As a stay-at-home mum following my husband to Hong Kong was somewhat daunting. The idea of being pulled away from my established friends, mothers group and my support network was quite a challenge to overcome. In the beginning I would be lying if I didn’t say it was lonely and tough to find new friends and new mums to connect with here.
I joined an online forum and organised to meet up with other mums only to find I really wasn’t ready for the Hong Kong way of life. I had never been to a mothers group meet-up where everyone complained about bringing their kids along and instead organised that next time the kids would go on a helper meet-up while the mums went out for lunch, coffee or drinks elsewhere. They talked about handbags and Shenzhen and I found I really didn’t connect at all.
Disheartened I tried another time only to encounter a similar attitude where having to drag ones children around was a burden and the mums spent almost the entire time whinging about how hard life was when they had their kids with them.
What had I got myself in for?
My husband pushed me to give it one more go. I’m so glad I listened to him… I met a small group of mums with kids a similar age to Mitchell and they were … for want of a better word … normal. They wanted the kids to play together, and they did. They didn’t complain about how much of a pain hanging around with the children was nor did they ask that we organise helper playdates. None of us cared what our husbands did for work or where we came from. We all just clicked. We ended up organising regular gatherings for our kids to play while we talked. There was no pressure, no trying to outdo one another, no pretending to be something we weren’t. The conversation was varied and interesting covering a wide range of, well, everything. It was refreshing and re-assuring to meet mums just like me.
From those wonderful ladies I found a renewed energy that life in Hong Kong would be ok and that if at first you don’t succeed at finding people to click with, keep trying.
Kindergarten never really offered me a chance to connect with many parents. Primary school however offered me an entirely new community of mums (and dads) to interact with. Interestingly, whilst I met a few mums when Bethany was in Year One it wasn’t until the middle of Year Two that friendships truly started to form for both Bethany and I. I don’t know if I am just lucky or if it is part of the Hong Kong way but many of the families from Bethany’s year (now Year Six *gaaaah*) have become a real community. We catch up for lunch or dinner with and without kids. We even go on holidays with various groups from time to time. We explore Hong Kong together or casually catch up on weekends. We can just sit and talk – no pressure, no expectation. We see the good and the bad of it and our friendships last through it all. It hasn’t been just the mums either. My husband has found lasting friendships with the dads in our group as well and regardless where we end up we know we’ll be friends with these wonderful people for life.
Now with Mitchell hitting Year Three I find a similar thing happening. Not as many parents connecting as with Bethany’s year, but definitely a small community that is slowly building strong friendships.
Nowadays I have a large and diverse group of friends here in Hong Kong from so many different areas of our lives. It didn’t happen overnight and unfortunately the transient nature of Hong Kong has meant I have seen some wonderful friends come only to head off overseas (or home) a short while later.
When you move to a new country it is daunting, and it can be overwhelming and lonely, but you can do it. If a shy geeky person like me can survive and thrive with amazing friendships in a strange new land, anyone can.
Ever lived the expat life? How did you discover communities that were the right fit for you?