Hong Kong drifter: Hong Kong has a human touch

June 3, 2016 Updated: June 3, 2016

Since 2003, when Hong Kong universities were allowed to start enrolling mainland Chinese students, more than 160,000 mainlanders have come to Hong Kong to pursue studies and careers. These mainlanders have been labelled “Hong Kong drifters”.

Young Hong Kong drifters have formed a unique social group in Hong Kong. When their graduations are impending, most mainland students must face the question of whether or not to stay in Hong Kong.

The experience of Yi Yi (a pseudonym), a Hong Kong drifter who has been studying at the University of Hong Kong for a short time, may provide an inspiration for Hong Kong drifters who are considering whether to stay in Hong Kong.

Many people have said that Hong Kong people are relatively apathetic. As the society is money-oriented and the economy is declining now, most Hong Kong people tend to be very impetuous, and pessimism can be felt in the air of the society.

However, Yi Yi, a young student who recently came from the mainland, found that Hong Kong people are warm and polite and behave with propriety. Although she is shouldering work stress and the pressure of life more heavily than in the mainland, Hong Kong people’s genuine human warmth touched her and let her fall in love with this city.

Warm-hearted stranger

When Yi Yi went to attend an interview for graduate enrollment at the University of Hong Kong, she was very excited. She had high expectations of the upcoming journey.

On that day, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station for the University of Hong Kong had not opened yet. The most convenient route to the university was to take an MTR to the Austin Station and then transfer to bus No 970.

Chatting and laughing with friends, Yi Yi arrived at the Austin Station. Suddenly she found that she was confused, as there were many exits. Which exit would lead to the bus stop?

Carrying heavy luggage, she already felt very tired after a long and arduous journey. She could not rely on the Internet, as her SIM card was not ready yet. How could she find the station?

They chose an exit randomly and went out. Then Yi Yi saw many people working on a construction site of the high-speed rail station, and she asked a worker for directions. The worker spoke only limited Mandarin, but he was very warm-hearted.

Unfortunately, he did not know where the stop for bus No. 970 was. The worker thought for a moment. Then he took out a mobile phone from his pocket. After searching for a while, he told them the directions and enthusiastically recommended a mobile phone app.

Yi Yi was moved by Hong Kong people’s warmth on her first day in Hong Kong. Immediately Hong Kong became a lot closer to her.

The Main Building at the University of Hong Kong. (Yi Yi)
The Main Building at the University of Hong Kong. (Yi Yi)

Misunderstanding about landlord

For a mainland Chinese student who has just arrived in Hong Kong, the first thing to do is to rent a place to live. Yi Yi felt a little bit worried, as it was the first time she had left her familiar environment and rented accommodation alone.

Looking at the expensive rents on the Internet, Yi Yi imagined how luxurious and beautiful the Hong Kong houses were. Her mind was full of the tycoons’ villas she had seen in Hong Kong movies.

Shortly, Yi Yi managed to contact a landlord on the Internet. The landlord owned an apartment close to the University of Hong Kong, and he said he knew that life was not easy for a mainland student in Hong Kong. He was very willing to take care of the mainland youth studying at the university.

He said the rent would be lower than the market price, and Yi Yi could come to view the apartment any time. He also sent the detailed route to her.

Yi Yi and her mother took a bus to meet the landlord. They saw steep slopes, dense buildings, and narrow, crowded streets, which immediately shattered their fantasy of the seaside mansions they had seen in Hong Kong movies.

The landlord was a friendly middle-aged man wearing glasses and casual dress. He took Yi Yi and her mother to a high building and opened the iron gate of an old elevator.

Yi Yi had never been in such an old elevator. Listening to the whistling of the wind outside, she felt a little surprised that such an ancient elevator was still running in such a developed society as Hong Kong.

The apartment was very ordinary, but clean and tidy. Despite being well-lit and well-ventilated, the room was so small that it could barely accommodate a bed and a small table. Thinking of her own spacious bedroom and garden in the mainland, Yi Yi was not very happy when looking at the rent amount on the tenancy agreement.

The landlord was very nice to Yi Yi and her mother. His conversation with them covered a wide variety of topics. He also said that they could call him anytime in case of lost keys, and he would be ready to bring the keys to them. If something was broken, they could ask him to get it repaired immediately.

After they left the landlord, Yi Yi and her mother began to discuss whether to rent the apartment. Perhaps because they had not met a warm-hearted person for a long time, they felt a little worried.

Her mother said, “The landlord kept mentioning that he would bring the keys to you. Moreover, he said that he would rent out the apartment only to young girls, not to others. Isn’t there a problem?”

Yi Yi agreed. Therefore, they turned down this friendly landlord. A year later, after Yi Yi met more Hong Kong people and had more experience and a better understanding of Hong Kong, she felt regretful.

She knew that she had wrongly treated the kind-hearted landlord as a bad guy. She felt that her thought at that time was ludicrous.

Lost wallet recovered

After a whole day of field practice, when Yi Yi went to buy an evening meal, she found that her wallet was lost. In the wallet were HK$5,000, her ID card, her student card, and various bank cards.

When they heard about the incident, her Hong Kong friends became more anxious than she was. They told her how to report the loss, helped her find the bank’s phone number, took her to a police station to make a report, and spontaneously offered to lend her money.

On the following morning, Yi Yi suddenly received a phone call from the library of the University of Hong Kong, telling her that her wallet had been found at the library. Because her student card was in the wallet, they found her contact details and asked her to pick it up as soon as possible.

Only then did Yi Yi remember that she had gone to the library at noon the day before. Perhaps the wallet had fallen out of her backpack. When she went to the library to check the items in the wallet, she found that nothing was missing. She was deeply touched.

Yi Yi’s story is only one experience among the tens of thousands of Hong Kong drifters. She feels very lucky to have encountered such a group of kind-hearted Hong Kong people.

Some people think Hong Kong is “old” and lags behind. Yi Yi said that Hong Kong is not “old,” but “traditional.”

She believes that the traditional culture Hong Kong people adhere to, as well as their human kindness and sincerity, will enable Hong Kong to take off again after a short latency. She has full confidence in Hong Kong’s future and also expects to get more deeply integrated into this community.

Translated by Thomas Leung. Edited by Sally Appert.

Yi Yi a Hong Kong Drifter