Keeping Tabs: My First 3 Months in China

It’s somehow November and I’m still trying to figure out whether these last three months have flown by or if I've crawled through them. I’m joyfully overwhelmed over all the milestones that have come and gone. I’ve been journaling quite a lot since coming here, but blogging about my experience has remained a personal goal of mine. It’s been quite refreshing knowing this space exists even on the days I lack motivation to post new content (which has been a reoccurring feeling as of late). Between working full time and getting into the groove of things, it’s been really easy to put blogging in the back seat. I’ve decided to create a new category called Keeping Tabs, for any of you wondering how life in China is really like.  Whether life has brought you here or you’re embarking on a new transition of your own, this is where you’ll find all things #nkmovestochina, my honest ramblings of what I’m up to and how I’m feeling. Writing about my transition is something I’ll be grateful for when all this is over. But, I really do hope that these posts help remind anyone reading this that change, although difficult at times, is so very necessary. I do hope that going forward, I can take more realistic lifestyle photos of my everyday life here. Unfortunately, my current DSLR is on the chunkier side and I don't often have it with me unless I'm travelling. But, hey, let these pictures be a reminder that IG worthy shots don't always encompass what really goes on during the day to day. 

I remember landing in Hong Kong on August 27th as if it all happened last night. After a 15 hour direct flight from Toronto to Hong Kong, it still hadn’t hit me that I wouldn’t be seeing my family/friends for an entire year. You know that high you experience when you’re about to go on holiday? I was on that high. I knew moving wasn’t going to be the same as travelling for fun, but I think it was my way of convincing myself that not being home for an entire year wasn’t such a big deal. People would die to travel for a year… right? There are some days where I feel very fortunate to be on this journey. It really does feel like I’m on a very long vacation. Other days, I’m anxiously counting down the days on my calendar. At the moment, I’m completely floored over the fact that it’s almost December. 


The morning of my flight was/is a bit of a blur. All I remember is that Oden’s goodbye was the hardest. I vividly remember everything that happened at the airport. My dad left for work early, which really helped, because we are the two biggest criers in the family. I think back to this day all the time and can’t help but imagine how happier the airport will feel, come July. When the going gets tough, I remind myself of how empowered I'll feel walking out of that arrival gate at YYZ. I appreciate my time with my friends and family so much more now, and I can’t wait to be around that kind of energy. 

When we landed in Hong Kong, we were set to meet our driver at the airport McDonald’s. HK isn't very far from Shenzhen, but you have to cross another border to get there. It probably didn’t help that we missed a typhoon by a couple of hours. It was raining hard, we were jet lagged, and had no idea what to expect. Since we didn’t have a place before we got here, we were put in a hotel until we found a place of our own. Let’s just say that this hotel was no Hilton. Yes, a few roaches were seen.  This was a huge wake up call for me. It came as a reminder that it’s easy to envision something to go a certain way. Often, we as humans create a more appealing version in our heads and when things don’t go as a planned it can be a shock to the system. I knew that if I were to react negatively over every little hiccup, I would never make it in China. Knowing what I know now, I feel the need to share that the beginning will always be the uncomfortable part. It’s easy to question every part of your decision, and compare it to what you thought things would be like. I spent a lot of days in that hotel room wondering if it was a mistake coming here. It’s normal, and I can guarantee you that every foreigner living abroad has felt that way at the start. The first few weeks at any new job is spent small talking with your coworkers. I promise you, things do evolve and you do become more comfortable and find people who help foster a home away from home. 


We eventually moved to another hotel, and lived out of a suitcase for a few days. It wasn’t until we found our own apartment that it felt like things were turning around. We were so go go go for so long, we didn’t have much time to take things in as they came. Not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but definitely pack your luggage into packing cubes. It’s a nightmare moving two big luggages and the less unpacking you do before you’ve settled into your own space, will save you a lot of time. 

The first week of October was what they call Golden Week. National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival both fall within this week, so we had the entire week off. Since we originally came to China on a one-entry visa and were waiting for our work visas to come in, we weren't sure if we’d actually be able to leave mainland China in time for the break. Fortunately enough, three days before our holidays, our work permits came in, so off to Hong Kong we went. The break definitely came at a good time; the pictures in this post are from that week. 


Teaching in China has definitely been a learning curve. The culture is different so it’s only natural to be lost at times. Three months in and I finally feel as though I’ve figured it out. I feel like I kinda know what I’m doing? It helps that my kindie kids are the absolute cutest, even if they cough on me every chance they get. It’s hard to believe that we’re nearing the end of a semester already. It’s also a plus that my coworkers are the absolute best. 27 days till Christmas. 34 days till the new year. 67 days till Indonesia. Lots to be thankful for. 

We didn’t have any home internet until the second week of October. Getting use to the slow wifi connections and spotty VPN services was no walk in the park. I’m a little embarrassed to admit how many days ended in frustration. It’s sad how addicted I was to refreshing my Instagram feed back in Canada. Not having wifi at home definitely took a hit on my blogging but it was also when I realized how much time I use to waste on the web doing a bunch of nothingness. Since coming to China, I have woken up at 6AM every single day. I figure I can sleep when I’m dead. Would I prefer more reliable internet connections? Hell yes. But it’s also been the push I’ve needed to stop being so glued to my electronics. People use to tell me that you’d magically become a morning person as you got older. Has it finally happened for me?! Does this mean I’m officially an adult?!?!

I wanted to share some apps I’ve been using quite frequently since coming here. I've had a few of you travelling to China ask about VPN services so I’ve decided to hold off on that so I can post all that tech related jazz on a completely separate post.


Food is definitely something I continue to struggle with. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I really did think I was going back to Canada in a body bag. The first two weeks, I pretty much lived in the bathroom. I highly encourage anyone prone to food sensitivities to bring medication with them. Speaking of medications, don’t be like me and forget to pack cold and flu medications that you’re use to. You can’t get things like NyQuil or Vicks here. Although I’m still struggling with the food, a new foreigner- friendly grocery store opened up and has been a huge game changer for us expats. 


I’ve started dipping my toes in a few new things that I would have never dared to try if I stayed home. Days that I’m lost, and confused, days that leave me feeling isolated… those are the days that’ll make me a better, stronger person. Here’s to becoming a more empathetic, fearless, and persistent go-getter. Magic really does happen at the end of your comfort zone, and it has taken me three months to finally realize that coming to China has served a bigger purpose than I could have ever envisioned. I’m use to telling my students how proud I am of them, but damn Nero, I'm freaking proud of you, kid. 


A 24 year old Canadian living (& teaching) in Shenzhen, China.