Those of you who follow me on Twitter know I’ve been in Asia for my day job for the past two weeks. First in Kuala Lumpur, then Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s moniker is “Asia’s World City”. For someone like me, who grew up on the Canadian prairies and has no Chinese heritage, it’s an unlikely place to find a sense of home. But after five trips to Hong Kong in two years, home is what I sensed when the plane from Kuala Lumpur descended over the misty, blue-gray South China Sea, to touch down on Chek Lap Kok Island.
Since the quest for home is a recurring theme in my writing, this most recent visit to Hong Kong made me reflect again on what home means.
Home is familiar.
It’s a place where you don’t often need to ask for directions. A place where you know how to find the essentials of life from chocolate biscuits to headache tablets.
Home is where you understand some of the cultural codes shaping everyday life.
From the etiquette of public transport, to which chopsticks are used for serving and which for eating, and the correct way to present and receive business cards.
Home is also a place where you have friends who care about you.
Like the friend who called me the evening of my arrival offering the loan of his daughter’s coat because the weather was unexpectedly chilly.
Like the business colleagues who greeted me with hugs, jasmine tea and cookies. And when they said “happy to see you in Hong Kong again”, it came from the heart.
And like the friends and colleagues who take me to places other foreigners never go – the Asian tea houses and shops that were part of their childhoods – sharing details of their lives and families and asking about Tech Guy and English Rose in return.
Home is a sense of connection that comes through people and community.
Although it’s a city, Hong Kong operates much like a small town. A friend has a friend who knows a friend, and WhatsApp is the currency of social connections and chat.
Finally, home is where you have a sense of comfort and belonging.
I’ll always be an outsider in Hong Kong, looking in. But it’s another place, in a varied collection of places, where I’m lucky to have found a sense of home.