*APAC Heritage Month* The Global Asian Experience: Home Away from Home
Home is where you MAKE it. Join us with Nick and Weronika, they will share with us their Asian experiences and what home means to them.
Hello everyone, welcome to Cloudflare TV of the day. Welcome to our segment for our Asian Heritage Month.
So today we are very happy to have Weronika and Nick as our guest speakers.
I believe a lot of our audience might be curious about our choice of guests today, given it's Asian Heritage Month.
Without further ado, let me turn the table around and let them introduce themselves to us.
Weronika, what about we start with you?
Lady first. All right, so my name is Weronika and here at Cloudflare I'm a technical support engineer helping debug Internet, but originally I'm from Poland.
Currently I am in Lisbon and my connection to Asia runs very deep and long, all the way back into my childhood as I started with training martial arts in my elementary school.
And then as my major in college I went to study Sinology, which is basically the Chinese language, and I've been visiting China and Taiwan for a couple of times already up till this point.
So Nick, why don't you? Sure, I'll take over.
Hi, I'm Nick. I work in Cloudflare as a systems engineer, so we are doing the software that handles a lot of the traffic that our company receives.
My connection with Asia, I realized that it kind of goes back a bit further than I expected.
I lived in Hong Kong for a number of years. In a way it's kind of where I, you could say, grew up.
It was a big part of my life living there and it's a big part of my memory and my personality.
But kind of looking at the theme of today's broadcast, I realized this is APEC Heritage Month, so there's Asia and Pacific as well.
I grew up in New Zealand, which is the Pacific, and also I was born in the Pacific as well, in a small island in the middle of the ocean.
So I guess it only just dawned on me that I guess the relevance of me being here is a bit greater than I expected and I thought it was a good thing.
That is amazing and thank you for sharing a little bit of your story. Fun fact, all three of us are in Lisbon right now, so you're from a different part of the world.
Nick, you're from very, very far away. I think it's at least like 15 hours flight to get back to New Zealand from here.
Yeah, absolutely. It's a long way, right?
Yeah, and you are from a different background, then you have moved to Asia and now you are in Europe.
So what does home mean to you? Where would you call home or what is a category for you to call somewhere home?
That's a really interesting question and obviously since I knew I was going to be on this segment, I've been thinking about that answer.
I actually have been thinking about that answer quite a lot.
I've moved around a lot during my life as I kind of alluded to and really I find that moving to a new place, moving a house is just something that I do often and I think my sense of home is not really so much tied to a place anymore.
I don't think it's ever been. I moved around so much when I was a young child as well.
So for me, home is probably the people that are around me and that can be a more long-term kind of relationship like with my family, my immediate family who are here with me and who work with me in Hong Kong and various other places that I've moved to and that could also mean my friends as well.
So for me, it's very much a case of home is where the familiar faces are.
Even you, I mean the two of you I've got to know recently and I would call you familiar and you're part of my home experience now in Lisbon.
That is amazing. I might question you about the even work later on after the segment but we'll put it offline.
What about Veronica? What about for you?
So just listening to Nick's answer right now because when I got the title of the segment I'm going to be here talking about, I also thought about it and I thought about my concept of home and I think Nick touched upon a very important thing like home is not much connected to a place.
I think I also noticed that as I was, so let me just start from the beginning, for a long time I was living just in Poland and mostly traveling abroad for long periods of time and then going back home.
So I would leave home for like three months and then come back and now that I moved away I also realized that I still feel at home here where I am right now and notice that as Nick said like home is not that much connected to a place but mostly to the people around you and also I think it becomes familiarity with people, with the place itself, with experiences around you, with the life, with the language, with the culture you're in because as this changes what I've noticed is that once I would go to like Taiwan for a couple of months for you know leave outside of Poland and then come back home I would realize that home would not feel the same after I was back because that experience made me grow and that place back there stayed a bit more the same.
So I changed, the place didn't change but at the same time something was a bit off about it.
So I think it's very interesting and I think it's mostly like you make home yourself in a way, like you can make yourself at home in a very new environment with very new people and once you get used to it, once everything becomes familiar I think that that part of familiarity and being like exposed to new versus familiar is a big difference.
That is interesting about like where you go around like you always take the experience with you and you start growing with it.
I think I'm going to take a step back a little bit about what are the reasons why you two decided to move like let's say for the first time ever like when you decided to move your home or go to a new home what was that driving force and like yeah how did that happen?
What about Veronica? I think like you might have moved less than Nick because I think next time he has more money.
I was thinking that because my like big move was just right now when I decided to like after years of living in Poland in Krakow I decided to move away from there and come here to Lisbon and honestly it's because I've been here before and I really like the place and it seemed like a place which I would like to call home like a place where I would like to experience a period of my life.
I don't know how long but I would like to experience it here with the people around me and in this like in this culture in this climate here.
But I've also been always like a very adventurous person.
I would not stay in one place like I would go to Taiwan, I would go to America, I would travel around Europe for longer periods of time meeting with different people and learning a lot.
So it's I wasn't always like I just want to stay in this one you know one city.
I think it just moves like you know once you move away from your city then you know it's the concept of your identity and where you call your home changes because then you move away to a different country in Europe but you're still European.
You move to Asia and suddenly your home as you see it you identify with the bigger group like.
Interesting and like I'm glad like you moved back to Europe after I like experienced Asia as well so like you keep taking your experience around and keep sharing with the world which is amazing.
What about for you Nick because you said you have many times around so how did it happen?
Do you still remember the first time when you when you have a new home?
How did that happen? Okay when you mean moving to Asia for the first time?
Yeah. I think at that time I was kind of looking to expand myself a little bit and kind of make a difference in my life.
You know I'd been through university in New Zealand and I was working for a number of years and I guess I was secure in what I was doing.
You know it was a pretty good job at the time but I felt like I just wanted something new, something a little bit different and to challenge myself in a way.
I did have a connection with Asia. Prior to that I had traveled to Japan a few times and I had a sense of and during that one of those travels I'd been visited Hong Kong so I kind of knew what was out there.
I had a glimpse of what was out there but you know I had some friends from university who were from Hong Kong and I said look I'm just gonna come on over and just hang around a bit and see what I can find, see if I stick to the wall and I just kind of told my boss I'm gonna move on now.
I'm gonna try and make a shot of it in Hong Kong and basically in a different environment and challenge myself and see what I can do and that was a long time ago and obviously I stayed, I was able to stay and get a job there and grow a lot there.
So I definitely don't regret it.
It was a big part of my life. I think in New Zealand I was kind of youngish and in Hong Kong I did a lot of adult things I guess you can say in terms of my career, in terms of my life.
So as I mentioned before it's kind of a place that I grew up in in a way that I really transitioned in.
With that story I suppose you didn't learn Cantonese or Chinese before you actually moved to Hong Kong.
So how did it go for you when you first moved to an environment that you, well I mean we speak English in Hong Kong but like the communication is very different, right?
Yeah, so in terms of Cantonese language, no I didn't learn any.
I had no clue what to expect. I had kind of some familiarity with reading Chinese characters, so in terms of an understanding that a completely different system of writing and thinking, I was aware of that but speaking Cantonese or a tonal language like Chinese where different tones and pitches and sounds have different meanings, that was a new experience for me and it was a shock and a challenge, something that I really couldn't have predicted before I came.
Because as I mentioned I'd experienced a bit of Japanese which is not a tonal language, so the Chinese language really was really something new and challenging for me, so I had to learn that after I arrived.
I tried for a short time to do it structurally, taking lessons, but I found that I'm not much of a language learner, you know structurally I guess I'm a bit more organic, so I just picked it up as I tried to pick it up as I went along.
Maybe it was the best idea, maybe it wasn't, we'll see.
I'm sure we always learn like the most useful words in the restaurants and when we yeah transportation and talk to the drivers, it's always a good chance for us to learn.
That's right. Yeah and I think Veronica has a more planned move, so you learned Chinese before you actually went to Taiwan, is that right?
So actually I've been to China before I could speak Chinese for the first time and after that the next time I went to Asia I could speak a really decent level of Mandarin, so I think like that comparison, like the first time I went to China I could not speak a word of Chinese and it was very overwhelming because even though I was in I was in Beijing, so most of you can find people speaking speaking very good level of English there and we had translators that were assisting us on the trip.
It still is overwhelming, just the just the misplacement feeling like you feel like everything is new, everything you're kind of you know, you're kind of intimidated to go and ask people something on the street, you're kind of stuck with like that person that is your translator because if somebody else doesn't speak English you're kind of lost on the pronunciation, like on the like language barriers there.
But the second time I went to, I was actually in Taiwan that time, I was already speaking a different level of Mandarin so it was very different and it made me enjoy that experience of being in Asia, of staying there for so long, so much better and so much more enjoyable and I could experience the richness of that world long, like way better, like there was so much richness, so much more details that I could absorb and and just kind of experience in a way I couldn't before because it became from going as a like someone from outside, just like from outside looking in, like someone else explaining it to you, what you see on the picture, to actually being part of the experience which is I think really different when you go traveling or where you go and experience new culture, new country, new people, it makes such a big difference.
But I also want to touch something upon what Nick said, it's very hard to learn Chinese languages just because of that, you know, that tonal part of it because it's very different for us, it's very hard to learn but the good thing about it is that people, like Chinese people, are aware of it, of how hard it is, so they're always there and they always try to understand you, they're always so happy when you're just trying to speak it and you're trying to communicate, they will try to, even if they don't quite get what you mean, they'll try to guess, they're never like, oh your grammar is a bit off there, your tones are, you're saying something weird, no, there will be a lot of positive reinforcement, a lot of actually encouraging you to speak and try to merge into their environment, which I think for foreigners and people who are just starting to learn, it's actually very good because you're met with positive, you're meeting just with positivity, with being welcomed there.
I must say, I agree, because whenever we see a foreigner in Hong Kong, they're trying to speak Cantonese, like it's, I don't know if cute is the correct word, but it's like trying to learn a language because we have nine tones and it's not the easiest of all the languages you could pick in the world, so thank you, thank you for trying.
So other than the language learning, what are some other really cool and good experiences you had when you were in the Asian countries, like what is that that you were like, that is so cool, try it when you're there too.
I'll go first, I think Asia is a lot like Europe in the way that you have so many different countries and cultures and languages all very close to each other, so from Hong Kong you can get on a plane to Taiwan, you can get on a plane to Vietnam or Thailand or Indonesia or something like that, and these are countries with all different languages and different cultures and they're within two or three hours flight, so the diversity of Asia is something really special and if anyone goes there to work there, I would really hope that they don't just stay in the country that they're in or then immediately just fly home on their holidays, I would hope that they take the chance to travel around and see the environment that they're in, and then of course in Asia as well I would say the food is one thing to make the most of, you get so many kind of fruits and vegetables that you wouldn't find in western countries that you probably couldn't even name in your own language when you go to Asia, so have an adventurous palate and enjoy trying new things especially in terms of food.
Yeah, Nick stole my line because food is a variety of food and just how delicious it is, it's amazing, I enjoyed bubble tea so much, but another thing that I want to touch upon is I think hospitality and just the niceness of people there, they're very welcoming and they'll try to make you at home, they'll try to show you their culture, they're always super proud to share it and they're always explaining things to you and getting you engaged into different activities that you're doing, so once you actually come in contact with Asian people, they're always willing to share, they're always willing to explain things to you or invite you to take a part in something and they will try to make you feel at home as soon as possible, they're honestly great hosts.
Nice, I'm glad to hear that, that is some positive things about, okay, I need to keep that reputation up now, so all of these things we're talking about is all fun and games, everything sounds so beautiful and lovely and I think everybody is ready to go to Asia now, but we know that there are still difficulties in life, like there must be something that you find challenging that you have to overcome during your years there, like is there something you could share more with us about what are the biggest challenges that you had and how do you overcome that?
What about you, Veronica?
Yeah, I was looking at you because he was singing and I have experience as a translator, so one of the biggest things is actually guessing, like just taking the cultural context in and the differences in the way we express things, sometimes there is that cultural clash that we don't express concepts in the same way, so sometimes when a Chinese person is trying to say no or refuse, it sounds like a yes, but you have to look at the bigger context, look at what they're really saying and know a bit about how it is and what they're actually, what it actually means, sometimes something that is like a yes on the surface is like big underneath, like probably no.
I actually, that reminds me of what Nick was saying earlier, like Asia is almost like Europe, I have a feeling like we do similar in the UK as well, like when you don't say absolute no, it's like let me think about it, it means a no, so we do have that and what about you, Nick, like what was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome?
Sure, Japan was definitely communication, you know, I think in Hong Kong, it's actually very easy for a person from overseas to live and operate and do anything, if you can speak English, I mean anything you want to do with the government, you know, with official documents or anything, everything is in English, so you know, I would say people who live there would have an easier time than say someone who has to deal with bureaucracy in other countries.
Things that I found difficult, I'm trying to kind of separate things that are kind of difficult because they were in Hong Kong, then things that would be difficult because you're in Asia, I mean, as anyone knows Hong Kong is a very expensive place and it's a bit crowded and it's a bit noisy sometimes.
I think one thing is in Hong Kong, I found that people from Hong Kong often didn't give themselves the credit they deserve in terms of their confidence.
I know it's not kind of a difficulty that I face, but it's something that I guess stands out in my opinion.
I think, you know, when I first went to Hong Kong, I was really, you know, nothing in terms of my career but I kind of tried to have confidence in myself and build up my skills and build up my knowledge and I think when I kind of reached a certain level and in my technical field, you know, people from Hong Kong would kind of feel a bit intimidated by that and think, you know, oh you must have learned that from somewhere else and, you know, because you're from a foreign country and people do things better in foreign countries, especially in the tech industry and I would say, I would insist to them, I would say no that's not the case, you know, a lot of things that I learned and the skills that I developed, I did, you know, by myself or in collaboration with my colleagues here in Hong Kong and, you know, I said to them, you know, there's a world of learning out there, you just need to feel brave to engage it.
Maybe that's because they felt and have, you know, confidence in their English ability which is was not true, I mean, they were communicating with me in perfectly adequate English but yeah, that was something that I found quite difficult like how people there, you know, kind of lacked a bit of faith in themselves and I guess I'm looking at that from a, you know, a tech industry point of view as a specific example and that was in a way a challenge for me to try and encourage people to have faith in themselves.
That is awesome.
I think this is great for everybody as well because like we, for more of us that are planning to move around different countries and it's very important that we actually trust in, hey, it's a good decision, let's just go with it and have fun with it, so yeah.
Yeah, I mean self-confidence and I mean I wouldn't even say self-confidence but kind of like having faith in yourself and just, you know, being willing to accept the unknown is really important for making any journey in your life and it was certainly the case for me for the move to Asia.
I mean, I didn't have a job when I first went to Hong Kong, I didn't know what was going to happen, I was that close to running out of money and moving back so, you know, I didn't have a plan at all, I just, you know, you just tried something and I knew there was going to be difficulties and I knew that there was going to be challenges but, you know, you just got to do it anyway and expect these challenges and just try your best to get over them.
Thank you both. Right now we have like three minutes left, let's like mic it up a little bit.
I know you both speak the Asian language that you do.
Please, like, talk to all the locals that you can.
Yeah, don't be afraid to do new things.
Thank you both of you for all your sharing and all your experience.
I'm sure a lot of our audience are ready to embark on their own journey as well.
Good luck and bon voyage!