MDes Talks: Home Blindness: Why Leaving Paris for Hong Kong

Mathilde Gattegno is a recent graduate (Class of 2018) from Urban Environments Design (MDes) programme. During her study, she has written topics from what is it like to live in Hong Kong as a foreigner, making new friends, comparing education systems, and a series around her capstone project, What is Home for Hong Kong millennials. Currently based in Hong Kong, she continues to write about anything but a single story.

My first encounter with the concept of home blindness was in the magazine Kinfolk, where a short article talks about how Swedish people have a special word dedicated to the concept: hemmablind 1. Home blindness describes a state –  you know your surrounding so well that you don't need to be thinking about your environment nor to pay attention to not bumping into your furniture. Home blindness includes the performance of all those small but important home rituals in our daily life without us being aware of, in turn allowing our brains to switch to an auto-pilot mode and get some rest.

1. Burns, John Clifford, Home Blindness, Kinfolk 21, 2016

Home Blindness: Why Leaving Paris for Hong Kong

But we can still carry home blindness outside our home. It is when you see a shop under construction in your street and you have no idea what it used to be. Or it is when your feet take you home from work without you thinking, as if you have just passed a time warp.

If home blindness is important for our inner peace, it also brings some troubles when we become blind to important things. Getting accustomed to problems (such as poverty or pollutions) stops us from questioning our practice or surroundings.

It can also make us blinded to what makes the place we live in awesome. We look at how tourists are being blown away by things that have become normal to us, yet we fantasise to be in the city which those exact tourists are from.

I am not here to judge anyone as I become blind to the beauty of Paris. Can you imagine becoming insensitive to one of the most beautiful cities in the world? I can only see the dirty side of it now, and even if I know good things still exist and the initiatives to improve life are made every day, I just cannot acknowledge them anymore.

If you ask me about Paris, I usually feel uncomfortable. I do not want to give such a dark portrait of the city as I feel like a bitter old grandma when I listen to myself. Instead, I usually recommend friends to go and check for themselves and form their views. My advice: be aware of the cliché and not to be blinded by the typical impressions, and try and see both sides of the reality.

Home Blindness: Why Leaving Paris for Hong Kong

When Hong Kong people whine about their city but express how much they envy French life, I get quite puzzled and thankful at the same time. Puzzled because the life they describe in France is what it used to be a few decades ago but no longer the case for most of the population. Puzzled because for someone who arrived in Hong Kong from a “troubled” city, Hong Kong has given me a brand new definition of freedom and opportunity.

But I am also thankful for the vision they have for Paris, a vision that drives behind how the city should aspire to be. Foreigners keep alive the magic of Paris of which Parisians tend to forget.

Home Blindness: Why Leaving Paris for Hong Kong

Lots of artists would tell you that adventure is around the corner. Instead of searching on social media for the novelty, just break free from home blindness. Break away from a habitual behaviour to enter into the time warp from work to home – look at what is around instead. If you have more time, take the bus and look through the window. Pin places on Google maps that seem interesting to come later.

Awaking from the blind state is like most things in life that needs practice. One day you might think of changing path and realise that you are already home before you could even do it – you were lost in your thoughts and your brain took the lead. But little by little you may become better at it.

You may be like me that you tend to focus your attention more on the bad things instead of the new magic. And once again, it takes practice. This practice I failed in France. In Hong Kong I had the opportunity to start afresh, aspiring to see as much good as I can in this city.

Photo Credit: All images by Mathilde Gattegno

About the Writer

Mathilde Gattegno - From Paris and love to see the world. Graduated from architecture with an option in civil engineering. Curious about everything, a huge bookworm, a little bit geek and also enjoy music, sports, going outside to take pictures. Hong Kong is a brand new playground!

MDes Talks is a series of student blogs produced by current MDes students and recent graduates. For its third edition, the editorial team consists of writers from China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Mexico, France, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark. They write about study life, living abroad, design, and what you don't know about PolyU and Hong Kong.