If you view my life via Facebook or Instagram, my life looks pretty damn great (but actually, doesn’t everyones look that way?) And don’t get me wrong, I’m having an awesome experience living and working in China. However, there are moments, more frequently than I thought there would be, when I wonder “what the HELL am I doing here?” Being an expat isn’t easy. I’m not writing this post to complain or talk about how difficult my life is, but there are realities to living life as an expat I didn’t necessarily realize, so today I wanted share some of them.
I often feel very disconnected from my friends and family at home. I keep up to date with a lot of friends, whether it’s daily G-chats with Becca, email chains with Amber and Fal, and group messages with my high school besties. However, I feel like it’s not enough. Two of my best friends have gotten engaged, and it kills me that I can’t go wedding dress shopping and help plan venues with them. I haven’t talked to my brother in almost six months (due to situations out of my control). I’m grateful for the friends who have downloaded a special app just so we can chat, the times we can skype, and how I really do feel a part of their lives. Brittany has reminded me that a lot of what I’m feeling is very normal after college, so I try really hard not to let it bring me down. It is really difficult though. Sometimes when I’m having a mini-crisis, I can’t vent to my bestie because she’s 13 HOURS behind me, so I’ve learned how to rely on myself a lot more, or journal. Although this is an awesome skill, it brings me to my next point…
Moving to China was (and still is) a huge change for me. It is my first full-time job, first time living alone, first time living in a city… that’s a lot of firsts! Something that I do still struggle with is feeling lonely. For some reason, nights are still very difficult. I miss living with roommates, being able to watch reality TV with them, or drinking wine at night with my mom. The dating scene here is extremely… interesting. Maybe I’ll address that in an upcoming post 😉 It’s gotten a lot better, but I’ve never felt as lonely as I have before I moved to China.
I knew this one was coming. About a month before I moved to China, I was working at Bath and Body Works and a woman came into the store. She barely spoke English and was bossing me around (for lack of better word) and telling me to pick up different products for her (hi, this is BBW, not Saks!) The woman was honestly rude and not very kind to me, even though I was doing everything I could to help her. She left and I felt very frustrated, belittled, and close to tears. That moment, I realized something, though. The culture she was from treated people very differently than is common in the US. And that is something I experience frequently! I am no longer living in America, and can’t expect that the cultures are the same when they obviously are very different.
For being a white blonde in China, I get lots of stares and pictures taken of me. I get pushed around a lot (that’s nothing personal, people just push). My Chinese is getting a bit better, but I still don’t know what people are saying sometimes. I often find myself thinking “they should know English!” and then I’m in shock with how ignorant that sounds. I’m in CHINA, I should be the one speaking Chinese!
Oh guys. Time for total honesty here– living in China is cheap. How else would a first year teacher be able to afford dinner out 3-4 times a week, bi weekly manicures, and cocktails on the weekends? I do not have a secret trust fund, I just live in a cheap place! Although this is exciting, I know my adjustment to life back in America, whenever I do move back, will be difficult. My concept of money has gone significantly out the window. I’m also friends with people who are generally older than me (which is AWESOME, so much wisdom and insight from these awesome friends!) but I find myself playing the comparison game quite frequently. When I make a mistake at work or a date doesn’t go well, I question myself a lot. This comparison game… it’s pretty deadly.
Overall, I wouldn’t change my experiences thus far FOR ANYTHING. Although there are hard days, the good outnumber the bad, and I have an amazing support system here and at home that helps me get through all the tough moments.
If you’re an expat, have you struggled with any of this?