by Rachel from Hong Kong

I am Rachel from Hong Kong. I am working as a volunteer in Dortmund and want to be in Dortmund for one year! I’m living now on Meylandstrasse and that’s the reason I’m writing here. I would like to share my first days in Dortmund with you.

My diary from 8 April 2019

Dika (the other new volunteer from Indonesia) and I got up when the sky was dark. Today we had to register at the resident registration office. As it just accepted walk-in application at 7: 30-9: 00am, we needed to arrive and line up at 6:45 am. I had heard that Hannah, one of our room mates in the Volunteershouse and Carolin, our coordinator, had waited for 7 hours to finish the registration. When we arrived at the office and met Frauke, the assistant at the Department of Ecumenism, there was a long queue. After a long wait, at about 9:30 am, we finally started the registration. I applied a resident permit with my BNO (British National Overseas) passport. My passport, she got confused. Why I’m holding a British passport together with a Visa? The reason was that Hong Kong had been a colony of Britain before 1997. Therefore, many Hong Kong people held a BNO passport but did not have the right to stay in Britain and vote. She had to figure out who I went back and after some time she walked back. Finally, we finished the registration in 4 hours.

I am experiencing the cultural differences between Germany and Hong Kong these days.

  1. In Germany, people can start eating their meals and do not have to wait until everyone gets their / hers in fast food restaurants. However, it is impolite to do it in Hong Kong.
  2. You should open your presents when you receive them. In Hong Kong, you can not.
  3. Most of the people walk slower than that of Hong Kong.
  4. Hong Kong and Germany have different ways to count numbers with fingers. If you have Chinese friends, you can ask them to show you the way they do it.

While walking to a cafe, Carolin asked me if I thought people in Dortmund. Maybe many Hong Kong people would share this feeling but not me as I walk slowly in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, people around my mom sometimes even got annoyed and urged me to walk faster. But in Dortmund, I find my speed! Then I met my mentor Angela. She was very sweet and nice and had prepared for me. I asked if I could open it immediately. They told me that I should open it in front of people. In fact, even in Hong Kong, I would think so. In Germany, I am fully encouraged to open it. Carolin said „It seems that you are German style.“

In fact, I am who I am, just me.

When you get to know someone, it is common to ask “where are you from?” Like in the resident registration office, the lady tried to figured out who I am. These days, I have many chances to introduce Hong Kong to Germans like there are tall buildings, narrow roads and lots of cars and people in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people walk very fast and they are busy. I would say that is totally true but not the whole picture. Like me, as a Hongkonger, walk slowly and love open the gift. Although Hong Kong has many tall buildings, there are also beautiful mountains and amazing sceneries.  Sometimes knowledge causes stereotype. Culture is a sum of people habits but at the end, habits are also a personal choice. Culture is complex and diversified. Like Germans can also be late and Germans can walk fast. Once I told Carolin that I was told Germans (or Europeans) did not use umbrellas, even it was raining. Next day, she intentionally brought an umbrella with her and said „I want to break the stereotype.“ In fact, I also saw many places in Germany selling umbrellas and people would use umbrellas when it rained.

Carolin said that I am lucky because I love laughing. I laughed while talking, and laughed when doing nothing. Smile is like a cross-cultured door. It can go into people’s hearts. This is not Hong Kong style, not Dortmund style, just Rachel style.