Relocating to Shanghai effect on the expat psyche

Shanghai Living

A move to China can seem like a very exciting prospect and for hundreds of thousands of expatriates, that’s exactly how it turns out.

The thrill of having just arrived in a foreign country, for many people at least, means we don’t notice the many things which may later become annoying or problematic. Some things can initially seem very charming at first, but turn into a major irritation later.

Your first impressions of China will most likely be difficult to remember. You’ll probably arrive via a long-distance flight and the insides of airports the world over aren’t that different. Once you get out there and on route to your final destination, you’ll probably be too tired or jet lagged or just overwhelmed by the sensory overload that is modern China to get much of an idea and the first day or so will probably go right over your head.

But after the first few days, you’ll have formed some solid initial first impressions. Obviously, these can vary wildly from individual to individual. Some people will feel very ill at ease and feel like taking the next plane home. Others will be intrigued by their new home, but spend the first few days venturing out only when necessary. A few will be unable to contain their curiosity jump right in at the deep end, eating out on the street alongside locals as if they’ve been in the country years already. However, it’s fair to say the majority of foreigners who come to live and work in China do so because, on some level at least, they were attracted by the country on some level.

For students, the opportunity to come to China to study Chinese are a no-brainer. For fresh graduates from English-speaking countries, going to China to teach English offers a convenient way to fund a year of travel and exploration in a country that historically holds a lot of mystique in many westerners’ minds. For executives posted to work in China, the challenge of managing a business in the economic boom town of the world is an increasingly attractive one – China is not the hardship posting it used to be. For other professionals, especially those who come to work as “half-pats” on local salaries, a new life in China may offer unique opportunities for personal and career development. There are many more kinds of foreign citizens coming to work in China, but a common thread between all was a basic interest in China developed at some point before they arrived.

For that reason China is full of excitement and wonder at the beginning for most – and it is keeping hold of this initial feeling which can be invaluable in dealing with life in China longer term. Keeping a blog or some kind of personal diary can be very useful for reviewing months or even years later for understanding how you felt when you first arrived. Note that social media can also fulfill this purpose, but typically such posts tend not to be in-depth enough or contain enough detail to recall anything other than a vague memory of posting at that exact time.

Blogs and diaries about living in China

A blog or diary allows for a more in-depth record of our thoughts, feelings and impressions of things. Think about what you may write on Facebook when you first arrive, some pictures and something like “wow China is so cool” or such like, compared with the value of writing a couple of hundred words giving more detail about how your day, or week went. Diary posts don’t have to be long by any means, but a little bit more detail can go a lot further and offer the chance for deeper reflection which is more useful in understanding how we felt when we first arrived and how we got to whatever way we feel later.

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