Notes On Living Abroad

I was reading a great post on Shenzhen Undercover recently about the frustrations of expatriates living in China. The author hits the nail on the head; China can certainly be a frustrating place to live for foreigners. That said I think there are a few points to bear in mind here for anybody living or thinking of relocating to another country not of their own –

Illustration by o_hai

  1. You are a guest in another country – don’t forget it. Treat people with respect even if they don’t show it to you. All to often expats get a bad reputation for the minority running amok abroad, don’t be one of them.
  2. Accept differences – even if you don’t like them. Shanghai is not Southend and visa-versa. There will be differences; some small and some large – the best you can do is to go with the flow.
  3. Try new things – yes eating a dog or chickens feet is a bit disgusting but if you get a chance to try something new go for it (as long as its not illegal, immoral or dangerous!). You might discover something new you like.
  4. Be patient, keep calm – some things will drive you crazy and make you question your sanity. Take a deep breath and grit your teeth, loosing your temper will only serve to make you look stupid and make things worse.
  5. Take a risk – your taxi may be doing 80 in a residential street, but don’t you feel alive? If you live long enough to complain about it to someone else then it was worth it – these are the things memories are made of!
  6. Be friendly – you will get asked the same questions a million times; where are you from, what are you doing here, how long will you stay… It will soon become boring but smile, when before did you get such attention?

Apparently I'm spelling my frustration with IE6 incorrectly
Image by fstorr

For the sake of a less stressful life, I try to put the frustrations to one side but occasionally they do bubble up to the surface. Case in point I was in Hong Kong last weekend trying to walk to Victoria Park (near Causeway Bay) but the path was blocked by thousands of Filipinos maids sitting/standing around on their day off making it almost impossible to walk. In the end, I just gave up and went elsewhere – life’s too short sometimes!

When all else fails find a quiet place to silently scream 😮 How do you deal with stress?

David avatar

5 responses

  1. Keefe avatar

    1stly, I thought this was just another WordPress weblog. (like mine ^^) Then I found that huge tag “China” among the tag clouds, which drew my attention totally.
    Curiosity killed the cat. However, I’m still interested in the true life and viewpoint of ppl from outside the country, like u.
    I’ll keep watching.
    Stay strong, David.

  2. Cheers Keffe – always interesting to get another viewpoint. I find everything fascinating here, perhaps I’ll tire of it in time but for now it’s great 🙂

  3. Chris avatar

    It’s strange, but I’ve been coming to China for 23 years now. I’m still a hopeless Chinese speaker, but I can honestly say that I have never felt these frustrations that most foreigners are constantly complaining about. I find Chinese people to be extremely friendly and polite – never ha any trouble from them. I wonder what I am doing differently?

    1. I think it depends whether you live here long-term or just visit. If you visit then you can cope with small frustrations because you know you’re going back sooner or later but if you live here then these small things build up over time.

      I also find Chinese people friendly and polite so this is nothing against them, just about coping with cultural differences.

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