Author’s Note: I’m 100% supportive of strong family bonds and filial piety. The rest of this article is not intended as a slam against traditional expectations within a family, but it is intended to get Westerners thinking about “guanxi” differently.(Chinese readers and friends, please comment on this below.)
When I have a chat with friends, family, or even strangers about The Chinese Way of doing things, the conversation never fails to include the word “relationships.” But using guanxi to get things done is not all it may seem on the surface. It’s not just about friends helping friends… and when you’ve truly used guanxi to get something done you will likely feel different about that friendship afterward.
Up-rooting everything and moving back to the US was almost as big a change as the initial move out to Asia. And when you make a big move (new job pending) it’s important to keep costs down and stretch your savings. That’s when the Repat has to tap their network, find deals, and hack the systems that drain your interim funds.
Even though the rent is too damn high (!) you have to find a way to ease into an affordable lease. When I just got back to the US I stayed with family in Boston and NH for a few months. Then I subletted a place and moved on to a lease, all of which were never more than 20% of my income. When your income is low (or non-existent) you have to create some rules for yourself and make responsible choices. It’s that simple. Tap your networks, be a guest, and allow yourself to owe friends and family. You’ll have plenty of chances to be generous to them later.
Before coming back to the US I only had two worries: 1) where was I gonna get awesome, authentic Chinese food?? 2) what happens if I get sick?
Since student loans are my shackles for the next few years (as long as I repay them like a baller…), any medical incident has the potential to reinforce them in cement. Even with insurance, I felt this pit in my stomach coming back because I knew there would always be a heavy co-pay… after the $2000 deductible, of course. And the cost of getting treated is anyone’s guess…
Luckily when I got back to the US (uninsured here at the time) I had no health issues. It was when I started working at my current company that I had a reason to go to urgent care and then to a local hospital. It was an ear infection that caused some hearing loss for about 4 weeks. But that wasn’t the biggest surprise…
It’s August and I’ve been living in Boston since I moved back from China at the end of 2013. A LOT has happened over the course of 9+ months back in America and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and the hidden challenges of my repat experience. Enjoy installment #4!
Speaking a foreign language everyday for 8 years is without a doubt a great way to build up that skill. You not only learn how to express yourself in a translated form, but you also experience social interactions in a whole new light. However, you will begin to find yourself behaving differently in your work and at home, with friends and your lover(s).
For years I’ve made specific comparisons between the way Chinese and Americans view and interact with the world around us. We have a lot more in common than we think, but the differences are noticeable. Here are a few changes that I’ve definitely noticed while I’ve been back in America the past year.
It’s July and I’ve been living in Boston since I moved back from China at the end of 2013. A LOT has happened over the course of half a year back in America and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and the hidden challenges of my repat experience. Enjoy installment #3!
I’ve gained a noticeable amount of weight since I got back and from the expected causes – America’s bread and butter issue. My identity has returned to being American, rather than a pseudo-Chinese or something else, and therefore find myself uncontrollably attracted to coffee and sandwich culture. Most mornings I’m drinking coffee with a bagel. Lunches are often sandwich-based, like a subway or a wrap. My dinners are becoming simpler, although I do attempt to make Asian dishes on occasion (toufu, pan-fried cabbage, spicy shrimp salad, etc.). Work keeps my entire weekdays busy and I normally cook for one, which makes convenient meals and snacking much more common.
As for dining out, I find that every meal is either pizza, hamburgers, or a steak. Just the other day I had dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, and father. I happily pushed down a plate of mac and cheese with pulled pork drizzled on it. My only vegetable that night – a fried pickle with ranch dressing.
This is not meant to be an attack on American faire, or on the food choices of my loved ones. After all, no one forced me to order the mac ‘n cheese. It was my choice, I know. But now that I’ve been here for a solid half year and slid into new habits, I can’t help but observe these changes in the way I eat. I probably would ignore it a bit longer if my pants were buttoning up properly… Half of the pants I wore in China are too tight now. *ugh*