Lona: Lona Manning
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- Shlomo: Start Up Noodle
- Sara: Living a Dream in China
- Maggie: Many the Miles
- Josh: Far West China
- Gaetan: Travel Cathay
- Becky: Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker.
- Rachel: Woshoudebuhao
- Ruth: China Elevator Stories
- Aga: Go Foreign
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to China, etc.
We’re from Canada and we moved to China last year. I embarked on a second career as an ESL teacher. Before teaching ESL, I was in non-profit administration and I also worked as a vocational instructor. My husband and I were always fascinated by Asia. With our children grown, we’re free to enjoy this new chapter in our lives.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
When people heard I was moving to China, they all asked me to keep them posted about the experience so I decided to start a blog — I figured that would save me some work! Also, while preparing for my trip to China, I read other people’s blogs and so I think keeping a blog is a way to pay it forward and help others who thinking about going abroad.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- My blog about my appearance on a television show about being a foreigner in Shandong Province.
- A day-in-the-life blog post about a bike ride
Tell us about the ways your new life in China differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I think because I was really ready for a change, I’ve had very little culture shock. We have a sense of freedom here because we’ve paid off our mortgage, sold the house and it’s easy to live within our means in China. We’re open to new adventures and we don’t let little annoyances get to us. We keep a “just go with the flow” attitude and it’s really paid off in new friendships and experiences.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in China? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Well, I should have studied Chinese, I wish I was more disciplined about learning Chinese, but apart from that, things have gone pretty smoothly. Reading up on what to expect before I went helped a lot, so I wasn’t shocked by dingy, unheated classrooms or students sleeping at their desks.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The hospitality and helpfulness of my Chinese friends and students is sometimes overwhelming. I once was with three English students — not kids, mind you, but adults, high-ranking professionals in their field — who decided to help me find a winter coat. Two of them linked arms with me and escorted me through the stores, while another insisted on holding my jacket and purse for me, like I was a celebrity with three personal assistants.
Them: (to the shop owner, in Chinese) Do you have any large size coats?
Shop Owner: (in Chinese) How large?
Them: (gesturing to me) (in Chinese) That large.
Shop Owner: (in Chinese) Oh. Wow. Well, maybe. Just a minute.
The shop owner would then pull out a coat, my three assistants would help me try it on, we’d discover it didn’t fit across my back or my tummy, then we’d leave the store and try another. This scene repeated four times until I said, “I will teach you a new word. Futile. This is futile.”
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in China?
- Be friendly with the locals. Don’t live in a bubble, socializing only with other expats. I’ve met so many people who rarely if ever have a chance to try out their English with a native speaker. They are so happy to have the opportunity. Be gracious about it; you’ve had, and will have, opportunities and privileges they’ll never have.
- Read “Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China” by Jung Chang for a riveting (and sometimes wrenching) memoir that recaps recent Chinese history. The elderly Chinese people that you see have been through harrowing times and astounding changes. If you want the whole panorama of Chinese history in one volume, try “The Dragon and the Foreign Devils” by Harry G. Gelber.
- Re-evaluate your relationship to stuff. That is, material possessions you thought you couldn’t do without. Travel light. Get an e-reader and scan and digitize all your old baby pictures.
How is the expat community in China? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community here in Zibo is very small. So small that if you spot another foreigner, you typically stop and exchange contact info. However, my husband and I aren’t young, single people so we’re not anxious for something to do on a Saturday night. We’ve been fortunate to connect with a few other couples and we get together several times a month. We’ve also enjoyed the company of some expats who are our sons’ age. We’re glad we live in the age of Skype so we can chat with family and friends back home.
How would you summarize your expat life in China in a single, catchy sentence?
Life was routine and now it’s an adventure.