InterNations Featured Blog
Roald: Being Dutch in Asia
For many expats, their time abroad, life-changing as it may be, is only temporary. Permanently relocating to another country takes a lot of thought and just as much planning – usually it does, at least! To Roald, the decision to stay in Hong Kong, the place he fell in love with during the course of the past few years, came very naturally.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Hong Kong, etc.
Hi! My name is Roald, I’m originally from The Netherlands but living and working in Hong Kong since the summer of 2011. Although I have lived in The Netherlands for all my life, I consider myself a world-traveler as have been to many different countries. (I’m fortunate that my work required me to travel a lot.) September 2005 was the first time I ever visited Hong Kong. I had to go there for my work, and I still remember the first impressions when I arrived; the high-rises, neon signs, the millions of people, the food. In the past few years my work required me to travel back and forth to Hong Kong regularly, and every time I arrived, the excitement about this place grew stronger and stronger.
So when in 2011 I got the chance to relocate here, I didn’t hesitate for a moment.
“Of course I’ll move!”
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started to write my blog in the first week I arrived in Hong Kong. The initial reason for creating a blog was to inform my friends and family about what is going on in my Hong Kong life, but over time my blog slowly grew into a platform that I could use to express my thoughts about living in this dynamic city. For a Dutch person that I am, all of my life living in the organized and standard Dutch society, adapting to the life in Asia is both tough and interesting.
Besides that, I also hope that my point of view about the life here will inspire people in Hong Kong to look at things differently. When you are living your daily routine life and doing the things you’ve always done to achieve happiness and wealth and a good future, you forget that sometimes you need to take a break, and look at things from a different perspective.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I recently got stuck in the elevator of my apartment building, and as that was quite an “interesting” experience, I thought I need to share that with everybody.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Hong Kong differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My life here does not differ a lot to my life in The Netherlands besides the fact that my work-life balance has shifted more to the work side. (And I’m not sure whether that is good). Besides that, I’m still doing more or less the same activities as I did back “home”, although in Hong Kong everything is more convenient and close. I did not really experience a culture shock as I got accustomed to the Hong Kong life already due to my previous work there. However, now that I am permanently living here, I still discover new habits of the Asian culture. Very interesting!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Hong Kong? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think I was fully prepared for what awaited me, but maybe you can never be fully prepared for making such a big step in your life. If you make a decision to move to the other side of the world, you need to have a certain flexibility to address everything that lies ahead of you.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
In Hong Kong, everything is focused around food. If you eat well, you feel well is the general thought here. So I guess I should write something about food, therefore I must say that I still cannot get accustomed to the smell of cooked intestines. (Stomach and other parts I can better not disclose) Even though I have a high tolerance of these kinds of things, I avoid those restaurants on my way from home to work. How can you eat that? I hope that someday I will be brave enough to try.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Hong Kong?
- First of all, when you have a job here, try to learn the local language. Even though most of the people speak quite good English, you will miss out a lot. After the first few weeks, when everybody is polite and speaks English to you, the honeymoon period will be over and you will find yourself at the table at lunch with 10 other people having conversation in Cantonese, while you are staring at the ceiling.
- Try to not be overwhelmed by the dynamic city life. Try to find the right balance between the normal Hong Kong life-style and your own. Keep on doing the things you were doing before, your hobbies, your sports, as it will help you to deal with the (potential) stress that comes onto your shoulders.
- Discover beyond the usual city places. Besides Hong Kong Island, Mong Kok and all the other usual places, there are a lot of discoveries to be made in Hong Kong. After a while you may think you know the Hong Kong society, but trust me, if you go beyond the touristic borders, you discover how different the life can be for people trying to make a living here.
How is the expat community in Hong Kong? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Hong Kong is very active. There are a lot of events every week, and also in the areas around Central and Tsim Sha Tsui you will find a lot of places where you can meet fellow expats. Especially in the beginning, when you do not know so many people, this is a good resource of getting acquainted.
How would you summarize your expat life in Hong Kong in a single, catchy sentence?
“I’m being Dutch in Asia.”