Living in China, especially one of its major cities, can often feel overwhelming. And when we’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to feel insecure and unstable. Friends come and go, jobs change, and life in China in general is ever-shifting. However, this feeling of flux doesn't have to be permanent. Here are six ways to help you feel more stable as an expat living in China.
Photo: Nicolas Henderson
When left to our own thoughts, things can get a bit hectic and confused. If you feel you have little else in your life, joining a group that convenes on a weekly basis is a great way to meet new people and add routine into your life. Whether it’s a weekly trivia quiz at a bar, an exercise or yoga class, or a painting or dance class, committing yourself to at least one weekly hobby that forces you out of the house will help give your life away from work meaning and structure.
Money, besides family, relationships and work, is a predominantly important factor in feeling stable. Money itself is meaningless, but having a little saved up can provide a tremendous sense of security. Saving money in China is generally easy, especially with the abundance of lucrative job opportunities for expats and the low cost of living in most cities. Whether you're putting your hard-earned cash into an IRA or simply stuffing it under your mattress, saving gives you options for the future and ensures you’re not living paycheck to paycheck.
The daily grind can, at times, feel pointless; a monotonous routine on an endless cycle with no real purpose besides getting up and going to work. Identifying and committing to a long-term goal while working in China will give your life direction and help you have a more positive outlook. Whether you're results orientated or process-orientated, working towards something that takes time and effort can be a game changer mentally. Depending on your goal, it can also help you form better daily habits aligned with your long-term objectives.
Being alone can be great, especially living alone, but having a good group of friends when you live in a foreign country is essential in developing a sense of stability. Friends can help keep you grounded, give you advice, and serve as a sounding board for your rants when you’re having a “bad China day”.
Establishing a solid group of friends in China is a time consuming process that regularly needs renewed effort as people inevitably leave. But whether you make an effort with old friends, new friends, foreigners or Chinese, having several people to call up for a drink will help you feel much more secure, stable, and happy.
Taking part in events and activities in your community will help you transition from merely a passenger to the driver of your life. When you attend talks, art shows, food festivals, or other local events, you're actively becoming part of the city instead of just rolling along for the ride in your expat bubble. Participating in events will also give you a better feel for the city and the people in it, ultimately helping you network for job opportunities and make more friends.
Expats living in China often fall into the trap of focusing too much on the day-to-day and forgetting about important connections back home. Making an effort to keep up relationships with family and old friends is important for maintaining a sense of stability, as these are the people who’ve known you all your life and genuinely get what you’re about. Expats who regularly talk to their family back home and friends around the world naturally feel less isolated. And no, simply scrolling through Facebook isn't the same as actively calling or messaging someone important.
Feeling unstable is nothing more than a mindset, but it’s an easy mindset to get into as an expat living in China. We all feel insecure from time to time, whether financially, emotionally, or professionally, but when it comes down to it, these problems can occur anywhere in the world. Before you drop everything and decide China isn’t the place for you, see if a few lifestyle tweaks can’t move things in a better direction.
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Keywords: Expat Living in China
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None of these have anything to do with stability other than saving money. You are always at the mercy of your next visa run. That alone right there is a reason most people will never feel stable. Just last week a guy from the middle east who has been in china legally for 6 years going to school and than working for a company was denied any kind of visa and no reason was given. And before you ask, he has never over stayed or broke any laws. After applying in china, he went to Thailand and was also denied, told him to go back to his own country and apply, and was denied there. He cant even come back to get his things. Its sad story because hes a good dude. I know this is just a one off most likely and I think has to do with where he is from...but it could happen. This has happened to a lot of non native English teachers who has been here for years with no problem and then one law changes and they whole life is upended because they cant work legally anymore. I know some people don't care because it don't effect them, but the next law tat gets passed might. My advice is always have a backup plan in case something like this happens. Saving money helps, having a house in your own country helps. Just don't put all your eggs in the china basket.
Nov 27, 2019 14:11 Report Abuse
For once we agree. China is not a place to settle down and create a stable life for yourself. Among a plethora of other reasons, it's also almost impossible to a permanent residence/ green card in the country. Only a handful of foreigners have what it takes to mentally adjust to a permanent life in China, and even fewer qualify for it.
Nov 27, 2019 14:37 Report Abuse
I hear ya, especially for people with family here. Let's say you have a wife or child here and you don't have a university degree or you are a non-native English speaker and the only thing you can do is teach English...your options are pretty limited. Your only real option to support yourself and your family legally is to leave china and take them with you. And even if you can work in china who knows from one day to the next if some law will be passed to make it more difficult for you or even impossible to support yourself. This is why I always have one foot out the door, I use to rent my house in Canada while I was in China and after the last lease was up with my tenant, I just locked everything up and kept it empty just in case I need to leave for whatever reason. I'm only here now for personal family reasons and have lots of savings, but if I needed to solely rely on china and my being here for me surviving, I would not be here at all on any kind of long term plan. At least not without a solid backup. And to your point about the green card thing, yeah unless you are a rocket scientist or play for a national sports team and a millionaire, you can pretty much forget about it.
Nov 30, 2019 09:53 Report Abuse