It’s been about 2 months since I’ve written anything and my, oh my, how things change in 2 months…..
For 10 years I woke up in China, went to sleep in China.
I finally exited. Many of you who know me know my background in China but for the benefit of those who are just finding me; I lived in China for 10 years.
When I say “lived in China”, I don’t mean I was there for 9 months out of the year and the other 3 months I returned to my home country or went abroad. I was typically there around 350 days out of the year.
It was a decade that finally came to full-circle. I originally had the romantic plan of returning home on Dec 17th, which was the same date I arrived to China in 2001 at 22 years of age. That didn’t work out and we stayed about 2 weeks longer than originally planned.
My wife, daughter and I arrived to the Raleigh International Airport in North Carolina around 1030pm on Dec 31st. The clock struck 2012 while we were on the highway heading towards the coast of “The Old North State”.
I haven’t written much since my return, primarily because of the workload in setting up life and still managing my own business affairs. Life setup was and still is challenging; most folks, myself included, don’t consider the fastidious details to handle if, some day, after being abroad for an extended amount of time, you decide to return to your home country.
“You can’t get a social security # for your family until you can show proof of residency but you cannot show proof of residency until you get the social security”
– that kind of bureaucratic roller coaster – that example is a bit of an exaggeration and simplification but it doesn’t stray too far from actual “return challenges”.
Also to wake up everyday in a city of close to 9000 people instead of a city of 10 million people. The differences lead to a lot of head scratching. I think Suzhou had 9000 people at Auchan on any given day of the week (Auchan is large, Wal-Mart like hypermarket).
I’m still getting adjusted. It hasn’t fully struck me, down deep, that I’m no longer living in China and that I don’t have to go back to China to live. I have this comic-like apprehension that some Men in Black (probably from the Politboro) are going to come knock on my door and make me go back.
Expat Life in China: Take an Occasional Break?
I think overall I was in China too long. Most expats have the right idea. To maintain the proper perspective, they take breaks from the country. Generally most summers and holidays, you find expats recharge either in their home country or a place like Thailand.
But if I would have focused more on “recharging” things would’ve turned out differently and there is no question about it; those 10 years are going to define the next large portion of my life.
My thinking, my outlook, my patience, my expectations, my threshold for standing in long lines while people are shoving past me and while others are staring at me and calling me “foreigner”, lack of heat, lack of A/C, lack of space, lack of proper coffee, crowds,…. I’m content with the foundation with which I have to build.
By no means am I saying that I’ve been through some of the worst conditions known to mankind – I’ve been blessed. But I tell you, at the time, when you are going through a typical “Chinese situation”…you feel like you’re at the bottom of the barrel.
What’s a typical Chinese situation?
It could be a factory producing a whole order incorrectly and then telling you that your QC is too strict. It could be waiting in line for 1 hour for a train ticket while people are pushing, shoving, smoking and then before you get to the counter, they close the window because it’s lunch time. It could be having to pay more at a place of business because you’re foreign and foreigners make more money….as you look outside and see all the Chinese drive by in their BMW’s….
Life here in the States, in comparison to life in China, seems like a cakewalk. The majority of the people here in this land don’t know what they have. Then in return, they’re not able to properly appreciate it, because they’ve never been in different conditions. It takes coming out of your shell to appreciate what you had…that was at least very true for me.
Those 10 years made me appreciate the USA. It made me appreciate blue skies, which were very few and far between in China. It made me appreciate the population level of the States. I appreciate my home state more.
My perspective needs time to settle. My mindset on China and much of what I saw on a daily basis and dealt with while doing business there, is muddled.
I’ll probably use this blog to sort a lot of that out. Now my wonderful wife is the expat – it’s great. After this month and a fewdays, seeing things from her perspective and I hope to share on some of that.
From the Crystal Coast here in North Carolina, welcome to my blog, and I do hope you find time in your busy day to join me from time to time.