From Canada to Venezuela to China: Steph's Travel, Climbing and the TEFL Life
My name is Steph, I was born in Canada but grew up in Venezuela. I have lived in several countries, and at the moment find myself working in China.
1. Why did you move abroad?
With a Venezuelan father and a British mother visiting family meant getting on a plane or car and traveling. And we did this as often as we could. My parents had also a sense of adventure, and they highlighted the importance of getting to know other cultures, the experience of living in different countries, as well as traveling within the country you live in. For me, packing up and moving seems like the natural thing to do.
2. How do you make a living?
I graduated as an IT Engineer from a University in Venezuela, as soon as I was done I moved to Vancouver, Canada and worked there for a few years. Then I decided to quit my job and travel, that is when I met a few people working as teachers. I decided to get a TEFL certificate and give teaching a shot. I'm currently on my second year working as a teacher and it's been fun (and challenging!).
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
My family and close friends currently live all over the world (literally...), so social media is my friend. I keep in contact via email, Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook... it's incredibly easy to keep in touch. Even if we don't have time for a long call, just sending a photo or a text of what you are doing is meaningful.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in China?
I love being able to explore and travel to places that I wouldn't see if I was a just a tourist passing by.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in China?
There are lots of challenges when you move to a new place. Culture difference, not knowing where to find things, needing more help than usual to get by (if you move to a country where you don't know the language). It can be quite frustrating at times.
6. What do you miss most?
Venezuelan food!... Ok, I should say family and friends, which I do, very much so. But Venezuelan food in China is non-existent, and I crave it!
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Making new friends can be difficult, depending on where you are and work. For me it has been a lengthy process. In general, I would say start by getting to know your coworkers, look for clubs or activities to join (this particularly helps for meeting other expats), walk around town, get know the area, try learn the language. Also, be ok with alone time, try different hobbies and use that time to learn something new.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Food in China is great, but things like chicken feet, I still don't get ;). On serious note, I have found that people have a very different view of life and the world, a lot of the times I have to take a step back and remind myself to stay open minded.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I can't really think of a specific one. When I travel outside of China, I find myself often explaining what it is like. A lot of people don't really know much about it, aside from the more famous tourist destinations like the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
In general is about the same I would say. Things can be cheaper, but salaries are also lower. As an expat, I have the advantage of being given an apartment and not having to pay rent, so that takes away a big expense. At the moment you can easily live a comfortable life.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
- Be patience but also assertive with what you want. If you are coming for work make sure all requirements are in the contract singed by both sides. When it's written down and signed both parties know what it's expected.
- Take advantage of living somewhere new, go out an explore, get to know the country you are living in. Try to learn the language. Get out of you comfort zone.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I had a few false starts with my blog, but it really took shape after taking a year off to travel. Once I got back I realized I should have kept a closer tab on my experiences. So I wrote a short summary of my impressions of each place visited during that year, and I kept going from there.
Steph's blog, Steph's Travel, Climbing and the TEFL Life
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