A few weeks ago, I visited Hong Kong for the first time. I’ve been living in Beijing for the past seven months, and I imagined Hong Kong, which is known as “Asia’s world city”, would give me a taste of home.
Although I had struggled to settle in when I first arrived in Beijing, I had started to feel much more comfortable here before my trip to Hong Kong. That’s why I was surprised by just how happy the many small reminders of the UK that can be found in Hong Kong made me. I nearly cried when I heard British accents over the loudspeakers in the train station, and when I saw my favourite British treats in the shops. The city has an international atmosphere, and the diversity reminded me of the UK. I welcomed the home comforts, but the similarities between Hong Kong and the UK also made me appreciate the cultural differences I have the chance to experience in Beijing. Leaving Hong Kong, I was glad I wasn’t going back to England yet.
However, when I landed back in Beijing, I unexpectedly felt a renewed sense of the culture shock I’d experienced when I first moved here. Things I had got used to suddenly made me feel slightly unsettled again, and I started to miss Hong Kong. The feeling didn’t last long, though, as a morning stroll a few days later reminded me of why I had grown to love Beijing.
A man wearing a suit, casually striding backwards on his way to work, made me smile; particularly as no one else gave him any notice. Businessmen on Segways and Micro Scooters, a sight which I have never seen in the UK, simply moved around him as they made their own way to their destinations. In the two small squares near my apartment I counted eight separate group exercise activities, including dance classes, tai chi, and badminton matches. The community spirit was overwhelming, and the little things that took me by surprise reminded me of why I’d come to love this city. These small differences in culture continue to intrigue me, and never fail to put a smile on my face.
Life in Beijing is further removed from what I know than I imagine life in Hong Kong would be, but that's one of the main reasons I'm glad I moved here. All the new things I experience here can be challenging at times, but are also the most interesting part of this unique experience.
Have you ever experienced culture shock?