This is a question that is continually asked of me by friends, family and – perhaps most often – myself. Will I ever leave China?
The short answer is: Yes, God yes!
The long answer, however, is a little more complicated. The truth is, I’m starting to like it here. Now before the boys at Sinocidal all grab their bats and plan an intervention, I should clarify.
There is a crapload about this country that I hate, and I’ll always hate. Despite having heard the “you’re a guest in this country” line from an endless number of well-intentioned, completely full-of-it, expats, one of the things I’ve learned most about living in China is that I’m not going to sacrifice my beliefs and values to “better fit in”.
I have these values due to a lifetime of trying to figure out this fragile thing called “existence”, and so why would I give up (or even ‘suspend’) that just to “accept” things that fundamentally disagree with? To get along with people better? To not create waves? To perpetuate the illusion that it’s ‘ok’? Fuck that noise.
Having clarified that, what I have realized is that I have been over-sensitive about things, and that has begun to dull.
Since I was a youngin’, I’ve always had that critical eye. That annoyingly cynical bit about me that looks for troubles even when there aren’t any. In Canada you have to look pretty hard for that, because, let’s face it, Canada’s a pretty fan’frigin’tastic place to live (my sense of my home country has also twisted since being away).
Literally having to dig around for societal problems and injustices to pick apart while growing up in Canada, it was a shock upon arriving in China when I was suddenly suffocating in them. It was like swimming in a sea of things to criticize. National ignorance, government corruption, an etiquette deficiency, the impoverished forgotten. Everywhere I looked I could find flaws.
I’ve now acclimatized a bit, and adjusted the cynic-inside to criticize at a more balanced level. Sure I still complain, have my random racist extrapohating argument with Maggie about “her people”, but on the whole, I’ve discovered that once you find your balance here, it’s not so disagreeable.
This post was largely inspired by the “What Comes After China?” writing project started by Jeremy at The China Expat. It’s a valid question and one that most every expatriate in this country undoubtedly considers more than just a little.
I think I’m in the same boat as much of the expat population in that I don’t want to return home having wasted my time here. This is pushing me into using my time in China to build my knowledge, skills and employability while I’ve the relative freedom to do it.
It’s also brought me closer to realizing my dream job of being geographically independent, my own boss and doing something I love.
So, what comes after China? For me, there really is no “after China”. Maybe I’ll move back to Canada, or perhaps to some other place, but I’m married to this country now, in more ways than just through my wife.
Like it, hate it, or tolerate it, China is part of who I am now. And to be honest, I truly feel I’m all the better because of it.