Moving abroad for the first time, especially to China, can be a very daunting, but exciting, experience. It takes a lot of courage to pack up your life into a suitcase and say goodbye to everything that you know and love. The anticipation and excitement of starting a new journey usually begins once you have booked a flight to your new temporary “home.” One’s mind tend to wander and fantasize about the exotic culture, weird yet delicious foods, and brand new scenery that could be foreign to you, the foreigner! Although most of those thoughts are alluring, it’s important to remember the reality of the situation at hand. Moving to a new city is stressful enough but you’re about to be moving half way around the world! Once you’ve made your commitment doing more research of the city where you will be living will be a step in the right direction to making your transition as smooth as possible. Some need to know facts would be things like: weather, primary language, city size, and popular sites in the area. All of these items will help you to not only plan your new life in the city but to pack as well!
There’s No Place Like “Home”
Once you’ve done all the reading about your new city that you can stand, and have packed all the items you can’t live without while you’re here (yes, your teddy bear counts) it’s time to actually get here! The plane ride, is usually the hardest, but all will be rewarded when you land in your first Chinese airport and realize that you’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. The blustery chit-chat of locals filling the terminal all around you will be a bit overwhelming but don’t worry, because they’ll probably stop the talking once they spot you. Depending on your city, foreigners are a fascinating sight in China and they’re often amazed at seeing us in their city. On some occasions locals will approach you in hopes of starting a friendly conversation, and possibly a selfie, too, whether it be in English or in their native tongue. If they approach you in their language they will more than likely realize that you’re very new and have yet to learn how to communicate with them beyond common pleasantries. This is okay! Sometimes they might even try to teach you some useful words! Take these interactions to heart and use them as a reminder to try and learn the local language to show your gratitude and appreciation, not only for their culture, but for their hospitality. After a couple of months of adjustment and subconsciously learning you will soon realize that this new city, as vastly different as it may seem, has become your new “home” and you wouldn’t trade it for any other city in China.
Communication is Key
In order to get that “hometown” feel you need to try your hardest to assimilate into the culture in which you’ve jumped head first. Bringing over language learning books, downloading podcasts, buying language learning software, or just going on language exchanges are a few ways of introducing yourself to the local language. Being able to communicate is essential to an easy, and successful, transition. Starting with simple pleasantries, such as “hello,” “good morning,” “yes,” “no,” and “thank you,” will get you a long way and emit a sign of respect to the locals that you can about learning their language and culture. Numbers would be a great next learning point so you can understand how much something costs at your local shops and restaurants. Try not to engulf yourself with learning too much too soon. Just like English takes time with our students, learning Chinese takes time as well. Many locals will be patient and try to help you along the way which will just improve your communication ability in the long run. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! The only way to learn is through the mistakes we make!
Stay Calm and China On
Again, moving abroad for the first time can be a very unsettling feeling. Especially during the first months after your arrival. Taking these steps to ensure you have an inkling of what’s to come will help with those disconcerting feelings. Remember to research as much as you can about the city, take in the sights and sounds all around you, learn and emerge yourself in the culture, but most importantly, have fun! This is an experience of a lifetime and not many people will have this opportunity. If you’re feeling uneasy, go outside and explore your city! Staying in will only be counterproductive in your transitioning to your new “home.” Nevertheless, if you’re ever worried about life in the new city just remember to stay calm and China on!