I wanted to share this topic for a very long time even longer than MiddleMe was set up because I had so many people asking me why I chose to move away when I have everything. To give you the context: I was doing extremely well at work, I have a fantastic team who loves me and the feeling is mutual, I have a great bunch of friends and loved ones back home. I’m in a safe country with great career opportunities and growth and I’ll doing pretty well for myself among my peers. I’m staying with my family with all my bills, my housework and my meals all taken care of.
I had it all, so why do I move away?
When an opportunity opens itself to me to move to a strange new country, the adventurous side of me couldn’t refuse. I want to push myself to the limits in my career and see how far I can go without the environment I’m familiar with. I want to be the pioneer among my peers to explore the depths of unknown and perhaps conquer it.
This creates a whole new world in my career and personal life that I have not been exposed of and it is truly a lesson for me. Whether it is mingling with the locals and understanding how they work or me learning about myself for the first time. You see, personally, I’m always someone’s daughter, friend, sister but when I’m all alone there, I’m thrown into only myself. Yes, I took a deep breath and a big leap by moving there, not knowing anyone except perhaps a few of my colleagues who were going with me.
I felt I was already there so I shouldn’t fix what ain’t broken but somehow in my heart, I know that is not right. I’m still young with many years ahead of me. I’m getting too comfortable where I am and I wasn’t challenging myself enough. People around me kept saying I shouldn’t be greedy, I should be contented of what I already have and achieved, but it’s not about greed. It’s more about stretching my limits and see how far I can go. It’s about proving myself (and my family), I can survive on my own.
In a strange country where I do not have friends and a whole lot of responsibilities to myself and my company who gave me this opportunity, I need to do more than merely exist. I need to exceed in a lot of people’s expectations and more. People who believed in me and present me the opportunity to relocate, I’ll need to prove them that they were right to choose me. People who didn’t think ill make it, I’ll need to prove them they were wrong.
I learned to open up my eyes a little more and my heart a little more to understand and accept the local’s culture. I learned to ask for help when I needed to set up my broadband so I’ll have the internet. I learned to force myself to read, write and reply everything in Chinese when back home, I’m so used to using English all the time. I learned to fix a blown lightbulb, a leaky pipe and cracks along my kitchen sink, a luxury I took for granted when I was back home because all I have to do is wait for dad to do all this. I fixed my own meal, order my own groceries and cleaned my own place, another luxury I relied on my mum.
Maturing even more
In Singapore, we often take safety for granted so much so our government had to advocate and advertise “Low Crime doesn’t mean No Crime”. To give you an extreme but a usual sight in Singapore, we actually place our bags, mobile phones and even wallets on the McDonald’s table to reserve our seats before going to the counter to queue and place the order. And yes, 90% of the time, when we returned with our tray of food, the items are still there untouched. I used to be guilty of that.
No way I can do that in China. Whatever I put there will be gone in an instant! I need to keep my bags zipped all the time and have my backpack in front of me when I moved to a crowded area. I need to remove my earphones when I’m crossing the street in order to be alert of the oncoming traffic. I know it’s common in other countries but in Singapore, pedestrians have the way of right.
I now see through the eyes of a local and accepted their differences. In fact, now that I’m away, I missed their differences. Recently when I went back to Shanghai after leaving 6 months, I actually teared a little when I reached the airport because I felt I was coming back to a place I called home for two years. I watched the movies they watched, I sang the songs they sing, I ate like a local, I cursed in their slangs (by the way, they find it amusing when I did that) and the only thing I haven’t done is to spit the way they did.
Got to be humble
Yes, I may have gone there as a manager, however, when you’re in a foreign land, it’ll do a lot of good by eating the humble pie rather than strut your way into the office, thinking that you are bigger than them. That’s not going to earn you any respect and in fact, people will dislike you for your arrogance. In the first place, they are already wary of you being someone whose culture they probably couldn’t or haven’t phantom so by acting all big boss, you’ll just drive their defense up.
Nice on Paper
After all the above positive attributes, one thing that is most realistic one of all is how nice it sits on my CV, giving me an edge through the doors of Human Resources. What better way to prove that you are adaptable to new changes, gearing for challenges and constantly tries to improve yourself than to let the HR knows you have relocation experiences.
Would you give it all up and move to another place / state / country for the sake of your career? Share with us your thoughts below.