To help you, expats, I publish these interviews, revealing personal stories, tips, and advice. Arriving in a new country is such a change, and how to feel ‘’at Home’’ can be a challenge. Or not?
This month I introduce you to Liudmila.
Original country: Russia
Expat countries: China, Hong Kong
Current country: Hong Kong
Your story in a nutshell:
I am coming from a small to middle size city in Russia, the capital of Zabaykalsky Kray – Chita. Cold winters, hot summers, beautiful nature and all year round sunshine is a signature of our place. After my graduation in 2011, I decided to make probably the biggest decision of my 23 years old life – moving abroad. I studied the Chinese language at the University, so there were no questions of where my next home will be. After 4 years in China, I found myself in the heart of Asia – in a beautiful city of contrasting light and constant movement, the city of Hong Kong.
Probably I wouldn’t be any different from other expats to say that challenges are all the same everywhere if it is a new city or a country for you. I would highlight those:
- Housing problems. You need to know all about prices, sizes, location, the rental law, etc. Be prepared.
- Unfamiliarity with local legal processes and requirements. In my case, I needed to know everything about how to get the visa, rent a house, and get the job. Taxes, law and many more. Once again, be prepared.
- Earning money. HK is one of the most expensive cities in the world, You really need to work here to survive and live the life of your dreams. Earning money is never easy and it a challenge. Not for everyone, but I still would highlight it and wouldn’t forget about this one.
- Finding new friends. You are all alone. You need friends and once you are not 15 anymore it is getting more and more difficult to find your “brother from another mother”. BTW you will not get this problem in HK.
Did you integrate and adjust smoothly? What went well and what was hard?
I integrated quite easily. After studying Chinese culture & language it was very easy to do. No cultural shock for me, I was fully prepared for everything. I also moved with my best friends and we were supporting each other as much as we can.
What is your current job?
Now I work for a translation company and helping business to globalize in many many languages. I am glad that due to my work I am still connected to all these different countries, languages and cultures.
Was it difficult to start your job in a foreign country?
It was difficult but not impossible. If you are healthy and not lazy, I believe you will find a job, if you are smarter than average, you will open your own business.
How you stay motivated:
When I imagining myself back into a small city of Chita, that scares me off and keeps me motivated very well.
What are your words of Wisdom?
I would quote Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do”. And don’t forget about Neale Donald Walsch’s words as well: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
What is a misunderstanding that happened to you as an expat?
Funny story about local Chinese traditions. It’s hard to explain but I will try: In China, they have their own belief in kind of “Gods” – “Chinese gods”. Each local restaurant, small shop, nightclub, a business have a place for a small place for a statue of Chinese God which in their belief keeps the place safe and brings luck to this business. To keep these gods happy, they always need to feed them with real fruits and vegetables, give them money, etc.
My friend and I were in a Chinese nightclub when we saw good looking fruits and cherry tomatoes on the table. We couldn’t resist taking some tomatoes as we were hungry and thought it is for club guests. While eating it, a worker of the nightclub was looking at us scared and confused. He asked if it “haochi ma?”, which means tasty in Chinese and showed us a small Chinese God inside the wall, which we hadn’t seen. It was difficult to finish the tomato, as of course, we know that you cannot eat fruits which were given to the gods. Gods will get angry and we believed it as well, so we were afraid something bad happened to us too.
We didn’t have to wait long for problems; the next day my laptop got burned and my friends ATM card got stuck in the ATM machine, so she had to call the Chinese police to get it out and go through a whole procedure. We decided to go back to the club next day and ask the Chinese god to forgive us. We bought oranges, tomatoes, apples and went back.
It was hard to do because foreigners don’t go into the club during the week. Chinese people seeing us would not look good. We tried to hide ourselves as much as we can, put out our fruits and each of us gave a little speech to the God to forgive us: “ Sorry dear god, we didn’t know it was for you, we will not do it again, please forgive us…”. And we think he did forgave us. Once we finished, all our problems solved one by one.
Just a reminding for all of you – respect other cultures traditions & religion.
Please tell us your important TIPs when moving to a new country:
Pack light, Give yourself time to settle in, learn the local language, and make friends. Be prepared for your new life.
As an expat myself, I have been living and working in various countries, speak 6 languages, and experienced many challenges that I learned to turn around into new opportunities.
Workshops in cultural diversity and keynote speaking is what I enjoy doing.
I love to inspire people and help them to become their best selves! Life changes, and so can you!