I have a theory that there are three phases to the experience of living overseas.
First, Novelty - a perpetual state of confusion and dislocation, yet coupled with a keen excitement at the constant challenge, the constant discovery.
Second, Familiarity - the 'comfort zone', the happy satisfaction of having found your feet, got to know your way around, overcome the initial difficulties.
Third, Ennui - you miss the bewilderment, the exploration of the early days; life has become too predictable, too much a matter of habit. Time to move on.
Yes, in fact it is exactly like the phases of a love affair. Discuss.
What saves so many of us from Phase 3 here in China, and especially in Beijing, is that things are changing at such a frantic pace. Favourite neighbourhoods disappear, sometimes seemingly overnight; huge new buildings sprout up almost as quickly; there is an astounding churn-rate of shops, bars, restaurants; and of people, too - most expats are only here for a year or two, fairly few for more than four or five. It's scarcely even possible to settle into the Phase 2 comfort zone for long before the ground has moved from under your feet.
It is both a curse and a blessing. This is a very demanding environment in which to live; but also an intensely stimulating one. That's why I'm still here after 5 years, and not making plans to move on any time soon.