I am an immigrant!

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Last night when I got home my house was spick and span to the point where even everything on was dressing table was lined up neatly. No I haven’t developed OCD. This is just one of the perks of living in Hong Kong where hired ‘helpers’ are an everyday part of most people’s lives! Hired FOREIGN helpers!
Women who work as helpers in Hong Kong are hired from the Philippines and Indonesia! And help is cheap! Ridiculously so!
I have to admit it came as a shock when I got here! To see the majority of children at school being dropped off and collected by women other than their mothers was a little hard to get my head around! Yes, people use nannies and childminders in the uk but over here a ‘helper’ is a standard part of any family, so much so that they account for 3% of the whole population! They cook, they clean and they take care of the children!
To be honest I’m not quite sure where I stand on the whole thing…. As with any disadvantaged group; women employed on low wages are far more likely to become victims of abuse!
Yet the women who work here do so because they’re looking for a better life for themselves! They send money home to their families and they work damn hard! You can fault the system that employs them but you cannot fault them!

Just like them, I also came to Hong Kong to make a better life for myself! Not because I was living in poverty but because I longed to broaden my horizons, experience new things and expand my mind! I’ve also been extremely fortunate to be furthering my career whilst I’m here! And when I looked to move abroad, I was entirely selfish in my intentions, this was about my experience and about my life! I certainly didn’t have any sort of overwhelming desire to make great contributions to the Hong Kong economy! In actual fact, I hadn’t even considered Hong Kong as an option before I applied for the job here! I was happy to move anywhere in the word as long as I could work and see something new! I didn’t spend a year learning a new language or researching the culture! So here I am, living as an immigrant in a country where I don’t even speak the language!!

I’ve been here two months now and my Cantonese stretches to about two words (I’m not kidding) and my mandarin is similar! I actually learnt more Turkish when I was on holiday there for a week! And the reason I haven’t learnt anymore… I don’t really need to! I’ve landed in a country, thousands of miles from where I live and yet they speak to me in MY language (and what’s more I selfishly come to expect it)!
This is one of the many benefits of being English! Of being born into a country that colonised so much of the world that we don’t have to learn to speak anything else! And yet so many English people expect those that come to the UK to speak English! How dare they speak anything but!
I spend a lot of my time out here with immigrants…. (Except that we call ourselves expats!) Sometimes I genuinely forget I’m not in London! We stand in our groups, eating western food and chatting in English! And no one has once shouted at me to go home or to speak in Cantonese ( actually maybe they have but I wouldn’t even understand that)

As a white British national I try not to take too much for granted! I recognise that I was born into a privileged position! Even the fact that I get referred to as an expat and not an immigrant highlights my privilege. I was born into a country where no one tries to bomb my home, where I’ve never struggled to put food on my plate and where I was blessed with a free education system that, for all its faults, served me well! I can’t help but feel that this is total luck of the draw ( well actually I think God put me where I’m meant to be but I can’t be political and religious in one post 😉 I can’t help but wonder why people think that being born somewhere gives you rights that noone else should have! I was born into one of the wealthiest nations in the world, in a country that could provide me with everything I could ask for… And I’ve still chosen to leave! Because I see how big the world is and I want to experience all it has to offer! And why should I be allowed to do that just because I’m educated and have been handed opportunities, and other people shouldn’t! Why shouldn’t everyone be allowed to pursue their hopes and their dreams and experience all that the world has to offer, regardless of what opportunities they just happened to be born into!

Many people are currently calling for a ban on immigration into the uk, or atleast tighter laws! The country should only accept those with a degree or certain qualifications! I find the notion absurd! The concept that only certain jobs are worthwhile or can make a contribution is slightly crazy in my mind! Not everyone is fortunate enough to have qualifications to support themselves and some of those
people are a lot stronger than me! I moved here with a good job, my flights were paid for as was my first months accommodation! And yet it was still bloody tough! Missing home was a killer when I first arrived! I can only imagine how hard it must be to try and make a better life without any of the privileges that I was afforded!
The people that make the decision to leave their families and friends in search of a better life should be applauded! They should be welcomed with open arms and offered a shoulder to cry on in times of distress! All they are trying to do is make it in this crazy, disorientating jumbled up mess we call life!
And yes there will also be someone somewhere trying to abuse the system! But it’s not just ‘immigrants’ who do that!

For me immigration has made my world a more beautiful place! I love living in a multi cultured and multi coloured world! On Sunday night I went to watch the France vs Ireland game with some of my new French friends in a bar where I was so surrounded by French people, I could have been in Paris! The night before I watched the Switzerland game with two friends I’ve met; one from Switzerland, one from Belgium! I feel blessed to be living in a place where so many nationalities live side by side! It’s one of the best ways I can think of to learn about other people and learning is the best way to help us grow!

Now I know people will disagree with some of my opinions! I genuinely don’t mind! I actually think it’s a great thing that we all have different thoughts… I’ve never fancied the idea of living amongst robots! But I hope that in the days and weeks and months to come, In a time of ever growing uncertainty, that maybe people will see things from someone else’s point of view, that people will listen to another and take on each other’s thoughts with love and tolerance! I didn’t agree with all of my friends in the recent referendum but they’re still my friends and I respect their opinions! Because we’re all different! But at the end of the day we’re also all people!

 

Out of the darkness

 

 

 

Depression is boring! And i for one am probably the most bored of it! It’s the main reason I’ve struggled to write a blog post in the six weeks that I’ve been in Hong Kong. Because the only thing I can think to write about is the one thing I’m most scared to admit! I should probably start a blog about gardening or knitting instead of one that pours my heart out but unfortunately I don’t have the millions of dollars required to own a garden in Hong Kong and I’m really bad at knitting so here we are! …..(Actually if truth be known when I did have a garden (small concrete yard) in London, I hired a gardener to clear the weeds after I discovered just how many spiders can live in the undergrowth!)

I’ve been in Hong Kong for six weeks and at a time when I should have been brimming with excitement, the depression that has plagued me for well over half my life reared its ugly head and threatened to take a hold! When I arrived here I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be excited, I wanted to breathe in everything the city had to offer! I knew the skyscrapers were amazing, I knew the beaches were beautiful! Yet the pain in my heart cast them all behind a fog that I struggled to see through! And I couldn’t understand why, after years of wanting to move abroad, it hurt so damn much to be here! Yes I knew I’d be homesick but this was something more! I had to admit that the depression, that black dog was definitely here in Hong Kong! It snuck up on me before I left and was probably the reason my case weighed so much as I headed to the airport! Ok it’s also possible that the amount of clothes i’d crammed in took me over my weight limit, but Depression definitely took up way too much of my baggage! It brought with it fear, self doubt and self loathing; three things I definitely didn’t want to pack, not least because my measly 20Kg already meant I’ve had to leave many pairs of much loved shoes behind (I miss them daily)!

So there, I said it! I’ve had depression for over half of my life! And I think even those close to me might be surprised to read that! Because it’s not something I talk about, it’s not something I dwell on and it’s not something I like to admit! Even now I’m scared that I shouldn’t be writing about it! I’m scared it will make me seem pathetic, miserable and weak! That people will read this, roll their eyes and tell me to cheer up! That people will think I’m a weirdo, a freak and not someone they would want to be around! (And yes I am a bit of a weirdo as one person likes to point out…but only in a weirdo chic way…. Like geek chic but without the need for fake glasses)
I think those insecurities probably go hand in hand with the depression but it doesn’t make them any less real!

Trust me when I say, it’s not that easy to just cheer up! And that’s what makes it so damn boring! There are only so many times you can admit you’re not really ok when you’re asked, without sounding miserable, without sounding ungrateful for your blessings or without sounding like you just need a good kick up the ass! And I hate that! I hate that depression takes away part of who I am and replaces it with someone I don’t like or recognise! I hate that in the past few weeks I’ve felt lost! I hate that I haven’t felt like me! Because without depression I’m fun (some would even say funny), happy and ridiculously cool to be around 😉

I’ve spent most of this year talking about and trying to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and so I finally decided that maybe this post had to be written! If for no other reason than for me to be confident in who I am and to face it head on! Yes I’ve suffered with depression, yes it still causes me a problem but no I’m not miserable, or boring or pathetic! As someone who’ll always like a post on Facebook if it supports mental health, as someone who’ll share posts that talk about removing the stigma and raising awareness I think it’s about time I raised some awareness by being honest! I shouldn’t be ashamed of something on the one hand whilst claiming to support it on the other!

In a lot of ways I hope I’m stronger because of this! Before I moved to Hong Kong I spent well over a year weaning myself off the anti depressants id been on for 16 years! Physically, it was a horrible process! The withdrawal made me sick and dizzy as my body struggled to adapt without the medication. Finally being able to go a day without a tablet and not feel sick was an incredible feeling! So much so that I failed to recognise the emotional impact it was going to have. For weeks I was incredibly teary ( even more so than normal) and feelings of insecurity plagued me! This probably wasn’t the best time to be moving to the other side of the world! But, despite the timing and the impact of going without medication I’m determined to stay off them if I can! Being physically dependant on tablets is not something I ever want to experience again!

And despite the fear, I think I’ve put my all into my first few weeks here! Ive battled to ignore the feelings of misery and instead I’ve gone out and got involved! And I’m starting to feel better; At least for now…I’m still definitely scared of those feelings! I know that sounds ridiculous; feelings can’t hurt me… But then again some would argue that neither can the cockroaches I found in my bathroom, yet that didn’t stop me screaming the place down and squirting them with the shower head when I discovered them! And I still tread tentatively when I enter…. Note to all…. Check your shower curtains before you get in the shower!! (Shudder shudder)!
But I’m determined not to let the fear win…. After all I still need a shower at least once in a while!

I know I’m blessed, I know I’m fortunate, I know I’m having some amazing experiences right now and Hong Kong is an awesome place! I’m definitely starting to feel happy about my decision to move here despite the £10 average for prosecco (seriously it’s bordering on a violation of my human rights) and the lack of real dairy milk…. Australia what do you put in it?? Ruining dairy milk is an actual crime!

I’m still scared of being forgotten, I’m still scared of losing my friends at home but I think this might be just what I need! After all if I can get in a netball court for the first time in twenty years and live without false nails (I know I’m achieving so much right now) I can pretty much do anything!image.jpeg