You’re thinking about quitting your job.
You spend your days daydreaming about how epic it would be to triumphantly jump out of your desk and exclaim to the world, “FUCK THIS SHIT!” as you head off to the airport to board some random plane to some far off land.
Sound like you?
Probably not. But that’s okay.
There are probably some more logical thoughts that are swimming through your brain, like:
How will I make money?
What will I eat?
What will I do with all of my free time?
What will mommy and daddy think!?
Don’t worry, these were all questions that I was asking myself before I took the plunge.
And although it has been a real adventure, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. That’s why I’m spelling it out here with the top 5 things you should know before you quit your job to move abroad:
1. Say Goodbye to Your Western Diet
And let’s give a nice warm welcome to rice, bread, beans, or whatever else your new country consumes as its staple food item. I think you already know that here in China it’s rice, or any major source of carbohydrates for that matter. This is something that I was quite happy to embrace when I first moved here…
I mean who doesn’t love gorging on fried noodles, sugary, deep fried dough buns stuffed with meat, or piles of rice the size of your head? O yeah, basically anyone who is trying to eat healthy.
The Chinese diet is nice here and there, but those of you who fall into the semi-healthy conscious category, don’t get upset when you can’t enjoy you’re freshly diced romaine lettuce topped with ripe avocado and sliced almonds harvested from the fields of California. Just kidding. You can buy that shit but it’s gonna cost you like $30.
Basically what I’m trying to say is this: be prepared to eat some weird shit! But Do NOT worry. After you get the hang of things, you’ll find your everyday spots that provide a decent meal at a decent price. You’ll even start to develop some rapport with the owners!
And when in doubt, just cook for yourself!
2. You Are Now A Foreigner. Every Day.
This one takes some time to get used to. You are now the novelty or the odd being in every situation.
You can’t act like you know what you’re doing because you don’t. And even after several months in one place and thinking that you’ve got it all locked down, you will get ripped off by some taxi driver or arrive at the bus station when you were trying to get to the train station…
But, there are positives to this as well. People will usually go out of their way to please you. I’ve been taken out to fabulous dinners and have had numerous job opportunities handed to me for the taking. Plus, as a guy, the attention from woman you get as a foreigner can be quite welcoming 🙂
3. The Language Barrier Can Be A Real Bitch Sometimes
Like that time I tried to order three sides to a dish and they thought I said three main dishes and began to pile stacks of food in front of me—I ain’t paying for that shit! They messed up! Ah crap, I am paying for that shit…
Or that time when I hop in a cab and, in Chinese, tell the driver to drop me at my apartment, only for him to look at me like I shot his dog…
How about that time I tell the barber to cut my hair A LITTLE and he turns me into a Chinese Pop Star…
I think you get the point.
If you’re going to a country that doesn’t speak your language, then you are in for some exciting times. My advice would be to start practicing food related vocabulary IMMEDIATELY. This will be so helpful when you arrive and are trying to do something as basic as order a meal.
Oh, and have fun trying to read the menus—some days just turn into “LET’S GUESS WHAT MYSTERY IS COMING OUT OF THE KITCHEN NEXT!” And then you pray that it’s edible.
4. Normal Tasks Become Exciting Adventures
This is the best part about living abroad. Normal, everyday things are always exciting!
One thing I love to do is go to a store whenever I’m in a foreign country and browse through all of the unique products that they have. China’s got all sorts of weird roots, grains, teas, candies and more. Honestly, I could spend hours just hanging out at the local grocery store (I know, I’m a nerd).
Other things like looking for a restaurant or finding a cafe to work at will always lead to endlessly wandering down random streets and exploring new alleyways.
“Oh that street looks cool. I wonder what’s down there…”
“OH shit! Look at this little quaint street. There’s some cool-ass Japanese restaurant over here and a hidden cafe. Damn, China is kinda cool.”
Yeah, so you see. Adventures and shit are cool. And you’ll get to have them. Adventures. Like, all the time.
5. You Will Meet All Walks of Life
You will meet new and interesting people wherever you go. This has got to be one of the greatest reasons why people travel. New cultures and different languages make for some exciting walks of life!
You’ll meet other travelers from all across the world, successful businessmen, hippy dudes and chicks, writers, bums, people biking from London to Hong Kong, and everyone in between.
This is obviously much easier to do when you’re in a major city like Guangzhou, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t meet interesting locals too.
Carl and I were walking to the subway one day when this random Chinese dude came up to us and started speaking to us in English. First off, he was just fascinated at Carl’s height—6 foot 7—but was also interested in what two young white guys were doing in China. After some talking, we got to find out that he is a major importer of foreign goods. He imports wines and whiskeys from France and Scotland, respectively, and travels and parties all over the world on a regular basis. This is a good dude to have on your side.
Anyway, I just want to point out that these things are not rare occurrences when you travel to a foreign country, simply for the fact that you will always stand out more (see #2). You never know what opportunities are going to pop up!
Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
As you count down the days until your departing flight and say goodbye to your friends and family, you’re probably furiously searching for all the tips and tricks on how to survive in your new adventure abroad.
The thing is, you can never know what to expect when you get off that plain and arrive in your new home. I remember my mind racing with all of the different possibilities of what it would be like. But, the best thing I did was just relax and let the adventure unfold the way it naturally would.
So what’s your plan? Are you about to quit your job and hop on that next plane or embark on a year long quest around the world?
Maybe you’re already out there living the dream.
Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for those who are about to take the leap.
Drop a comment below!