Moving Abroad And Saying Farewell: It Never Gets Easier

Cloudy Skies in Shanghai

I woke up to cloudy skies.  I wanted sunshine for my final day here, but I knew a clear day was a rare blessing in Shanghai.  The weather reflected the feelings in my heart: uncertainty, haziness, fear.

I walked out of Z’s room to find she was already in the living room, staring out into the sea of Shanghai’s skyscrapers from her 25th floor window.  Her apartment wasn’t big, but it was cozy.  My suitcases were lined up neatly near the door, my entire life packed into two large bags and one carry on.  My heart winced as I looked at them.

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Cost of Living: Los Angeles vs. Shanghai

Shanghai Los Angeles Cost of Living

One of my biggest forms of culture shock upon moving back to the United States was cost of living.  It felt like everything in the United States was way, way more expensive than Shanghai.

In my previous post, I calculated and compared the cost of living between Los Angeles and Tokyo, and I found that living in Tokyo could actually save you 10,000 USD per year compared to life in Los Angeles. I’m a huge advocate for living abroad to not only broaden horizons, but to also save money.

So how does life in Shanghai fare when it comes to cutting costs?

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Happiness, Ambition and the Renaissance Fair

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I know.  It’s been a while.  And the site was down for a bit.

I have switched to a new server and am still working out the kinks.  If you found that some of the comments you left recently were deleted, please forgive me–some of the newer comments did not make the leap over to the new server.  Expect at least another week until things are back to normal.

Unfortunately, I can’t blame the lack of updates on the server alone.  To be brutally honest, I have been struggling emotionally–so much so, I find it difficult to write.  I am still suffering from severe reverse culture shock, even after one year. I tried to summarize my feelings and anxieties in a post to conclude my one year anniversary here in the United States, but none of the drafts seemed to convey just what I was feeling.  Plus, I was paranoid about sounding like a whiny, Asia-homesick weenie.

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The Truth About Working at a Japanese Company

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The clock struck 5—it was officially time to head home and call it a day at the office.

Yet no one was leaving.

Japanese companies worry about local staff pressing legal charges for unpaid overtime in the U.S., so they order us to clock out at 5 p.m.  Of course, I wasn’t complaining.

So just like I do everyday, I shut off my computer, grabbed my purse, bowed and announced to the office:

O saki ni shitsureishimasu” (I humbly apologize for leaving early).

To which they instantaneously replied,

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Save Over $10,000 a Year By Living in Tokyo

View from tokyo sky tree

I know, you think I must be crazy for suggesting you could save over $10,000 a year by living in Tokyo, a city famous for its supposed ‘high cost of living.’

But if there’s one big smack in the face I’ve received from reverse culture shock in the United States, it’s this:

It’s goddamn expensive to live in America!

I want to compare cost of living in America with what most people consider an expensive country: Japan.

More specifically, Tokyo.

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This scenario is based on a single individual working in Tokyo with an English teacher’s salary, which is about 30,000 USD per year and averages out to 2,500 dollars per month.

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Turning 29

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Last weekend I turned 29—in other words, I’m that much closer to 30.

I used to dread turning 30. Growing up, we often believe 30 is the age that you become a true “adult.” If you didn’t have your life in order by 30, then by society’s standards, you were seen as a failure or a screw up. It’s why if you google ‘turning 30,’ you’ll find questions and blog posts filled with fear, anxiety, and questions.

Yet I’ve met countless people my age or older that have been struggling not only to find a job—but their path in life. For many, life begins at 30.

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You’re not Western Enough: How I Got Kicked Out of My First Shanghai Apartment

Beijing Hutong

“Mary, I published a book about teaching foreigners in China and I wrote almost an entire chapter about you.”

My Chinese teacher from Tsinghua University suddenly e-mailed me with the news, and I was completely caught off guard.

Me? …..In a book?

Impatient, I opened up the attached word file and scanned through the chapters hurriedly.

When I turned to the chapter about me, I realized that she retold one of the bleaker moments during my stay in Shanghai about…

My First Roommate:  The Leftover Woman

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Dealing with Loneliness Abroad (and at home)

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Living in Niigata, although very memorable, was sometimes extremely lonely

When living abroad, it’s very easy to feel alone and isolated. Living in a new environment, being surrounded by a new language and living in a place where you know no one—it’s something few people sign up for voluntarily.

When I moved to Japan, I underwent some of the loneliest months of my life. The Japanese countryside was the ultimate test to enduring loneliness.

Surprisingly, I also felt loneliness upon returning to the United States. Although the U.S. was my ‘home,’ most of my friends from high school and college had already moved to other states and cities. The combination of reverse culture shock and being in a new environment (Los Angeles) had me feel more alone than I had ever felt in Shanghai.

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Is Living in Big City America Worth it?

photo credit: Pranav Bhatt via photopin cc

photo credit: Pranav Bhatt via photopin cc

Why Big City L.A. Sucks… Traffic

I apologize, I haven’t updated in almost a month. Aside from my terrible job and daily four hour commute (yes, you read that correctly, four hours), I have been busy with my favorite hobby:

Traveling.

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When I was younger, all I could think about was how to get out of the United States rather than travel in it. The arches of Moab are nothing compared to the Great Wall of China, I sighed. The Grand Canyon simply pales in comparison to the intellectual beauty of Paris’ Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysses.

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The Modern Ex-Pat Returning Home

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I check my e-mail to see the response I have been waiting for sitting there in my inbox, calling my name.  I told my friends this is “my dream job,” even though I knew the chances of me actually snagging the position were to slim to none.  Still, this organization called me in for an interview (to my surprise) and they seemed impressed at my credentials and skills.  Since the position was in Washington DC, I knew the likelihood of me being selected as a candidate from halfway across the country was extremely unlikely, but I still had hope.

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