How a single girl with a working visa built her life in the UK ⦁ 一個單身女子勇闖英國的經驗

Carly and her family in the UK

Carly Rajani is “never overseas Chinese, always a Hong Konger” despite living in the UK for 15 years. Wanting more opportunities (去闖), she applied for a working visa in 2005 and came to the UK as a single girl without a job. Little did she know she would then get married, have two children, and call the UK her permanent home. “If I could start a life here with nothing and nobody, I am sure Hong Kongers coming here on BNO Visas will be able to make it.”

Was it hard to be here as a single girl? ⦁ 作為一個單身女仔,15年前自己過嚟英國困難嗎

In a way there are many similarities between Hong Kong and the UK. For example, road signs are very alike.

More importantly, people in the north – where I was staying – are kind and straight forward.

But I had my fair share of bad luck when I just arrived. I was burgled twice within my first month of working in Hull. The first time I left my backpack in a visible place in the car – back then I did not know we ought to put important items in the car boot – and the car was broken into and my backpack and laptop stolen. The second time was more serious. I was sleeping in a room above the coffee shop I was working in, and was woken by a strong quake. I got up to find out the coffee shop downstairs was burgled. Luckily I was not hurt both times and never had similar experiences again.

It was a strong reminder of how safe Hong Kong is. I have also learnt since to keep my car really basic with not too many decorations. It would draw the wrong kind of attention here.

How did you make local friends? ⦁ 一個女仔喺英國你點樣識朋友

Don’t expect to be able to make friends straight away, and there is no point forcing yourself to socialise from my view. Brits can be conservative, and they tend to hang out with their existing group of friends so it can be difficult to fit right in. I made friends over the years via the church and my colleagues. My coworkers used to invite me to their homes and I would sometimes offer to cook.

After I met my husband, his friends and their partners naturally became my friends. Now I also make friends with parents of the kids in my kids’ schools.

But the culture is just so different, the friends I made here are never going to be like those I have back in Hong Kong.

What is a normal weekend for you now in the UK? ⦁ 你而家嘅星期六日點樣過

For a weekend with no engagements my family and I will cook together. Before COVID-19 we visit our friends a lot at their homes. On sunny days we head out for scooter/bike rides. Occasionally my husband and I take a short trip together and visit other parts of the UK or even Europe if we could leave our children behind.

Were your parents supportive of your move? ⦁ 家人支唔支持你自己過嚟

They respected my decision but were partly under the impression I would return after the working visa expired. In the early years I would visit Hong Kong 3 or 4 times a year so my parents felt that I was always around still. After I met my husband and had children, my Hong Kong family knew that I would stay here permanently. It was hard for my mum, as she was a full time house wife raising me up. I try to do video calls with her regularly. We also share a photo album on cloud so she can see all the pictures I took here.

Do you see your parents in Hong Kong moving to the UK with BNO Visas? ⦁ 香港嘅父母會唔會用BNO簽證移民嚟英國

They don’t want to move. Firstly, they don’t understand English that well. Also, the life they live in Hong Kong is of higher quality, and so convenient. The shops here are so much more basic than in Hong Kong and life in the UK is relatively simpler. Additionally, they cannot drive so they are homebound unless we take them out. It will be difficult for them to adapt.

A bangle saying “Hong Kong”, given to Carly by her close friend from home.
A bangle saying “Hong Kong”, given to Carly by her close friend from home.

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