Expatitis Spreads to China Daily, and Beyond

I’m glad that my recent series of articles on expatitis has picked up some steam in the community. I’d like to give a big thanks to reporter Todd Balazovic at China Daily for picking up on this. In his article (It’s a wild, wild life for expats), he expands on the basic themes I laid out and adds a bit of analysis:

Having observed an unusually high prevalence of unhealthy behavior amongst my fellow expats, I have to agree with Dr Saint Cyr’s diagnosis. I’ve watched and wondered as expats come and go, what is it about being in Beijing that leads us to abandon self-regard? More so than anywhere else I’ve lived, I see people diving to the bottom of a bottle or to the bottom of a bag of McDonalds…

…Though Dr Saint Cyr’s diagnosis of the symptoms may be correct, I am not entirely convinced that the root of Expat’s detrimental deeds are simply a result of an inability to peacefully settle into a Beijing lifestyle.

I don’t disagree that coping is involved in the wild ways we tend to gravitate towards, but I think that there is more to it than simply not being able to adapt.

The social norms that once upon a time dictated lifestyles back home have been replaced by the mores of a different culture and by an relaxing of social and personal inhibitions.


I also have heard many comments from the opposite spectrum — people all over China who feel that China actually is less stressful than their home countries, and they’ve never been as healthy as they are here. That’s great news for me, and I am more than happy to admit that maybe my viewpoint is a bit too narrow, or even inappropriately cynical, since as a doctor I am by definition seeing a narrow spectrum of the expat community — the sick. So, thank you to the really fun folks at Raoul’s China Saloon for their always entertaining and insightful feedback. One writer made a very thoughtful claim for positive expatitis:

…As I gather, expatitis is more of a mental/emotional condition which manifests itself in either physical or behavioural symptoms, yes? So, how about Positive Expatitis? I am sure there are lots of foreigners out there who can, in some degree, recognize themselves in the following description of some of the symptoms presented by Subject A, example of Positive Expatitis:

1.Following sojourn to China has experienced a drastic and much healthier change in eating habits. Have come to realize that various vegetables can be eaten without being boiled to smithereens first.

2. Have experienced a drastic yet not unhealthy weight-loss following arrival in China. This can be ascribed to having to walk, run or ride bicycle for great distances every day, instead of the customary car, developing a sudden interest in some kind of exercise (this can range from Tai Ji, yoga, running to such activities as MMA and traditional Gong Fu and your general weight-lifting).

3. Due to the nature of Chinese bars, said subject has slowly begun to seek the solace of local tea houses with a book instead of the noise, smoke-filled venue of your average local bar.

4. Extreme change in eating habits. Following a longer stay in China, say 6 months, the subject went to a Western restaurant and discovered, much surprised, that the food had simply become too heavy and rich for the subject.

There are many other interesting insights in the forum thread. So, “positive expatitis”? What do you all think?

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