MDes Talks: Leaving Sao Paulo for Hong Kong : What pushes me away pulls me back

For the first time, after almost a year, I went back home for summer break.

In the beginning, leaving Hong Kong for summer break wasn't in my plan. But as soon as I left, I learnt something.

Being a Chinese born in Brazil always made me feel that I didn't really fit in Brazilian society. Maybe that's the reason I have so many Brazilian-born Japanese friends. The culture, the way Chinese kids are raised – are different. Hence, I ponder the idea of living in Asia and this was my dream for a while. Having this dream for almost ten years, I came to Hong Kong for a Master’s degree.

After living in Hong Kong for almost a year, I realised that I also don’t belong to this place yet. Even with the ability to speak the local language in Cantonese (crooked, but still), or the Chinese feature, I am not a real Hong Konger/ Chinese – it doesn’t feel right either.

Where Have You Been?

Maybe this feeling of displacement is common among global nomads – professionals who travel a lot, move from one place to another over a period of time.

Global opportunities enable people to have greater mobility, hence, forming people-based networks mixing people with multicultural backgrounds.

I once met a Canadian born Chinese but she lived in Hong Kong for many years and felt more “at home” in Hong Kong than in Canada. Another time, I met a Paraguayan born Korean who lives in Brazil and has a family rooted in traditional Korean culture.

How wonderful is it?

The stereotype does not work anymore. These snap judgements based on the appearance of a person and a single point of view is often misleading – people are not what they look like – this kind of judgments and “single story” is also a topic discussed in a previous post (MDes Talks: Exploring Shenzhen). That's the beauty of the multicultural people and also what makes them so unique.

There is a famous sentence in Portuguese that means “Wherever you go and stay, you leave a piece of you behind”. By staying and living in a different city for a relatively long time, you will have memories and feelings towards happenings, places and people. This also means you have time to change things and be changed in this place. Then, every time you go back to your original city or to the previous place, the feeling will be changed, because you have changed. The place and culture are not the only things that can change.

And this, is the bright side of having the opportunity to live abroad.

MDes Talks: Leaving Sao Paulo for Hong Kong : What pushes me away pulls me back

People We Meet

To meet different people at different places, with different cultures is a gift. Once I come across a sentence that can summarise this situation: “People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.”

In the beginning, it wasn’t very easy to meet people and make friends due to the differences in culture, language, perceptions and our busy schedules. After nine months, however, things have changed. I met people where I live; I met a part of the family that I hadn’t even know; I met people in activities outside school and started blending with the classmates.

Having a break and going home made me see more clearly how different is the Brazilian culture compared to the Chinese, and how Brazilian I am, even this does not seem obvious to me, or that I would like to be one before coming to Hong Kong.

Being Brazilian means to be friendly and welcoming/ warm, being local and very committed to friendships. During my stay in Brazil, I met old friends who welcomed me with the warmest greetings. There were also some new friends, a few people who offered me help with the capstone research without even knowing my name, while most of the classmates in my master’s programme, off they vanish in the heat and summer.

Now I can say with pride that I am Brazilian; I am a daughter of the samba and the wonderful country that Brazil is.

MDes Talks: Leaving Sao Paulo for Hong Kong : What pushes me away pulls me back
MDes Talks: Leaving Sao Paulo for Hong Kong : What pushes me away pulls me back

Being Critical

Coming back home always gives us a different perspective about things we were so used to, giving us the chance to value some aspects and see some more differences. Every time you go back to a place, you'll see it differently: the physical place might not have changed much but you have.

Before going to Hong Kong, Sao Paulo was just a city where I used to live and study with no affection apparently. Now looking at it for the second time, I was able to see how special this city is, even with its grey colours and its growing number of problems.

Sao Paulo has been the object of study for my capstone research. There may not be anything new discovered when researching Sao Paulo, but in fact, looking at it for the second time made me see beyond numbers and comparison. Each city, besides its problems, has a different pulse.

Now looking back, Sao Paulo can be ugly to some, with its countless grey buildings, but the beauty of the city lies in the uses people make of it. The creativity gives out a good vibe and energy, turning this city into a special place.

MDes Talks: Leaving Sao Paulo for Hong Kong : What pushes me away pulls me back
MDes Talks: Leaving Sao Paulo for Hong Kong : What pushes me away pulls me back
MDes Talks: Leaving Sao Paulo for Hong Kong : What pushes me away pulls me back
MDes Talks: Leaving Sao Paulo for Hong Kong : What pushes me away pulls me backMDes Talks: Leaving Sao Paulo for Hong Kong : What pushes me away pulls me back

Each place you go and each person you meet with bring you some lessons and turn you into who you are. These experiences are something you take to the heart and that each person takes in differently and gradually contribute to one’s personality.

So everywhere you go, anyone you meet, let yourself embrace it with the heart. Anything can bring a valuable lesson, even a bad experience could be a blessing in disguise.

Photo Credit: Sylvia Yeung

Posted by Sylvia Yeung - Living the 20's years old issues and doubts. Born in Brazil, with the heart in Hong Kong. Graduated in Architecture and Urban Planning at Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Sao Paulo. Living and exploring the concrete jungle and mix of emotions contained in the city where the journey of the ancestors began. A current Master's student in Urban Environments Design (MDes).
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MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialisms under the Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.
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