Facebook reminded me that it was one year yesterday that I took the flight out of Hong Kong with my family to Canada. It's a strange feeling, on one hand I am happy in my new home and on the other hand nostalgia sets in already and missing the friends I made in Hong Kong in the previous 15 years.
I've managed to keep my manufacturing business in Shenzhen running. Surprisingly I actually only been back to Hong Kong twice since I left.... originally expected to be back every month and half but I've been blessed with a good team who rewards me as I reward them. Got my MPF and income tax refunded pretty painlessly; just submitted documents and waited the average expected wait time and the funds arrived at my Canadian bank account.
Wanted to share experience for those who might be thinking of leaving Hong Kong if you will adapt to life back home. More background on myself, I was born in Hong Kong with my parents being part of the pre 1997 wave of immigrants to Canada so I grew up in Vancouver and headed back to Hong Kong after university. I had a federal government job but went back to Hong Kong because my girlfriend (also a HK immigrant to Canada) left Vancouver and decided to give HK a try. Came to (back?) Hong Kong a single guy and left married with 2 young kids after 15 years. So to be fair, I guess one can say I'm not a "true" expat and had roots on both sides of the world. But in the 15 years that I was in HK, there really wasn't much interaction I had with Canada other than my parents who had always lived in the same place in Vancouver for 30 years.
When I left last year, I had no job prospects in Canada and was thinking my savings would get me into a business of some kind and that my residual income from the manufacturing business in China would take the worry off for the first while on everyday expenses. I had decided to move to a place called Clearwater in BC, a town of around 2300 people. My rationale was if I get in my car at 8am, I could be having lunch in Vancouver or catching a flight to Hong Kong. If the roads are bad then there's 3 flights daily from Kamloops that is an hour away to Vancouver international airport. That plus hospital, big chain grocery store, small town charm, friendly smiles everywhere I went and k-12 schooling made me pull the trigger.
This might not apply to traditional Caucasian expats but for people like me or HK people reading this forum thinking of leaving HK, I know what some of your thoughts are; how would an ethnic Chinese person fit into a small Canadian forestry town? My answer after a year: perfectly. Without being bitter or ranting, I felt more welcomed in this town than I did in my birth town of Hong Kong. While I was in HK, I always found it a bit hard to get fully accepted by locals (I speak both Cantonese and Mandarin but I suppose locals can tell from the way I talk and dress) and same with expats (except for the select few that I rode motorcycles with every Sunday morning rain or shine since 2008, truly miss those guys). But when I got here, I never felt people talk or look or treat me any differently because I looked Chinese (I think I am 1 of 3 ethnic Asian families in town). And again I know people of my background would wonder, what about your children at school? My sons started pre school and grade one last fall and absolutely loved every single minute of it. He actually LOOKED FORWARD to go to school every day. There's lots of support including speech therapist in town.
Yes, he won't be as "smart" as a La Salle or whatever kid. But you know what, after what I've seen in the world I think I'm ok with that for my kids and hope they will be happy with my decision too one day. He made lots of friends and never once did he come home and tell me something happened to him because he looked different from other kids.
I looked into buying a business but also hesitant about making a mistake; the old saying if something is so good, why is that person selling it? After teeter tottering I looked the typical Hong Kong route LOL buying property and just be a landlord. That too raised concerns because unlike Hong Kong, the landlords have less rights than tenants and heard many horror stories of people devastating their savings and sanity dealing with bad tenants. So in the end I just sat still and spent my time focusing on my family. And then since last winter, I decided to develop this 70 acre piece of land (subdivided in half with another friend who is still in Hong Kong but with long term plans to immigrate) into an Airbnb place. Finally had it up and running and covid hits..... surprisingly though, domestic tourism still managed to get me booked 20 days out of each month since June. In between the time I'm doing housekeeping with my wife and spending time with the kids, I joined the local volunteer fire department as a trainee firefighter; down to my last written exam next week and then I'll get my pager and attend to calls. It helped me get to know more local people. LOL everyone is so nice here I always end up taking way too long chit chatting with strangers or friends; going to the groceries store today I bumped into 3 friends and ended up having a coffee over 2 hours before getting home or going to the dump station (you can pay for garbage pick up but I decided to take mine to the dump and recycling myself and pay a dollar per sack of garbage) my wife asks me where the hell I went for an hour because the recycling lady started chatting with me. The only thing I felt being treated differently I suppose was their curiosity in this Chinese looking guy who speaks fluent English who came from Hong Kong to the town of 2300 people LOL
In between last year and now, I went through a winter that got down to minus 34 degrees Celsius for 4 days LOL went on RV camping trips to Bella Coola and different lakes with my neighbours, rescued a 20 year old couple from Vancouver who got stuck in the snow up a local mountain at 2am by pulling out their truck with mine (and me arriving to find out the battery in my winch controller was dead LOL good thing I carry tow straps), let me kids play around my new friend's farms, brought my sons to see and touch the second oldest tree in Canada the Lonely Doug (sad story, it's a thousand years old Douglas Fir on Vancouver Island that stands in a clearing; imagine living a thousand years seeing everyone around you passing away leaving only you behind), got my truck stuck in snow three times and had friends come yank me out with their trucks, once walked 8km with my 3 year old and my wife in the snow cause the hoity toity Land Rover got stuck in snow (POS lemon that I had for 4 months and 2 months was in the dealership and they still couldn't fix it before I traded it away for something else) and everything in between. Some photos below lol
So yea if you're wondering if you'll miss HK when you leave; you will. I know so much has happened to HK in the last year, part of which was why I left, but at the end of the day once you have left somewhere, no matter which side of the current issues you are on, you will remember some of the good times and good people you have met in HK. At the same time, don't be scared; it's just like that initial plunge to decided to go to Hong Kong, but reversed. As everyone here has adapted to HK, we could adapt to returning where we came from. Hong Kong tends to make people over plan or be overly cautious; take a step back and treat it as a new adventure.
I wish everyone good health in the days to come