It is Chinese New Year today – Kung Hei Fat Choi! and 5 years ago this week I left Hong Kong and returned to Scotland. So I thought I would do a little reminiscing about my (nearly) 2 years in China & Hong Kong.
I left Hong Kong at around 24/26ºC and flew into Glasgow airport where it was around -9ºC. Thankfully my Dad was waiting with a coat and a blanket for me. I spent the rest of the month wearing 2 jumpers indoors much to the amusement of my family.
Jetlag is a funny thing and without knowing it I had become pretty used to Hong Kong so my first week back had a few interesting moments. I tried to reason with my Mum that is was perfectly acceptable to have chocolate cake at 8am as it was teatime in Hong Kong. I accidently swore when I walked into a door in M&S (a very minor swear word as I don’t normally swear at all) and an elderly lady gave me a funny look, I had forgotten that everyone now understood English again. 5 days after I got back we went up to Aberdeen for a University Open Day and it started to snow. I was so confused about time, I was cold and tea with milk tasted funny. My Aunt was pretty shocked when I asked for my tea black, I had previously had quite a bit of milk and 2 generous sugars in my cups of tea. I met up with my best friend who I hadn’t seen in nearly 8 months. I offered to buy her a coffee, when we got to the till I only had HK dollars as I had not been to the bank to change my money. Luckily she took sympathy and bought me my cup of mint tea and cookie. It took me months to get used to UK prices and pounds again. I did not realise how immersed I had become in Hong Kong life and although I was happy to be home it took me quite a while to get used to everything again.
There are certain aspects of life in Hong Kong I think I will always miss but I’m glad I made the decision to come back. I went to university to do a Masters, I got to spend a lot more time with my family & friends (especially my sister) and then I met The Boyo and I’m pretty content with my life now.
Working abroad is one of the best things I have done. I had amazing experiences, met lots of wonderful people, saw fantastic sights and I ate a lot of really good food. However working abroad gave me so much more. I developed many skills and I gained a lot of confidence and knowledge. For the first 6 months I lived in Zhongshan in Mainland China. With a population of 3 million it is pretty massive by UK standards but by Chinese standards not really big at all. There were not many other foreign people in Zhongshan and my height, fair hair and pale skin meant I couldn’t blend in at all. English wasn’t spoken and there wasn’t any media such as books or newspapers in the English Language available. The internet was also censored. In that situation you have to adapt and become resourceful. I definitely enjoyed my 6 months in Zhongshan but I was glad to move to Hong Kong where I managed to blend in a tiny bit more. I could probably write quite a bit on Teaching English as a Foreign Language but I’ll save that for a post another day. Hong Kong was challenging in other ways – it was so busy, working hours are long and then there is a very vibrant social scene. Hong Kong doesn’t really seem to sleep which can be a fantastic thing (Midnight wandering for food of any description!) but also pretty exhausting. The weather is fantastic but in July the heat and humidity are almost unbearable – most people will try to go on holiday then. There are so many things to see and do – Island hopping, treks, shopping, temples, museums, fortune telling, markets, races, theme parks and thats just the first few that come to mind.
Towards the end I was working 6 days a week and travelling for about 3 hours a day, I was tired and wanted to go back to University. I wanted to leave whilst I still loved Hong Kong and although I sometimes look back wistfully on those days I think I made the right decision. Although this week I have longed to go back but I think that is largely to do with the lack of sunshine and long hours at my computer over this winter.