The past four months I had the opportunity to live and work in Hong Kong and honestly the experiences I’ve had here were life-changing. I was able to explore many places both touristy and local, learn about different cultures, and best of all, connect with genuinely warm-hearted and welcoming people who showed me around this amazing city.
When I first arrived here, I didn’t feel much of a culture shock. Coming from Tokyo, the busy city life was nothing new to me. Always being surrounded by crowds of people in small areas was something I was used to.
Where I lived was only 5 minutes away from the salon so I didn’t have to go through the trouble of taking the mtr every morning for work. (Which I am so so so grateful for the company to provide us with such good housing 😁) Life in CWB could be a little pricey at times, but is very convenient and made my stay in Hong Kong a comfortable one!
The first time I was able to feel a little bit of Hong Kong culture was when I went to a Cha Chaan Teng to grab some breakfast. Looking through the menu I noticed many dishes that some might find unique, but is a staple for the people of Hong Kong. Some of the dishes I’ve tried are peanut butter toast with condensed milk, Swiss wings, macaroni with squid, and the delicious dong leng cha and dong lai cha! Which have become my two favorite drinks in Hong Kong.
Anyways, after ordering my meal, one second later the waitress handed me my bill. I don’t know about you, but that didn’t give me a good feeling. I thought, “You want me to pay before I even get what I’m paying for!?” But I soon learned that that is just what they do at most restaurants. They just hand you the bill so you just get up, pay, and leave whenever you’d like instead of waiting for the bill. I guess in a way they are being considerate of your time? Where I grew up in the US, this act may come off as being rude, but not in Hong Kong! This is normal here and you twill probably see this happen at any small restaurant. Little by little, experiences such as this one helped me better understand the culture here.
And not just Hong Kong, but China as well!! I had the chance to visit China for both work and leisure and both times were filled with surprises! The first time I went to Guangzhou to assist at a hair seminar I didn’t know what to expect. The first night we stayed at a hotel and the next morning headed over to the salon to meet with stylists and assistants there.
Growing up, I never experienced not being able to communicate with people as in not having a language barrier that blocked my way in getting to know someone. But there I was standing in front of the crowd, for the first time ever, talking about my life experiences to people who I am not sure if they fully understand my words even through a translator. I felt a bit uncomfortable, but there was nothing I could do. Theres only so much google translate can help you with. I was in a room full of people who had a passion for the same things I did, people who wanted to share their stories and listen to mine as well, but couldn’t. I felt so powerless.. All we could do was try to communicate through gestures and facial expressions. I kept imaging how amazing it would be if we shared a common language and thats when I realized the power of knowing a language.
By knowing a language not only can you have a conversation with the other person, but you’ll be able to understand their culture, where they came from, and what makes that person who they are. I noticed many people in Hong Kong grow up with 3 languages; English, Mandarin, and Cantonese and it is not rare for some to know another language they learned purely from interest. Having so many multilingual people around me makes me, a bilingual, feel as though I am lacking. But this also helped me feel motivated to learn another language! Knowing another language means having the ability to communicate with more people therefore giving you more chances and opportunities to do more, to create more, to experience life through different perspectives more.
I have yet to thank the people I met in Guangzhou for taking such good care of us and doing their best to understand and learn what we wanted to share. I hope that one day I will meet them again and that time wish to communicate in their native language!
I think in these past four months, I was able to grow as a person and learned so much both inside the salon and out. I will never forget the lessons I have learned during my training period here and promise to continue to improve and grow mentally as well as my skills as an assistant hairdresser. I am so grateful for this opportunity and everyone who welcomed me to Hong Kong with an open heart. I felt loved by all the people I interacted with here and fell in love with the city. I will DEFINITELY come back to visit again hopefully sometime very soon!
Until next time,