While living abroad, if you’re making an effort to learn the language and about the culture, it’s ok to occasionally visit the expat bubble. I even recommend it to maintain your sanity and increase your endurance: a reprieve from the inevitable daily annoyances of living in China, or any other developing country.
I may have sounded a bit fanatical in my previous posts in this series. When I first moved to China, I probably was a bit of a zealot about immersing myself in the language and culture. But after becoming conversant in the language, and getting a feel for the culture, I realized I needed to find a balance. I was past the honeymoon phase and needed some space. That’s where the expat bubble came in.
I haven’t ever really lived in the expat bubble, so for me, rather than having to escape from it, I found it was my escape. If you’re only living abroad for 3–6 months — in China, or some other developing country — you should probably stay out of the bubble and soak up as much of the culture and language as you can.
But, if you’re going to be abroad for a while, you’ll need to make regular visits to the land of foreigners to maintain your sanity. If you don’t, one day, rather suddenly — you’ll have a meltdown. It might happen right after the thousandth time someone cuts in front of you in line, or maybe it’ll happen after you get nearly run over again, or it could happen after you have spent four hours in a Chinese bureau leading to no tangible results — one day, you’ll just hit the wall. While frequent escape won’t prevent the meltdown, it will help make it less severe.
Here are some ways to inoculate yourself.« Continue »