Living abroad puts you in the middle of two countries, a bit of both but neither whole.
I’ve been living in China for four years now, and it’s easy to dismiss my opinion or views from all sides. People from the Netherlands will ask me how I can possibly enjoy a country with such a political climate, or others — especially those who have never set foot in China — may point out I’ve been brainwashed. Expats who have been living in China longer than I will say I’m just in my honeymoon period, while Chinese people can easily dismiss whatever I say by pointing out I’m not a native, that I don’t understand.
Sometimes this is true, sometimes this is pure ad hominem from someone who has no other arguments. But different people also just have different experiences or viewpoints; even I view or experience things differently than the past or future me.
That said, I never said I totally understand China — which is crazy if not impossible, just like it’s hard for anyone to believe anyone who says they understand Europe: it’s such a varying territory.
I usually cover my own experience and how it makes me feel. So too for Reuters, yesterday. I told Thomas and Brenda what it’s like for us to have been living on twenty square meters for three weeks and counting. I told them about the problems I could see in the WeChat group of our building, and what I can see on other social media channels, Chinese as well as foreign ones.
I know that I am not the face of China. But apart from that we — compared to most expats — live in an apartment and compound that is more representative of the general situation, it’s also that we have a VPN and are somewhat protected by a foreign passport. I have a voice and I’m making it heard, come rain come sunshine. I hope I can bring more stories of the latter in the future.
So here’s a one-hour conversation put into two minutes: