To continue the world-wide theme of this retirement blog, I’m delighted to include another blog from our friends in Shanghai. Ireland one week, China the next, what value for money especially as it’s free. You will remember from previous blogs of theirs that this couple chose not to go gently into that dark night of retirement, they decided to work on and in some style. So its grand (as the Irish would say) to keep getting updates on how this anti-retirement plan is working out for them. They post a lot on Facebook and I’ve chosen a photo from one of their posts to accompany this blog, maybe not the one they would have chosen but then that’s what happens when you go to China.
Most of my career in the UK was spent in a job (educational psychology) where it was enormously difficult to switch off completely and also where the work load seemed always to exceed the time available. Often the work was stressful, particularly in the latter part when I was leading and managing others. Often, I felt exhausted through lack of sleep or from simply having too much to do, so for my own sanity I worked many evenings and some parts of the week-end (that Sunday night feeling). My husband, likewise, had a very demanding job as Headteacher of a high school with all of its stresses and strains and involving working very long hours. Having staggered our blended family over time it also felt like we had been raising children, with all of its joys and tribulations, for most of our lives.
We both ‘retired’ in the UK and now both work full time in Shanghai, China. Our lives, in fact, could not be more different. First of all financially, we have the benefit of our occupational pensions in the UK and our salaries in China. We pay tax on both of course but the tax bill is less here and there are none of the other deductions that we have paid for many years. This gives us more disposable income than we have ever experienced before. We now only have one semi-dependent child (more of that at a later date) and the others seem for the most part to have their lives in order.
What does all of this mean in our Chinese adventure? Well we no longer have pressing family matters to attend to or any drains on our income that children so helpfully supply (with the caveat of the youngest son). We don’t have to be home to make meals and can happily have dinner on the way home from work or pop out to one of our local restaurants, of which there are many. Shanghai is cosmopolitan and international and a great place to live. It has for much of the year a great climate so we are in the season of al fresco dining, often surrounded by other Europeans or Americans.
The other big factor is the house. We have left that responsibility behind in the UK. Here, we have a very nice rented apartment. We are not invested in maintaining it or decorating or furnishing it. There are no house or garden jobs to do! There is no one here (yet) to mess it up and make it untidy so no housework. We rarely eat in so don’t go to the supermarket anymore. We do not drive (traffic is crazy here and the Metro and taxis very cheap) so we get more exercise that we ever did.
Undeniably, we get great holidays in the summer and at the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) mostly spent back in the UK but other than that, not much respite. One day off for Xmas and a few long week-ends during the year (tomb sweeping, May Day and the Dragon Boat festival). We get a week off in October (Autumn Festival) but have to ‘pay back’ two of the days by working two Sundays either side of the holiday. Friends have asked if we are on permanent holiday. Facebook does give an illusion of being on one constant holiday because no-one posts dull pictures of themselves sitting at a desk all day. However, we do make the most of every minute, we are fully alive and living it to the full. We have cast off our responsibilities like a couple of teenagers and it feels great. It’s our time.
Fully alive and living it to the full, well that sums it up pretty well, now all I have to do is apply that to my retirement.