Stages of settling in for new expats in China

Stages of settling in for new expats in China

Stages of settling in for new expats in China

September in China sees a rush of students and expat professionals arriving to study, start small businesses, teach English and work in pre-arranged positions in the vast country’s major cities.

Settling in anywhere is tricky for the vast majority of expatriates, but China holds unique challenges for Westerners as regards language, culture and ways of life. Culture shock hits almost everyone, starting with the ‘honeymoon stage’, passing though distress, reintegration and finally acceptance. For many, China becomes their perfect, permanent home and they decide never to leave unless they’re forced to.

Once the honeymoon stage has worn off, expats experience confusion and loneliness along with a feeling of missing all the familiar comforts of the home country. China is as foreign as foreign gets, with newcomers needing time to take in its extraordinary culture, history and traditions. As a result, expats are advised to learn a few Chinese phrases and don’t be afraid to use them. Bringing a few favourite items from home is a good idea, as having them around helps with settling down in this unfamiliar land.

Studying what makes modern-day China what it is, as well as looking at the history of the city you’re living in helps with a sense of belonging, and making an effort to learn Standard Chinese will bring you into contact with Chinese nationals even although you can only manage a few simple sentences. Once you can speak fairly comfortably, you’ll gain a better understanding of the country and how it works. Eating and enjoying Chinese food is another way to become more comfortable in your new environment, and Beijing’s cuisine in particular is missed by expats every time they return home for a visit.

Creating routines as soon as you feel able to is another way to begin to feel at home, even if they’re as straightforward as getting a phone, bank account and other necessities or shopping on the same day every week. Expats in China come and go on a regular basis, but getting to know a few Chinese neighbours in your area is another way to adjust to your amazing new situation and become part of the local community. Saying ‘how are you’ of even just ‘hello’ is all part of learning to love the city you’ve chosen as your new, possibly permanent home.

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