Dr. Rathgeber’s Prescription for Achieving Your Dreams in China
Body & Soul’s founder, Doris Rathgeber, shares how life’s twists and turns led to achieving her dreams in China. She offers advice for how expats can thrive in Shanghai.
Life’s Many Twists and Turns
“Everything I have is from China. China helped me overcome my past and find the opportunity to achieve my dream.”
Growing up in Germany, Doris always hoped to be a doctor. But, there was “no more room for dreams” when her mother died when Doris was just 13. Following a practical path, Doris went on to have a successful career in IT sales. She loved working with customers. These skills are still a vital part of her work as a doctor. “As a doctor, you have to get your patients to believe in their treatment and in their own healing powers.”
China Reawakens a Dream
When Doris came to China with her husband in 1997, she had a hard time handling the change. She spent most of her time at home or at her husband’s workplace. Anticipating her father’s upcoming visit helped Doris survive. His visit marked a turning point, as she saw China through new eyes.
Her husband also encouraged her to get out and make a life for herself. Doris studied Chinese and passed the HSK test. She still never dreamed she could become a doctor, but decided to study massage therapy. Meanwhile, her mentor saw her potential and (secretly) enrolled her in a T.C.M. internal medicine program.
Doris struggled through the language and cultural challenges of the high-intensity medical program. Six years later, despite her doubts, Doris graduated as a doctor of T.C.M.
Seizing the Opportunity
Doris was discouraged by the local Chinese hospitals. They were crowded, uncomfortable, and disorganized. They didn’t seem like the proper setting for showcasing Chinese medicine and healing patients. Doris began seeing patients in her home. Seeing patients at home wasn’t ideal either, so Doris and her husband formed a consulting company which led to the first clinic in 2004.
Thirteen years later, the business has grown to four clinics with multidisciplinary therapists helping patients throughout Shanghai. Doris is especially proud of the Body & Soul staff. Many employees have been with the clinics for many years…several since the beginning. There are a large number of women on staff, from all over China and the world. Everyone is very supportive of each other and focused on the patient experience.
Inspiration and Advice
Doris is a shining example of the transformative power of China. How does Doris think other expats can thrive in Shanghai? She advises learning the language and forgetting your own cultural assumptions to be open to what is around you. Read books about China for historical and cultural context. Look at things with curiosity rather than making comparisons. The people around you have a big influence: “Find people who love their lives here and stay away from negative people.”
Women’s Day 2017 celebrates the theme “Be Bold for Change”. Doris and other strong female role models in Shanghai demonstrate the power of transforming challenges into chances. Doris is thankful for her husband’s gentle, yet firm, nudging to get out and explore the possibilities. “There are so many opportunities here if you are open to them,” she reflects. It’s important for partners to be supportive of each other, but also to have their own identity and interests. Even if a spouse’s job brings you to China, the time can be filled with new beginnings for you too.
If you follow Doctor Rathgeber’s prescription for building a positive life in Shanghai, you can realize your dreams (or even discover new ones)!