It has not yet been a full year since we were released from our Chinese quarantine in Nanjing, it’s been just over 9 months. But with the first school-year coming to an end, it actually feels like the first year in China is coming to an end. Within a few days we hope to touch ground on Dutch soil again, and feel the warm embrace of our family and friends.
How do we look back at our first year in China? Well, it’s been quite an amazing ride! Recently someone asked me “What is the weirdest thing that happened to you since you moved to China?” I had to think about it, because so many funny, weird, remarkable incidents came to mind. The biggest contributor to these incidents are without a doubt the deeply rooted cultural differences and the immense language barrier. Had we moved to one of the bigger, International cities in China, this would probably have been less apparent. But in good-old Changshu, with it’s tiny expat population and it’s vast majority of non-english speakers, a funny incident is never far away. Whether it’s the delivery of 125 Baygon anti-mosquito coils when you intended to order just a few, the at times quite conflicting translated instructions leaving you utterly confused what’s expected, the accidentally “perverted spicy” food order or the sight of Chinese people sleeping in the showroom beds in Ikea… it leaves us often wondering, laughing and amazed about the beautiful and immensely friendly people of this country.
But of course life in China is much more than just funny incidents. Similar to our first year in Dubai, it took us some time to get used to our new lives and find our way around. Living on a school campus, setting up a coaching business, living in a remote little place…these were all things we have never done before. And with all that’s new it comes with ups & downs. There were times when Hendrik Willem fondly remembered the 30 minute commute in The Netherlands, or changing his work suit for shorts and flip-flops after work hours in Dubai. These rituals formed a psychological line between work life and personal life. When living on campus, these lines seem to fade and it can be difficult to separate work and private life.
And even though I never had a more stunning view from my (home)office and all the freedom in the world to do whatever I feel like, at times I dearly miss colleagues barging in for a chat, my overwhelmingly busy travel schedule and even the preparations for the annual performance, ODP and talent reviews.
We learned once more that when we leave our home or our job behind, we leave all that is familiar behind. And even though at the time of leaving we are happy to leave that ‘old boring familiar’ behind, when we are embracing the new, we suddenly find that we miss the old familiarity. So now the ‘new’ needs to become ‘familiar’. And then eventually “old” and then…….well, perhaps the cycle repeats itself again by then.
What is a better way to make your new surroundings more familiar than by bike? Ok, mini bike…
We know from our previous relocation that it takes at least another year to really settle, root and start to feel at home. Luckily it seems that we have quite an exciting year ahead of us. Hendrik Willem was just promoted to Head of Department for the Humanities department (including History, Geography, Economics and Philosophy). Ever since he left his last job as Vice Principal in the Netherlands, it has been his desire to get back into leadership again, so this is a great step in the right direction. And for me the coming year is already showing some exciting signs of getting back in the rat-race of doing business.
But first….a few relaxing days in Shanghai and then we fly onwards to Europe to take a short break in the Netherlands. Due to the pandemic we have not been able to see our friends as family as much as we had wished. Luckily they are all in good health and even Hendrik Willem’s 94 year old father has kept his end of the deal we made with him when we left last September: if he stays alive through this year, we come visit him this summer. So Evert Jan, here we come!
And mid July when we hope to return to China….it’s back in quarantine again and the cycle of the second year in China begins.
Stay safe and see ya’ll!
You know it’s time to head home again when you run out of “dropjes”….