Figuring out if you want to stay in China or move elsewhere is a challenge that all China expats will eventually face. There are many factors to consider and, ultimately, only you know what's best for you. To help you out, though, here are five ways to decide whether or not it’s time to leave China.
Perhaps Wu-Tang Clan were right when they said, "Cash rules everything around me." One of the biggest factors in deciding whether or not to leave China is money, including your salary, any income from side hustles, your rent, and the cost of living. Are you achieving your financial goals in China? Does working here allow you to save money? Are you worried about your retirement?
For many people, working in China is more lucrative than working in their home countries, which is likely why a lot of us are here in the first place. But perhaps you've been looking to earn more, or you feel your salary is a bit stagnant. If that's the case, finding a better paid job outside of China might be a solution.
Wanting to leave China is nothing more than an idea until you figure out where you’re going to go next. Transforming an idea into a plan starts with alternatives, and writing out a list of where you'll go and potential job prospects on offer there can help you make a decision.
Sometimes, we get so focused on what's happening in our day-to-day lives that we forget there's an entire world out there full of opportunities, including tons of exciting companies looking for new talent. For many foreigners working in China, there tends to be a professional 'ceiling' of sorts, which can be frustrating for those wanting to move up in a company.
While there will always be some job opportunities in other countries at any time you care to look, keeping an eye on job sites in your targeted locations for a month or two will help you determine how frequently good jobs in your sector arise. Making either a mental or physical note of this will help you decide how viable a move really is.
Mental health is something that people often overlook when making decisions about their future. So, ask yourself, are you happy in China? If not, would leaving be the solution?
Sometimes, a change in environment is just the thing we need to relieve stress and increase our overall mental health. Maybe it's your job that's making you unhappy, or perhaps it's something smaller, like not being able to communicate as easily as you’d like. Whatever it might be, remember that being happy counts (or a least should count) for a lot. If you’re unhappy in China, first try adjusting your lifestyle. If that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to consider living somewhere else.
As simple as it sounds, literally writing out a pros and cons list of staying in China vs. moving to a new country can be an illuminating experience. Seeing the advantages and disadvantages listed in black and white paints a clearer picture than mental comparison can ever offer.
If I were to leave China, the first thing I'd miss is the apps - WeChat, Alipay, and Taobao, among many others that make life so convenient here. Close behind would come the food and the relatively low cost of living. What I would be gaining by moving home, however, includes closer relationships with friends and family, easy communication, and a whole lot less life admin. You can also drill down your pros and cons lists to make them more detailed and focused, such as having separate lists for your career, your social life, and your ease of living, for example.
China, for many expats, is a stepping stone towards bigger goals. Foreigners come here to gain work experience, study, or earn money, and then leave, ideally onto something ‘better'.
Deciding whether or not to leave China is a lot easier once you define what your 5-year, 10-year, or 20-year goals are. Include things like jobs, future travel plans, money, and family, and then think if those goals will be easily achieved in China. Hopefully, doing this can simplify your decision-making process. It's easy to justify staying in China when you're only looking at the day to day, but thinking about the future is equally, or more important, when choosing whether to stay or go.
Figuring out whether it’s time to leave China or not doesn't have to be a painstaking process. By taking a look at several different factors, and ultimately being honest with yourself, coming to a decision might be easier than you thought. Actually leaving, however, throws up a whole new set of discoveries and challenges, but that’s all part of the fun!
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