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8 (more) life lessons from Shanghai

If you've been in Shanghai more than a week, you've learned more than 8 things. Here is the final installment of the lessons learned in Shanghai with 8 (more) lessons learned.

You’re stronger than you think

When faced with adversity, you’ve found a way navigate the challenge. If someone had told you all of the things you would go through as a foreigner in China, you either would not have believed them or thought twice about moving here. But in hindsight, you’ve survived the chaos and lived to tell.  Take the momentum from your successes and go forward confidently.

Like attracts like

Maybe you moved here knowing people, but chances are you didn’t have the community in place that you left behind. You’ve since met people and they get you. They’re your people. The energy you put out brings in like-minded people. Whether through sports, work, or hobbies, you are able to find people that you connect with and understand you. Consider the people you surround yourself with and what kind of vibe put out to make them part of your network.

It’s all white noise

When people visit you, the spitting, loud talking volume, and throat clearing shock them. While this is hard to ignore when it is happening next to you on the metro, it generally fades into the background when you’re walking down the street. You are adaptable and have learned to tune in to what is important and not let the less savory parts of life interfere with your daily routine. When faced with other things that you may find annoying, remember that your brain is able to turn off and focus in on what you need to do. 

You put it all out there

You’ve learned to be direct. In work and in life, you can get down to business. You find yourself being explicitly clear with directions in the office in order to minimize confusion. As you have friends leaving Shanghai on a regular basis, you’ve also learned to tell people that they are important and can express your feelings in a way that may have previously embarrassed you. This ability to articulate how you feel and increased self-awareness are valuable skills for your communication tool box. 

Holding tight and letting go

There are things you hold onto dearly, like needing to eat pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. There are things you’ve learned to let go of, like waiting for the western toilet when there is a squatty potty available. Evaluating what is truly important to you and falls on the non-negotiable list versus what is not an integral part of your value system is an important part of defining who you are. You are still you in China, but you might have discovered that you are more open or close-minded than you previously thought.

You’re a cultural chameleon

You can push and shove during rush hour with the best of them, but the moment you step off the plane in Japan, you immediately queue on one side of the escalator. While you still stick out as a foreigner, you’re quick to pick up on cultural norms and customs and can adapt to what the situation dictates. You are aware of your otherness and yet are respectful of the people in your host country. This appreciation of cultural differences can help you see beyond the stereotypes and idiosyncrasies and appreciate the similarities in the different places you visit.

You appreciate hospitality

People go out of their way to take you to dinner, show you around their city and offer a welcome gift when you travel. They recognize your inability to communicate, yet don’t make you feel like an idiot. When reflecting on how you have treated visitors when they have come to your home country, you may realize that your definition of hosting is pretty lame in comparison. Remember the way the red carpet has been rolled out for you and treat others with the same courtesy.

Change is the only constant

From the turnover of bars and restaurants to the revolving door of people, you’ve learned that the only constant is change. That Vietnamese street taco you were craving, but too tired to go out and get? You passed by the next weekend and it was gone. While this is a first world problem, the learning here applies to the bigger picture. Be present in the here and now, take advantage of the opportunities in front of you and roll with the changes as they come.