Ways Living Abroad Disrupts Who You Are

Coming up six years ago we made a decision that would change our lives. We decided to sell up and move to China while we one had the opportunity and two the energy to make something new happen. Initially we thought we would be here for two years and then head home. That two years is turning into six and I doubt we’ll be heading home any time in the near future. 

Creating a new business over here in China I often write about the challenges of doing business among different cultures, disrupting our comfort zone etc and today, it got me thinking about our move from a more personal level and the more personal changes I have been reflecting on lately as we consider our next move into the big wide world again.

One thing for sure, China has disrupted my thinking, my way of being in so many ways. It has disrupted me and who I am, disrupted our relationship as we have continued to eat, sleep and work together in a completely new environment, disrupted our comfort zones in pretty major ways.

1. Self Discovery – Ultimately as you learn about the differences, the people, places, language and culture, your biggest learning is learning about you. You get to know parts of you that you never knew existed. I am truly amazed at what we have been able to achieve, who we have become as a couple, how I have evolved, grown and moved through the many challenges and obstacles we’ve faced along the way.  You’re forever changed with your experiences both good and bad.

2. No Going Back – Sadly with each passing year, life at home moves on, you move on and the gap widens. You become a spectator through social media. While you have the adventures and the experiences, you miss out on so much from home and all you can do is watch from the sidelines. While you’ll never lose your friends and your family will always be family, you become more distant, matter less to them as they figure less in your new world. This is a huge price you pay when moving abroad, so if you’re not ready for the reality of it – go home while you can.

3. Adventure|Addiction – With our boundaries expanding on a a daily basis, our addiction to exploring, adventuring has become a key motivator. Your eyes are opened to how big this world actually is. It is only when you truly step out into a new world that you realise just how big, how amazing it is and how much more of it you want to see, experience and be part of.

4. Independence – Living abroad encourages independence and responsibility. It builds respect and an opportunity to appreciate everyone and everything around you, especially those small things that back home we often just take for granted. Your many experiences stay with you and shape the person you become. When you reflect on the changed you and the old you that is a distant memory, you realise how far you’ve come and embrace the scale of what you’re doing. It truly is something amazing.

5. Always Learning – I have learned so much from all the different perspectives, ways of thinking, ways of being from colleagues and friends across the country, with so many differences and also surprising similarities. I had never thought that one day I could count as my friends people from far flung regions of China, as we create more and more amazing connections that we’ve had the privilege to develop, despite any language failures.

6. Anything Is Possible – We have overcame the obstacles, beaten back the doubters and hushed the many negative comments and we have the scars to prove it. We have proved that we can live abroad and we have survived. Not just survived, we have thrived as we think about what we can do now and what we have achieved.

7. Freedom – This one is a surprise. I have always thought we had freedom coming from NZ and having taking this step into the big wide world, where freedom does not come so freely, it feels like we have now earned true freedom, a real freedom, broken those inner shackles perhaps. We now have this wonderful freedom to explore, experience and enjoy life to it’s fullest. Freedom to choose for ourselves. Freedom to be ourselves. Freedom from things that weigh you down, having become minimalists compared to our former selves.

Our decision to move to China has been a life changing personal journey. I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t done so, no matter what your age, to go and spend a couple of years working/living in a different country. It will definitely change your life. It will open your mind to opportunity more frequently. It will expand your perspectives beyond your wildest limits. You will become the you, you always knew you could be and more!

Now where to next, in this wonderful journey we call life …..


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Showing 2 comments
  • Sally

    I’ve lived for 3 mths in France and that was fun although I’d learned French at high school it took a while for me to attune my ear to the language and to learn to speak it more fluently myself, as it was only from a textbook at high school 🙂
    Not sure that I could live in Paris but in the countryside I’m sure I’d love it. Have you learnt the language in China Anna ?
    It certainly does give you an appreciation of what we have here in NZ and I think more tolerance and understanding of other cultures whenever I interact with them here or anywhere.
    Well done you !!

    • Anna Anderson

      Learning Chinese – and that’s more Mike’s role, I focus on business culture, he focuses on the language 🙂

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