Hong Kong, Humor, living abroad, Parenting

Five Things I learned in Hong Kong


Taking an inventory of life to get ready for a major move brought about the question how living in Hong Kong has affected my outlook on life. This is what I can share:

One: Pragmatism

Over the 12 years I’ve spent in Hong Kong, I learned to be pragmatic. For example, when I arrived in Hong Kong, the fear of what pollution would do to my small children was at times almost paralyzing. Understandably, but not helpful. I learned to do the best I can to limit exposure and avoid the wasteful behavior typical for a HK life. Beyond that, I made peace with the issue. One day in Beijing turns Hong Kong into a climatic spa.

Two: Humor

When I arrived from London, where all I needed to do is step into the street to find something that made me smile or at least think this is comedic, I found it hard to walk through Hong Kong’s polished inner city and see anything that would tease my comedic sensibility. Whilst on the surface that has not changed, I have discovered that HongKongers have a great sense of humor in conversations and have a high tolerance for creativity and the absurd. It is not part of their public personas, but the moment you step into a meaningful exchange, there is an unexpected readiness for fun. Especially refreshing is that people in Hong Kong do not tend to take things too personally.

Three: Personal Space

Westerners love to complain about the lack of personal space in Hong Kong. I am one of them when it comes to privacy. How I would love to close the door behind me sometimes! However, as an individual, where can you have more personal space to examine ideas, learn a new skill or dig deep into a subject you are curious about? In Hong Kong’s urban efficiency, personal space is a vertical matter. You can dig deep or be highly inspired, have a meaningful conversation and a pedicure at the same time whilst someone else irons your shirts. Many people in HK (not me, sadly) display an impressive talent to mix glamor with intellect. It’s up to us where we adjust our personal sliders on any continuum – nowhere else have I seen such freedom. What more personal space can anyone ask for?

Four: Friendships

Meeting people in Hong Kong can be a bit like speed-dating at times: we have so many opportunities to connect. I held the common belief that making real friends is getting more difficult with age, but I have to correct myself. It is not true. Whilst, not every connection I feel with people turns into friendship, it is possible to make lifelong friends late in life. It helps that we know better who we are, have more tolerance for weaknesses and vulnerability and are kinder to ourselves and others. Whatever it is, being in Hong Kong helps to practice friendship.

Five: Parenting and Family Values

I was shocked to find an old journal in which I expressed how hopeless I felt a few years ago, as a parent of my primary school kids. It was hard to admit and accept. Everyone else seemed to have great answers to how to support their kids through transitioning from preschool into the primary school. What helped me most on my parenting journey was admitting how challenging I found it and, more importantly, staying curious. That is why curiosity has become one of my core values – if we stay curious and interested in who our children really are and how to parent kids who struggle, it’s almost impossible not to find parental guidance that works. Rilke said: Live the questions, not the answers. Contrary to common perception, Hong Kong’s parenting community can be extremely nurturing and diverse. But we have to open up and look for help when we need it.

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