I don’t always write personal posts but when I do… I just do. While I’m writing this note my husband is on his way to take Common Recruitment Examination and Basic Law Test in San Francisco and I’m here keeping my fingers crossed and thinking about our future.
One of the hardest choices to make in a multiculture relationship was chosing to give up my whole life – school, friends, family for being with my husband. I packed my 22 years of life in one, not that big suitcase. I didn’t even have time to say ‘Goodbye’ to my dearest friends. As soon as I knew he has a job and OPT I had to rush so we didn’t have problems with me entering the United States. It was more than 8 months ago. In meantime we kept wondering – which direction should our life go. One direction. Just joking.
I personally don’t believe patriotism is something you should have when it goes to place of your birth. I can call Wroclaw as my home – I was born and rised there. I know almost every part of it. The good, the bad, the ugly. But I had no feelings leaving it. Of course I cried kissing my parents’ cheeks. I cried I won’t see my friends for a pretty long period of time, but I didn’t feel bad or sad. It was just an accident that I was born there, especially Wroclaw is in South Poland and my parents used to live in North. I could be born in any other place and have same sentiment.
I believe your home is a place your heart beats faster, place that gives you chills and a place you want to stay or come back, no matter what memories you have. You chose your own home, your heart choses it. I often say I might not be a half-Hongkonger by birth but my heart is.
All those things lead me to choose – Hong Kong, Poland or USA. ‘Follow your heart’ as Disney’s Mulan said. If it was so easy. I want to compare my experience with living in those 3 places, my feelings about them and how it all looks when it goes to finances. Maybe then you will see why I struggle so much.
It’s my country of birth. I have great memories and people I love, but I don’t feel anything more. I friendzoned a city. Citizoned? Despite what media say we’re not ‘economical titans’. Maybe we didn’t got too hurt by an economical crisis but looking at people I know I can see it’s really hard for them to get a decent job, very often they are abused by employer, don’t get any social security, they are paid really low. If I continued my studies in few years we could get nice money but my husband spent so much money to get American degrees, Engineering License yet still since he’s outside not only Poland, but European Union zone he might have problems with getting a job. And believe me he would make a terrible housewife.
Another problem is racism in my country. From what I’ve noticed it keeps changing, people don’t look into your bed and I never really heard a comment in real life, but on the Internet there are so many haters talking sh… that it makes me sick. Including that because of me all Slavics of Europe will be gone. My dad was so affraid whenever we went out, especially when that one Asian couple was thrown into the river during Winter, Chinese students got robbed in the train and no one said a thing. And again when we go back to the economical situation people are upset about any foreigner coming to the country and ‘stealing jobs’. Not everyone is like that, we used to be the most liberal country in Europe… probably somewhere around XVI century.
Salary: according to the government it’s 3740 PLN (9490 HKD/1223 USD), but if you ask young people or just average Kowalski he would probably say it’s around 2000 PLN and that means they will pay you little bit more than 1400 after all taxes. Minimum salary is 1600 PLN which gives you little bit more than 1100 PLN after taxes and insurence.
Food: I cannot deny it’s pretty cheap, but you shouldn’t also expect high quality. If you’re on a tight budget you can make your week of food cost 30-40 PLN but believe me, you won’t be healthy.
Public transport: depends on a city, but it’s pretty expensive comparing to the rest of the world. For a normal ticket you need to pay ~3 PLN. Also only one city in Poland has a subway – one line. Well, at least you won’t get lost. It’s also not a good quality public transport – always heating in Summer, never heating in Winter. Sometimes I wonder what they do with money from tickets.
Renting/buying a flat: we’re used to rent a flat because we don’t really like to deal with banks and credits. I rented a 1 room (just one room, not American 1 room which actually ends up as ‘living room and bedroom’ and gives 2 rooms in total) apartment for 1280 PLN with all the bills. My parents bought our family flat for around 280 000 PLN at that time.
Not bad, but should I take a risk Sing cannot find a job and wastes his degrees. Or that one day some stupid racist people will decide to attack us?
It’s not more than 8 months since I live in America and I have a feeling I cannot fit into this culture and society. You might say ‘It’s just 8 months, give yourself more time’ but my husband came here for his first degree around 8 years ago and even he told me he doesn’t feel like a part of here. We’re those two immigrants struggling with getting a visa, wondering how long more we can stay. Will Sing get his H1 visa or he has to extend his OPT and try next year. What if it doesn’t work? Should I start my school now or wait (if) he get an H1 and my education can be much, much cheaper. Should we even bother with a green card?
All those questions are up in my mind because I know from financial point of view America is the best solution for both of us. We might be affraid of getting shot, we might not feel comfortable or like home here, but let’s face the facts: I’m on F2 visa now, I cannot do anything and I’m not a rich Tai-Tai to enjoy being a housewife but yet still my husband manages to earn enough money to take care of both of us, pay the rent, pay for food, going out and trips. And we can even save a bit. Now’s the funny part: he earns the minimum of engineer salary since when he got his job he was still month before graduation. As a citizen he would earn much more.
There’s also one more thing bothering me a lot, after so many years we’re probably the last country in European Union who still needs a visa to enter America. My parents know almost no English and they might be rejected when they apply for the visa. On the other hand my mom in law might not get a visa as well… that doesn’t sound that bad 😉
Salary: for today as I mentioned we can manage to pay for living, travel and save up. And it’s only one person that brings money home.
Food: same as Poland – very cheap. Minimum wage in California is 8 USD per hour – a combo in Carl’s Jr is less than that. Whole baked chicken in Foodmaxx is 5.99 + tax. Even earning a minimum you won’t be hungry. The other thing is taste – I dislike most of American food products – don’t get me wrong, everything is just ‘very’. Very sweet, very salty, very whatever so it’s usually too much for me. And portions are really huge. It might be advantage for tough times.
Public transport: bus in our area is 2.10 + 0.25 for changing. You can also take a bart and from our area to San Francisco and it costs you around 4 usd and saves you 5 USD for crossing the bridge with a car. Honestly at least in our place public transport is popular among children, the rest of the people use cars – it’s much easier cause the space between two buildings is so big that from one shop to another you need to drive ,even thought they are in the same shopping mall. Gas is extremely cheap – now around 3.60 USD per gallon. To compare – for a gallon of gas in Poland you would need to pay almost twice more.
Renting/buying a flat: for our place we didn’t pay more than 980 USD with bills, if you don’t live in a big city it’s really cheap. Even buying a house here is something that you can pay off in 10 years, not 20 or 30. In San Francisco it’s much more expensive, we looked up on newspapers and average flat/house in not really good, living area is around 400 000 USD and up. Before you buy it you need to also check is it in a flood- and earthquake zone which might make your insurence really high.
Now we have a place that can give us a decent life but we just cannot really enjoy it… let’s see the third option.
My love at first sight. Whenever I remind myself of the time I spent there, all the nice memories are stuck in my head. I check blogs of people who are living there now, compare their experience with mine, I see changes going on around and deep in my heart I sigh that I had to leave. That’s the place in my heart I could call ‘home that I’ve chosen‘. It’s also a place that my husband was born and rised, all his memories are stuck in Tuen Mun parks. I can remember the taste of my first gai lan with shrimps my mom in law made. I remember McDonald’s neons flashing during the night. I remember how road in front of our building was changing everyday. I think it’s the only place beside my hometown that made me feel so secure and confident while walking there. But it would be too easy just to say ‘Go to HK then’. Hong Kong was just voted one of the most expensive cities to live in, I still don’t speak language well enough to get a job and I’m not English native speaker so teaching wouldn’t work as well. Another thing is if we live in Hong Kong there’s 3 baby of mine coming beside Biscuit and my husband. Yes, it’s THAT baby. My mom in law. She provides us a flat but we get her as a housewarming gift.
Also it’s not really said that even if he gets a good job there he will stay there. Looking at our friends who are also engineers they are either sent to Mainland China and they come back (or no) every weekend back to Hong Kong to see their families or go for many business trips around Asia and hardly see people close to them. Well, I didn’t give up everything to go back to long distance relationship. And 5 days a week along with his mom would kill me, don’t get me wrong – we just have problems talking so we use signs and gestures (and a dictionary) to talk. If he is sent to Mainland China probably I would go there as well but it’s not the same – his family is affraid of food, air and water quality, not to mention still we would be those visa-outcasts worrying about paperworks and everything. Same as America – I enjoy traveling around but I don’t feel it’s a good place for me.
Salary: difference between people is huge, one of our friends earns so much he thinks 80 000 HKD engagment ring is too cheap for his fiance, other one has to live with 4 friends in tiny flat and other one was offered 8000 HKD per month even thought he graduated from American University, the same one as the first guy. All of them are very sweet, nice and smart guys but yet, it’s not enough for everyone to have a decent life.
Food: my mother in law cares really about quality so veggies, shrimps and fish she buys are always fresh but also expensive. If you want to eat McDonald’s it’s also not that cheap. But if you know where to eat you can eat good, big and cheaps meals – usually in places I cannot read more than 3-4 signs. Afternoon tea is much better in my opinion than in America – 500 HKD (64 USD) for a delicious sweet set for two with a great view vs. some sweets, some fruits, some sandwiches, with no view for same price if you count tips and tax. The only problem for me could be eating my country’s products. From few Polish people in HK I know you can buy some items, but I can forget about delicious meats. In San Francisco and Bay Area I have at least 2 stores selling Polish food. In Hong Kong where Polish community is around 70-80 people it’s almost impossible to get anything.
Public transport: cheap ferries, cheap tram, fair price for subway and extremely expensive buses. 12 or 15 HKD from Tuen Mun to Tsim Sha Tsui is quite expensive. Of course you can say it’s just 1.5 USD but if you count living expenses it’s not a good price. Yet still I love sitting on a second deck and watch Chow Tai Fook commercials on the back of other buses. At least quality matches the price.
Renting/buying a flat: he, he, he… I think anyone who ever saw a price of Hong Kong flats knows it’s pain in the butthole. We’re lucky ones who wouldn’t need to worry about place to live but there’s a 99% chance we would get his mother with us. I was rised in a society not living with their parents once they have their own family and it freaks me out. She doesn’t like animals as well so I cannot imagine her and Biscuit together. Renting a flat in Hong Kong is not an option – his family wouldn’t let us ‘waste money to someone, better pay off the bank and have it rather just throw money away’. It’s true that renting a flat is expensive and that no law is protecting people. My mom in law rents out flat for 9000, but I’ve seen houses for 16 000 or even 28 000. And they weren’t big at all. Imagine paying half or more of your salary for a place to live. If you earn 8000 how you can pay 9000?
In Hong Kong there’s my heart and happiness. But there are also worries that we might not handle it. We surely won’t go down and won’t need to worry too much but as far as I know my husband if we fail he will blame himself, be ashamed and cannot face me, feeling like he wasn’t a good husband.
By the time I publish it this evening we will count the days until the letter with results comes. And worry which path we should take: live a stable but not really happy life, take a risk of my husband not having a job but being close to at least one part of family with so so life or take a risk, finish my degree, improve my husband engineering license and give it a shot to a place where I feel alive but it also might ruin us.
What would you do? Please share your suggestions and ideas! 🙂