Top 3 tips for a smooth transition

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 virtually 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.

1. Research

Perhaps this seems like an obvious thing to do before you move to a new country. But if you're an individual who likes to "go with the flow" or you're just too busy, it’s entirely possible that you’ll neglect to research about life in China until the night before your 16-hour flight. You can probably tell that I was one of those individuals. Although I did survive and now have pages of funny stories, doing 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 researched 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, and on. Covering your bases before you depart will help you better understand the place and culture you’re about to immerse yourself in. Good preparation places you one step ahead of potential problems and will massively ease your transition into living in China.

2. Embrace

When I say "embrace,” mean embrace everything: the language barriers, cultural differences, dramatic weather, new foods, awkward situations, challenges, adventures, and especially your new family. In the initial stages of deciding to live abroad, the actual trip seems very far away. You might feel excited and ready to just get going already, but not everything will be completely positive. When you arrive in China, you will encounter situations where you are unable to successfully communicate with or understand people. You might end up getting lost somewhere. You might notice many people staring at you. You might be surprised or disoriented by many differences between how things are done where you’re from and how they’re done in China. With every obstacle that arises, try your best to embrace it. These obstacles are a part of the process of living in a new country. If you seek to understand challenges instead of rejecting them, you will become a more tolerant and understanding person, and you will be able to deal with a greater variety of the problems life can throw at you, both in China and everywhere else. And remember…most of these obstacles make for the best stories later!

2. Explore

Even extroverted individuals struggle with this aspect of traveling abroad. When you arrive in China (or any foreign country for that matter) with limited knowledge of the culture, language, or city life, it can be 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 time sleeping in and binge watching Game of Thrones for the third time, but that's not why you came to this new country. It’s only by leaving your comfort zone that you 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 successfully push yourself past the awkwardness of dealing with an unfamiliar subway system or taking risks with confusing restaurant menus, you gain experience, confidence, and most importantly, 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 the stress and bumps in the road that come along with moving to China. I hope this article can help anyone who’s nervous or unsure about taking the leap and coming to China. Just don’t make my mistakes…make your own!

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