Seven years!

1 Nov

Seven years ago today I arrived in China for the first time.  The date is forever fixed in my memory as I took off on Halloween and the flight attendants were all wearing Halloween costumes on the plane.  I landed the next day at Terminal 1 at Pudong Airport (terminal 2 did not exist yet) and looked for nearly twenty minutes before I found the representative of the English language training school who had been sent to pick me up.  We got on a bus and headed into the wilds of Shanghai.

I was scared and excited, spoke no Chinese, but figured I could do anything for a month if needed because I had booked a round trip ticket (just in case things didn’t work out.)

Wow.

Seven years.

Shanghai has changed a lot in the last seven years.  Four subway lines have sprouted into 16; two airports with one terminal each have become four total terminals; the high speed train now connects many more places – only five hours to Beijing!  Visas are easier (and harder) to get and the amount of English language signage has increased exponentially.

Prices have gone up – this has not been a stagnant economy.  Lunch prices have close to doubled, rent has increased, plane tickets, clothing, necessities of daily living are all significantly more expensive.  However, more things are available now as well – and if I want to pay I can have an organic smoothie or imported milk or laundry detergent from another country.

I have changed as well.

From my first month on the ground, I put in the time with my Mandarin teachers and textbooks and didn’t really stop until nearly four years later.  I slowly got comfortable speaking in different situations – ordering food, bargaining, daily life, work, on the phone, in presentations until I can now state my case and even argue.  Humor still escapes me most of the time, but that has always been the hardest for me because of the cultural overtones and word play.

As I found my “Chinese voice” I became more aggressive, more likely to speak up for myself – physically louder and more confident.  I managed a cross-cultural team and discovered that to survive in business I could not be a perfectionist or I would go crazy. I visited most all of the skyscrapers (new and old) on the Lujiazui side of the river and consulted with their HR on what the future of their benefit plans could mean.

I am proud to say that I am still friends with at least four individuals I met within the first week or two upon arrival and have watched them get married and/or have kids and/or switch careers.  I have done the same, switching jobs, meeting my husband and continuing to morph in this magical city.

So, upon this seven year “China-versary” I wanted to thank you all for following my ride, for looking into my jumbled view of the world and hope you stay around for whatever comes next.

I promise you won’t be bored.

 

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13 Responses to “Seven years!”

  1. iawn November 1, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    O My Mymymymy… that seven year itch is over. Congrads.

    • gkm2011 November 1, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Hopefully it will pass, but the pollution has a way of making me uncomfortable again and again. Winter will be starting soon so we will see – October is the best month!

  2. R Zhao November 1, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    I just started following your blog. Good stuff!

    This post really strikes a chord with me. I also arrived in Pudong when I first arrived in China (in Feb 2005). I didn’t know anything! I really had an amazing time my first week there, though I went up to Hebei that March and have pretty much been here ever since. I haven’t returned to Shanghai since May of 2006 when I took a trip there with my bf (now husband). I can only imagine how much it’s changed as Beijing certainly has. I hope to go back one day, but I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance.

    • gkm2011 November 1, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

      Thanks for following along – your blog looks very interesting as well! I am glad I am not in the northern part of China now with the smog, but totally agree with the preparing for winter mindset. I would encourage you to come back to Shanghai for a visit – I think you would find the changes pretty amazing, though still only at a surface level. Luckily you can still go two or three streets off the main road and still find “old Shanghai” – but I don’t know how long that will last!

      • R Zhao November 1, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

        The smog here isn’t too bad because I’m in a smallish city. I’m sure Beijing is awful right now!

  3. Every Day Adventures in Asia November 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    Congratulations!! And just think… more changes to come! Huge hugs on your 7th Chinese-versary! 🙂

    • gkm2011 November 1, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

      Thanks! Yes, the only thing certain in Shanghai is change. I think it will be a very interesting winter!

  4. CrazyChineseFamily November 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    Congratulations! Within seven years much can happen as I can see with my own life. I would have never thought that I would marry a Chinese woman, have a little son and even move right back to my hometown…
    I wish you all the best for the upcoming years and I am definitely eager to read more stories. Needless to say that I am jealous of your Chinese language skills:)

    • gkm2011 November 3, 2014 at 9:55 am #

      Very true – it can be difficult to predict a path when you don’t know what is just around the bend. I think back to 10 years ago and it is a very different life – but I am still me, and it is a wonderful life.
      Chinese language – it’s a lot of time and a willingness to sound very stupid at the beginning. For me a good lesson in letting go of perfectionism!

  5. thirdeyemom November 2, 2014 at 1:29 am #

    Wow, congratulations!

  6. ladyofthecakes November 2, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    Congrats, and let’s hope you’ll escape the seven-year-jinx or whatever it’s called 😉

    • gkm2011 November 2, 2014 at 9:13 am #

      The seven year itch… Yes – we will see! But I have spent time in many places – lots of travel – so am hoping that helps postpone or eliminate it!

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