The moving process…

Hello all!  I’m so sorry that I have been MIA lately – we’ve just been super crazy busy.  I’m no stranger to moving – this is move number six for us in the past ten years.  However, I think this move to China has so far been the most difficult of them yet.  We have been planning, buying, planning, deciding, and more planning for months.  I have already decided that if we have another international move – we will not do it the way we did it again.  How could it possibly be that difficult you may say?  Well…I will give you a rough idea:

  1. Most things (western things) in China are more expensive.  Take diapers for example.  A small box of diapers over here is about $60 compared to a large box in the U.S. (approximately $35).  So when you have one child not yet potty trained and another along the way – it is more cost effective to buy diapers in the U.S. and have them shipped (in your sea shipment) to China.  In case you were wondering, here is what a lifetime supply of diapers looks like:Henry and diapers
  2. Personal items (i.e. soap, shampoo, tooth paste) are different here.  This is okay, except if you are accustomed to a particular type.  Not to mention that as Asian hair is different than Western hair – some products are just not the same.  So we stocked up enough for three years on bar shampoo (we were not allowed to ship liquids), tooth paste, and body soap.  All of this we had to best calculate how much we will go through in a month (times 36 months).  For example.  I go through about one tube of tooth paste a month – so that is 36 tubes, etc.
  3. Toys.  Toys for kids and toys for gifts.  Let us start with the kid’s toys.  It has been a challenge and I’m thankful the kids have been wonderful about deciding what toys to bring and what toys to keep in storage.  We simply could not bring them all.  Now onto gifts:  when JD and I visited in March, we walked through a toy store and noticed how unbelievably expensive toys are over here.  For example, I bought Sis an $8 Barbie doll and found the exact same Barbie doll over here for the equivalent of $32.  So needless to say I have Christmas and birthdays planned and bought for for the next two years.  I will buy for the third year sometime when we are on home leave (but with the kid’s changing interests as they grow, I did not want to take any chances).
  4. Items to make our apartment more like home.  This was one of our biggest mistakes when we moved to Germany.  We did not bring enough items that made the apartment ours – to make it feel more like home.  As this will be our home for three years we felt this is extremely important – especially for the kids.  So we have spent time, money, and energy trying to figure out those special items to make our apartment home.  We were told to bring rugs, as our floors are mostly stone.  We spent hours trying to figure out which would be best to bring.  Next, we wanted the kids rooms to feel like theirs, which meant finding wall decals and decorations specifically for them.  Bear was easy – we found a road rug for toy cars, and will use many of his toys for decor as well.  Sis wanted a princess room so we found princess wall decals, a bed spread (custom made Frozen quilt by mom and grandma), as well as a few special pillows, etc.
  5. Clothes and other necessities tops off list.

We were allotted a 4×4 foot container for our air shipment and a 20 foot container for our sea shipment.  Needless to say we put most of our items in the sea shipment, and toys, diapers, and fall clothes make up our air shipment.  Hopefully we will get our air shipment next week and the sea shipment by the end of October.

Stay tuned…the move details to come!!!!

Peach? Coconut? Which cultural fruit are you?

Yesterday JD and I attended a cultural training course on Chinese culture.  Now if you have ever attended a cultural training course you know how exhausting the day can be.  You are bombarded with information left and right, cultural norms, and to top it off are often asked to verbalize what you believe the biggest challenges you yourself will face when living in a new culture.  It is a day of thinking – tough thinking – where at the end of the day you barely have enough room in your brain to process everything that was said throughout the day.  Anyway, I thought I would share a run down of how the day went.

After we go through introductions in which our facilitator asked us to give a brief history of our lives,  she hands each of us a 70 plus page workbook, and proceeds to explain the agenda for the day.  The objectives for the day were: exploring the cultural foundations of the host country, decoding cultural behavior, adapting to a new culture, and applying what we learned to our everyday lives in China.  The first thing we were asked to do was to figure out what we ourselves wanted to get out of the days session.  My goals were:

  • I want to be comfortable being able to ‘go out’ on my own.
  • I want to be able to fit into the new culture (even though I know that I will stand out no matter what).
  • I want to have the skills to thrive not just survive (especially in language).
  • I want to be aware of cultural acceptances vs cultural no-nos.

The first half of the day we talked about the business culture in China.  I learned a lot.  I did not realize how much China’s policy on only having one child affects the cultural climate for businesses.  The one child is often the sole hope of the family.  Therefore the family invests all of their time, money and energy raising, educating and providing for that child – in high hopes that their one child will bring pride to the family.  Thus in the business world the Chinese are very eager to successful, seek to make money, and do their family proud.  This mentality can pose challenges in the workplace as many of the ‘younger’ generation (those born after 1980) have a sense of entitlement because they are held with such high esteem in their families.  I also learned that China is a hierarchical society – meaning where you were born is extremely important to your station in life as well as in your job.  Everyone knows where they stand and it is clearly known his or her place within the hierarchy of the company.

The second half of the day was focused on daily life and the challenges we will face with living in China.  One of my main concerns is crossing the street.  This may not seem like much in the USA, but in China traffic rules and patterns are completely different.  You have to remember that Americans have been driving for quite a while – whereas in China cars are now becoming accessible to more people.  From my understanding 10 years ago in TEDA most people got around by bicycle and now the main streets have 10 lanes of traffic (five in each direction).  When I visited TEDA back in March, I was mesmerized by  the traffic flow.  I remember sitting at our hotel window watching traffic and being amazed there where not at least 30 accidents in the mere 20 minutes I had been watching.   So my question becomes how the heck am I going to cross the street with three little children?  The advice I got was keep them close and watch them very carefully.  (Thank goodness I decided on a sit and stand stroller not to mention we had the foresight to buy Bear a leash).

Remember my goals?  Here is what if found out:  I learned that no matter what I do or how I try to blend in I will always stand out.  I am a Westerner – my appearance, no matter how I dress, I will always be pegged as a foreigner (so accept it).  My children will stick out like sore thumbs (having lighter hair).  I have been told numerous times that it will not be uncommon for people to come up, touch or pet the kids, and want to have the kids in photos, etc.  I’m sure this will take a lot of getting used to for both the kids and myself.  As for language, our language instruction will not happen until we are there so until then we are not adding learning a new language to our already full plates.  As far as cultural acceptance goes, I have learned that as Westerners we will be viewed as models to aspire to – as many of the younger Chinese want to become as Westernized as they possible can.  To me this is a rather daunting thought, but hey we will see how it goes.

Now to the peach and the coconut.  You may be wondering how they fit into this cultural training experience.  Well here goes:  Americans are generally the peach.  We are soft on the surface and are often eager to make friends and know someone.  We can be very cordial to those we just meet and are willing to share something personal about our selves to get to know another person better.  However we contain pits or walls that others may hit when trying to get to know us.  Often this is where we start feeling uncomfortable with where the friendship is heading and often only let a select few see what is truly in our core.  This can be confusing and send mixed messages to those of different cultures – especially those of the coconut culture type.   Coconuts are people that are often hard to get to know, they hold others at arms length, and it often takes a lot of time for them to open up and let people into their lives to see their true selves.  Coconuts often have tough shells to break, but when they are broken open they are often very translucent.  The cultural example given most often as being coconuts are the Germans and Russians.  Yesterday we learned Chinese are fuzzy coconuts – they are more cordial and soft to newcomers, yet beneath the softness there is still a hard shell.  So how does this fruit analogy help?  It gives us an idea of where others stand in comparison with ourselves when interacting with someone from a different culture.



This Crazy Life

Life is an adventure….so I’ve decided to start a blog.  Beware – I’m new to this and I assume that it will take some getting used to…but that’s okay.  You may be wondering why in the world would a small town girl living in Iowa have anything to blog about.  Well…this small town girl is going to be moving out of her element, out of Iowa, out of the USA and moving to China!!!

About Us

We are a crazy, but fun-loving bunch of people!  Life is never dull at our household, as there always seems to be something going on.  Between home, work, school, trips to the ER (compliments of children of course), and life in general, I’d say we lead pretty normal lives.  Then again we have decided to uproot our family and move around the globe.  We love trying new things, visiting new places, and are always up for a good adventure.  Our motto is Carpe Diem! – cause life is too short not too! 😉