I have now been in China near six months, and I can begin to say it’s starting to feel more like home, although I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of this city, this country, its culture and its language. Uprooting yourself, travelling half-way across the world and starting a new life, no matter the length of time you stay, or not. It’s no easy feat, it requires a lot of courage, taking that leap into the unknown. No matter how much research you may do on the internet, nothing can truly prepare you for what lies ahead. It requires a certain level of belief, or at least that has come to be my understanding, in yourself and what you are capable of. To some its about getting lost, and for others its about something else entirely.
In my time here, I’ve sound a few simple steps, if you like, that have helped me adapt to my new surroundings, that have begun to mould something of a home for me here. A few things that have carried me forwards, kept me sane and avoided the inevitable perils of certain things, much like homesickness. This isn’t a guide so much as what I’ve found to be true.
In this regard I have always found myself rather fortunate. I don’t feel its something that has ever really hit me, other than a few occasions. But in moving to China I was fortunate enough to be moving from family to family, in that my uncle has lived here for a great many years, and my aunt even longer still. Having family with you is a great boon in the battle with homesickness, that is without a doubt. But, I imagine, in a lot of cases, people aren’t as fortunate as I have been in this respect. The best way I have found is a simple on. In this day and age communication is remarkably simple. There are dozens of ways to stay in touch with those closest to you back home. Friends and family are all within easy reach. What’s more, you can see them as often as you’d like. Through Skype, WeChat, WhatsApp and FaceTime, to name but a few. Otherwise it’s plain old written communication. It’s only in moments in which you are left to your own thoughts, your own mind that feelings like homesickness creep in. You don’t feel homesick whilst you are at work, when you are experiencing new foods, climbing or hiking through a mountain or absorbing new sights. Keep in touch with those you care about and keep active, you’ll avoid this temporary affliction.
Films and Books
Something I’ve never witnessed in any form of written advice or reflection, although I feel it can’t be something unique to me, is the potency of films and/or books in aiding this transition. Watching films, both new and old can be the perfect distraction. In the case of older films, films I grew up with, or films that just so happen to be favourites of mine, help to settle me. They help to calm and really add that homely feeling. Much like listening to a song you had forgotten about can revive old memories and feelings you once forgot you had. An old film can transport that feeling of belonging, that feeling of being at home from your old abode to your new one. Its a similar case with books, a favourite book is much like a comfort blanket or an escape to another world, where you can leave any troubles or feelings behind for a time. Aside from the comfort they bring, books and films are perfect tools for making new and lasting friendships. Jurassic World, when it hit the silver screen out here pulled a group of people together I now happily call friends. People I have been travelling with I may never have met otherwise!
Routine and Habits
This isn’t to say you should have every moment planned, or any moment planned at that. But habits and routines are a sure sign of being settled. The most basic, if you can call it that, would be work. Soon, after travelling to and from work becomes a pattern, you’ll slowly begin to feel more and more at home. But I can’t dwell here for too long, routine and patterns are, for the most part, something I’ve often struggled with. But I have enjoyed them when I have had them, and work have been a very stable influence.
This may seem odd if you’re intention is to plant some roots, logically being in one place would be pretty key in establishing yourself. But leaving where you are only to return, perhaps frequently, perhaps a little less, can really begin to alter and shape the way you see and perceive where you live. To leave only to return really begins to cultivate a sense of belonging and a sense of being at home. You begin to grasp at the feeling that this is where you live, this is your home. When moving abroad all you really long for is a home, a sense of it, maybe even just a whisper of it, but that longing is always there. This may even be one of the best ways to bring about that feeling. I know that in my few travels so far, Shanghai has felt a little more like home every time I’ve returned, every time the wheels of the plane have kissed the tarmac, every time a train has come quietly to a stand still, Every time I have returned to Shanghai every time I have returned home.
This is what I have found so far in my time here, perhaps you’ll find some of it of use, maybe you won’t. Either way, I wish you all the best.