My experience coming back to Lancaster after being in Hong Kong for a while

An ‘honest’ review of my experience back in uni and in Hong Kong

For me, Hong Kong is a place that’s good for a holiday, but not to live… that is a different story entirely. Initially, I was going back for Christmas, to avoid the ever-growing cases which were happening in the UK. Disclaimer, I am not an international student, but I was born in Hong Kong and integrated into British life about 14 years ago.

I moved to the UK at an early age, and therefore fell out of touch with Asian culture and speaking Cantonese, which means I am basically illiterate. Unless food is in the equation.

UK weather

During my (unwanted extended) period of time over there, the weather on average was what you expect in UK summertime – get some drinks out, buy some snacks, grab a picnic blanket and have fun, or if you’re like me, don’t really ever leave the house. But once I finally got back to “sunny, and hot” Britain, there was a major shock in difference in temperature, specifically how cold the night usually is.

Over here, everyone was wearing thick coats in 14 degrees, whilst I was just wearing a few layers: flannel, hoodie, t-shirt, and jeans. For me, this seemed to be warm UK weather, but I think I must be alone in that view. One of my relatives says, “one degree? That would be very cold, people go to the highest hill to get some frost and cold breath out”, but that’s just a typical English Tuesday in November – and I don’t have to go to the top of a hill to see frost. But in all seriousness, it was a bit strange to adapt back to the UK weather, it took some time, but it was alright at the end of the day.

Disconnection from friends and university

When I was initially meant to go back to the UK in January, the Hong Kong government announced that they were cancelling all flights back to the UK, meaning I was still eight hours ahead of all of my friends over here. Luckily, my seminars are at nine am UK time, so I could still manage them.

Whilst I could’ve make friends in Hong Kong, the language barrier caused issues and maintaining friendships via text is harder than it seems – especially since most people usually type in Chinese, but I can’t really read that, so my only method is typing it in simple English which they would understand. It also doesn’t really help that I am terrible at texting and starting conversations, so the odds of me properly socialising are stacked against me. With my friends in the UK, I basically just send memes, add some small talk, and go from there, but I couldn’t really do that in Hong Kong.

I do have my friends back in the UK, but a problem arises due to this. Time zones are my worst enemy since I could only text them at particular times. My friends have a weekly Dungeons and Dragons meeting online, but due to the time difference, they had to start it at 11:30 am, which for me was 7:30 pm. However, I am glad my friends were willing to play with me at a reasonable time and find a compromise so that I could play and maintain the connection with them.

When I returned to the uni after my isolation period, I met up with some friends from my course and people from my film group project. I also walked around campus for a bit, hoping to see people I knew. Luckily enough, I did see some of my friends from term one, so it was nice to say hi to them, or have a 10 minute conversation to catch up.

Not really a culture shock, more like a slap in the face

The biggest shock was thrust upon me when I returned to Lancaster and there was *still* no one on campus, but what was really surprising was that some international students were unable to return back to their own countries. I also realised that not everyone wears a mask unless they’re in a private place, which is majorly different to Hong Kong, where masks are worn everywhere but at home.

The restrictions here are looser, and travel is a little less convenient due to having to get a bus to town, which only come every 20 minutes. In Hong Kong it’s significantly easier to get anywhere, but in the UK, trains only come every hour with a probability of delays and cancellations. I completely forgot that not everything is done instantaneously and despite me having a car, paying for parking charges really turns me off the idea of using it.

Nevertheless, I quickly integrated back into the campus life knowing that I am under the mercy of Circuit Laundry. I had to remind myself how to cook, despite the fact that I’ve only eaten soup noodles (not ramen) for the past week. When it comes to food, I’m pretty low maintenance, and basically cook the same 20 minute recipe every night. Now three weeks in, I’m back to doing uni work, meeting people from my course, having random encounters with people I know, and most of all, playing Yakuza 0 for eight hours a day.

I feel content. All in all, Hong Kong was a fun time, but I was yearning to get back to Lancaster, and my homesickness and the major time difference meant that my return was inevitable.

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