I can hardly believe it! We’ve been here over a year. I thought I would take the opportunity to look back on my personal top twelve favorite posts–one from every month we’ve been here.
- Hotel life (before we had our apt). Bonus: Mustard Chicken.
- Anniversary dinner menu. A simple celebration abroad.
- Sleep Chart. When to talk to loved ones at home. Thanks Sydney!
- Shoe Valet. A great gift for the impossible-to-shop-for male.
- Transcontinental Jetsetting. What to pack: part one, part two, reader’s edition, and kids part one and part two.
- Chinese Medicine. Seriously intense.
- Pollution. Seriously depressing.
- Friends moving abroad? Great gifts for expats.
- Peking Duck at home. A do-able take on my favorite Asian dish.
- St. Paddy’s day dinner and pots of gold. Sharing our traditions here.
- Templing in Angkor Wat. Definitely the coolest temples ever.
- Bake sale for Japan. Helping out our neighbors.
Whenever you come up on an anniversary it makes you a bit reflective… I feel so thankful for this opportunity to be abroad–it has taught me so much! The world is so much bigger of a place than I ever imagined. I am so beyond glad we decided to do this. There are just some things and perspectives I don’t think you can learn without living out of your comfort zone. And honestly Hong Kong is pretty comfortable (although it is pretty hot out there right now!) and probably one of the “lighter” expat experiences one could have.
A few lessons learned:
- Americans, no matter whether they’re rich or poor, are in the lucky sperm club. Our quality of life and the availability of opportunities in the U.S. is unbelievable. I am now so thankful, despite all of her shortcomings, that I was born in the U.S.
- My baseline for “normal” has changed and it will never be the same agian. The big benefit of changing everything about your life… your home, friends, drug store, way of transport… all at once is that you suddenly realize all of the various iterations of how life could be lived that you never even considered or could even conceive of.
And a few pieces of advice to anyone moving somewhere new:
- East of West, Home is Best. It’s important to accept your new home and acknowledge it as such right away. There is such a big tendency to compare how they do it back home with how they do it here. It’s also hard at first to believe that you really do live in this crazy place. We were lucky enough to get to take a lot of our things with us… but even if you can’t take furniture, I would recommend taking whatever makes your home feel homey… your duvet cover, your two favorite knives, a half dozen of your favorite coffee table books. There’s something about seeing the picture your grandmother painted for you hanging on a wall that makes you believe that, yes, you do in fact live here. I can honestly say that when “I’m going home” it means to our apartment in Hong Kong and I felt that way within two months of moving here. Don’t fight it! Accept it.
- Meet your neighbors!! Seriously. I literally wrote a note and left it on my next door neighbor’s mat… and now she is a good friend… had I not taken that first step, we might have missed one another for months. It is so nice to know that if something were to happen you can ring on their door or that you can borrow a cup of sugar. As our good fortune would have it, two of our neighbors are now my best friends here. And, let me tell you, friends of convenience are better friends because you just see them more often.
- Never say ‘no’ to a social invite in the first three months. Yes, you will be tired. Yes, you will have other things to do. Yes, your first five “blind dates” may go terribly, but eventually you’ll meet that one “connector” who you hit it off with. I literally met 75% of my girlfriends through one blind date with one very sweet and hospitable gal.
- Don’t be afraid to be-friend people outside of your demographic. Back in San Francisco, we pretty much only hung out with people just like us. But here in Hong Kong, I have friends of all ages… one of my friends is a native Hong Konger in her sixties named Elaine. There will come a day when you do get homesick and one of the things you will miss is family, which means grandparents and little cousins running around. And if you’ve cultivated relationships with a diverse group of people you’ll know where to go when you miss things like someone telling you what to do!
- Do something to be a part of the local community. This is obvious and a little cheesy, but it can be really hard to succumb to the expat bubble! I take cooking classes quite regularly with a bunch of local ladies. The bake sale I helped put on for Japan was certainly a tem effort. Studying Mandarin has definitely given me insight into the Chinese culture. I honestly could do a better job at this one… that’s what year two is for I suppose.
- Share your traditions. While you’ll spend most of your time learning about and absorbing new traditions, don’t be afraid to share your traditions with others! It will also help with the homesickness and make the cultural exchange go both directions. Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are honestly so much more fun abroad for example. And we loved sharing St. Paddy’s day with our friends.
One thing is for sure, I never tire of Hong Kong’s skyline. I truly think it’s the best in the world!