Nicole's Tips for a Smooth Landing in China
by Nicole Cory - HCE Mentor
When I arrived in China at the end of June, I assumed that my “go with the flow” nature would help me conquer every obstacle I encountered. Plot twist: It didn’t. While an easygoing personality will help with some of the challenges in a new country, it won’t solve all your problems. Looking back now, I believe I have the secret formula to ensuring a successful and smooth transition into China life.
This seems like an obvious thing to do before you move to a new country. But if you like to “go with the flow” or you’re just too busy, you might put off researching life in China until the night before your 16-hour flight. You can probably tell that I was one of those people. While I did survive, and now have pages of funny stories, some research in advance would have saved me time, money, and embarrassment. I encourage anyone who plans to move to China to do your homework! Talk to your Chinese friends, get in contact with other individuals in HCE, buy a book, or look up information online. Not everyone speaks English, and you may end up in situations where you have to solve a problem on your own. Don’t just assume you can handle anything—some good research will make your life a ton easier.
Here’s some of the information I wish I’d googled before coming to China:
Can I withdraw cash from a Chinese ATM using an American debit card?
What is WeChat pay?
Where can I buy a SIM card? Is it expensive? Which plan should I get?
Should I bring a gift for my host family?
What are the common problems people experience in a host family environment?
Why are their toilets holes in the ground?
What is a VPN? Where should I get one? Should I download onea before coming to China?
What are standard table manners in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Chengdu?
Is counterfeit currency common in China? If so, where?
Where can I get a metro card? Is it worth it?
How do I say ____ in Chinese?
The list goes on, and on, and on. You’ll definitely have some of your own questions, which apply to your particular situation and interests. Good preparation places you one step ahead of potential problems and will massively ease your transition into living in China.
When I say “embrace,” mean embrace everything: language barriers, cultural differences, dramatic weather, new foods, awkward situations, challenges, adventures, and especially your new family. When you arrive in China, you will encounter situations where just can’t communicate with or understand people. You will get lost. You will notice people staring at you. You will be surprised by the many differences between how things are done back home and how they’re done in China. Try your best to embrace every obstacle that arises. Overcoming obstacles is how you learn to live in a new country. If you seek to understand challenges instead of rejecting them, you will become a more resilient and understanding person, and you will be able to deal with a greater variety of the problems life throws at you, no matter where you are. And remember…most of these obstacles make for the best stories later!
Everyone struggles with this aspect of traveling abroad, even extroverts. When you arrive in any foreign country with limited knowledge of the culture, language, or city life, it’s intimidating to step out alone in your new environment. Despite your fears, I encourage you go explore! I know it’s tempting to spend your free hours sleeping in and binge watching Game of Thrones for the third time, but that’s not why you came to this new country. Leave your comfort zone, experience new things, meet new people, and build the confidence to push further and overcome even greater challenges. We fear the unknown…so go out make the unknown, known! As you push past the awkwardness of unfamiliar subway systems and confusing restaurant menus, you gain experience, confidence, and a ton of great memories. Your most exciting times abroad won’t come from your phone or computer, so get out there. Trust me, you don’t want to regret all of the cool adventures you were too scared to have.
There you have it: my top three tips to help reduce stress and start enjoying your trip to China. I hope this article can help anyone who’s nervous or unsure about taking the leap. Just don’t make my mistakes—make your own!Back to all stories