I still remember my first day of school. My stay-at-home dad put my hair in pigtails, while my office-working-mum packed my lunch box. I was certain that my first day would be the best day of my life – I was a grown-up now, with a "big girl" uniform and blank notebooks ready to be filled with my very important musings. There were no tears, no tantrums, and clinging to my parents’ legs in a last-ditch effort to remain at home in my jammies never entered my mind. I was ready for the real world.
My first day in China played out in much the same way. My then partner (now husband) and I stepped off the plane from Australia, placed our feet squarely on Beijing soil and never looked back. Surely this would be when we’d become real grown-ups. I was certain I’d pick up fluent Mandarin in a year, get a great job, and find the perfect flat. Now, just like my first day of school, my first months in Beijing didn’t really work out like I’d envisaged, but I wasn’t too far off. I did pick up some Chinese, I got a job in three weeks, and after three months of sleeping on a friend’s foldout couch, we found a great flat.
Things weren’t always perfect, though. The Chinese I did manage to pick up made my Shandong-born husband smile with an all-knowing "She’ll get there eventually" look on his face. My job … well, let’s not mention it. And our flat with a great location had no running hot water. But I was doing something for the first time, and I was doing it without crying for my mummy – well, not all of the time.
Learning new things can be hard, and taking yourself out of your comfort zone can be a daunting task. But you know what? It usually works out. A few Chinese lessons, jobs and flats later, I’ve found myself here – writing my first editor’s note. And it’s a pretty good feeling.
In this issue, we want you to step outside your own comfort zone and try something new, whether that’s learning Chinese (see "Feature: Practicing Putonghua"), going to a lao Beijing dumpling joint (see "Dining: Top 5 Places to Dunk Jiaozi"), or involving your family in the local Chinese community (see "Feature: Going Local"). The one thing we learned from the families we interviewed for this month’s feature is that Beijing is an opportunity, and it won’t hurt to make the most of it. So, to my mum and dad, who nudged me out into the real world – this one’s for you.