My friend writes to me that he’s going back to Manila after a decade in New York. “My father is getting older and he needs someone to run the family business,” he explains. “Sayang naman (Such a pity) if nobody continues just because no one is there.”
That’s true, though I think that one of the main reasons he’s going back is that he was unable to find satisfaction in living abroad. There’s no place like home, and take it from someone who’s a fellow ex-pat, when you’re in a foreign place, you can’t help but feel… a bit out of place.
“There’s still that glass ceiling for us Filipinos,” he said previously in an email. “The more senior positions are still being held by the locals.”
I couldn’t agree more. In my organization, no matter how undiscriminatory my dear company is officially, I have yet to see a Filipino who holds a higher title save for those who are based in the Philippines.
It’s not that we’re not as superior or intelligent, but given that nobody has a clue what Ateneo de Manila or Lasalle University (premier schools in the Philippines, or so we’ve been led to believe), we have to start off from a lower diving board than the rest who came from prestigious sounding schools like Harvard, Wharton and Yale. As your base salary is lower given your lack of educational credentials, well, that’s a lot of catching up to do.
However, my post today is not about ranting on how boo-hoo Filipinos are looked down upon. We’re really not, though admittedly, we have to work harder than the rest to prove our worth. Instead, it’s about the difficulty of making a home in a foreign country.
Take for example myself. I am one week shy of my second month anniversary in Hong Kong. During these last 7 weeks, I’ve managed to secure an apartment, apply for a 3G mobile phone/service, take Cantonese classes and finally get a desk at work after being a squatter around the trading floor. I am already familiar with the faces at work, and they don’t call me by another person’s name anymore.
Nonetheless, I still don’t feel at home.
Yeah, yeah… so what if I’m impatient? Yes, I know that the average time it takes for a person to really settle in is about 6 months, but this is ME you’re talking to! The person who managed to swim quite comfortably in Taipei starting with zero friends when I first arrived, to heck, hiding behind corners to avoid being spotted when walking around Chungxiao East Road! There were parties every weekend and it was a luxury to stay at home despite the many invitations!
Well, I got my wish (so be careful on what you wish for!).
In Hong Kong, say hello to the boring me. No parties, no social life, and just worky, worry and eat. I would like to say that I’ve gone through the partying phase but who am I kidding?
I don’t feel at home with the Filipinos milling around Central during the weekend, leafing through gossip tabloids from the Philippines.
I don’t feel like drinking at Lang Kuai Fong with the foreigners during the weekend, paying for overpriced drinks and picking up men who can’t even remember your name and just want to score.
I don’t feel like politely smiling and hanging out with people I’m not really into. It’s too exhausting and I just don’t want to spend time with people just because I need to keep socially sane.
Okay, so this is me bitching. Apologies. These has not been a very good past few days.
Anyway, I don’t feel like Hong Kong is home yet.
Maybe I’d feel that way once I get my plate sets. Or maybe once I start enlarging my social circle. Or maybe once I actually move beyond Central, Causeway Bay and North Point.
So life is miserable so far. Everyone’s been congratulating me that my move to Hong Kong will be great, life would be rosy and I’d meet the guy of my dreams in a few weeks time. “SO jealous,” my girlfriend gushed. “Think of all the boys!”
I look to the left.
Then to the right.
Then straight ahead.
Aaaargh. It will get better… it will get better… till then, any tips to stay sane?