by Yl Tang
Travelling is much more convenient with the aid of technology and the diffusion of aircraft. A lot of people might be tempted to live in a different country, to experience a different culture or settle in somewhere suits them. After high school, I decided to continue my education abroad and therefore, spanning over 13 hours, I travelled all the way from Hong Kong to Cardiff. It was tough for me to adjust myself to a new environment, and I am glad I have passed that point.
When I first arrived in Cardiff, I was surprised by every little detail in life. For example, it is rude to raise your hand in a restaurant, you are supposed to wait for the waiter to come and help you with your order. In Hong Kong, waiters only come around when you raise your hand. I have done it a few times in Cardiff until one day, my friend got shocked and grabbed my hands before I raised them. Who would have thought such a small gesture would be considered as rude? It is really important to do some research on the customs and lifestyle before living abroad.
The main point of living abroad is to learn about other cultures and blend into a different environment. It is not only challenging, but also an effective way to boost your flexibility. If you come from a busy city like me, it is a great opportunity to take a few years off and adapt to a slower pace of life. It gives you more time to appreciate life and small details around you. If you grew up in an austere environment, moving to a city can bring you so much joy and excitements. At first, you might find it hard to adjust. It can be hard to keep up in the city’s upbeat pace, or require a lot of patience to adapt to a downshifting life; but after you get used to it, you will start to appreciate the upsides of your new lifestyle and it will be much easier to communicate with locals and have fun with it.
However, it is hard to achieve a balance between different cultures. After all, cultures can be so different some of them even contradict with each other. Once you are comfortable living in another environment, you know your life has changed. For example, I used to find it really odd when strangers tried to make small talk with me. It is not what we normally do in Hong Kong. But the longer I stay here, the more willing I am to be friendly to strangers. Now that I am used to it, I really appreciate it as it is a welcoming gesture and it reflects how approachable and hearty you are. It contradicted with human interactions in Hong Kong, making it more obvious that Hong Kong people tend to be much colder and more distant. I sincerely hope that society can be closer and with fewer suspicions, especially after I experienced it here. It felt bad when I tried to engage in conversations and was treated as if I were insane. For me, integrating into a new culture makes it hard to fit into my original lifestyle and makes me uncomfortable in the original environment.
Therefore, it is important to balance both cultures to boost your worldview effectively. My advice is to learn from a different culture and choose wisely what you want to believe in or follow. It is not necessary to choose one culture to follow; do things that suit you and make you happy. Develop your own way to behave, as we are all individuals and it is okay for us to be unique and have our own kind of mindset. To make myself feel welcoming, I joined a networking organisation, where people meet people and therefore, are more open to conversations. When I am in Cardiff, I use the school radio as a platform for me to promote Hong Kong culture along with my friends with different cultural backgrounds. Having a channel to share your culture is a good way to remind yourself where you are from while doing research on it helps you understand your own culture in depth. Finding friends with the same or similar cultural background can also build your togetherness. It is an effective way to fell connected when living abroad.
Overall, I think it is important to blend in and hang out with locals when living abroad, as it boosts your life experiences and that’s what makes living abroad interesting. However, don’t forget your roots. No matter how much you love the new culture you are experiencing, do not forget or ditch your own culture. Try to integrate the upsides of both cultures into your life as it helps build who you are and will definitely make you a better person.