Hi, my name is Stephanie and I am 25 years old. I have spent 21 of my 25 years here in Hong Kong. My dad is from Belgium, and my mum is from Hong Kong. I was born here, raised in an international school, and went to Australia for four years of university.
I’m fortunate enough to have parents who understand the importance of multiculturalism. They exposed my siblings and myself to this, starting from a young age. We all have the typical ‘international’ accent, which people tend to mistake for an American or Canadian accent; until they hear twangs of random accents drop in and out of sentences, depending on whom we’re speaking to. I like to think that we are some kind of cultural chameleon.
Real friendships and relationships that last despite the distance are what make that feeling of ‘home’ in my world.
As cliche as it sounds, I’m a fond believer of the saying, “home is where the heart is.” I say this because your current location may only be temporary, but your identity is attached to a sense of emotional connection and belonging. As I’ve had my fair share of travel, I’ve realised that goodbyes are never forever. Real friendships and relationships that last despite the distance are what make that feeling of ‘home’ in my world. In reality though, if someone were to ask my where my home is, I would more than likely say Hong Kong!
To me, a local is someone who knows the ins and outs of a city; who speaks the language; who takes backstreets to get to their destination faster; who has a life outside of the expat bubble; who understands cultural differences, and is able to respect them and adapt.
I believe that having a mixed heritage has helped me view the world in a very different perspective – one that is comparable to the iceberg discussion of what we see vs. what we don’t see.
Simply speaking, if you picture an iceberg, all you ever see is the tip. This applies to the way most people view the world. What we see include verbal language, eye contact, facial expressions, body language, etc. But what lies beneath this surface? What is it that we don’t see? We don’t get to see emotional states, values, past experiences, assumptions and biases, histories and beliefs… and that is just to name a few.
Being exposed to multiple cultures from a young age has taught me the meaning of empathy, open-mindedness, and acceptance. A lot of the time, being a ‘third culture kid’ means getting the best of both worlds — understanding and being sensitive to cultural differences that are present in our everyday lives, as well as being able to speak the language not just to get by, but also to connect with individuals of multiple nationalities. And the other times? Well, the reality is that sometimes you end up struggling to fit in. But that isn’t always a bad thing! What I find is that moments like those are the ones you learn from; you learn what types of people you are more compatible with, and others… well, not so much.
Life is way too short and unpredictable to feel rootless. Instead, we should learn to live a life of freedom, and make the most out of being a citizen of the world!