Did you know that in Mandarin, the word for “crisis” is the same as the word for “opportunity”? The true meaning of this word dawn upon you when you’ve lived in China for several months or years. You start to get the idea that there’s order in chaos. Turbulent winds have more energy than smooth airflow. And the bustling city life in China, with all its confusion and crisis, is brimming with opportunities.
Why China can be Hard to Understand
China has its soul deeply rooted 2000 years back in history. That may be the reason why it’s still hard for me to understand many things despite having lived here for almost two years. For example, how can the Chinese drive with all that traffic coming in from all directions? Or why the traffic rules, despite being there, are not enforced on the roads. Why would people bump into you and not offer an apology? Such exceptions aside, China is really not a mystery wrapped in an enigma once you get used to etiquettes such as bending at the shoulders and accepting business cards with both hands.
Moving to China – The Cultural Shock
Moving to China is the kind of experience to which the term “cultural shock” can be liberally applied. After the initial euphoria of moving to an exotic oriental country wears out, you may find yourself biting your nails in frustration, especially if you don’t have a job. The differences in language, culture, ethics, family life, and social environment are too wide to be bridged in a few days or even weeks. Life here has to be experienced to be understood.
Moving to China – My Story
If you are thinking about moving to China and living here, I’d encourage you to take the plunge. I was inspired to come here by one of our professors in the college. He had lived and worked in China for many years. “When you live in China for some time, you find your true self“, he used to tell us. That magic moment of self-revelation hasn’t come for me yet, but living in China has been an experience beyond words.
Like most other expats coming to work or do business here, Shanghai was my port of entry into China. After living and working there for a year, I had already had enough of the noise and pollution that comes as a part of living in a cosmopolitan city. I was lucky to get a job in Hangzhou, a picturesque city located about 200km southwest of Shanghai. It’s a mountainous town and a center of tourism. Although the population here is more than 6 million, it is still a much quieter place than Shanghai which is home to more than 14 million people. I’m glad I finally found what I had come to China for, a peaceful life amidst a strange culture, but not all people coming to China get what they expect.
Tips for People Moving to China
If you are the kind of person who enjoys learning new things every day, China is where you should be. Before you board a plane, however, make sure that you tick the following mental and physical preparation checklist:
Clothing: Clothing is plentiful and cheap in China. However, you may face a problem finding your size if you are over size 40 (for women). Larger shoe sizes can be a problem to find. In any case, it would take you a couple of weeks to get your north aligned and go shopping, so bring your supply of clothes depending upon the climate of the place you are going to.
Health and Hygiene: You’ll have a hard time finding mosquito repellant lotion or cream in China, which can be a problem if you’re allergic to aerosol sprays. Bring your stock of sunscreen lotion and deodorants as well, because they are expensive and scarce here. Common over-the-counter medicines such as painkillers are easily available.
Food and Water: The pressure of the population, rapid industrialization, and possibly, a lack of control have resulted in food and water pollution in major cities. The water here is doused with liberal amount of beryllium for killing the germs. Swine Flu and Bird Flu are not unheard of. Do not eat half-cooked meals or raw unwashed fruits and veggies, and avoid drinking from the public water supply if you don’t want to get sick often.
Trailing Spouses: It might sound cynical, but the fact is that a stay-at-home spouse can be the biggest hurdle in the way of a happy and successful stay in China. If you are working in an office, you’ll probably be doing long hours. While you may not get time to feel frustrated or bored, your trailing spouse would need to get over the stupefying change as soon as possible. You should look for ways to get your spouse engaged in some activities or a part-time job.
Language and Information: Moving to China is not a simple affair. You are stepping into an alien culture and land. Without knowing Mandarin, you might feel more lost than a blind man on a dark night. You also need to build up your knowledge about hospitals and health facilities, grocery and fresh supply stores, public transportation network, schools, sports facilities, and of course, housing.
Moving to China is an experience to be had, not an event to be described. I could write as many words and still leave out wide areas of the wonderful civilization that China boasts. So, I give you the stage. If you have lived in China, we’d love to hear about your experience and suggestions in your comments. If you have any questions about moving to China, I’ll be pleased to answer.
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