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1st Year in ShenZhen China: Introduction

Lychee Park lakeside view of Luohu District. Photo by Asia Martin
Come June 2016, I will have officially spent one whole year as a Chinese expatriate. To celebrate my victory of independent living abroad, I will open up about my time here and shed some light on what its like for me to live in one of China's economic trade zones.

My first few months in ShenZhen were filled with excitement and culture shock. I was on a rollercoaster of amazement, disappointment, frustration and joy. I was amazed at the functionality of a new concrete jungle and yet disappointed at the reality that China is very much still developing. I don't like to paint other countries as fully developed, but it was surprising to learn that this concrete jungle looks good from the outside but its inside is a bit sheltered from the rest of the world and bit shabbier than what I'm used to in some parts.

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

I didn't know much about China but I had read the horror stories of shady company deals, fake companies, and deportations. Instead of chickening out and staying comfortably in the U.S. like my family strongly suggested, I decided to pester my recruiter with as many questions as possible. And my company's recruiter made sure I securely and legally arrived in ShenZhen.

The city lights against the night sky impressed me and relieved me when I departed the airport and went to my hotel. The building's neon lights and creative light shows excited me ...and left me wondering how much energy is being wasted on a light show.

That's the only slow moment I had for about 2 months because shortly after arriving, it was time for me to meet my on-boarding mates, go through my company's orientation, meet my colleagues, find an apartment, and find out where and how to buy necessities, get registered to live here and get a physical examination. The month of June 2015 was pretty much a blur and yet memorably the best introduction to China because I went to my first night club, had my first authentic Chinese dish, and went to a Chinese hospital.
The following months were pretty rough. I had realized that I was going to be living in a country whose language I wasn't fluent in, whose culture I was naive about and whose society was not the most accepting towards darker-skinned foreigners for a year. As that began to set in, I had to learn to accept so many things I had no rights to and that I could not change. My "Yes, We can!" got revamped to "No, We can't!" over time. In the midst of dealing with those realities, I also got my iPhone 5s stolen, repeatedly ripped off by taxi drivers, photographed like a celebrity zoo animal without my permission, asked racially insensitive and politically incorrect questions too many times for my liking by locals and Westerners.

Thankfully and fortunately, I had new friends and colleagues, who were locals and foreigners. They understood my culture shock experiences, allowed me to vent my frustrations and concerns, and then took time to advise me on what I could do to make the best of the situation. And eventually, I stopped being shocked by everything. Now, I'm shocked by abnormal human things instead of cultural differences between the U.S. and China.
Betta have my money! Watch my YouTube videos of my time in ShenZhen here.

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