Alex Daniels, Chengdu

Who are you?

Alex Daniels.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Chengdu in July of 2017.I had just graduated from college and wanted to spend some time abroad so I got a job here and packed up all of my things and moved shortly after graduation.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I think that one of the biggest challenges that I have faced has been having to be dependent on other people. I consider myself very independent and I like being able to do things on my own. But that isn’t entirely possible here. I don’t speak Chinese and therefore, I have to ask for help sometimes. That has been something that I have really struggled with: being okay with asking for help.

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How did you find somewhere to live?

So I fortunately worked with some at my job who helped me work with an agent to find my apartment.

Are there many other expats in your area?

There are some but not a ton. I have a coworker that lives by me, which is very nice, and there are a couple of other expats that I see around the complex.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

I have friends who are locals. I have the people who know me because I go to their shop a lot or I get food there. I am a woman of color and therefore, I am easily recognizable in a crowd so most people are friendly and intrigued when they see me.

What do you like about life where you are?

I like the opportunities to see so many different cultures. We are so close to so many different countries and even within China, there is so much happening. That is really exciting to be around.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

It is hard to be watched all of the time. There are so many moments when I want to just blend in and go about my day without someone taking a picture of me or without the stares. But that doesn’t really happen. It feels like I always have to be on, so to speak, and that can be really exhausting.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Work culture. The workplace in China is so different than in the United States. For an American, it feels like there is less freedom, less opportunities to speak up for what you believe or challenge the norm. That was something that took a while to get used to and luckily, I do have a boss who understands that this difference is present and does his best to alleviate it.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

Well I am a pescatarian so my options are definitely limited. But the fish here has been great. I have really enjoyed discovering all of my different options and expanding my spice tolerance. I really don’t like the fact that everyone always gets really defensive when I say no meat. Like, the food will still be good even if there’s not meat in it.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Ask questions. And ask questions of people that are in this area. I talked to some friends about their time in China but they were in Beijing or Shanghai, which are totally different from Chengdu. So ask questions of the right people.

I would also say that anyone who follows in my footsteps should have a plan for how they are going to move through the homesickness. This was my first time living in a different country. This was the first time that I missed a birthday or Christmas with my family. So if you are in the same boat, you need to have an idea of what you are going to do to find the happiness during the rough days. I love to travel and realized that if I have a trip to look forward to, I am so much happier. So that’s what I started doing. I negotiated my budget so that I could travel once a month. That is how I stay positive. So I would say just have a plan for how you will get through the tougher times, ’cause they do happen.

What are your plans for the future?

So I am probably gonna be in China for a couple more months and then I plan to move back to the States and hopefully get a job or apprenticeship in a theater working in their education department.

Please feel free to check out my blog where I talk about a lot of different things regarding life in China.

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!


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