6 Insights From Living Abroad

What I learned working abroad in Hong Kong.

SoHo was buzzing as I made my way up Hong Kong’s famous Mid Levels escalator, one of the longest in the world. The sights and sounds of the city’s popular nightlife scene surrounded me; French, British and German voices wafted down from the posh bars where wealthy expats were enjoying their post-work pints and cocktails. Everyone looked good. Everyone looked happy.

Down the Central alleyways I could see locals selling fresh food, keys, shoes and other seemingly random trinkets. I could smell pizza, curry and kebabs. Cars worth hundred of thousands of dollars passed me by as I crossed the street to the condo I would share with a French couple for my first week in the city. People here must live a good life, I thought. And even though I had already been off the plane for a few hours, it hit me hard: this would be my home for the next year.

It’s hard to believe that these moments happened over a year ago, but I remember being blindsided by Hong Kong for the first time like it was yesterday. I’ve found over several years of travel that you never really forget your first contact with a new city or country. Even after living and working in Hong Kong for a year, my memories of those first few hours are clear.

And now, as a sit at my desk back home in Canada, slowly readjusting to life, I still can’t believe how fast this last year has gone. I had so many incredible experiences and I have learned so much about myself. So for the final chapter in my Hong Kong blog, I present six insights I have gained from living abroad:

1. You will make some of the best new friends of your life.

This has to be probably the best and also worst part about living abroad. You meet people who are just like you and I found that a lot of people who are willing to live abroad tend to have a similar mindset and outlook on life. People are also much more open when they’re alone abroad and that makes it possible to develop strong relationships. But the worst part is that after developing these relationships, you inevitably have to say goodbye. Cue the waterworks.

2. You learn to be adaptable.

You become more independent and learn how to respond to different, often challenging situations. This is especially true if you are going to live in a non-Western culture where customs and ways of life can be drastically different than what we are used to. I believe this is a skill that you can carry forward for the rest of your life, both personally and professionally.

3. You improve your communication skills.

Whether it’s attempting to learn a new language or learning how to use visual actions to communicate, communicating in a new country can be very fun. Especially in a place like Hong Kong where there are numerous cultures and languages represented. Also, when you’re by yourself, you don’t have your friends to fall back on so you have to learn how to talk to people.

4. You will realize the shortcomings about home.

Living abroad provides you with some of the most wonderful experiences that you would never get a chance to have back home. I often found myself wondering things like, “Why don’t we have this in Canada?” or “Why aren’t people back home like this?”

5. You will realize the great things about home.

On the flip side, you will miss many aspects of your home country and understand some things about your home culture that you might take for granted. I didn’t think I would miss winter so much. . .

6. You will have endless, amazing stories.

I like to think I’ve become a pretty good storyteller after living in Hong Kong because something weird, strange or crazy seemed to happen pretty much every night (although I think my friends back home are getting sick of me talking about Hong Kong all the time). But the best part is that many of these experiences will change you for the better and the memories will stay with you for the rest of your life.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Liam O'Donovan

Liam O'Donovan is 24-year-old marketing grad from Edmonton, now living and interning in Hong Kong. He has an unhealthy obsession with fantasy sports and a budding love for craft beer. Get a load of Hong Kong through Liam’s posts!

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