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From Florida to Beijing: Officially Foreign

18 April, 2011 09:00  Erin Erin

dana sunglasses officially foreign My name is Dana Zemke, I’m from Florida, USA and I now live in Beijing, China.

1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband’s company had a project open up and he was asked if we’d be willing to relocate.  We both love to travel and were expecting a move somewhere abroad for his work for years, so when they told us about China we were ecstatic.

2. How do you make a living?
My current job title is “Professional Woman of Leisure”, which surprisingly doesn’t pay much.  Despite the pay, I have to say, I am at the top of my field and really enjoy my work.  I spend my time getting to know Beijing through things like language classes, making new friends, cooking classes, lectures, hikes, bike rides, visiting the endless parks & temples and my absolute favorite – people watching.  When I’m done with all the demands of leisure activities, I’m working on a masters degree for speech-language pathology.  

My husband’s job as a consultant landscape architect is how we’re able to stay off the streets. Overall his working experience has been an incredible opportunity for him to gain knowledge about his field in one of the largest emerging markets in the world.  He learned early on that things are done a bit differently in China and that it’s important to acknowledge and respect that. 

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I communicate with home daily and am so grateful to live in a time where the Internet exists.  I use email, skype, facebook and my blog.  In China it’s imperative to enlist the services of a VPN to avoid all the censorship by the government.  It’s probably the one thing I could not live without here.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in China?
Even though I’ve been here a year, I still see China through the eyes of a tourist, so my favorite thing about being an expat is that it feels like I’m on vacation.  Everyday I see something I’ve never seen before, or do something I’ve never done before.  It makes for a very exciting experience. 

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in China?
The language barrier is certainly a challenge.  But what I really detest is the lack of cheese variety. I could also live without the spitting. 

6. What do you miss most?
My family and friends, of course… but we also left our dog, Bunker, behind whom I miss terribly.  He’s still holding out on getting a facebook account so it’s hard to know what’s going on in his dog-life. 

7. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I’d have to say the bathroom behavior.  I just can’t get used to the kids with the split-pants or the squat-pots.

8. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I think the general myth was that the cities in China aren’t as modern as cities the west.  Beijing feels just like New York City, or London… only everyone’s Chinese and speaks mandarin.

9. What advice would you give other expats? dana officially foreign hat jump
It can’t be said enough that attitude is everything.  Try to see everything that’s hard or different as an opportunity to learn or grow as a person.  Most importantly, have fun – living abroad is truly privileged experience… live it up!    

10. When and why did you start your blog?
I started it about a week before we made the move.  I love to write but was waiting to do something interesting enough to be blog-worthy, and I figured a move from the USA to China fit that criteria.   

I like that the blog provides a place to share our new lives with our family and friends so they can feel close to us even though we are worlds away. I really wanted to take everyone I love with us on this journey, so I try to use the blog to accomplish that.  I want people to feel like they are getting the chance to know China as much and as intimately as we are. 

A few of my friends from home have told me that it’s an excellent way to waste time at work, so I consider that a tremendous benefit.   My lofty hopes are that readers will learn more about China and Asian culture in an entertaining way.  

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