Exclude Living Here Living In Hong Kong

From Expat to Compatriot

Living and working in Hong Kong – like any other foreign country – has its challenges and can lead to feelings of isolation without the right support network.  Here, Jade Simkins shares her experiences of moving here from South Africa, some of the difficulties she faced adapting to living in Hong Kong, and how she turned things around.

Making the move

I was working in a job where I felt disposable and taken for granted. My salary was barely covering my rent, and I wasn’t particularly passionate about my position either. While I loved my city, I was restless. And, like so many others just trying to make it through the daily grind, my urge to seek adventure became overwhelming. I knew that I had to get out, to make a change and pursue an opportunity that would really set my soul on fire. Clichéd, I know, but I felt that life was too short, and I didn’t want to have any regrets. Besides, once I handed in my resignation letter, I would have no real obligations.

That’s when I made the decision to pack up my life in Cape Town and make the move to Hong Kong. It was an easy choice considering I had visited so many times before, with each trip having me fall in love with the city a little more. The skyscrapers, neon lights, late-night shopping, and convenience of the transportation system – what’s not to love?

Hong Kong girl looking out at view

The end of the honeymoon period

Fast forward a few months later. I’d settled into my shared apartment in Tsuen Wan and was well on my way in my new job. While things had started off on a positive note, the novelty of living a new life had officially worn off. Things that once felt like exciting challenges soon became major shocks to my emotional and mental equilibrium. I felt resentful, cynical and – most of all – homesick.

Before I left home, I had mentally prepared myself for all the big things to come. What I hadn’t prepared for was a world in which, at any time of day or night, absolutely everything seemed designed to remind me that things are different and I didn’t belong here. There was just too much to get used to. Where’s the nearest doctor? Why is it so impossible to open a bank account? Will it ever stop being this humid? These small moments brought on an overwhelming amount of emotion that completely took over any and all reason. And without any sign of my situation improving, I found myself seriously wondering if I should just call it quits, pack up and catch the next flight home.

Turning things around

Despite all the changes around me, my support system back home remained constant. My friends and family helped me to work through my frustrations and feelings of uncertainty, and reminded me how this was something I had always dreamed of. In an effort not to be defeated, my attitude slowly changed. Learning to identify my homesickness made all the difference, because instead of taking out my feelings on everything around me, I learned to deal with what was really bothering me.

In an attempt to limit my exposure to Hong Kong, I had completely isolated myself – a dangerous habit that had led me into a pretty dark place. By reclaiming control over my mindset and becoming more proactive in making friends and exploring the city, I started enjoying life again and stopped taking for granted the wealth of opportunities I had coming my way – thus, finally making the transition from expat to compatriot.


See more in our Living in Hong Kong section

Your guide to Wong Chuck Hang

What it’s like to live in Hong Kong

Are you looking for a job in Hong Kong?

This article first appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.