The sound of exit plans being made

Living (it up yo!) in Shanghai, in Asia, in love with our own egos, is REALLY REALLY GOOD ISN’T IT!?

That, dear friends, is the official Expat Party line, and it is towed in an embarassingly contrived fashion.

The friends you have – you know, those ones that you will never stay in contact with when you have left – are all “really cool people!”.

Watching DVDs, eating buffet lunches (sorry, brunches) and drinking too much alcohol are all “really good experiences”.

And note that I wrote ‘drinking too much alcohol’ with a straight face.

I didn’t write ‘drinking way too much! Right! RIGHT!” and therefore take part in the juvenile celebration of the ability to drink alcohol.


Yet, dear reader, this is the kind of muscle-aching faux-joy that much of ‘expat life’ is all about.


And why is that?

This is because we must do all of this so retain some, or any, level of sanity and mental acceptance of our current situation.

No matter the fact that Western-looking people may have (or feel that they definitely have) an elevated status and ability to feel to superior, we are complete outsiders, we will never fully be used to cultural norms and the people surrounding us.

So by carving out a certain niche of normal life, we can cope.


This ability to cope, to look on the bright side, to accept that we are here because our brains yearn for the new, the difference, and the stimulation that we could not find ‘back home’, is tested at some times more than others.


Now is one of those times.

While we do accept that here, we will never find some of the things we like ‘back home’, we find it difficult to accept that one of these things is OXYGEN.


We know it’s polluted. We know that this is because the place is developing. We know that we have nothing to do with that, nothing to complain about, and that it is a fact that is completely beyond our control.


And this is speaking from a completely wimpy Shanghai Expat perspective, not a hardy and black-nostrilled Beijing Expat perspective.


But when you can literally not go outside without smelling something – this is when you will have and overhear, be aware of conversations that people are having —- exit plans are more seriously being made.


Are you making yours? Or do you just accept that this is a seasonal or somewhat-non-permanent thing and just continue on regardless?


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Categories: Expat Life


Foreigner in Shanghai


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6 Comments on “The sound of exit plans being made”

  1. January 21, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    This sounds like a tough expat experience–never really fitting in, or at least feeling so. How hard is it to keep working towards finding locals to be close to, with whom you can really fit in, at least with 3-4 out of 1000 million people?

    The pollution does sound tough. What do you do if you have children?

    • January 21, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      Well, it’s the experience of anyone living in a foreign country. there are always going to be times when we need a cathartic moan. The thing to do is rationalise the reasons why you are there and take the positives. And keep an exit plan in mind 🙂

  2. January 21, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    I must share this quote from George Orwell’s Burmese Days, about old-school British expats:

    “It’s a tradition to booze together and swap meals and pretend to be friends, though we all hate each other like poison. Hanging together, we call it. It’s a political necessity. Of course drink is what keeps the machine going. We should all go mad and kill one another in a week if it weren’t for that. … Booze as the cement of empire.”

  3. Judy
    January 22, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    In Azerbaijan I worried about the food supply, due to oil and chemical pollution. Once I had to throw out some potatoes because they tasted of paint 😦 After a while you just shrug … but that’s probably when you should leave.

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