Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Expat From South Africa to Ireland to China

Every country an expat moves to is different from where they have come from, from subtle differences to major cultural changes that sometimes are not easy to adjust to.  We have asked expats across the world to tell us about their experiences and give a little advice to those that are thinking of moving.

Read our blog every week for a new expat and a new destination.

 Natalie Cossavella living in China

Where are you originally from?

I’m from South Africa

Is this your first expat experience? If not where have you lived before?
No, I lived in Ireland for 12 years.

Where are you living now?
I now live in Wuxi, China.

How long have you lived here for?
I’ve lived here for 10 Months.

What was your first impression of the city / country you moved to?
It was definitely not what I had expected. It’s a lot cleaner and not as shocking as I would have thought. Maybe a hint of disappointment as I was looking for a shock factor.

What do you like the most about where you are living now?
That I get to travel around Asia and it’s so affordable!

What do you like the least about where you are living now?
That I don’t think I’ll be able to become accustomed to the culture. I have a lot of patience but I don’t think it’s enough to extend my stay over a year.

What do you do for fun?
Travel or Socialise or both!

What is the funniest / strangest cultural experience you have had?
Seeing a mother helping her daughter use the public road, in the city, as a toilet. I had to laugh at this but that’s more shocking than funny really (they do specially make children’s pants with a gap at the bum area). This has happened more often than not and worse when it’s an adult.

How did you find the cost of living compared to your home? More or less expensive? Why?
Much cheaper!! Except if you would like to buy quality food and clothes, they generally add up to roughly the same. In China you can barter down prices.

Did the company help with your move? How?
Yes. They helped me find accommodation as well as sorted out all the legal documents i.e. Visa process and were readily available on Skype and email before I left.

Does your company pay for any of the following -

Communication (e.g. Internet; Telephone)

Education (e.g. Children’s School Fees)

Furniture & Appliances (e.g. Semi-Furnished Housing)


Healthcare (e.g. Medical Insurance; Medical Facilities)

Household Accommodation (e.g. Housing or Housing Allowance)

Personal Care

Recreation and Culture (e.g. Fitness Club Fees)
Restaurants, Meals Out and Hotels
Transport (e.g. Company Vehicle or Transport Allowance)

Air Fare Home each year


What does your company not pay for that you feel it should pay for?
Chinese Lessons. It has taken over 6 months for one of our Chinese Teaching Assistants to offer her free time for us. Where the school should have more of an interest to help their foreign staff learn the local language. This will help tremendously with communication with the Chinese staff and just a general helping hand.

Did you do research before your move on what you needed to earn to maintain or increase your standard of living?
Yes I did but only what I thought was enough as the company provided me with as much information that I needed. (In the end, not quite what they say, but generally they were ok).

If so, what research did you do?
Google, Skype calls, emails to people that had already been there and spoke to a friend that was living in the country at the time.

What do you find expensive in your Host city?
Fruit and all western stores, which is fair enough. Other than that, it’s very cheap all around.

Do you have any advice for readers on becoming an expat and the type of research to do before hand?
I came with the mind set of experiencing things first hand, more than to research thoroughly. I think the only thing you need to think about is are you willing to adjust to possibly a completely different and maybe even difficult way of life? I’ve been very lucky with all the places I’ve lived but China being my first solo trip, I do wish I read up more about the current lifestyle and not the historical side. I came here to travel, so it all depends what reasoning you have behind moving. The one thing that is very important is that you need to be willing to ask questions, adapt, befriend strangers and take risks but be street smart.

Any favourite websites  / blogs about where you live, that can help others with their move?
There’s nothing fantastic that I found about China but just a general traveller’s blog, that I love to read is: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

Do you have a blog or website?
A private one only that’s been very neglected unfortunately.

Xpatulator.com provides up-to-date cost of living data for over 700 locations worldwide, employers and employees can calculate how much is needed to earn in another location to have a similar spending power. Steven McManus is a Remuneration and Benefits Consultant and founder of  http://www.xpatulator.com

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