How to find friends in a new city

9/01/2019


The biggest scare I feared before moving to Hong Kong, was making friends. I was afraid that it would be hard to make friends, that I would be very lonely and far away from home.
As an expat, I am no longer tucked safely in the cohort of university social clubs, student houses or lecture halls, so it can be especially hard to make new friends in a brand new city. It's hard to leave what is familiar and comfortable, like old friends and family. And it is incredibly hard to open yourself up to vulnerability and rejection.
But I promise you, making friends is not that hard and you can do it. If you find yourself in a similar place of starting over and in the need of friends, start here:


SAY YES
Before I moved to Hong Kong, I made a deal with myself. Say yes to everything (in moderation) and try anything new. I put myself out there and when someone asked to go for a drink or a walk around, I kept the "Maybe another time" and "Thanks for the invite, but..." far from my vocabulary. The amount of times where I said, "Sure!" and "That sounds amazing!" even when I did not feel like leaving my apartment, can probably not be counted.

However, because of saying yes, I have met so many amazing people. I got last minute invites to a beach party, Sunday morning brunches, night outs and a coffee on a rainy day.
This is not about pretending someone you are not, but it leaves you open to new adventures and mingling.


MAKE THE FIRST MOVE
When you see someone interesting in your gym, on Facebook or maybe even on the streets, go for it! Stop waiting for someone to come ask you to hang. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting the ball rolling. Be willing to be the one to keep making the effort, invite them for a fun event, meet at a coffee shop to hang out and get lunch.

In my first week in Hong Kong, I wanted to make friends so bad that I organised a social event and invited loads of girls that I have never met before from a Facebook group. We went to a rooftop bar, had some nibbles and chatted about why we chose Hong Kong. Most of the girls where quite new in Hong Kong too, so this was a good way to make friends for them too.
The night ended in a clubbing night and till this day we still have contact and even do other events with each other.


USE SOCIAL MEDIA
I used Facebook to organize the event, which was honestly perfect. There are loads of Facebook groups with like-minded people. If you type in "(your city) Expats" chances are that there are at least 3 or 4 expat groups for that city.
Another group that is recommended is Girls Gone International, they have groups in a lot of different cities and the Hong Kong group is the one I used to meet my new friends. Similar groups are Solo Female Traveler Network and Travel Meet Ups - Solo Female Traveler.

I have been using Tinder a lot to get to know people too, it is a dating app, but it can work a charm. Other social media you can use is Meet Up and the app Bumble BFF. An expat website that can be used can be found on InterNations, they organise different events and meetups in a city of choice.


JOIN A CLUB OR A TEAM
In my first week I joined a new gym. Any fitness activity is great for meeting people. Whether it's a new gym, a running club in your neighbourhood (you can find running clubs on the Nike Running app or via Facebook), or a complete new sports like rugby, friendship has the potential to blossom where people gather to work out. Start with a smile and maybe a wave when you see someone going regularly and after a while a chat will come naturally.

Is working out not for you? Find classes or clubs that appeal to other hobbies you might have. Is it to improve your drawing? Did you read a book and want to share this with a book club? Moving to a new city is a great time to focus on your passions and find some new friends along the way.


BE PATIENT
There will be many times when you can't say yes to everything, or you can't join a new club. There are no more events, no more right swipes, and no more MeetUps. You start getting annoyed with the small-talk about career, why this particular city, and what the weather is like the rest of the week. You prefer to spend time in bed with Netflix.

And honestly, that's OK. Building a life somewhere new takes time. You will make friends, you already have put yourself out there. In the end, the best friendships are a slow build, don't rush it.


Do you have any experience with making friends in a new city?

How to get The Great Wall of China to yourself (on a budget) | Jinshanling edition

8/25/2019


The Great Wall of China is known as one of the most famous Seven Wonders of the World. This iconic landmark is probably on every travelers' bucket list, and I don't blame them. The Great Wall has a reputation for bringing you back in time, leaving you in awe, and be overly crowded. 
I have seen multiple photos of hundreds of people packed like sardines next to each other at the Great Wall. Luckily, there are parts of the wall that are not as crowded. 

When I was looking for ways to get to The Great Wall, I got overwhelmed with choices. A lot of the options that I was looking into looked good, but after some research I stumbled across the Jinshanling section of the wall. Jinshanling is known to be one of harder sections to hike, but it is totally worth is since it is also one of the the prettier sections of the wall and the least crowded. 
I was with a group of friends and we decided to not book a tour, but go by ourselves. Some tours are quite expensive and time intensive, as the students we are, that was not for us. Maybe not the smartest move, but we got there in the end after an adventure. If you want to play it safe (what I recommend): there are loads of tours on the internet that will go to the Jinshanling part, but we decided to take a bus.


STORYTIME: HOW I GOT THERE

We got told to take bus 980 from Beijing station to Miyun station, and take a different bus from there. The bus drive was around 30/45 minutes and when we arrived... we arrived in the middle of no where. No other bus in sight that would take us to the wall or back to Beijing, and no other people around apart from very aggressive taxi drivers. Since we did not had much of a choice, we decided to take a risk and made a deal with one of the taxis to bring us to the Wall for 30 yuen per person.
It was a scary ride, since the taxi was pretty much illegal and the driver did not spoke any English. Luckily, it was all good and the taxi drove us there and waited five hours till we were done, to bring us back to the bus station again.

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

When we reached the wall it was quiet, calm and pristine. We had the option to go for a long walk, or for a slightly shorter walk (around 2 hours shorter). We decided to go for the last option. We took a gondola (40 yuen) to the top of The Great Wall and hiked the wall from there.

When I got to the top, I was blown away. I didn't really know what to expect of the Great Wall (I honestly thought you would go up the Wall, take some photos and go down again), but this... this was amazing. It was gorgeous. The way the mountain held the wall and the sun hugged the landscape; it was perfect. And we had it all to ourselves, which was probably the best thing. 



The hike on the Jinshanling area is challenging, so keep that in mind when going. There was a few times where I thought that I was going to fall of the wall and my knees still burn when I think about the stairs and the hills. But it was fun. 
We went on a very hot day too, it was 37 degrees and there is a little to no shadow on the wall. Our taxi driver asked us before if we had enough water, but I thought that one bottle would be enough and ended up buying water at on of the stalls one the wall. I recommend bringing your own water, we got told later that the water on the wall is probably just tap water in a used bottle and a few of us got really sick after.  

COSTS

The hike took about 4 hours and it was so hard to leave. At the end of it you're exhausted and invigorated. The total we paid for the trip was 155 yuen, which is around 17 pounds (20 euro's). 
- The bus - 20 yuen
- Taxi - 30 yuen p/p
- Entree fee into Janshanling area - 65 entree 
Gondola to go up the Wall and cut off 2 hours of walking -  40 yuen
When I was looking at tours, most tours asked around 80 pounds. With most tours, you will get a tour guide too and you have a bit of assured safety, but if you want to save a little over 60 pounds, I recommend to take a bus and hire one of the taxis. Of course, keep in mind, safety first and do not trust all taxis. 
We spend the 60 pounds later that night by having a big dinner, since we were absolutely starving after the walk. It was honestly a perfect day.





Choi Hung (Rainbow) Estate Hong Kong

8/15/2019


Choi Hung Estate is a residential building complex that has become very popular due the colourful and bright rainbow buildings, which make for a very instagrammable backdrop. The best view of Choi Hung Estate is from the basketball court that was on top of the 3 storage parking garage.

CHOI HUNG ESTATE HISTORY

Choi Hung Estate was built in 1964 and is an old public housing estate in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government provides these types of subsidised public housing so that low income residents can afford somewhere to live. According to the Economist, Hong Kong is the second most expensive city in the world.
Choi Hung means "rainbow" in Cantonese. There are stories going around that these homes were painted like a rainbow to uplift the resident spirits. There are seven buildings in total and every building starts with a different colour of the rainbow.

TAKING THE PERFECT PICTURE AT CHOI HUNG ESTATE

Unless you go to the estate early in the morning, you will probably be greeted by quite a few other tourists wanting to get the iconic pastel picture. I was advised to go around 2 in the afternoon as the light on the building would be optimal at that time. However, if you come around 9 o'clock in the morning, the sun will start peeking through the buildings which can give you a cool shot too.
I ended up going around 12, which was a good time since there were not that many people around. When the sun did come through at 2 it was insanely hot and I was sweating buckets to say the least. plus the basketball court was full with tourists around this time.

I am not a big fan of having other people in my photo's, especially if everyone is posing and having their camera's out (like I did). Usually this means a lot of waiting or getting creative with the different angles. Some of my top tips on getting the shot:
  1. Pick a spot and wait it out. Eventually people will move and then take the gap to get that photo. Be ready to pose so you don't get taken over by other people.
  2. I got some great pictures at the benches and by sitting on the wall, the closer to the building the less people.
  3. If you want to take photos at the basketball court, I would recommend to go for a blurry shot with a DSLR or portrait mode on your phone, so you still get all the colours but you blur the people out.

HOW TO GET TO CHOI HUNG ESTATE

The best way to get to Choi Hung Estate is to catch the MTR (underground). Make your way to Choi Hung Station on the Kwun Tong Line (green line). Once you're at the station, be sure to exit from the C3 or C4 exit. There are plenty of signs around the station to help you get to the estate. 

You will find the Choi Hung Estate directly in front of you once you exit the station. Walk around the complex and you will see a multi leveled car park. The basketball court is located on top of the car park. Walk up a few flights of stairs and that's where you will find the basketball courts. From the ground level, the basketball court is easy to miss so be sure to keep an eye out for the car park stairs.


Fun fact: We stole this basketball from a 10 year old kid that was playing basketball on its own. Wouldn't recommend it, but it got me a great photo.

Photo's of me taken by Quentin / No Sugar, No Milk

So, I moved to Hong Kong. Now what?

8/11/2019

On this lovely morning, I am writing from my apartment in Hong Kong, my new home sweet home.

It has been a wild year so far, and that's putting it delicately. Let's just say, 2019 is doing me good, very good. Starting off the year still at university in England, trying to live my second year of university to the fullest while searching for a placement. At the beginning of 2019, I had no idea where I would be in 5 months time. I had idea's; I knew I was going to be overseas, for sure. Singapore? Australia? New York?
Something far away at least, something that was different from England or the Netherlands. Hong Kong has always been on my mind. I visited Hong Kong back in 2015, but moving here sounded too scary for my liking. USA and Australia are still quite western, a comfortable option, while Hong Kong is different. Different language, different culture, different things in the super market. I decided to still shoot my shot in Hong Kong, since life starts outside your comfort zone, right?

In February I received THE e-mail, a work placement offer in Hong Kong starting in July. I could not hide my happiness, I was going to move to Hong Kong in less than four months (say what?). How cool is that? It still makes me tear up when I think about that moment, especially after all the rejections I have received.
In the same month I got an acceptance email to a summer school in Shanghai too, for a month of studying Mandarin language in June.

It's now August (two months later) and I have to say, without having done an exchange in Shanghai for a month, I probably wouldn't have loved Hong Kong as much as I do now. And I probably wouldn't be this open-minded and outgoing as I am now.
Living in Shanghai was scary, but still comfortable. I had the comfort of going with a group of students from my English university. We all shared the same experience, the same culture shock and the same difficulties. If I did not had them, moving to Asia would probably be a whole lot more scary.
Now, because I have experienced China for a month and have travelled around Asia since 2015, the culture shock isn't as big as expected and living in Hong Kong is actually quite easy.
Hong Kong is very open-minded, vibrant, a city that never sleeps, and is full of expats. It is very different in comparison to Shanghai, but so much better than I expected. The first three weeks, my life has been packed with work and socialising. I still need to find that work/life balance, but so far, I think I am nailing it.

Besides being afraid for a culture shock, I was also afraid that it would be really hard to make friends. What if my colleagues don't like me, what if it is really hard to meet new people? The opposite seems true. In my three week I met so many lovely people, I even organised a social event for expat girls like me.
It helped that my colleagues have been incredibly helpful and loving too. It is like coming into a new family. In the first week they took me out for lunch every day, so I got to know them better, and they really take the time to explain logistics to me.

It is funny, because before I was born, my parents where planning on moving to Hong Kong (hence why they named me Chynna) for work. However, this plan got cancelled. If this was not cancelled I would have been born and raised in Hong Kong instead of the Netherlands. Now, 21 years later, I made it to Hong Kong anyways.

If you have specific questions about my move to Hong Kong or anything else about living in this concrete jungle, please drop them in the comments and I'll be sure to address them in future posts.
Until next time, much love.


Photo's of me taken by Quentin / No Sugar, No Milk

Mango & Pistachio Chocolate bark + Day in Bristol

4/18/2019


So lately I started to realise that I am very proud when I say that I study in England, but somehow, I barely have seen anything from England, apart from the city where I study and London. I did not come all this way to see barely anything, I must and will explore more. So I went to Bristol, a vibrant and energetic city, with a new friend who is studying here for only a few months. 


Before I went to Bristol, I already knew a few spots where I wanted to go. I wanted to get lunch at the Florist, a gorgeous little restaurant at Park Street. The Florist is famous for their interior and special cocktails. We did not had any cocktails (since it only just turned noon), but we did had an incredible lunch. They don't have typical lunch food (like sandwiches), it is more like dinner food. Which was fine, but not what we expected.
I went with a raw Pad Thai salad and grilled seabass, Moana went for the gnocchi. Both dishes looked stunning and the Pad Thai salad was so good, I can't say anything bad about it.

After lunch, we got advised by one of the members of staff to go to Cabot Tower and the Suspension Bridge, which we did go to. To reach the top of the Cabot tower, you had to climb these really narrow stairs and it felt like there was no end to it. But once you reached the top, you had an amazing view over the whole of Bristol city. 
We walked to the Suspension Bridge, which was quite a walk, not going to lie. We walked passed the Clifton Village district, which had a famous bakery in it. ANNA Cake Couture, they are famous for their wedding cakes and special flavours in macaroons. If you ever come in Bristol, please grab yourself a box of ANNA macaroons, they are the absolute best. I can honestly say that I never had better macaroons than this one (even when I was in Paris). I choose flavours like ginger and white chocolate, Rose and raspberry, and earl grey and lavender.  Which were all great. 

We ended the day with a stroll trough the St. Nicholas Market, which is so pretty and they sell loads of street food. From vegan cakes to falafel wraps. The smells were incredible, unfortunately we just had our lunch. After we had big shopping session at the Cabot Circus Shopping mall and dinner at the Italian place Zizzi. 

Mango & Pistachio Chocolate Bark

When I was still in high school, I had a friend who sometimes made me a "chocolate pizza", basically a huge chocolate bar with loads of toppings on it, like M&Ms, oreo, cookie crumble, peanuts etc. I was absolutely obsessed with it, but haven't had it in years. Last weekend, I decided to give it my own twist, and came up with a mango and pistachio chocolate "pizza", or chocolate bark. It is so good that it is addictive. Plus, it brings all my childhood memories back.

The dried mango works so, so well on chocolate. It makes it a bit chewy and so sweet, it is perfect in combination with dark chocolate. The pistachio nuts make it a bit more crunchy, gives it a little bit of a bite and texture. The coconut flakes are just a nice extra and the salt tickles another taste spectrum, so it is not sweet on sweet on sweet.

Ingredients
- 1/2 cup pistachio nuts
- 1/2 cup dried mango, chopped
- 1/4 cup coconut flakes
- 7 ounces good quality dark chocolate
- 3,5 ounces good quality white chocolate
- Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Line a baking tray with baking paper
  2. Melt the dark chocolate until smooth and spread it in an even layer over the baking tray. Melt the white chocolate in the same way and pour this over the dark chocolate, run a knife trough it to make a desired marble effect.
  3. Scatter the chopped mango, coconut flakes and pistachio nuts over the chocolate, pressing them in a little to make it "stick". Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt over the top as well.
  4. Put the whole tray in the fridge for at least 1 hour. When completely harden you can break them up in uneven, big chunks and store them in a container in the fridge. 

What would you love to have on your chocolate pizza?

© Chynna Falandt | Food & Expat Life • Theme by Maira G.