In the summer of 2016, my dad took my mum, my sister and I back to Hong Kong to see his parents. I was excited because I hadn’t seen them in so long, but I was also extremely nervous. What would they think of me? I hadn’t seen them in over 10 years, and didn’t have regular contact with them either. How would I be able to talk to them? My grandparents only spoke Mandarin, and I can only understand basic regional Cantonese at best. My pronunciation is even worse.
While we were there, I felt like a stranger despite the fact that for once, I was surrounded by people who looked exactly like me. People I should have been exactly the same as. But I constantly worried, could the native people walking the streets tell I was a foreigner? It felt obvious from the shuffling steps I took behind my dad as he led the way, and the sweat pouring from my eyeballs.
My memories of the visit are mixed, and the only reminders I’ve kept of it are some photos taken during the trip. In the most precious photo I saved, my sister and I are sitting on either side of my grandparents, smiling to the camera. But I remember wanting to cry whilst we waited for my dad to take that picture. Despite them being family, grandparents that I respected and treasured, I couldn’t help but feel like they were strangers I would never understand.