Hong Kong, My Second Home
The first-hand experience of a Pakistani student in Hong Kong
By Huzaifa Azim Butt
Coming to Hong Kong was unnerving at first. I was homesick and I was nostalgic, but things got better very quickly.
Once I overcame the homesickness settling in, making friends became easy. With thousands of exchange students coming to study here every year, friends came from all corners of the world such as Holland, Canada, India (just a few), Mauritius, Egypt and of course Hong Kong itself. The people of Hong Kong, I felt, are extremely friendly and welcoming; they make a genuine and sincere effort to include you in the community. Although it might not always work out because of the cultural and religious differences, it does work out most of the time. I have never travelled abroad except for Hong Kong, but I somehow feel I can safely say, without knowing for sure, that Hong Konger’s (as they call themselves) are some of the friendliest people in the world.
Aside from the people, the city itself was amazing. A quick tour of the skyscraper district, the harbors and the beaches is enough to enamour one with the city. While the blend of urban and natural elements throughout the city made it aesthetically pleasing, the meeting of eastern and western cultures lends it a colorful energy. More than often, l would see people in traditional brightly coloured shalwar kameez, Buddhist monks in their simple robes, African women in Kangas and so on.
The culture and ideological environment is a unique one. I was now surrounded by a combination of ideas and believes drastically different from what I believe in myself. It was upsetting at first, but over time I realized the value of this unique experience, since it provided me an opportunity to critically ponder over, question and evaluate the believes that are ingrained within the Pakistani society and as a result, within me. This unquestionably helped me better understand my values and at the same time gave me an understanding of different points of view.
One occasion that comes to my mind is when my friends and I went to watch the cricket match between India and Pakistan in the recent T20 world cup, with a group of Indians. It was 50 Pakistanis on one side and 50 Indians on the other. The convivial atmosphere was intensified by the naras both sides were shouting with a fervor that bordered on extremism. I was so overwhelmed by this unique experience that I could not speak properly for the next week. The point being that such an event really is the quintessence of what Hong Kong is all about. Two sides that are traditionally not supposed to get along, who have been bombarded with anti-India or anti-Pakistan sentiments from the day they were born, get along, have fun, and show respect to one another other (especially when Pakistan ended up losing the match). The whole experience made me question the basic anti-India sentiments that existed within me and that exists within most Pakistanis. This has since then taught me to evaluate and soften my attitude towards our neighbours.
Finally, being a part of the cross-cultural Muslim community in Hong Kong has been a special blessing. Recently, I celebrated Eid with people from at least four or five different nationalities. Coming together of people who have nothing in common but their religion was heart warming and being a part of this experience itself was wonderful. We regaled one another with stories of our countries over barbequed chicken and beef, joked with each other and in the end everyone left feeling a little more part of something bigger then themselves, most without knowing it.
There are very few places similar to Hong Kong in the world. It is a beautiful city with amiable people. There is certain vibrancy and captivating vibe in the air, which is the result of years of cultural and ideological meeting. It allows you to practice your own believes while simultaneously surrounding you with different ideas to help you better understand your own. This beautiful city has been the stage for some very amazing experiences in my life and coming here has definitely been one of the best decisions I have ever made.