you realise you can do
all of those things, it wakes
you up. It wakes you up, like:
wow! Number two, my
neighborhood in Upstate New
York is not America.
Everywhere, every single place
in America is completely
different. Yeah, yeah. So,
if I wanted to integrate and
talk to people of different
cultures and stuff – that’s all
here! That’s everywhere!
Right. It’s so much more
multicultural than China is.
But my perspective is
someone who left uh back
in 2008 was that: it’s just
my hometown. Right. And you can
travel around and stuff but
unless you live in a place, you
won’t fully understand it.
Traveling is different.
Exactly! Yeah. Living in…
it’s almost like a
relationship when you’re
dating. Right. Like…
everything’s great in the
beginning. Like the
the part when the person can do no
wrong. Right. And then time
starts you know… revealing the
truth a bit. Right. And is it a
good fit or not? Yes. That’s
exactly what it is. You wanna
get going to the beach? Yeah,
sure. Cool. Alright, go to
the beach. So, I mean… I’ve been
watching Peter’s stuff for a
long time now and um… I’ll be
honest with you: our
perspective on things is
probably quite similar but the
way that we portray things is a
little different. Yeah. But
I think that’s really necessary.
Sure. Because I like to watch
your stuff because you are a
bastion of positivity and
a very negative world, right?
I’m trying, I’m trying. But you
are! It keeps my sanity to
some degree. I think that’s
fantastic, right? One thing
that differs I would say is
that… when I was when I was in
China for ten years, I loved
it. I loved every minute of it
and I thought it was
fascinating. It pushed me to my
limits but I also made me who
I am today. Right. And I have to
thank China for that
experience. That being said,
because of those experiences,
because it pushed me to the
limits of what I could do,
coming back here has been like
a burden has been lifted,
because I can finally say the
things that have actually
really been bothering me. I’m
not talking about dirty toilets
or something. Right. I’m
talking about like… the real,
real bad stuff that was going
on due to the Communist Party
of China. And yes, my channel’s
taking a focus on that just
because I think it’s so
necessary to talk about.
Yeah and so, there’s always
that… like you were saying
earlier: traveling is one
thing, living is another. Yeah.
And Ukraine and China are two
different worlds. Sure. I lived
in Kiyv, Ukraine and
uh… I was free to speak
whatever! It’s actually a very
freeing place, I’d say
there are even less rules in
the States. For sure. In many
ways, right? In many ways,
yeah. My challenges there
were different. Overall, I love
the culture, I love the people,
the government did not
interfere with me.
It was things like… air pollution.
Yeah. You know, like breathing
clean air is getting headaches.
Right. Or things just not
working or some oligarch can,
you know… this is a new complex
here and someone can put
up another one here, pay off
the right guy, all of a sudden,
the water is not working so
well over there. I get you.
Those types of stories that
sort of add up, they add up,
and then you realise when
you when you grow up in the
States, you… you just don’t have
any to compare it with,
so you take it for granted.
Yes. But until you lose those
things, and they
start to make your life more
difficult then you’re like:
oh my god! This is an
amazing thing, right? And
I wanna say also that: in
these times we’re in, where it’s
a very negative sort of…
a bitter look at the US,
online especially, right? Yeah. And
we have all sorts of challenges
and problems, I mean, these are
very evident. Right. A lot of
the good is overlooked. Yes,
absolutely and that’s the thing
that’s so frustrating is that
coming back into this negative
sphere, but seeing the good!
Seeing what’s so amazing about
it is exactly what’s
in… it’s infuriating, I’ll
be totally honest. Yeah. But
it’s also my job and your
job as well not to convince
people that the US is a good
place. Right. But to show the
reasons maybe as to: why?
And maybe inspire some people
to take advantage of their
situation. Yes. And yes, we all
are considered privileged maybe
in this country, right?
Compared to other groups
of people, especially that’s
the current dialogue right now,
right? That being said, despite
all of those things, people
keep saying: well, this shows
America’s weakness, this shows
how America’s gonna fall. It’s
like the empire, it’s like the
Roman Empire, these are
all the signs that signs of the
fallen empire. Right. To me,
all of this turmoil… Number
one: doesn’t compare to China,
the stuff I’ve seen in China
that people aren’t allowed to
talk about. Right. But number
two: it shows the strength to be.
Of this country. The fact that
people can be so divided and at
each other’s throat, seemingly.
Right. You know, on the media
but it’s still a cohesive
country that continues to work.
Yeah. And operate. And people
can still do what they wanna do
and address those issues –
to me, that’s a beautiful thing.
And, you know, sometimes, we
all do it: we get on the
rabbit hole of the Internet,
right? And you go down and
like: oh, it’s looking really
bad out there and then, I’m
driving around the streets and
I’m like: okay, we’re in
California. We’re seeing
homeless people, they’re here,
there are big problems. Yes.
But look at this, look at this
life: is anyone coming
at our throats? No. I’m
talking with people from all
different backgrounds every
day, I don’t feel any tension
in that but if you’re…
if you’re constantly poking
through the online world, it’s
like: wow! It’s coming down
really quickly. Right. Covid
hasn’t helped this,
everyone’s inside on the
virtual world. Yeah. And so,
what I’m doing, and I think what
you’re doing is capturing the
real world and putting into
the virtual world. Yes.
Obviously, it’s coming through
our lenses, like there’s always
a bias, right? For sure. I’m trying to
look at things as an optimist.
Uh sometimes, I’ll get into the
dirt, like I made a video
recently about San Francisco,
I’m just pissed off on how bad
it’s gotten. Sure. I think it’s great
that you do that. Felt like I
had to. But you can do that –
that’s the difference. Right.
So there’s no perfect place.
I like to always make
that very clear to my audience
and whomever’s watching these
videos: there’s no perfect
place. I feel like the US is a
wonderful place if you want to…
if you really want to realise
yourself. Sure. If you want to
experiment, if you want to not be
judged for what you’re
doing. Oh, they would tell you
otherwise though, wouldn’t
they? Right, right, right. Like
I’m in my 40s making YouTube
videos – that is not cool in
most of the world and maybe not
to some of you out there, but uh…
No, it works, right? And you can…
You can recreate and
you can reinvent, you can try
different things.
You can do some real estate and
make YouTube videos at this
time – there’s so many options.
Yeah. And the culture, which
I wanna mention is very important
and you cannot read really
about this or see it as a
tourist. No. But… what’s
expected in a culture and how
restrictive that can be. Right.
So, for example, I don’t wanna
totally, you know, nail Italy,
I love Italy. But there
are many… there’s more,
there’s more, like… rigidity.
to what you need to be to
so-called be successful in
life. Right? Right.
Like you need to take…
Telling an Italian mom that
you’re doing a YouTube
channel probably isn’t gonna go
over well with most
Italian moms, right? And the
interesting thing too is a lot
of Americans and my myself
included: before, I always
thought Europe was like… they
had it so much better in
Europe, right? Sure. I was
like: oh Europe, look at they
got the the piazzas, they got
the cafes. Exactly the same!
It’s like: look at that perfect
life. They have the lifestyle.
Right. And if you do want a
three-hour lunch break –
Italy is way better than here.
Right. I’ll admit, I guess
that’s gotta get old after a
while. For me, for my
personality or your personality
that or anyone that’s like
really driven, I think that
gets old, right? Yeah. And also
a lot of people don’t know:
a good salary in Italy is
$2,000 a month. Right, right.
That’s like a good salary,
people are like: wow, that
person makes two grand a month.
Sure. And I think I made that
when I was mowing lawns
as a 16 year old,
something like that in
the summers, right? So, there’s
a lot of… I’m not gonna say
misinformation but that grass
is always greener mentality.
Right. And I suggest to anyone
to go experience the world and
live in the world. Sure. Like
you and I both did and then you
make your own decisions, right?
Right. But what I want ask you
is, we’re in these times now,
I mean, especially the last year,
it’s been a shock for me coming
back into it. Sort of this
censorship mentality,
stick with the narrative
mentality, scared-to-speak
mentality. Sure. China’s taken
that course, right? Would you
say over the last 5 years or
so? Yeah. Do you feel like
America is following in that
sense at all or is totally
different? I think it’s wildly
different but that is something
that everyone asks me because
they see… they basically say:
listen, Matt, I feel like what
you’re saying about the Chinese
government currently in your
videos is exactly what’s
happening right now here in
the US. And I gotta say
it’s very different because…
like “cancel culture” for
example: the Chinese
government uses cancel culture
at a state level, so, if
you step out of line, if you
speak against the government,
you’re done, you and your
family are done – it’s a
thuggish regime, right? “Cancel
culture” here is driven by
this obsession with social
media, this obsession
with being famous, this
obsession with having power
over another human being, but
I don’t think that’s entered the
political sphere as much as you
might think. Okay. I think down
if you really took it like a
legal case, for example, people
use defamation and things like
that. It’s actually really hard
to sue someone for something
dumb here, right? Like
defamation, things like that.
So, it kinda ties in the whole
“cancel culture” thing. However,
I do see culturally,
a censorship taking over, I see
people buying into that and
just accepting it based
on what it’s gonna do to their
image online or maybe
work, right? Now, the reason I
say it’s so different again is
that it’s a state level versus
a private level. It’s social
pressure versus an actual
government that will f*ck you
up, right? Right, right.
So, that’s that’s the biggest
difference here and I don’t wanna…
I don’t want people
to equate those two things
together. Got you. You’re not
living in an authoritarian
Chinese state in the US, and
that’s one thing I’m just so
tired of is that: oh, it looks
like we’re just becoming
exactly… like Dr. Seuss being
cancelled or whatever, right?
Okay. That was Amazon
and the publisher cancelling.
Right, the publisher did it, not
the government, right?
But in China, it’s the government
cancelling those things. Not
just books, but anything, any sentiment,
any mild distaste for the
government, right? So you, as
an American, if I’m speaking to
Americans mostly: you
still have the right to do most
things, that hasn’t been
taken away from you yet. Right.
Whether you decide to feed into
that toxic mentality of social
media and the way things are
going currently… It’s
something I refuse to do, but if
you’re feeding into that, then
you’re part of the problem as
well. Right. But it’s an
honest choice? It’s an honest
choice. But if you’re at a work
space maybe or a corporate
America and there’re those sort of
protocols you have to… It
sucks, that sucks.
That sucks. I have friends in
those situations. And
I understand that, that’s
real, that’s a real thing
when you talk about that, but
again: it’s not the state
leaning down on people for
that, right? Yeah. Now, if
you’re talking about how far
corporate America has gone and
the influence that it controls
the workplace or the way people
act in general? Yeah, that’s
a massive issue because it’s
also a separate issue, right?
Yeah. It’s something that
I feel like people need to
take up on their own and
gather together and come to the
consensus that: hey, maybe we
should hold on to our freedoms,
right? Yeah. And not let a
dollar or Amazon tell us what
to do. Right. So yeah, it’s
different and I guess it’s a
little similar. It’s a little
similar but mostly different.
But for me, I realised how
important that is after being
in many parts… I’ve been in
countries where people… you’re
in a great conversation,
it goes political and all of a
sudden there’s like this tense
like… they clench jaws… Yeah!
They want to speak but they just…
they’re censoring
themselves because they know
there’s trouble from the
government and that’s like…
that’s the worst, right? Yeah.
That’s like the biggest breach
of sovereignty, you know,
that a human can experience
I think it’s when you cannot
speak. Yeah, I think there’s
fallacy actually. It’s a
massive one. I think there’s
this fallacy that like a lot of
people would be like: listen,
you just got in trouble in
China because you were speaking
out. Number one: I wasn’t.
I was really actually
just towing the party line at
that point. Right. But the fact
that I would bring up anything
societally was enough
for them to throw the book
at me. So there was, you
know… the average person might
say: listen, if you just don’t
talk about politics, then
you’re fine, right? Right.
And that’s missing the point,
right? Mm hmm. Yes, maybe if
you go to a country where it’s
illegal to talk about politics,
you probably shouldn’t talk
about politics, right? That
being said, that’s not… that’s
that’s a slippery slope. That’s
not the way a society should
run, right? Nothing should be
off limits for a private
conversation. That’s just
ridiculous. Right. And that’s
not American exceptionalism
or privilege or whatever, but
it’s coming back to America,
you can see how good people
actually have the luxuries of
being able to say what they
wanna say. What would you tell
young people that feel they
don’t like… some people
legitimately have it bad,
I’ve been in the hoods.
Yeah, absolutely. Like
they’re growing up in difficult
conditions, there are people in
very difficult circumstances
but overall, we’re a country
of about 330 million people…
What would you tell like the
average young person who’s
getting this pessimistic view
of the US and it’s place in
the world or how we wanna take
that. I’d tell them I had to walk
in snow uphill both ways. Yeah.
Obviously, people are gonna
look at a 34 year old and be
like: okay, boomer!
Yeah, yeah. But I don’t look at
it from the perspective of our
ages. Look at it from the
perspective of we’ve already
seen the world, right? Yeah.
It’s not a flex. That’s a real
thing: when you see outside…
when you have an outside
perspective and you live
amongst it in a situation that’s
wildly different from yours
back home, you can see how
things work. And I’m not gonna
tell a kid in the hood that he
has it good. I’m not gonna be
like: d*mn, you’re so… you’re
you’re on the right trajectory,
everything’s gonna be awesome.
Right, right. The state
probably isn’t gonna take care
of you in large, that’s
just… that’s the nature
of the beast, right? However,
the opportunities outside of
your impoverished situation,
maybe your family situation and
stuff remain better than the
majority of the rest of the
world. And I understand
it sucks to have somebody say
like: listen, you just gotta
pull through and get out of it,
that’s not what I’m trying
to say. Right. What I’m
trying to say is that you do
have a toolbox here outside of
your personal situation to
make a change. You do! And
that’s something that people in
other countries, in particular
in my case in China, you know…
people always talk about: oh,
Chinese people have it so good
because they love their
government and they’re
taking care of them. Number
one: their government’s not
taking care of them. They’re not?
They’re not. No. It’s not a socialist
country! It’s communist,
so people think… It’s not even
a communist country! They don’t
have any social programs.
Let’s jump over here. Sure.
Let’s just get away from this
crane. Poor Chinese
die. There’s no food banks
there, there’s no a YMCA.
You understand? There’re no
government programs that’s
handing out stamps left and
right to poor people. Right.
It’s cutthroat as hell. It’s
more cutthroat than the US,
right? So, what I’m saying is
that the so-called approval
rating of people in China that
approve of their governments
like authoritarian
lead is 95% – that’s
bullsh*t! You can’t say you don’t
approve the government and it’s
95% apathy from what I’ve seen.
It’s cuz you can’t do anything
about it. Got you. So,
when you talk about an American
down and out of American that
has a really bad luck in
life, you still have the
toolbox in the US to
make something of yourself.
Yeah. You still have it. You
still have free education. Maybe
it sucks but you’re still
better than most of the rest of
the world and that comparison
may not be useful to you right
now, but it’s one of those
things that became useful to me
after I left. Right, right.
So, I didn’t have like
some awful childhood.
I grew up very middle class.
Yeah. But even not leaving that
and then coming back, I was
like: what an idiot I was to
not take all these opportunities,
advantages that I had. Yeah.
You just don’t know until
you see it from a different
perspective? Correct. You just
don’t know. You don’t know what
dress feels, shoes feel like
until you, you know, you get in
a running shoes and then you go
back to your dress shoes.
That’s exactly correct. So,
alright! We could go on
forever. We have a lot of China
themes but I’m gonna direct you
guys to Matt’s channel cuz he
goes in deep, he presents it
very well. It’s one of my
favorite channels on YouTube.
Thank you! I’ll leave the link
below. Alright, hopefully we
brought some spirits up today
but if you are questioning the
US, it’s always good to
question everything. And if you
have a chance, go out and get
some world experience. Yes!
Maybe you like it more out
there. Maybe you stay and
that’s great. Or maybe you look
at here in your own life in a
different way. I did it in my
twenties. Best move ever made.
Yeah, agreed. Alright. Thanks,
Matt. No problem!

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