Living Abroad in China

Making a big life change is pretty scary, but you know what’s even scarier… regret!

Living abroad is hard no matter where you are in the world, however what I know as living abroad is completely different to what I expected from when I left home.

Before the move to China in July 2018, I thought that it would be very daunting and everything I would do would have a larger impact on the things to follow. I wasn’t wrong about this, yes the things you decide to do have actions that effect you later on down the lines. It may be something simple of not deciding to do language lessons as soon as we got here… this now has us not knowing as much as we want to know, but slowly learning. The actions you do while living abroad, regardless of how big or small they are, relate to the cause and effect.

Living abroad is something that has definitely changed my perspective on different situations, people and their actions as well as cultures. The Chinese culture is very different and left field to anyone that is looking from the outside in. However, the moment that you take a step out of your comfort zone and into the Chinese culture you start to understand why things happen and for what reason they happen. I guess that it is with any culture that is not your normal culture.

When it comes to living abroad, no matter where in the world you are, there are certain things that you need to bring with you, metaphorically.

  • An open mind. If you have an open mind it allows you to take in what is happening around you, assess the situation and understand or at least try to understand why it is happening.
  • Patience. Patience is definitely a key component to living abroad, especially when there is a language barrier that pushes you further back. When it comes to patience, you also need to understand that not everything is going to happen the right way or the way you want it in the first or even the third try. Things get messy if you try and rush a task that would be so simple back home, but here it is a new world to others dealing with it for you.
  • The ability to try. This deals with multiple different areas… the ability to try in relation to people, situations and even something simple like food. You’ve made a decision to pack your life into a bag and move across the world, you tried then, so why not continue trying while you are abroad.

To me, if you are able to maintain these 3 things while living abroad, then the time you are away from home seems a lot easier making time fly by faster.

For me, these 3 metaphorical things you need to bring when living abroad, are taken into consideration each and every day. As much as we have been here for almost 9 months, there are still things that take you by surprise each and everyday. Something small may happen, such as your food not being delivered to the right place and that is the last bit of patience you have for the time being. You go with it, you take the small hits (or what seem like monster issues at the time), accept it and brush it off to start the new day.

When it comes to the ability to try, I’m a creature of habit, so I like it to be standard and have my routine, what I like to eat and what I like to do. I moved to China to try new things in life, and boy oh boy have I tried new things! New friends, new food, new culture and new everything in between. The new food is always an interesting one to try… there are definitely a few things that would be seen as completely weird back home, or just not our standard normal.

The one day we went out with some of the Chinese teachers from work to what is known as Hot Pot. This is where you get different types of soups (well what you would cook your meats and vegetables in) and you decide what you want to cook and eat. Our friends asked us if we have ever tried brain before (yes, you did read right… brain) and obviously we both jumped to saying no. However as the conversation continued she asked if we would want to try, because she will order as it is something she loves to eat. Eventually the tile comes and this small little uncooked brain appears on the table, it felt like it was just looking at us, even without any eyes. Before we knew it, the brain went into the soup and was cooking for 10 minutes. The time eventually passed by and we were shown how to eat it if we wanted to try it… at this point I thought to myself, how many times in my life am I going to having the opportunity or chance to eat brain??? So I went for it, I took a big breath, took a small piece and at it… definitely was not what I was expecting!

Days like that make you realize what you have done, simply moving and living abroad. I know that back home in South Africa I would have never, and I mean never, have thought “let me try and eat brain, because who knows when I will get the chance to again”. Back home the thought would not have ever crossed my mind, if it did, I would flat out deny the chance or opportunity to every try it.

This just shows that no matter what you do when you’re living abroad, you need to keep the 3 simple things in mind each and everyday. The more you keep them there and think about them, the more normal everything abroad becomes… it starts becoming home.

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