Posted on September 23, 2017
Settling into Shenzhen
I really do not like to use the term settle down. I feel as if settling down means that I am stuck. As I once heard it described, to settle down is like the sand when it floats to the bottom of the ocean. So, I rarely use the term. But for the lack of a better one, we are settling in to our routine in Shenzhen.
I gave us one month to get used to the daily life and rituals in Shenzhen: have our apartment looking presentable and to feel at home. I am happy to say it took a little over 2 weeks. I was surprised at how swiftly we have both adjusted to our new environment. I believe the number one thing that helped was to focus on all of the similarities to the other places that we have visited.
Language differences– I reminded Bean that when we went to France, she didn’t understand what the people were saying. At the beggining it was hard. By the end, she understood everything and can now speak French. Remembering this fact has kept tension down for both of us when we have no idea what we are reading or what someone is saying. I also recite the fact that our brains are really smart. Even if we do not know what is going on word for word, our brains can help us figure out what is being said. That is why I can be seen standing at a market stall, hotel or with the motorcycle taxi drivers having a conversation about what we want to buy, how much we will pay and where we are going. They are speaking Chinese, I am speaking English and we are both speaking in Sign Language. It works!
Stores– Though I am still astounded at the sheer number of malls here in China, finding stores that we have known in other countries has helped me to quiet my concern about differences in quality. I normally feel it is important to buy local, but when local sheets are paper thin and Ikea sheets are not, I would rather go across town and find an Ikea. Grocery store chains are helpful as well. Knowing that I can have good Irish butter and French bread if I want it, I relax if I mistakenly buy a meal that I can not imagine eating.
Public Transportation– Every city that has public transportation runs the systems about the same. I am thrilled because here in China, I feel very safe. The trains have a security checkpoint before EVERY entrance. I have no fear of guns, bombs or knife attacks. The buses and trains are extremely clean. The people will stand up and let the children and old people have a seat. Getting around has been a breeze.
Daily Interactions– I told Bean that in China we are celebrities. How else can I explain all of the people who stare at us and talk about us to our face? There are people who want to take our pictures and to touch our hair. We have continued to be open and friendly. It has won us several new friends already. Bean invites talkative people to eat dinner with us, and it works. We have been on a few dinner dates already and I see many more in our future.
Eating– Food in China was and was not what I expected. The saying is that the Cantonese will eat anything and that scared me. I knew they ate a lot of vegetables and of course rice at every meal. Keeping it simple, we have adopted a primarily rice and vegetable diet. There are a few special foods that we like to try, so I give them a special day in the week to eat them. Because the vegetables and pretty much everything else is cooked in loads of oil, which surprised me, when I find a restaurant where the food is good, we go back. Being a repeat customer and a foreigner we are treated well.
Why don’t I cook? Because it is cheaper to eat out! Bean and I can eat 3 good meals a day for under $10. Why would I burden myself with cooking and grocery shopping? I am enjoying the freedom from unnecessary household chores. Having fruit and a few staples around the house in case of emergency is working so far.
I believe the most important reason that we have adjusted so well and so quickly is that I am working a full time job again. Traveling around from one place to the next, we were able to keep our own personal routine, but that did not always match the community we were visiting. Being on the same schedule as everyone else around us has given us friends, acquaintances and a sense of community much quicker. Then again, maybe the Chinese are more open than the French. What do you think?