Hong Kong is a place that literally grows on you.
Indeed, the city offers the best of the East and the West, the highs and the lows, the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult, as well as the fast and the leisurely. However, the past few years have been tumultuous, to say the least, with the economy crashing, and many residents feeling that they are no longer living the same HK life as they did even a few years ago. This has lead to a mass exodus, especially among the expat community who have flown the coop in search of greener pastures. Thankfully the traffic in the opposite directions is finally showing promising signs. But for a moment, let's stay with the relocation spree which though on the decline is expected to continue till this year end. We at Localhood decided to present to you the perspectives from two of our volunteers who have recently relocated from Hong Kong to other places.
NICOLA: I decided to move to Meriden earlier this year to find a new life for myself. Meriden is a small suburban town in Connecticut, USA that is rather family friendly and quite peaceful. The main demography here is Hispanic and African American even though there are the occasional Caucasians. It wasn’t an easy decision to say the least, but it was one that was needed. I have learnt to be more independent, paying bills by myself, food shopping and making healthy choices without the constant reminders from my mother.
In Pic: Nicola ready to leave HK for the US
Living here has been very different because you have to drive to get wherever you need to go. The public transportation isn’t as friendly as Hong Kong. I have bought myself an electric scooter to get around to work and back which is about 4 to 5 miles a day. It has been difficult adapting to a new environment and making new friends at work and outside. People here are friendlier than in Hong Kong which isn’t a surprise to me because of the cultural differences.
After having left Hong Kong there are a lot of things I do miss especially the food and as mentioned, the public transportation. I miss my friends and family in HK- it's difficult here as you have to drive some distance if you want to meet anyone. The American lifestyle is a lot slower and easygoing which I do enjoy more than Hong Kong. However, I do so miss the efficiency of having everything nearby and the comfortable life- thanks to my family back there but also to the city, so specific to Hong Kong. And finally, the mild weather of Hong Kong is so lovely... we are in the midst of a snowstorm, as I write!!
In Pic: Sandstorm in Connecticut
While I miss Hong Kong, I am learning to adapt to American life.
SHOBHANA: After spending two gorgeous years in Hong Kong as expats, we decided as a family to move back to our home country of India. We came back to Mumbai after spending more than a dozen years overseas. This was my children's first exposure to the motherland. What struck me at first was the heat, the dust and the noise of Mumbai.
Ever since I landed, I've been more or less constantly having one infection after the other. While the heat and dust are partly to be blamed, one major reason was the enforced mask wearing that we did during and after the covid years. We were living in an antiseptic bubble in HK, and our immune systems revolted against the sudden thrust into real life. However, when my dad fell ill soon after I came back to India, I was able to rush to his side and be of some help to my family.
In Pic: Shobhana with her beautiful family, in HK
While the Mumbai suburban train system is something of a logistical marvel, it is also a harbinger of all infections as commuters are more often than not packed like sardines in these coaches. In recent years, metro rails have also been slowly making inroads into the Indian public transportation system, but it will be quite long before they can match up to the unparalleled efficiency that HK’s public transport boasts of. In fact I did travel by the metro for the first time today, and reached my destination in 8 minutes, which would otherwise take at least an hour by road. I was of course comparing it with HK, thinking how crowded it was and how weak the aircon was. But the fact of the matter is that the population of India is overwhelming and to make such comparisons would not be fair.
While I do miss my lovely friends and family in HK, coming back home has given me the opportunity to reconnect with long lost friends and cousins. I can explore new restaurants and malls every time I go out, as Mumbai is definitely a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. As a vegetarian, I don't think any country in the world can offer what india can, though i do miss our quaint little jaunts in the soho pubs and restaurants, as well as the tiny eateries hidden in the by lanes of every suburb.
My children miss the freedom that they enjoyed in HK, where they could go wherever they wanted with their friends, and as their mom, I would seldom get worried even if they came home a bit late. This is definitely not the case in India. I need to chaperone them anywhere and everywhere, and be cognizant of not only the mad traffic, but also unwanted attention from strangers. However, I feel living in India would aso smarten my kids up for life when they go abroad to university, as one cannot expect the same standards of safety and convenience as HK elsewhere. India is also a country where anyone on the road would be more than willing to offer you help and most people are quite friendly and welcoming.
Some might think that I've been unlucky to have lived in HK through the covid years, but for me it gave me a good insight on how well-oiled a machinery the system in HK is. We did not suffer a lockdown, kids didn't miss school as much, we could go to restaurants and pubs to some extent, and generally life did not come to a standstill because of the virus like it did in many other countries. However, seeing people behave like covid was an epidemic of a distant past in India is absolutely refreshing.