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Sara: Living a Dream in China

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in China makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to China, etc.

I'm from a small city in Finland and always dreamed of coming to China. It wasn't until I started my university education that I found a good opportunity to come to China in the form of a student exchange. As it turned out, I decided to stay and do my undergraduate degree here in Guangzhou. I came to China in the beginning of 2010 and have been living in Guangzhou the whole time.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

In the beginning I only had a Finnish blog to keep my family and friends posted on about my life in China. But few months later I decided to start a blog in English too in order to reach a larger audience and become a part of the blogging community. Moving to China was life changing for me and blogging was and still is a great way to share my ideas and experiences about living in China.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

My new favorite is my post On Dating Chinese Men which is part of a series of posts in several blogs about China. We all wanted to share our honest experiences of dating Chinese men and give valuable information for those who are interested in dating a Chinese guy.

I also have several blog posts about Guangzhou which I think all the expats living in this area can find interesting and helpful.

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?

Life in China is different in many ways compared to my old life in Finland. My culture shock was quite mild, perhaps because I already knew Chinese people in Finland and had always enjoyed reading about Chinese culture, history and language.

Feeling comfortable in a new culture takes time, but I think I have now reached a state where I can live my normal life in China and feel like home here. I still learn about Chinese and Chinese people all the time, it's an endless journey to get to know a foreign culture.

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 think I was pretty well prepared for China. I had started studying the language and could have simple dialogs when I arrived here. My parents used to live in Beijing in the 80's and even though a lot have changes since then, there are still similarities to be found in the way people live their lives.

It's important to have an open mind and lots of patience when moving to China or to any other foreign country. Remember that things aren't necessarily good or bad, they are just different from what you have been used to.

The only change what I would make is to come to Chine earlier!

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in China?

  • Firstly, do some background check first by reading books and blogs by expats in China. By reading about their experiences you will get ready for the rollercoaster of experiences and emotions that is moving to China.
  • Secondly, bring your comfort items in case you get hit by the culture shock. When living abroad you still need your own piece of home be it your favorite snack, books in your native language or photos of your family members.
  • Thirdly, have an open mind. In China you will surely see many things that are different from your own country, sometimes these new customs might seem odd or even wrong to you. But remember that often things aren’t good or bad, they are just different. Open your eyes to the new culture and new people, you will learn a lot not only about them, but also about yourself.

How is the expat community in China? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

I can see three types of expat groups over here. Students, workers and then stay at home mothers. We all socialize in our circles, student at the campus, workers expat meeting and moms at the playground with other moms. This is where InterNations comes to play, trying to get us all together in interesting activities.

After said that, as a student I feel it’s hard to get into the expat community here as many outings or activities are too expensive for me. The life of people working in big foreign companies seems still so far away from me and I find it hard to fit in. But I’m happy to have found likeminded students at my university to hang out and form out own circles.

David Thyne

"At the first Shanghai Get-Together I met several American expats. I am very grateful that they shared their experience with me."

Diana Anhaus-Brey

"It is just so easy to find other international people and global minds with InterNations. I didn´t know there were so many in Shanghai."

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