Tuesday, January 20, 2015


For people who who have not lived an ex pat life you may well think it consists of days full of coffee mornings, lunches and happy hours. Of days spent pampering ourselves with manicures, massages and shopping. A life where you have someone to drive you around and someone to clean the house when you are out and about enjoying life. A very privileged life too. And I know I shouldn't complain.

Up to a point that is true, I do my fair share of the aforementioned. But life is not always like this. There are days when things go wrong and this makes you feel so far away from all that is familiar to you. Far from family, old friends and a million miles away from truly comprehending what is going on around you. When you have a bad day here, commonly known as "Shanglow" day it can really get to you very quickly. It can be something simple, something when faced with at home you would deal with easily and move on. Here not so much. Here it can produce tears, tantrums and a  completely disproportionate reaction to the problem.

For me, today it was a recurring issue that broke me. Technology! No internet. Here this means feeling totally cut of from life. No emails, no Facebook, no pintrest, no BBC news, no Times to read with my morning coffee. But the real frustration comes with finding my husband's iPad is connected, my phone is intermittently connected but my iPad and computer are refusing to join networks. Of course here I cannot call up a helpline. I'm on my own!

So I take myself off to the market to buy some fruit and vegetables. Perhaps some time preparing something delicious for dinner will make me feel better. However it really doesn't get much better. First I am unable to walk along the pavement due to cars parked there, moving onto the road to walk I am met with tooting horns, and it is with great difficulty I keep my hand firmly in my pockets to prevent gesticulations, which are a waste of time here as no one understands them. Even the usually cheery lady in the market doesn't seem so friendly today. I decide to walk the long way home to try and walk off the negativity I'm feeling today. I encounter the usual chaos which on a normal day does't bother me. Today? Well that's a different story. Realistically I know I'm not giving off the best vibes and probably people are reacting to my emotions.

However, on a more positive note, the sun is shining, the buds are out on the trees and the gardens are looking amazing, before long the pool will be open and summer will be here. And I am meeting with a friend this afternoon. I can unload on her, because she understands days like today, because she too has them, and I'll move on.

It is hard for people to understand how I can feel down here, living the life I lead. I never take for granted or forget how lucky I am, but that doesn't prevent days like this happening. You will never understand the total frustration of not being understood, or being able to understand what is going on. It's not just the language but the culture here which is so different from at home. Spitting, farting and slurping all perfectly acceptable. Saying please and thank you not so much. Pushing, shoving a normal everyday thing for the Chinese. The frustration of not being able to read signs in shops, road signs, notices that get posted on the notice board. So you can see why occasionally it gets to me.

On the plus side. The Chinese are generally very friendly, very generous and we have been made feel very welcome here. I can now understand a bit more of what is being said than I did when I arrived here. I am not suffering from snow, rain, hail or windy weather. I am healthy, not hungry or living in fear.  I am indeed very aware of just how fortunate I am, but please allow me the odd down day. Maybe it just gives me time to recharge my batteries, put on my big girl pants, a bit of lippy and get myself back out there.

Tomorrow is another day. I won't be buying one way ticket home just yet.


  1. We're all allowed Shanglow Days. When we lived in the States, even thought they spoke 'English', there were times when we were so frustrated by their not understanding what we wanted or meant, so it must be much more difficult for you with a culture and language so different from ours.
    As you say, tomorrow is another day, and soon all the lovely blossom will be out.

  2. I was always surprised that Americans struggled with my English Having moved there after 6 years in Hungary I thought the language was not going to be a problem. How wrong I was. However today is a new day and I feel so much better..Thank you

  3. I understand that sense of alienation when you don't understand what's happening around you in another country. Although my wife says that I only rarely understand what's happening around me in my own country and she's probably right. As for technology, you don't need to be in another country to be driven out of your mind by that. If it's any consolation I have days where I long to be in another country away from family, usually after a relative has asked me to drive 250 miles to get their telly working for them. Oh well, at least there's haggis at the weekend.

  4. Haggis and whisky Phil. I'll enjoying my excuses while I can because when we eventually end up back in the homeland there will been excuse. Just stupidity..LOL.
    Have a good weekend or "zhoumo kuaile" as we say here.