Aside from creating space for a lack of meaning in your life, not pursuing your own career can also result in sheer boredom and idleness. Sara Young, who was in law school in Britain when she decided to move to Singapore with her spouse, says it was hard for her to get her bearings again, career-wise. “In Singapore, it was difficult to find work. I was bored and I was resentful that my boyfriend was pursuing his career and I wasn’t. I had trained for five years to become a solicitor and now, nothing. As we had no certainty as to how long we would live in the country, I did not retrain.”
Using Substances to Cope with the Challenges of Trailing Spouse Life
As it turns out, the feelings commonly experienced by trailing spouses – stress, lack of purpose and social isolation – are all emotional causes of addiction. Many people in this situation find it easy to use alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism when they don’t know where else to turn. Expat life in Hong Kong also comes with its own set of addiction drivers: a higher disposable income, restlessness when you’re not as goal-focused as you’re used to being, the social acceptability of drinking in expat circles and an increased sense of anonymity.
Shanghai expat John Armstrong points out how common this is: “If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about expats in Shanghai, it’s that they tend to drink and pursue ‘alternative lifestyles’ far more than they would have had they not moved East to partake in China’s economic miracle.”
Despite strict drug laws, illicit substances are still widely available in Hong Kong, and expats likely have access to them through their social networks.
Making the Most of Your Time in Hong Kong
But while being the spouse of an expat is undoubtedly challenging at times, it is entirely possible to settle in and discover new meaning in this important phase of your life’s journey. If you’re unsure as to how to spend your newfound free time, try the following:
Put yourself out there. Look for local events, go to meetups; join a yoga studio or shared creative space. Talk to locals you meet throughout the day. Get to know the business owners on your block. You never know where you’ll meet someone you click with, and you just might discover a new interest in the process.
If you’re not currently getting paid for your talent, put it to use by volunteering. There plenty of ways to give back to this new community that you now call home: tutor underserved youth, walk a rescued dog or join a beach clean-up. These activities offer the added benefits of getting you outside, encouraging you to explore new parts of the city and keeping you active. They’re also a great way to teach your kids the value of helping others – which in turn helps them build emotional resiliency.
Get Back to Work
Hong Kong is famously entrepreneurial; its free economy attracts people from all over the world who start impactful restaurants, e-commerce businesses, clothing brands, tech companies and more. Hong Kong University’s School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKUSPACE) offers a variety of part-time, short-term programmes for those who want to brush up on their business acumen.
When you’re feeling down, don’t forget: all your lifelines are still available. Call a family member, chat with a friend and tell your partner how you feel. Seek out other expats – they’ve been through the same experiences. You are not alone.
It’s also a great idea to get professional counselling. If you’re struggling with the trials of readjustment and want tools for working through them in a healthy, supported, substance-free way, The Cabin Hong Kong can help. We offer comprehensive, conveniently scheduled group and individual therapy sessions held at our office right in Central. Contact us today to learn more.