Living Abroad in China
2006 © Stuart & Barbara Strother, from Moon Living Abroad in China, 1st Edition. Used by permission of Stuart & Barbara Strother, and Avalon Travel Publishing. All rights reserved.
Is China right for you? Life in China can be both richly rewarding and incredibly frustrating. To live here for an extended period of time takes an incredible amount of flexibility and fortitude. If you are adventurous, if you genuinely like engaging people of other cultures even when there is a language barrier, and if you can handle roughing it when you need to, then you may find your time in China to be one of the best times of your life. Living in China will give you an amazing opportunity to learn intimately its history, geography, and culture, as well as be a part of the exciting changes that are happening in China right now. The press and the experts are hailing the current time as the China Century, and this might just be a wave that you’ll want to ride. On the other hand, if you get stressed when things don’t go as planned or get angry when your expectations aren’t met, it would be better just to enjoy China as a short-term travel destination. If you are a control freak who is particular about ordering your life just the way you like it, China is simply not for you. You’ll have a rough time if you have special needs (such as wheelchair access, allergies, or a strict diet), if you have no intention of learning any Chinese, or if you have high standards for cleanliness and service. Don’t underestimate how much you may miss English books and magazines, your favorite foods, ice, drinkable tap water, western medicine, and above all, the simple ability to understand what’s going on around you. One recent figure put the percentage of expats returning home early as high as 70 percent. These are people who come to China with grand expectations but leave disappointed and disillusioned.
Despite the difficulties, the good news is that you’ll come away from your time in China enriched with the knowledge of a new culture and language, with amazing stories to tell and pictures to show. You can expect to have a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, and a lot of new friends, people you may never have met if you’d played it safe and stayed home. And in the end, you can hold your head that much higher, knowing you’ve taken on the very difficult task of living in a new culture. As with so many difficulties life throws our way, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward.