#69 Abigale Miller – Medical writer skillfully navigates cultural nuances both at home and at work
Abigale moved to Shanghai from Canada three years ago for a job in medical writing. She has always had a passion for exploring, and this job was a great way to learn first-hand about a different part of the world. She and her husband have slowly settled into life in Shanghai, building a home and family here. They now have a two-year-old daughter and are expecting another baby any day.
With a small team everyone gets to pitch in and do a bit of business development, writing, or project management – whatever is required – to get the job done, and done to international standards.
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How she got to China
Abigale and her husband, Mike, who was her boyfriend at the time, were living in Toronto and decided they wanted to move outside of Canada. They were both looking for jobs in different countries, and Abigale got this job in Shanghai first, so they decided to move.
What made the role attractive
Being in Shanghai! She had visited Shanghai before and knew she liked the city. Aside from that, she really liked that the company is relatively small and that she would have some flexibility in her work. She gets to wear multiple hats each day as she works on different aspects of varying projects and that ensures her work keeps her stimulated.
Abigale is an early bird and gets up early to do a bit of exercise and make breakfast before everyone else wakes up. Their ayi arrives at 8 AM to care for their 2-year-old, Beatrice. She spends a few minutes with the ayi catching up about Beatrice and then she gives her a grocery list for the day (great perk of living in China!). Abigale also makes sure to check the air pollution level before leaving the house to see whether they should wear masks and whether their daughter is allowed outside.
Professionally, Abigale didn’t prepare enough at the beginning for starting a new job. Like many of us, she was so focused on all the challenges of living in China that she forgot that starting a new job anywhere can be stressful and challenging. Because she didn’t do enough to focus on that, it took her longer than she would have liked to get comfortable in her role.
She also tells a story of a couple meltdowns early on so tune in to hear the details!
Abigale felt such a sense of triumph when she could finally read some characters. After putting in the hard work in her Chinese lessons, it was amazing to be able to read some street signs and a few signs around the city.
How’s your Mandarin?
She can get along in basic conversation, but wouldn’t be able to work in Mandarin. For her though, knowing Mandarin isn’t essential for survival because their is conducted almost completely in English. However, she does find it’s essential to get the most out of living here. She has learned so much more about the country and culture just from being able to communicate a little.
Tips for balancing work and family
For Abigale, the most important thing is to be home on time. A lot of people in her office start later and work later. If she did that and didn’t get home until 7:30 or later, her daughter would already be in bed and she would only see her in the mornings which most certainly isn’t ideal. Also, communication. This isn’t just a Shanghai challenge. Great communication is key to any successful marriage. For Abigale, problems have come up when she hadn’t told Mike that she would be home late from work. (Oh man, have Ron and I had that conversation more than once!)
- Pleco – Chinese dictionary
- Yihaodian – online grocery store. For Abigale the best part is that you can pay cash on delivery, so you don’t have to figure out how to top up your Alipay account, or get a friend to order for you!