Dear reader, it’s me, Annika. I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now, but today I actually found some time to do it (needed a small break from R). So. I started as a postdoc in China in May. What a change in surroundings, culture, climate, and all! Wow… But I’ve managed so far! 😀
When I first arrived to Nanjing, I have to admit, I suffered. A lot. Totally different culture and lots of “small” obstacles on the way. For instance, people usually don’t speak English here (..and I mean why would they, cause there are so many Mandarin speakers in the world?), Visa doesn’t work in most places, almost all payments are done with cell phone apps (like WeChat or AliPay), and so on… I kinda screwed up in the first place when I didn’t realize, before coming here, to install a vpn app also to my Android cell phone that basically relies on Google. So, at first, I couldn’t install any of the necessary apps. And without your cell phone and your apps, you can’t do too much here. Well…if you’re lucky, you might be able to find an ATM that accepts Visa (or other international cards) and use cash, which most restaurants and shops take. But I was lucky to get my Chinese debit card and my first salary soon enough, so it made life a lot easier! And I’m not even going to start about all the paperwork that had to be done before and after coming here… Too deep stuff – someone has probably written a book or two about that. But I guess that’s just what you have to face when you start working in another country – not only in China.
Also what was a small shock was the condition of my apartment that I rented. I was unlucky with it. I’m currently trying to find a better one… Let’s see how it goes. And don’t take it the wrong way – there are perfectly fine apartments available in this city. I just have to find one. And…on the other hand, I’ve been enjoying my time at the office. The office is clean, roomy, peaceful and the AC works. I’m spending a lot of time at the office nowadays! It’s not unusual for me to arrive at 7.30 am and leave around 7.30 pm.
In addition to the nice conditions, I also like to spend lots of time at the office because of the work itself! I’ve learned so much new things during the past couple of months. It’s great to see that a person at the age of 30 is fully capable of learning new tricks! Also it’s a great honor to have a chance to work in a high-quality institute with very intelligent and enthusiastic people. I’m not going into too much details about what I’m currently studying, but let’s just say that it has something to do with freshwater biodiversity, and the methods are brand new! Because of learning new things and doing research on interesting themes, taking a position in a very different and far-away country is worth it! At the end, it’s all about your attitude.
I really should mention the food. Chinese food is delicious! And I’m not talking about that style of “Chinese” food we know from Chinese restaurants in Finland (and probably in other western countries, too). I’m talking about a totally diverse set of dishes that are available here! For me, as a seafood and veggie eater, there’s some really tasty stuff here. Although…it’s better to mention the waiters that “the cauliflower dish without the bacon bits, please” (i.e. either a Mandarin speaking friend says that, or, if there is none around, I use my translator app to deliver my message)! The locals here really like their bacon and duck and lard. But it’s really good that they use most parts of the animals, so there is not so much waste compared to many other countries. It’s good to respect your food.
Also the city of Nanjing is really nice. Lots of parks, and the metro system is very easy to get a hang of. So…I was pretty lucky to end up in this city. Sure, there are some occasional problems with pollution, but I’ve heard that the situation with smog is nothing compared to Beijing. And since China is really putting some effort to solve environmental problems, the air quality might very well improve in the near future.
I guess that’s it for now. If you are considering taking a position abroad, just go for it. Of course it will be a massive mental challenge, especially when you miss your family and friends back home. But people are surprisingly good at adapting to new circumstances. And if you’re thinking about China…you can totally come here without knowing more than ni hao and xie xie (like I did), but probably you need to start learning some more words when you’re here! 😀