Going home

planeWe all have to go home at some point (for legal purposes). After living in China for almost two years, going home is always an experience. We all get used to(习惯) living in China. When we get back to our home country, we experience reverse culture shock(文化冲击). The first time I went back to the United States, I was unnerved by the silence and the space. My fast-pace life in Beijing suddenly(突然) came to a halt. The pace of life is slower and it takes some adjustment(调整).

People in America live much more comfortable lives than we do in Beijing. People are getting married and having children. Commitment and Longevity are the usually the last thing on a Beijing expat's mind(脑子). If they wanted stability(稳定) and comfort, they wouldn't live in Beijing. Beijing is a hustle and bustle kind of city. In Beijing, there is always something to do and there is rarely any down time. When you look at the Beijinger's 7 days in Beijing, there are pages and pages of different events. It's the heart beat(心跳) of the entire country and everything big happens here. You will read about something on the New York Times(纽约时报) that it is happening three blocks away from you. You get wrapped up in the city and it's hard to imagine whatever it outside of the city limits.

That being said, every time I go back to the United States, I realize(发现) I've forgotten how beautiful of a country it is. Gray skies are the normal in Beijing and you get used to it. Everyday that I was back in Georgia, it felt like the sky had been painted on. The sky was the perfect(完美) shade of blue and the clouds streaked across the sky. There was green everywhere and the air was really fresh. I constantly reminded my friends and family of this but they remained unimpressed and apathetic. After living in China, I realized how much I missed(想) nature(自然). Beijing is amazing when the air is clean and the sky is blue but it's awful when it's polluted and gray. The consistency of the natural beauty in America blew me away.

Even though I can drive(开车) through the beautiful scenery of Georgia, I still loathe(讨厌) driving. I like the freedom to wherever I want whenever I want and that's why I own a bicycle in Beijing. Driving in Atlanta is no picnic. Atlanta is notoriously known for its terrible traffic(堵车) and everything in the city is spread out. When I was in college, everyone I knew lived in my hometown, college town, or the college town where the University of Georgia was. Now everyone has graduated(毕业) and is spread out all over Metropolitan Atlanta.


Driving through the nightmare(恶梦) that is Atlanta traffic was worth it to see all my friends. After living abroad for two years, there are some friends that slip through the cracks and drift apart. All expats know that it is easy to lose touch with people when you live thousands of miles away. Regardless, there are still the friends that make an effort to keep in touch and stay involved with your life. Social media, especially Wechat, make this easier. Even though I have had all these new experiences from living abroad, I feel like I slip back into the person I always was when I go back home. It's always refreshing to see someone that you have known your whole entire life. I've always held the opinion that our personalities(性格) do not fundamentally change(改变) after a certain point. My ideas certainly have since I've lived abroad but my personality hasn't shifted much.

One of the stranger feelings(感情) about being back home is the feeling that the life that you have in Beijing doesn't exist. It seems like it has simply evaporated away. You have your life in America and your life in Beijing. There is no connection between the two. People in America ask a lot of the same questions about living in Beijing. Sometimes, I'd rather not tell people where I live in order to avoid the routine conversation. The image that people have in their mind is so different from the reality(现实) of living and being in China. People ask me complicated questions and expect simple answers. People always ask if I'm fluent(流利) in Chinese which is hard to answer. I consider fluency in Chinese the ability to work in an office setting with ease using your Chinese. I find that transitioning(转变) from Intermediate to Advanced level Chinese is extremely(非常) difficult. Beijing is full of foreigners who speak Chinese extremely well. If you say your Chinese is pretty good, your Chinese better be seamless. There's no room for false confidence(自信) in this city in regards to Chinese. Americans on the other hand are sometimes famous for their false confidence. If I say my Chinese is okay, most Americans assume my Chinese is not very good rather than a sentiment of humility. Regardless(无论如何), it is always good to see old faces and old places.

Everyone in Beijing knows you need a break from the city every once and a while. The city can be a lot all at once. Every time I go back home, I see how my friends and family have grown and changed. I see a lot of my friends in a new light. As I get older, the relationship and perception(感知) of my parents changes. There is something refreshing about being home and going back to places that were so crucial in your personal development(个人发展) at one point or another. It's always a little sad(伤心) leaving but after a few days, I'm glad to be back. Once I've defeated the time monster that is jet lag(时差), I've settled back in the rhythm of my Beijing life.

Kristen Carusos is from Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. She graduated from Kennesaw State University with a major in International Affairs and a minor in French. She studied abroad in China for the first time in Shanghai in 2010 and again in 2011 at Beijing Language and Culture University. She graduated and moved to Beijing in 2012 and has been studying Chinese since then. She works in the Marketing Department at the Sinology Institute.