Hong Kong seems to be a safe harbour these days when compared with Turkey, the scene of a recent coup attempt, or Britain, where citizens have Brexit to contend with. A Turk, Mustafa lived in the UK before moving to Hong Kong with his family four years ago.
He did not move because he foresaw the bad things that would happen in each country. Rather, he moved for a new experience in life for him and his family. However, Mustafa now faces risks for his children’s development as they are growing up in Hong Kong.
Mustafa was born in Fethiye, a small town in Turkey. He moved to the UK for a master’s programme at the age of 20. With his philosophy that life is too short to spend only in one or two countries, Mustafa always felt the UK was a temporary stop. But he ended up spending eight years there, where he met his wife and added two members to his family. In 2011 Mustafa and his wife were deciding among Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong as the next destination.
“As a family man, I need to think of more than myself. Since all my kids are girls, I feel the Middle East may not be a good option for their development. As I and my wife applied for jobs in Hong Kong, we both got offers. So we ended up coming to Hong Kong. I feel great because I did an exchange program in Beijing and I always wanted to come back to this part of the world.”
While Mustafa and his wife got a bit nervous as his two daughters were only one and five years old at that time, most things in Hong Kong were up to their expectations or even better.
When asked whether Mustafa feels Hong Kong is a good place to raise kids, he found safety in Hong Kong is a big advantage but there are few potential problems he tries to avoid.
“There is too much emphasis on study, I see most children in Hong Kong need to spend three hours on homework. I think kids should have time to rest and reflect on their learning. I am lucky enough that the school does not force my kids to work too hard”
“It is good to raise kids from infant to teenager in Hong Kong. But the risk is that my daughter can now write four pages of brands as a 9-year-old kid. She would not know those brands if she grew up in UK. When she becomes a teenager, she may want to own things from these brands.”
“Hong Kong can be quite materialistic when people are judged by what car they drive and what handbags they carry. But this would make people miss the meaning of life.”
But based on Mustafa’s observation, he does not think the expat community is affected by the extremes of capitalism in Hong Kong.
“Most of the expats I know have a different lifestyle; they value having new experiences more than owning a physical thing. If they have HK$20,000 in the bank, they would rather explore a new country than buy something.”
As a dad, Mustafa has also been keeping track of his daughters’ feelings about Hong Kong.
“Every year, I ask my daughters several times whether they are happy in Hong Kong. Every now and then, they say they miss home – the big room and garden – but they did not come to me every day. I explain to them out of many things they like about Hong Kong, many of them are accessible because they live in Hong Kong. I just want to teach them the concept of trade-off.”
Lost faith in politics
The language barrier also makes it difficult for Mustafa to understand the political issues in Hong Kong. However, what is happening in Hong Kong reminds him of what happened in Turkey during his youth.
“One evening, I walked through the occupied area to see the incident for myself. Though I don’t understand the details because of the language barrier, I fully support the idea of making your voices heard by the government. But I feel it is difficult to make a real impact under the current regime. This makes me recall the moments that I fought for things as a teenager in Turkey.”
“Turkey is a very political country where there are many protests and fights. Most of the time you cannot change things in Turkey, you are just left with the frustrations of opposing or supporting something – you seldom get what you want. After so many years, I kind of lost faith in politics and democracy.”
“When I left Turkey 15 years ago, I started the habit of not following Turkish news anymore because I can never find a practical solution to the issues. I know a lot of people would criticize this idea but sometime ignorance is bless.”
As Mustafa left Turkey with disappointment about politics but more importantly with an urge to explore the world he lives in, he understands Hong Kong people may want to do the same. He strongly suggests people should try living outside Hong Kong, even if they do not have negative feelings at home.
“People may decide to move when they believe they cannot change things that get them frustrated. Even if people are not leaving because of frustration, they should have experience in a new country, new regime, new environment to see at least what is good at home. If my kid in her 20s tells me she wants to stay in another country, as long as she can be safe physically and mentally, I would encourage her to do it. ”
“You need to know what is really important to you and your family. You would face an issue wherever you go, so it comes down to how much of the problem you can cope with and how you can develop the technique to deal with the issue. If people believe they can find a place with a better lifestyle for themselves than in Hong Kong, they should definitely be brave to make that move. ”
In Mustafa’s view, moving to another country is not difficult for Hong Kong locals as they can survive in any country.
“Even though most people like to retire in their home country, you can always come back to Hong Kong after working abroad for five to ten years. At the end of the day, Hong Kong is a place whose people are mobile; they won’t be strangers to a new country because it is an international city.”
No place in the world is perfect, some people decide to move out from their hometown, some stay to deal with the issues. Although Mustafa does not care too much about problems in Turkey now, at least he tried to fight against the social issues when he was young. Are you still fighting for things, or do you already feel that ignorance is bless?
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