The hardest challenge yet in my life has been readjusting to expat life. I never thought it would be difficult at all, although moving to a new place can always be challenging. However I’ve done the moving thing too many times in my life to keep track. But once you are an expat and keep moving around, you get into a groove and expect the difficulties of not knowing the language, not having your comforts and physically being uncomfortable at times.The 3 years I spent at home between Korea and now (China) have truly spoiled me. I also can’t help but to also believe my age (being 31 vs. 25 when I first moved to Korea) is an added factor. As we get older we become more set in our ways. For example, I crave more for Tamil and Western food than ever before! I miss my family more than I imagined I will, and the loneliness gets to me. I miss the little things about Canadian culture (manners, Timmy’s, uncrowded spaces) and I especially miss nature and fresh, clean air! And ironically, I miss driving even though taxis and metro are super cheap and convenient in Shanghai.
5 years ago my main ambition was travel and see as many countries as I can. Now my main goal is to build my career, save money (and pay off school loans) while travelling as much as I can afford. Of course priorities change, and so the readjustment to expat life has been something I’ve been reflecting on.
Another factor is that most of the teachers at my school are married couples with children, or younger people for whom it’s their first time living abroad. The expats I’ve met in the city are also in their 20’s and love to party more than anything. Meeting single women in their 30’s with a similar lifestyle is the real challenge, I suppose.
Life is an adventure so I’m not opposed to being friends with people of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles, so I’ve embraced whatever has come my way thus far. But when compared to the close-knit family I had in Busan, my life in Shanghai is far off. However comparison is deadly so I keep reminding myself that my life in Shanghai is a new chapter because I am a different person now.
Complaining and venting is needed but once you get it out of your system, you have to move on and count your blessings in regards to what new experiences you’re having and more importantly, what you are learning about yourself, a new city, a new culture and just life in general.
I’ve enjoyed rediscovering my strengths (as a teacher and a traveller) and I know for a fact that expat life is what I love; it is the life I want. I clearly thrive in a challenging environment.
It’s important to be comfortable in your own company, and this year has a been a wonderful journey in discovering that. Overall I’ve missed this part of my life, something I had been aching for when I lived in Toronto. Stepping outside my apartment each day is an adventure; a smile from a neighbour, a hello from the guard at school in Chinese in the mornings, the dumpling soup I have for lunch, all are constant reminders that I am alive and in this exotic land, an opportunity that I’m lucky to have and I will enjoy it, every little bit!