A New Beginning

  • expat life in China to the Carolinas

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.

Atlantic Beach, NC

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.

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  • Ah! Indeed.
    I am so looking forward to your posts and from this post alone, I can see under the paper and ink, so to speak, and get the smells and feel of your times abroad. All the best to you on this journey. I await more with relish.Billy

    • Billy, you are part of my recent jolt of energy to forget the inhibitions and harness the gems out of the tools at our disposal.  I’m grateful for your support and looking forward to what this year holds. 

      • Indeed, I get the same in return and look for that great year that has so often been laying at the edges of my experiences, that standout year, the one where there is no brake on the car and you drive like you know it!
        All the best to you and your family.
        Have the year of your life….

        • BNY

          This is bny from India. I liked your post. I share your feelings on your decade in China. I was on the same boat feeling the same.Going home in a couple of months with memories of love cum hate.Have a nice home coming.

          • BNY

            My reply was to Mr Yount.

          • Much obliged, sir.  Was your time abroad spent in China?  Would love to hear more about it.  It’s challenging being abroad and I’m learning now, it can be very challenging returning home.  

            I’m grateful for your visit and hope to further connect.  

          • BNY

            Dear Jacob Yount,

            Of course, it was China. That’s why I responded to you spontaneously.

            It may not be so challanging as it may be for you, to return home, since I am 66 years old and trying to hang my boots. More next time.

            Get going. Any one who has lived in China for so long, can live anywhere successfully even if it’s one’s own home.I am sure, you will.

          • You’re right, BNY ~ everywhere in the States is fairly a “cake walk’ compared to some days in China.  But re-adjusting anywhere can always be a chore. 

            Would love to sit and have a coffee with you someday and share stories.   

  • Setogiroux

    Thanks Jacob for sharing your thoughts and feelings of coming home… and I’m sure many have appreciated how generously you shared your adventure and insight into China and doing business there.  I certainly gained a lot in more ways than one.  I also have friends that are expats, still are and have not made that road home quite yet.  I look forward to your future posts back in America. All the best in what the future brings you!  

    • Is this Brenda?  I couldn’t tell from the ID above…but I think it is and I do appreciate the warm comments and welcome.  I heard you changed positions?  Look me up via skype or mail so we can catch up….hope you and yours are well.  

  • Brigitte

    As usual, you expressed yourself beautifully. Yes, I think the perspective that your gained is priceless.  My take-away is that you “get it”. So glad that you are sharing it.

    • Good to see you here, Brigitte.  I’ve enjoyed our sharing over G+ and hope to continue. You guys are probably getting some of the same cold weather down there that we’re getting up here this weekend?  I do wish you well this weekend.  

  • Tom Aylmer

    10 years in China is a super long time. I just got back from a vacation in Thailand which was wonderful– so much different than China. Much more customer service focused… and cleaner. Pics are on Facebook– you can use that now without a VPN so add me when you get a chance. What makes your journey even more unique is that you are from and returning to North Carolina– which is more “real” America in the way that non tier 1 cities are real China. I don’t think I will be staying nearly as long as you– I am looking at coming home at the end of June to get a marketing/advertising job in Boston.  

    • Tom, what’s going on in Xiamen?  Glad to hear you had a nice time in Thailand.  Unfortunately, I never took the opportunity to visit while on that side of the world, so will have to enjoy your photos for now.  That’s funny you mentioned I don’t have the VPN trials anymore..LOL. 

      I want to hear about your next months in the “Motherland” and definitely continue this when come back to the the East Coast.  Good weekend there.  

  • Renaud

    I love he header of this new blog. Glad to see you are feeling good about your new direction. And feeling frightened by the idea of moving back home one day.
    I’ll make sure I get out of China and recharge more regularly, this is a good reminder.

    • Glad the header sticks out.  Yes indeed, feeling good about the move, feeling reinvented on many levels.  Yes, LOL, once you leave China, get ready for the repatriation shock.  

      Recharging is key for a longevity in country… no doubt.  

  • Guest

    And I will find time in my day…  Glad you’re getting back into life in the USA.  Look forward to learning more about your adjustment…this will surely be interesting.

    • Hi… who is this?  Let me know, but either way, thrilled you stopped by.  I do appreciate the interest and hope to keep networking with you. 

  • Welcome “home”, even though my home is north of the border:) I will be sure that no “Men in Black” come looking for you to spirit you away. Enjoy the Crystal Coast. It looks beautiful. Warm regards, Kaarina

    • Wow, Kaarina – great seeing you here and thanks for watching my back from the Men in Black, LOL.  Anytime you’re down here, I invite you to a bowl of shrimp and grits and a large glass of sweet iced tea.  

  • The relevance brings the assurance and the audience follows both of these titans.

  • Glenn

    Nice Blog Jacob, I’m always wondering if I really do appreciate what I have here in Perth.  Seems like such an idealistic lifestyle.  I pay gratitude regularly, but like you say, you really ned to experience the other side to understand just how great life is for us.

    Glenn – Sharp Impressions

    •  Wow Glenn, a nice surprise and appreciate you stopping by.  Gratitude;  key to very much of what we do in life.  The old adage of “counting your blessings” is very true – many folks who will read this blog are so much better off than the majority of the population.  I may shoot you an email to catch up.  – thanks again and cheers Down Under.