« Are you well integrated there? », « Do you have local friends? », « It must be so exciting! », « I’m sure it’s like being on holidays all the time », « Are you back to work? »
You are in your new country since 1 month and you hear this all the time. You start thinking it must be something wrong with you. After all you are in this country since 1 month already! You should like it, you should be working already, you should have tons of friends. Should you?
Maybe you should. But here is the reality: no friends, no job and you don’t really like it there … yet. Will you ever like it?
When I moved to Beijing I was so excited. I wanted to learn the language, learn how to cook Chinese and study Chinese medicine. I had so many dreams. I loved it before even moving there. And then I moved. And hated it. I was stuck with my baby indoors for weeks. I had enough of food scandals and conflicting information about the water we should drink, where we should buy food, which brand of air purifiers we need. I was afraid for the health of my baby.
As Expats we are expected to love each and every country we live in. Truth is sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. And when we are told « Oh, I’m sure you love it there! » we don’t even dare to say with an inaudible voice « Well, actually… »
« You know what? I hate it there. And that’s ok »
Because we can’t love it everywhere. We can’t live anywhere. Sometimes our values, needs and dreams are hurt. We learn from those experiences, we know ourselves better. We know what we need and what is worth fighting for.
And this is such an important learning experience.
Ironically sometimes we need to hate it to be able to love it. Eight months after I left Beijing I think about it with nostalgia and love. Some moments were hard and some moments were filled with joy and love. I hated the pollution but I loved the people dancing and exercising in Ritan Park at 6 o’clock in the morning. I hated that the water I bathed my baby in was full of mercury and heavy metals but I loved the genuine kindness and the unconditional love people showed to my daughter wherever we went.
I have learned so much from this experience. I think that I was able to learn because at some point I accepted my feelings. I accepted that I could not live in Beijing at that point in my life: as the mother of a six months baby.
And who knows? Maybe one day I will get back there and actually enjoy it. Truly and deeply.
Let’s not just pretend. For our sake and everyone else’s sake. We deserve to be true to ourselves.
It’s ok to hate it.