Return to site

Mama said there'd be days like this...

My mother had a saying for every situation. It took moving to Shanghai for me to appreciate the wisdom she shared and to fully understand what she meant.

Growing up, my Mom had a saying for everything. I didn't understand half of them and the others I didn't believe. Coaching is about "aha!" moments, and my moment came when I realized my Mom was right all along. Here are 8 sayings that I more fully appreciate after living in Shanghai. Thanks, Mom!

It's hard to tell from a galloping horse

Sometimes, good enough is okay. Living with imperfections in parts of your life is often necessary. This applies to all of the MacGyver hacks you perform to keep things working in your apartment or the way you’ve used duct tape to cover the slash in your scooter seat. 

Haste makes waste

Strange, because I heard this one a lot and it seemed like it was a direct contradiction to the things you can't tell from a galloping horse, but it's true. How many times do you rush around and realize you have to go home for a form you forgot or go to another building first to have something stamped before going onto the next step. Cutting corners may seem like it saves time, but in the end, you often come out behind.

Flexibility is the key to success

Not physical flexibility, although that can’t hurt, but being able to roll with the punches. You never know what is going to come your way here and being able to bend, not break, can make all the difference in coming out on top versus being buried under the Shanghai rubble. Having a plan, yet being willing to change things as needed, can help you feel more successful about reaching your goals (see how to stick to your Chinesolutions)

Many hands make light the load

I thought this was a tricky way of making us all help set the table, but it turns out the Chinese have this one down. Granted, there can be a lot of standing around, but when someone wants to get something done, there are enough people there working to finish it in a day. From government projects to the family that runs my dumpling spot, there is something to be said for having a lot of people doing different tasks.

When in doubt, don't

When you have to make a big decision and you have doubts, what are those doubts trying to tell you? Often this is related to large purchases, contract changes, moving, etc. You may find that your questions and doubts can be answered, but when decisions have large consequences, it’s worth taking the time to address your concerns. If the doubts are legitimate and your gut tells you no, trust it.

There'd be days like this

Yep, there are crazy days and there are amazing days and you have to roll with the punches. Appreciate the good days and don’t dwell on the bad ones. Whether it’s AQI, traffic, blue skies or communicating with the repairman, remember to take things in stride. (See how to cope with Bad China days.)

Life isn't fair

As the baby of the family, I felt the full injustice of being younger than my siblings and I demanded fairness. Well, it turns out life isn't fair. As expats, we tend to see this in getting the laowai price for things or ways that China is unfair to us. What happens if you change the perspective here and consider that we are the big sister/brother, and not the baby of the family? When you see men standing in a trench in the road that is deeper than they are tall and they're covered in mud trying to lay a new drainage line, it’s hard to complain that your life is so unfair. There are a lot of ways that everyday, average zhonguoren have it A LOT tougher than you and I do and it’s not fair. Consider this next time you get in a ‘China hates me, this isn’t fair” funk.

Leave the party while you're having fun

This one isn't from my Mom, it's from my college roommate. Rather than being pulled out by your ponytail, leave the party while you're having fun and it will forever be an amazing party. While this goes for actual parties (who likes getting sick in a cab?), it applies to life too. How many people do you know that have stayed in China so long that they are bitter and beyond cynical (see my Shanghai is like college column)? Rather than renewing your contract until you hate everything and everyone, shed the golden handcuffs and go out on top.