Kristin: Donuts to Dumplings
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Shanghai, etc.
Hello! My name is Kristin and I relocated to Shanghai with my husband and fabulous cat from New York in early 2012. My husband’s company offered him a position here and we jumped at the chance to take advantage of the opportunity.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started my blog shortly after we announced to our families that we were moving to China. I wanted our friends and families to be able to follow along with our lives. I also wanted to make sure I was able to document everything we were experiencing for our own memories.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Shanghai differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Culture shock? Absolutely. Heck, I still experience it on a daily basis. But I’m a pretty positive person and am mostly able to laugh at the situations I encounter. The hardest part for me has been trying to communicate while using my horrendous Mandarin skills. I’m gotten quite good at charades actually.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Shanghai? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I’m not sure it is possible to be fully prepared for the culture shock that you experience when you move to a country completely unlike anything you have ever known. But I came to Shanghai with an open mind, ready to take on this new adventure. As for preparations I could have made prior to moving here, I wish I had studied Mandarin before we came as the first few days were a little rough communication wise. I also wish I had packed more sensible shoes. I tend to walk a lot and my size U.S. ten hoofs only fit in men’s shoes here.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I made the mistake of going to the Forbidden City in Beijing over a holiday. Rural Chinese citizens mobbed me for photos thanks to my blue eyes and light hair. They even had me hold their babies. It was totally overwhelming and like nothing I had ever experienced. I wrote more about it on my blog here.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Shanghai?
- Figure out a way to keep in touch with friends and family from abroad. Get a Skype account, start a blog, update your twitter, sign up for a VPN, etc. It can be intimidating to others to try to reach you overseas so do what you can to make the process easy for them. My US cell phone number forwards to Skype, which allows people in the US to call me without incurring international call fees.
- Bring things to make your house a home. For us, this included our cat. But we also stocked up on family photos, college memorabilia, and a few other items we can’t live without.
- Laugh. There will be days that are insanely frustrating but there will be days that are just as satisfying. Shanghai is a beautiful, vibrant city and I feel privileged to live here.
How is the expat community in Shanghai? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community is outstanding here. I have met people through various organizations and events who have become my lifeline in Shanghai. The key is to get involved and try out numerous organizations until you find the right fit for you. Expats are all in the same situation and are more than willing to bring you into their circle of friends rather quickly.
How would you summarize your expat life in Shanghai in a single, catchy sentence?
Hmm, I’m not very good at sounding catchy. But I can say that my life in Shanghai is as vibrant and varied as the people that make up this amazing city.