As an alien in China, you begin to appreciate the difficulties that foreign workers meet with when they leave the comfort (not neccesarily just physical, but psychological & emotional as well) of home. A strange new language, different transportation systems, electricity voltages/sockets, customs & culture...when one is inundated by a shock wave of all things new & unfamiliar, it can be extremely daunting. The simple task of shopping for groceries or neccesities in a store takes twice as long when one is trying to interpret the labels on a can/bottle/package.
I have met with many foreigners in the last month that we've been here, hailing from the various continents. It is weirdly comforting to know that no matter where we're from or what our mother tongue, we all share the same stories of fumbling & learning our way around an alien country. I guess being in a foreign land makes our differences seem insignificant in the greater scheme of things.
We have the advantage of accessibilty to information & resources like the Internet & guide books to help us settle in. But most of the manual foreign workers who travel thousands of miles from home searching for a better life do not have that. They rely on sometimes unscrupulous agents & employers to "help" them in their expatriation. And yes, by definition, they are expats too.
So the next time you see a foreign worker ,who labours to help us build those skyscrapers & condos, or who helps you to look after your home, take care of your children/parents, spare them a kind thought & put yourself in their place. After all, once upon a time, most of our ancestors were expatriates too.