Each day in China is an adventure. Every day is filled with exciting new experiences while I try to navigate my way through my new home. Trips to the grocery store turn into games of charades whenever I have a question for a salesperson. I can’t say I was prepared for the amount of staring I would receive while on the subway, but it’s all a part of adjusting to life abroad. I live in a city where you can find a Starbucks next to a traditional Chinese medicine shop. While drinking my morning latte I can also buy fresh produce until the freeway pass. This city combines international ways and traditional customs seamlessly. Adjusting to life in China has been a journey, but with each day I’m beginning to feel more at home.
I currently live in Shenzhen in the Guangdong Province of China. Shenzhen was once a small market town named, Sham Chun Hui, but in 1979 it was named China’s first Special Economic Zone. Since, foreign investment has poured in and the economy has flourished. I moved to Shenzhen to teach basketball and I have been living here for two months. I made the move to China because I had lived here for a month during college and I fell in love. I always dreamed of moving back, so I jumped at the opportunity to return.
In China, I stick out like a sore thumb and I always have multiple sets of eyes on me. It’s an uncomfortable feeling knowing that people are looking at you thinking, “Why is she here?” and “Where did she come from?” I am now aware of how foreigners feel in the United States, or elsewhere while trying to make a home abroad. I am tuned in to how uncomfortable it feels to know that you aren’t native to where you live. Right now, the most comforting thing anyone can is exchange a smile with me. Remember, next time you see someone that might be lost or new to your neighborhood, just glance over and offer a smile, it goes a long way.
My patience has grown exponentially since arriving Shenzhen. Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn. On top of that, I do not pick up language well. Outside of Hong Kong, people in China primarily only speak Chinese. It can get frustrating not being able to communicate the simplest things, like asking for directions. I’ve learned to be patient with others while trying to communicate, because it’s not their responsibility to accommodate me. As I am trying to learn that language, I remember that with everything in life, when trying something new you have to be polite with yourself.
“As you travel solo, being totally responsible for yourself, it’s inevitable that you will discover just how capable you are”
I am now aware of how incredibly capable I am. This experience marks two first for me, living abroad and living alone. Of course, I miss my friends and family, but I have realized with each day that I am fully capable of taking care of myself and thriving abroad. I feel myself growing stronger and more confident each day that I navigate my way through life in Shenzhen.
To all of my Dame Travelers, I urge you to take that solo trip you have been thinking about or go live in that country you have always dreamed of. It’s true that you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have left.
Will it be tough? Yes. Will you miss your family? Yes.
Will it be liberating? Absolutely! Will it make you stronger? Undoubtedly!
With each day you will grow. You will experience new things, new foods, new places, and new people. You will look back on the time you spent contemplating whether to go or not, and realize that there was nothing to be afraid of and that you were completely capable all along.Save
I’m glad to see such a positive response to your time in China! I live in Shanghai and this was a great read.