Maggie: Many the Miles
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to China, etc.
I come from a small town of around 5,000 people. I have always been very close to my family and love them more than anything! I went to school in my state and graduated with a Bachelors in Environmental Studies Degree and Geology minor in 2008. Immediately though I got into sales, for over 5 years I exceeded in the sale positions I had and I truly enjoyed working with people, communication and goal reaching. Eventually though the joy from the sale was diminishing and I realized I needed more, I needed to get back to my roots and core values. I had always wanted to live abroad and did three study abroad opportunities while attending college (Belize, Scotland, and China). I just kept dismissing it because I got caught up in the regular American lifestyle. Last summer 2012, after going back to school to further my education in the environmental field I separated myself from all my belongings by doing a 6 week field camp in Tomahawk Wisconsin, and that's when I knew that now was the time I needed to get a job overseas I just needed to GO! I found a job teaching in China and I went as soon as I could, packed all my things in storage and saying zài jiàn to everything I knew. I really like to believe that I live my life with accepting and opening up to new experiences always. My best friends will say that with me it can be an adventure and I always want to bring them into doing something new, traveling and opening ourselves up to all the new things that this world has to offer. As for the future I hope that being introduced to new cultures, new adventures and travels remains a key ingredient to my life... I can't imagine going back to normalcy now!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I wanted to start blogging right away! I wanted my friends and family to see what I was doing all the way over here. To live through me and be able to see things through my eyes. I thought it was a great way to stay connected. I also wanted future expats to see my travels and adventures and learn through me!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Any post that talks about my travels is my favorite! Ha! But I enjoyed Qingdao, Xiamen and the Beijing Color Run so much I would love people to see that first! :)
- Qingdao : Beerfest, beaches, beer in a bag
- Beijing : Color Run – First ever in Asia!
- Xiamen : Little Island – Big Fun!
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?
Everything differs here than from my hometown. I am from Wisconsin which is full of country roads, hiking, and lush greens. Here in Daxing it's much different and initially I went through some intense culture shock. Not as much green, and the use of public transportation was key. I wasn't used to taking a subway, bus or taxi everywhere I went so that was quite a change. Living in Beijing with a population of millions vs. my small town just verging on LESS THAN 75,000. Time was also an adjustment. It takes time to do almost anything in China. Time to travel, time to get to the other side of town, time time time. It's much different than the USA instant gratification!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in China? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was ready partially for China in the aspect of new things, and not being able to speak the language. But wow, I didn't think some things could be so hard! I learned a lot of patience, and accepting cultural differences were key to my integration. I would have changed learning a little more Chinese ( lessons I think would have made it easier). Also, I would have had it locked down on which town I was going to, and make sure that's where I wanted to be. I had my location change three times before I actually got here and therefore wasn't prepared for my city location.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
TIC- THIS IS CHINA. I think this was a key phrase used in my first three months for sure, to have me understand, “Maggie you aren't in Kansas anymore!”. HA! Anything that happened, (cockroach in my food, which has happened twice) =TIC. Cockroach on the cafeteria guys shirt= TIC. Having to wait in the longest Chinese “line” for the subway outside, when it's 100 degrees=TIC :D Never ever getting a taxi when you direly need one and then when you do they try to turn off their meter and charge you five times as much=TIC.
You learn to just laugh it out, but my Lord it took some practice, patience and getting used to their ways!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in China?
Honestly you have to be ready to be PATIENT, especially if you are in bigger city areas. Also remember, they don't believe in lines so if you want something get ready to get to the front, ha! Get ready to bargain, barter and disagree with prices. It's okay! Hold strong and realize that that is part of the culture. If you want to do natural or environmental activities make sure you choose a city by the seaside, or one with mountains, research your location! If you are living in the city, it's a completely different lifestyle.
How is the expat community in China? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
In my area, YES. I didn't meet someone who was an expat until six months in! If I traveled an hour and a half+ up to the city area then I could meet expats. But honestly it was very hard! I met a lot of people through my work, and I think that is the best resource! A word of advice, don't be shy! If you see an expat just approach them! Say hi, say a little information and get to know them. Most expats will be really kind and open to getting to know another expat :) How would you summarize your expat life in China in a single, catchy sentence.
Go with the flow, acceptance and patience are the key and every trip can be a new adventure!
My favorite quote though is, “you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”.