Moving to China is both a great adventure and a daunting task. Here are ten ways you can prepare yourself, your family, and those who care about you.
- Intentionally say good-bye to your old culture and friends. It is important to say good-bye and for your kids to make opportunities for gatherings with those close to them. We appreciated having friends who hosted get-togethers that allowed us to gain their support for our new adventure.
- Allow people to question and challenge your decision. It is normal for people to challenge your thought process for moving overseas. We appreciated the concern of friends for keeping us from going over a cliff, and it confirmed to us we had thought the process through. In time they agreed with us.
- Build a home support base. Through the process of saying good-bye, you build a support base of people who will share your adventure for the next several years. For us, these people would pray for us, host our kids on home country visits, write to us and keep us up to date on events back home.
- Take your home church along for the ride. Too often churches will say good-bye to people moving overseas rather than continue to hold them as part of their community. We approached our pastor with the decision we were making, and he too sensed God's hand at work. Our church endorsed us and featured us in messages to the congregation. They prayed for us and included our kids in youth group activities when they came home for the summer. When we returned home, they were there to help.
- Personal accountability. Keep contact and accountability with people back home. Throughout my assignment, there were people to whom I continued to hold myself accountable for my Christian walk. Although I established accountability groups in my new locations, I did not want to lose contact with people back home who knew me and would challenge me.
- Anticipate the difficulties of the new culture. Things are done differently in China. Many days we came home exhausted ready to go to bed at 5:00PM. Ordinary tasks like getting groceries, paying the internet bill, and obtaining cell phones are not the same as in your home culture. Getting to know people presently living in the country and asking questions helped us anticipate the road ahead.
- Know the expectations of your sending organization. Having an idea of what success looks like is essential. To be successful you need to build a team of mentors and advisors in your home company to help you bridge organizational shifts and changes. For me, I knew what was expected and what was to be delivered before I landed in China. That said, flexibility was key, as my job changed within six months of moving to China.
- Know you don't know everything you need to know. Keep an open mind to different ways of doing things. Be aware that what you don't know can land you in jail. I found it essential to have a group of business advisors and lawyers around me to help review plans and strategies, especially in the early days. Even though I was concerned about strategy, I was more concerned that we were following legal and acceptable customs.
- Embrace and enjoy the new culture and all its differences. Let go of the way you did things in your old home and immerse yourself in your new culture. Make new friends of local people and allow them to guide you in finding your way. If possible, study their language. Learn to see life from their perspective. Plan to eat strange food and do some strange things. People may laugh at you, but it's all part of the fun and ride.
- Anticipate where you will land when you return home. Keep in touch with people who will help you find your next position when you return. Too many missionaries fall away from the church and a majority of businessmen will leave their company within a year of landing back in their home country. Plan to find a support group and team to help you in your transition back.
Read John Kimber's full article "Considering a Move to China? It can be one of life's greatest challenges and blessings" in the ChinaSource Library.
Image credit: a determined looking jet, by Angelo deSantis, via Flickr