I’m Carol Chan and I’m from Hong Kong. I left home when I was about 18 to study in Melbourne at University.

After 7 years I went back to Hong Kong to work for two years. Then I came to New Zealand with my boyfriend.

We both hated Hong Kong, well, maybe not hated, but disliked living there. Hong Kong is overcrowded, people are angry, we don’t really see our future there. So we left. I also think it was a bit of a reverse cultural shock after going back there from Melbourne.

In Melbourne life as a student was good, but when I went back to Hong Kong all of a sudden I was an adult. I’d just grown up and had to be responsible for my own life. I found a job, went to work and became a 9 to 5 person. Far from someone I used to be.

I experienced a bit of a reverse cultural shock after going back to Hong Kong from Melbourne. My boyfriend and I hated Hong Kong, well, maybe not hated, but we really disliked living there. Hong Kong was overcrowded, the people were angry, and we didn’t see our future there. So we left.

New Zealand was an opportunity for us to find a new life. I’ve been here for almost 6 years now.

I found Auckland a hard place to live at first. I was trying to find a job, find friends, and at the same time my boyfriend and I were breaking-up. So I also had to find a place to live. It was very traumatic for us because we had been together for very long and had never lived with anyone else.

Eventually, I met some friends. They too were from overseas, like me. And then I met my boyfriend, who is now my husband. That was another shock because he is Kiwi and he lived in a house. It was completely strange to me after growing up in an apartment in Hong Kong. I remember feeling quite insecure at nights living in a house. I mean, anyone could break in!

It didn’t take long for me to settle down and get used to it. I even started gardening, I mean, who would have thought? I guess meeting a ‘local’ helps you settle in here more easily in so many ways. I had someone to show me Kiwi culture and to tell me what people think of me, as an Asian.

***

Chinese people can be quite an exclusive group, they stick together and don’t really mix with others. People don’t really have a chance to know them.

In my experience, there are some people who I have met who were outright rude. And there are lovely people who love the Asian culture and they want to know more. They understand that people are just people, no matter where they’re from. They will treat you like a normal person, like just any other Kiwi. It’s the people who can’t be bothered to know that we are just people, that are the ones who have kept their minds closed.

I remember when I first came to Auckland, it was during the rugby world cup and people shouted three times to my face on Queen Street, ‘you Asian cunts.’

I have been to Taupo, and some people yelled out similar sorts of things from their cars driving past. I crossed the street and this person decided to reverse his car at me. And at first, I couldn’t decide if he was deliberately trying to reverse as I was crossing. I gathered, the road was quite wide. So that was that.

But then I’ve met really amazing people who were very, very nice to me. They wanted to know more about me, and have included me in their groups. So, you know, different experiences, but people are just people.

***

My memories of growing up in Hong Kong are that life was quite good. There were not as many people as there are now. I have good memories of Hong Kong before I left for Melbourne. I enjoyed the shops, I enjoyed the restaurants, I enjoyed going out. There weren’t as many tourists, particularly from mainland China, because there was not an open-door policy then.

After 2003, Hong Kong became inundated with tourists. The environment and dynamic changed. All those little local shops closed and were replaced by either real estate or retail shopping businesses because wealthy Chinese from the mainland created a huge demand. It was new and quite exciting to them. But for us, people from Hong Kong, having such a small city overwhelmed by tourists was a big change.

Every time I visit Hong Kong, the city has changed again. It’s become more and more crowded and consumeristic, and that’s not very enjoyable to me. I don’t enjoy living there.

***

My grandfather gave me this jade lucky charm before I left Hong Kong for Melbourne when I was 18. It symbolizes wealth, health and good luck. It is a mythical dragon god, known as Pixiu, pronounced Pay-yow.

This charm has travelled with me everywhere, to Melbourne and then to New Zealand. It used to live under my pillow.

I’m not religious at all, but I have a very close relationship with my grandparents so I really treasure this. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was young because since I was two my mum and dad worked, and my grandparents looked after me. We are really clos,e and on my recent trip to Hong Kong they were really happy to meet Zaria, my baby daughter. Zaria was spoilt rotten by them. Of all the things I can do for her, taking her to meet my family is the best gift.

It has been quite a journey for me, coming here with my ex-boyfriend of ten years, and then going into the unknown and meeting my husband. Is New Zealand home? I find myself thinking, it’s quite nice here really.

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