Happy Chinese or “normal” New Year guys!
Indeed, Chinese New Year is following the lunar calendar, we, on the other hand, follow the calendar set by our ancestors.
So I had the pleasure to revisit the New Year’s Eve again. Although, this post won’t be about the NY but about the companion and people I have met so far. To be more specific, it will be more about how it all started in China and how it turned out to be living here so far.
As you may have read in my first post (if not, check it out here: https://romaingijsensblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/from-east-to-the-middle-kingdom-expat-life-i/) I explain shortly the pros and cons of an expat life. Let’s see one of the best parts of being an expat in Beijing, China.
I came here first on 2016, Spring settling down, Beijing trees already flowery, blue sky and warm sun taking over the cold winds of winter (nope, I didn’t quote GRR Martin guys, even if I am a huge fan of his masterpiece). The moment I landed, I met Yin, future colleague at my internship company. A Chinese guy who obviously knew how to take care of new expats. You know people think Chinese are those cold and empty people with no feelings because they repress everything. Well, let me stop you right there! They are worth getting to know, and they are way more welcoming people than some European citizens…. True they keep it all in, but they may surprise you as they can be so kind and open to talk with you in the street like regular human being. Also true, being an expat in China has its advantages (for some of us perks) because they may ask you questions you are not willing to answer to but they do it only out of kindness. So was Yin! He brought me to my place, helped me to register for the first time at the police station and showed me around, so I could get the best of my neighborhood. And trust me, he was the first among many others to welcome me with open arms.
After meeting my colleagues and roommates for those first 3 months as an intern, I got hired as a French teacher in a private language school. I had the opportunity to come back, which I obviously did. And so, in September 2016, I started my new life as a full professional expat. I reconnected with my teacher, Vivian, who is currently teaching me Chinese. Another amazing Chinese girl, born and raised in Beijing, who, besides being the best private teacher ever, is also an amazing woman with a great sense of humor and with so many dreams. This is what struck me about her: her dreams. We never ask ourselves why Chinese are that much into foreigners or are excited about asking you about your life and your country. We should! Because as much as we all know the biggest cliché about Chinese (walking around Paris or Brussel cameras around their neck), those we encounter in our country are actually the wealthiest. And they are a minority. The majority, if they are lucky, will be able to travel INTO China (which may seem amazing because China is huge but for them it is not really the case). Those people don’t have the chance to leave their country that much. They cannot travel the world like we can. They do not see a lot of foreigners beside the ones like me living among them. And to point out the obvious, Beijing itself counts more than 20 million of inhabitant. Go find all the expats living here!
On the other hand, living here also involves meeting other expats. Not people from your own country or speaking the same language. But people you can actually relate to from time to time. I say that because Chinese people may be great people, not all speak a very good and fluent English. It is improving with the new generation, but some of your co-workers may have big grammatical issues while speaking, or even do not talk English at all. So don’t even bother speaking Spanish or French unless you work in a foreign company. Can be hard in the street if you don’t try at least a bit yourself to speak their language…
So you meet other expats. Usually the first ones are your new flatmates (don’t even think taking an apartment alone in the big cities, your salary won’t even cover half of it). And, finger crossed, you will end up with people who suit you and your expectations. And then, you start a new family. You go visit new places they know or you know of. Your journey starts.
Mine started in my current apartment. It started when I met those amazing Cubans and that joyful Korean girl. Now, I feel like my experience has really a meaning, a purpose. Don’t get me wrong, my job is amazing and has been since the beginning, but your colleagues are usually only colleagues. I have the chance to see my French-team more like a family as well, but I got lucky I guess to meet those amazing ladies I am working with every day. That is another story I will tell you some other time.
So I found the perfect companion to pursue my dream. I met three amazing foreigners with whom I spent Christmas Eve and NYE and didn’t feel alone for once. I met two incredible women and one crazy guy (crazier than me… or not) who changed my life and the way I saw this year abroad. And I want to thank them for all the laugh and happy moments we live together inside and outside of our tiny apartment.
This is a part of my expat life. And I am sure a part of yours too if you experience almost the same thing. This is what expat life means on one hand. Bonding with amazing people, meeting new ones in the streets, being stopped by locals with so many questions about you. All of these things make your life in China so exciting and colorful. All of these people make you wish you would live like this everywhere you go. And all of this is what makes me almost happy. Almost because one thing is missing. But we will get back to that one thing soon enough.
See you soon guys!
All pictures are mine. For more, go check my Instagram : @romain_blog.