How I have learned to explore my new country with my 6 senses

"This moment is all there is"- RUMI

When moving to a new country we can’t go on automatic pilot and do things the way we have done them before. We just can’t.  Because nothing is the same anymore.

And this is when all the senses open up. 

The first time I travelled to South Asia, all my senses were overwhelmed: everything around me was so colourful, so much noise (cars and scooters everywhere), birds singing out loud, geckos screaming at night, so many new smells like frangipani trees and coriander and I discovered the great taste of curries and fresh coconuts.

Sometimes we enjoy opening up our senses to make the most of the experience. But sometimes is unpleasant, partly because everything we knew is not there anymore and we don't really accept the change.

Instead of longing for the known and for what we had before, one option is to immerse ourselves into the new country. Not into the culture but into what is “real”. Not with the mind but with the body.

By letting us explore our new country through our senses we become more mindful and anchored in the present moment. We also truly "live in" our bodies. 

I tended to do the opposite thing in China : forget about the senses, forget about my body, probably because I felt threatened by the pollution of the food, the air and the water Nevertheless I gave it a try.

  • I opened my EYES

Probably the most beloved colour in China, red is a symbol of happiness and good luck.  I love this colour. It makes me happy. So every time I took a walk on the street I paid attention to any red object. 

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  • I went to a SOUND safari in parks

Chinese people start their day in parks: they do tai chi, kung fu, dance, exercise, scratch their back on trees… it’s amazing how lively a park can be at 7 a.m. 

  • I got myself lost in a tornado of SMELL

The first time I went to China, I was 2 months pregnant. During the first 3 months and sometimes all through their pregnancy most of the women become very sensitive to smell. Even in their regular environment. In a new environment, with strongly fragranced malls and lobbies, exotic scented fruits (like durians!), incense smell, pipes- scented streets, ... it was exhausting! I tried to laugh about it and imagine how was the life of a hunting dog.  

  • I got challenged through food and TASTE

I love food!  But mostly I like conscious food: ingredients that have been obtained with the respect of the Earth, the People and the Traditions.

Food scandals are part of our daily lives in Beijing. Contaminated water, “fake” meat, high rate of pesticide residue on vegetables and many, many others very “creative” food substitutes, made it very difficult for me to feel relaxed with food in Beijing especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed a lot the tradition of the Moon Cakes (月饼), these beautiful cakes made from red bean and eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, a festival for lunar worship and moon watching.

  • I discovered the soft TOUCH of silk and cashmere

One of the things I enjoyed mostly in Beijing was to explore the markets: the Silk Street Market, the Pearls Market, the Cashmere Market, … Many of the objects sold on the market are an invitation to sensorial discovery. Passing my fingers on the silk scarfs, touching the cashmere rolls with awareness and closed eyes brought me a lot of joy.

  • I let my INTUITION lead me

Intuition is our 6th sense, the one we sometimes follow unconsciously.  We “just know” what to do.

When we live in a country that is not our home country, intuition is a precious tool. We live in an environment where we sometimes don’t understand even 10% of what’s going on around us (in Beijing I need to find directions without even understanding the signs).  And yet, in this environment we need to make decisions.

We ask ourselves: what should I do now? Should I turn right or should I turn left? We just follow our intuition. No automatic pilot interferes because we cannot compare with something that we have already experienced. This is why expatriation is such a wonderful opportunity to let our intuition bloom.