Repatriating from China – Half a Year on

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 home] and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and cite the many hidden challenges of thisĀ repat experience. Here’s the 1st installment about Renting and Moving as a repat!

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Somerville houses in winter
Slums in disguise (Boston, MA)

When you live in another country for so many years (8 in China, 1 in Korea in my case) you eventually accept and internalize how the local culture does things. In the case of finding an apartment for rent, signing a contract, and moving in, there were some surprise differences for me here in Boston. For starters, the value proposition of rent in a city like Boston is a horrible deal.

As Winter 2013/2014 ticked by, the experience of subletting from a “slumlord” (in the local lexis) was more of an exercise in price-gouging than fair accommodation. At $950 a month from each of the 5 roommates, this rickety old house with warped floor boards, drafty windows, unreliable water pressure, and noisy street traffic was a tough pill to swallow when compared to my previous living situation in Zhuhai. Back in China I was in a modern, newly furnished, single apartment with reliable utilities and an ocean view off the balcony for $300 a month. I know… location, location, location. *barf*

Locating an apartment and securing a lease is also quite different than I was used to. In China, I was expected to wait until 1-2 weeks before my move-in date to actually look for the new apartment, otherwise it wouldn’t “be available” on the date I was looking to move. It was all very last minute, but you could always find a place in the end. In Boston, I’ve experienced weeks of searching and interviewing just to sign a lease that would begin nearly 3 months later. All very much in advance and reliable, however, requiring $3000 up front upon signing the lease. Putting that money in the hands of the landlord (a stranger) so early threw up a red flag for this repat, quite naturally, but I later realized that this is how apartment-hunting is done here. I needed to accept this or go back to wherever it was “I came from.” šŸ™‚ Continue reading Repatriating from China – Half a Year on

Dieting in Asia: An Unexpected Reality

She needs a diet?

Believe it or not, a majority of the “skinny” women that you see when visitingĀ AsianĀ countries believe they are, themselves, “fat” or “overweight”. It isĀ appallingĀ to Western women when I tell them this but it is a reality. However, the reality of being “overweight” in a country like China is no different than in the US. Why? Because it is 100% relative and culture-based.

In China, women are worried about roundness and often strive for an image that westerners would call “boney”. When asked about the Western “plus-sized” models, many women here think that it’s not right to be so big. They agree with the fashion magazines that show thin, tall women. The first time I heard someone say that plus-sized models were not necessary was a strange moment for me, but then I realized that this culture (and their eating habits) seem to allow most women a fair chance at achieving a healthy, attractive figure. This “chance” is the result of traditional healthy eating habits, which one of the many reasons I started writing AL.ME.

But with the increase in Western-style eating, that healthy figure is becoming less of the norm. Since there is always a competition for being the hottest (in virtually all modern cultures) many of them want to get even thinner! As you might expect, confusion sets in for some of them and the results are quite unexpected, to be honest. The following are a few before and after photos of typical young women in China trying to reach their ideal weight… (All images were self-posted on Weibo in late 2012)

Continue reading Dieting in Asia: An Unexpected Reality