Nick, Dad Blog: Seasonal Suffering

Nick, Dad Blog: Coping with international travel, Chinese pollution and inevitable parenting guilt.

Pudong airport – the depressing gateway between two very different worlds

Christmas then Chinese New Year — holiday time! Go home and see your own country, yay! Enjoy high quality products, services and clean air, yay! Make all of your elderly relatives cry at the end of your visit as you take your children to the other side of the world again, yay!

As expats, we live such bizarre lives. We are more aware of this as we begin the expat experience, yet it becomes something of a forgotten undertone. Our bizarre existence becomes normality.

Our lives are perhaps the most bizarre in Winter. Taking trips home at Christmas and/or Chinese New Year, we have a foreign experience in our own country.

In essence, it’s as if we are Chinese tourists, considering if we want to emigrate to a developed country. We bask in the manners and personal space. We thrill at the organisation of the traffic, the quality of home entertainment and the experience of actual infrastructure — all the while knowing that it’s a temporary treat and that for some reason, it isn’t the state of our usual daily lives.

The return back to Shanghai in Winter is depressing. Yes, I said it.

I know that we are supposed to love every minute of being expats, everyone loves their jobs, their lives, their ayis, their chia-quinoa-kale juices and all of it, but I can’t be the only one who doesn’t feel this every day — especially in Shanghai’s Winter.

After a really enjoyable visit to normality and civility, coming back to China is a trip to a foreign country — with absolutely none of the charm and excitement that usually comes with a trip to a foreign country.

Yet, this does subside, and that’s the important point to hold on to. Stay busy. Know that the routine will begin again once the jet leg is done with.

Remind yourself of all of the reasons why you are here. Remember that you will have the option to move away in the near future, and you should enjoy the pleasures of Shanghai expat life while you can.

You can improve yourself professionally and experientially here. You would be learning next to nothing by living back home. It isn’t time for retirement quite yet. The challenges and experiences here are building your capabilities and knowledge any number of times more than anyone is achieving by living in the same country that they grew up in.

You are part of history as China moves forwards. The interactions you create, no matter how small, are making positive changes to society.

Your children are gaining knowledge and a priceless experience of life around the world.

Yes, it can be mentally taxing at times, but homesickness and frustration are the challenges that will result in the subsequent pay off later in life. Use your time in Shanghai to achieve the goals that are conversely more difficult to achieve back home – start a small entrepreneurship, become keenly involved in the community, make a whole new glut of international friends and connections, and see as much of China as you can while you are here.

Find strength in your ability to do all of this, and both your children and your future self will be forever grateful that you did.

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