It’s fast approaching a year since I moved to Hong Kong. That’s by far the largest amount of time I’ve ever spent abroad. The other day I looked back on my first couple of weeks in Hong Kong, way way back in distant March 2012, and I realised that it felt very strange to think that a whole year had passed since then. A year is a proper, substantial length of time. It’s not a fortnight’s holiday or a few months’ backpacking. Years are what you measure your life in: “I’m …years old”, “I worked there for …. years”, “I’ve lived in this house since 1996”. People don’t say: “We’ve been married for 60 months.” They say 5 years. I’ve lived for 27 years, and a whole one year (1/27th, maths fans!) has now been spent in Hong Kong. To me, it’s a biggie.
And, in a neat bit of symmetry, I’m celebrating this milestone by going back to the UK. I genuinely don’t know what to expect from my trip ‘home’. Until now, apart from the upheaval of the first month or so, I’ve not felt homesick. It helps that in Hong Kong you can get whatever you want from home (books, TV programmes, Irn Bru…) whenever you want it. So, I’m anticipating that my visit will go one of two ways: A) it will suddenly hit me that I miss dear old Blighty and that compared to Hong Kong it’s a civilised, laid-back, spread-out, green paradise where a ten year old building is still seen as fairly new and isn’t earmarked for demolition. Or… I’ll realise that compared to Hong Kong the UK is a slow, inconvenient backwater and I’ll combust with rage at 5 minute late trains and shops that close before midnight.
The only other time I’ve returned ‘home’ after a long stay away was five years ago, after 6 months in Thailand and around. The circumstances were completely different, though, as it had been a shoestring-travelling, wooden-hut-living, squat-toiletting adventure in a pre-smart phone and wifi-hotspot world. After half a year I was very much ready to come home and have a shower. Now, however, I live in the centre of Hong Kong and have no immediate plans to leave. I could, in the hour between typing this and going to bed: leave the flat, get a hair cut, have my fortune told, buy a cinema ticket and find a bar showing English football, all without going more than 100 metres. It’s a completely different place that I’m leaving this time.
I really can’t predict how I’ll feel when I arrive next weekend. It’s uncharted territory for me. But I’ll write about it here afterwards….