Dealing With People Moving Home and Other Expat Problems
Moving home and out into China or Taiwan can be a massive step for many, and once you get here you’re likely going to want to invest a lot into starting your new life here and building your expat network of friends.
Luckily, Beijing/Shanghai/Taipei are cities with a great expat culture. Beijing offers a great mix of Chinese culture, with a few spots of Western life – if you know where to look.
Shanghai and Taipei the same.
This means that people either love China life – or they hate it.
Generally, you’re either a Shanghai or Beijing person (or a hardcore Changsha/someplace no ones heard of far in the depths of Chinese countryside person). You prefer one or the other but that isn’t saying you cannot like both for sure!
Shanghai offers a much bigger expat network, with a more modern and Western feel. Beijing/Shanghai/Taipei’s expat network is by no means small – but it’s not as in your face.
Because of this, many come to China – and many go. You’ll just settle in with your best expat buddies, and all of a sudden they’re moving away for work, or some other reason…
How to cope with your expat network moving home or moving somewhere else abroad will be covered in part 2 of the blog.
So if you’ve already settled in your expat life in China, got your sturdy expat network of friends together (and you’re suffering from them moving away!), you can just skip to the second part.
Before your expat network starts to move away, you have to get yourself a good network first!
Here are our top tips on setting up life, making friends, and living your life having moved away from home!
Expat Life in China: Settling in
When moving abroad, it’s important you make sure to set up your own life – instead of just thinking about when you’ll be going home.
Maybe you’re moving abroad just for a few weeks or a few months, or maybe you don’t know when you’ll be back – probably meaning you’re in for the long term.
Not knowing how long you’ll stay for is the most difficult, because you could be off again in a few weeks, or stay for a few years without even meaning to.
It’s difficult to know when you should start spending money furnishing your house to make it into a home – because you may end up moving shortly after and have the trouble of then having to take down and sell everything, just after you’ve gone through the effort of putting it all up.
Kitting out the house
It’s also difficult to know what to invest in. For example, when I first came to China I knew I wanted to get a scooter. They’re extremely practical and pretty easy to buy here, despite the recent crack-down on unregistered bikes.
But I never knew how long I’d be staying – what if I decided to move a few weeks later? Selling that scooter would be so frustrating. But here I am, a year and a half later. Still without a scooter. And still wanting a scooter.
So my advice to you (despite the fact I don’t follow my own advice, clearly) is to just go for it.
Kitting out your house to be your new home straight away will make your transition much easier, and be a great help if you’re feeling homesick.
No one wants an empty home with blank walls – get yourself some fun pictures or posters up, and yes, invest in that air purifier – you’ll need it.
Expat Life in China: Importance of Friends Abroad
The most important thing when moving abroad, however, is to make sure to establish a good expat network – a good network of close friends.
You may be thinking that you’re going to live in China – surely you should be embracing the culture and making Chinese friends?
Of course, it’s important to immerse yourself into Chinese culture and get yourself some Chinese friends – but there is also no shame in wanting a bit of Western life every so often, and being around people to whom you can relate.
Before we move on further, LTL staff member Alice talks about what it’s like to live in China, take a look, and drop us a comment with your views on our video.
Even if you don’t think you’ll be needing any Western friends whilst you’re abroad and enjoy coping on your own – trust me.
You’ll want someone to baffle at China with. And discuss the fact why they stand at the top of escalators and wait for friends or walk and watch films at the same time during rush hour in the Beijing subway. Why.
Expat Life in China: Before You Arrive
You can get together your solid expat network in China in a variety of ways whilst you live in China, however, you can also start building your expat network before you get here, using resources such as;
The Beijinger (You can post on forums here for a meet up)
Internations (A resource useful for finding people and also about Chinese expat life in general)
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Expat Life in China: Building a Sturdy Expat Network
Here are a few (very much tried and tested) tips on how to start building up your expat community of friends in China!
Hang out with people in your job
No matter what job you’re doing in China or Taiwan, whether you’re the standard English teacher, or doing something different – you’re probably not going to be the only foreigner in your company (cool if you are though!).
The best thing about hanging out with people you meet at work is that you’re in the same boat.
You’re likely to have the same goals and be here for a similar time period – making it easier when people decide to leave. You’ll also have the support of others around you when a colleague decides to leave.
As a non-English teacher in China I find it difficult to be friends with English teachers since, ultimately, they’re often here for their years’ contract to make money, then leave…
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Here are our top tips for building your expat network;
1. Hang out with people outside of your job
As good as hanging out with colleagues is, it’s also important to get out a bit too!
Don’t be afraid to get out and meet new people – get yourself out of your comfort zone! Once you meet one new person, this will open the door to 5 more, and 5 more from them..!
2. Actively try to find people in the same position as you
A bit of a weird one, but once you’re out meeting people, maybe at a party or on a night out and doing your rounds chatting with everyone, it may be an idea to put particular time and effort into those who are staying for a similar period as you, or those with the same goals as you when it comes to being an expat in China.
3. Stay away from tourists
Sorry tourists – we don’t hate you. But, you always leave.
It’s hard enough putting energy and time into expats who may end up moving on soon enough. But tourists – we know you’re leaving soon. So whilst they may be fun on a night out, they’re probably not going to become life-long friends.
4. Try out a new thing
Anything from tofu making classes and Chinese calligraphy, learning how to play a traditional Chinese musical instrument to swing dancing and playing poker… Try out something new and meet people from all over the world.
5. Head to an expat hangout area
There are many cool places to explore that are very expat friendly, and here you’re likely to find a big expat network.
Most of us are pretty friendly – and you could find yourself chatting to the nearest laowai strangers and exchanging WeChats before you know it.
6. Tinder/dating apps
Alright, I had to mention this one. Unfortunately enough, I have to admit that this was my method of choice when I first arrived in China.
Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei are MASSIVE CITIES, and can be a bit overwhelming.
It’s hard to know when to start sometimes! Tinder offers a wealth of people from all over the world, many who have been here for many months already so they know the ropes and can show you around.
Not only do you get to meet many interesting people, but you also get to discover new places you otherwise never would have done!
Test out the Chinese Tinder version TanTan and meet some Chinese people too!
I’m still friends with many people who I met on Tinder – they’re not all bad people, promise!
As just as quickly as you’ll find your group of friends and settle in, you’ll find they start disappearing one by one…
How can you cope with your expat networking moving home and leaving you behind?
Building Your Expat Life in China and Coping With People Moving Home || Part 2
Dealing With People Moving Home || Here’s What to Do… Building up your expat life in China is difficult enough without your closest friends then moving home just after you start to feel settled! People come to China/Taiwan for all…
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