Should I Move Abroad? A Letter to Expats

Today I am posting something a little different. I recently wrote a long and considered response to a question on Quora, and I have copied and pasted it below. The question is an important one for the increasing numbers of people who are living away from their country of birth, and are having trouble finding their place in the world, quite literally.
This is the question.
“Should I live in Australia for the rest of my life, or should I go back to my own country, China, and be with old friends or family? What’s good about living in Australia compared to living in China?
And below is my response.
I am Australian, currently happily living in China. I have been back and forth a few times, so I understand your situation.
I have been through phases where I have had positive and negative attitudes towards both countries. At one point I hated China. At some points I have disliked Australia.
Therefore your attitude towards the country where you choose to live is paramount. Avoid “expat syndrome” like the plague. I have lived in five different countries/regions, and you will always encounter a large number of immigrants and expats who loathe their adopted country, and have contempt for the locals. It really doesn’t matter where they are, these people will find a way to belittle, shame and rage against the people. The locals are uncultured. They are uneducated, dirty, stupid! They will never condider me to be a Xcountryman! Oh, and they are so racist! (eye roll).
It doesn’t matter how much their host country has given them, or how good life there is, they still feel contempt for it. For them. They become haters.
If I had a penny for every whining expat/immigrant I’ve met mouthing these words I could retire today, a wealthy man.
Avoid these people wherever you find them (especially online, where they like to go to hiss and spew their venom, because that’s what’s little people do).
It’s OK to have your bad days and to go through this as a phase (I did for a short while in China). But make sure you see it for what it typically is (projection and bigotry) and choose to snap out of it. I knew a person in Australia who had been there for decades who just made themselves miserable regularly ranting about the country on Facebook. They saw themselves as intellectually and spiritually above the disgusting locals. They were miserable. However, the individual just couldn’t see that their rage was self-generated.
Learn emotional and social intelligence. All situations in life are a chance for the development of wisdom. Difficulties are actually good for us. They can help us to grow. But only if you develop the right attitude. Don’t project against the locals. Get to know them. They don’t owe you anything, and have no responsibility to connect with you or embrace you. The lamest lament in the long history of lame laments has to be “They don’t consider me to be one of them! I am always an outsider!” You are a foreigner, dude! Accept it! Ham it up! Have a bit of fun with it. Besides the disadvantages, there are a host of privileges you can embrace.
Having said this, consider your lifestyle preferences. A good attitude is important, but choosing a place that matches your interests and altitudes is equally important. You know what challenges to expect in China: bad air, environmental issues, rudeness in public spaces, pushing and shoving, increasing addiction to mobile phones, internet restrictions etc. But you can weigh those up with the advantages: friendly people (many, not all), lots to do in the evening, professional opportunities, great infrastructure and public transport…
Make sure you know what you want personally and professionally before committing to a place. In 2012 I left a good job in Hong Kong to return to Australia. However, I didn’t consider my professional options carefully enough. I returned to Oz without having a job to go to. This is not an ideal option. You may face a period of unemployment, or be pressured into taking a position you don’t like. I spent some time unemployed, as well as separated from my wife. My mother died. Not fun.
What are your professional goals for the next five to ten years? For the rest of your working life? Can the country support those goals? This is of paramount importance. If you fail to properly assess this area of you life, you are putting faith in the gods for something you’d be better off taking responsibility for yourself. Wherever possible take on extra responsibilities to advance your career. When I arrived at my current workplace I volunteered to develop curriculum for academic writing. Now I have opportunities developing in that area with publishers.
I now have a great job in China at a university, and am with people I really like (mostly!). I get decent pay, great holidays, and have numerous opportunities to travel and expand my connections in the “consciousness movement,” my other passion. I am getting books published in Chinese. I either love or accept the Chinese people I work with. I went through the hater phase, faced my demons and came out of it all a better person. I became prosperous in more ways than one. But to do that I had to take a good, hard look at myself, and become smart about my life and my choices.
In summary, it isn’t only the country you live in that counts. What is it that you can bring to that country? How much can you find in yourself, in terms of attitudes and aptitudes, that can contribute to that place? Can you be bigger than the little people and the great problems you will face, and rise above them?
Good luck with it, and even better planning.
Marcus T Anthony

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