I always wonder how long it takes to become “local.” How long before you know the local politics, or local movie stars or tv series? What are some steps that make you a real part of the community?
Being an expat in HK does not make it easy to get local. The expat community, for starters, is so segregated from the rest of HK, that you can really carry on with your former life just where you left off – but on a sub-tropical island where non-mandatory Cantonese can be useful, but is not required. I’ve heard of many tales of expats who never step foot off Central, let alone Hong Kong Island, or never ate local food or learned a single Cantonese phrase.
But I did come here to become a bit more local, and for personal reasons, since both my mom and dad grew up here and are also from South China. Things that are “local” are also a part of my history mosaic, and I am a bit more proactive about learning what it means to be local.
Some “local” things I’ve done that make me feel local:
1) I have volunteered on a number of occasions with Changing Young Lives, a local kids’ center in Kowloon.
2) I saw my first Hong Kong movie set in my first HK neighborhood, Wan Chai, Crossing Hennesy.
3) I made a speech to a branch of the local Rotary Club in Cantonese about a local news event.
4) I went to see local mega-star ANDY LAU in concert in December with two of my sisters!
And today – I felt local when I donated blood for the very first time in Hong Kong to the HK Red Cross. Maybe it’s not a “local” thing to do, but doing things that matter to my local community matters, and I felt so happy to be a part of that today.
The HK Red Cross came to my office building, and just three floors down was a set-up with all the usual things you’d expect from a blood donation site — those reclining chairs, desks for answering the health questionnaires, and the snacks station.
I am happy to report that this was the LEAST painful blood donation of my life (I am a regular donor, though thoroughly terrified of needles), and the nurse slipped the needle into my elbow quickly and least painfully. There was no bruising either (and I’m famous for bruising very badly at blood donations!).
A couple of things that stood out to me — the nurse asked if I’d be alright with donating 450 ml, the recommended amount according to myw eight. I’d never been asked if I’d okay a specified amount before! And the snacks station was relatively Chinese-y — hot tea, rice crackers, and Horlicks were available. No Oreos. Darn.
I feel a lot more a part of the neighborhood after doing my part today! Here’s to going local!