Local: Justin Cheung

Hong Kong, June 2016

Meet Justin, born and raised in Hong Kong. This is his self-written story.

“I spent most of my childhood in an all-boys school here doing typical Asian things like taking violin classes, taking private ping pong lessons, being a underachieving boy scout, going to tutor for english, math, calligraphy, painting, you name it. I also went to a lot of these random classes at the local community center and learnt how to break dance, “communicate effectively”, cook without a fire, etc etc. And last but not least, lots of video games. I never really enjoyed much of my childhood (sorry mom), I was constantly bullied by my brother who’s 8 years older and 10 folds more violent than me. So the only enjoyable parts was when I had space to myself where I would mostly just play video games and watch TV. I didn’t really understand that there would be things that were fun outside of my own world because whenever I’m out of it, I would either be in school or doing something my parents wanted me to do.”

New York
“So I would say what I just described really motivated me to be different than everyone else. I didn’t want to study finance or business or math or science like everybody and their cousin did. I didn’t want to be stuck in Hong Kong because Hong Kong to me = shitty childhood = shitty place. I didn’t want to take the standard exams that was stressing everybody out. Which is why I moved to New York and studied design there.” “I always liked to draw. Even though that has very little to do with design, it was why I went to art school. There, in New York, I lived with a farm boy whose body odor was so severe it got me sick and unable to eat for 2 weeks, a trans, someone who was the most normal white guy from Kentucky who later also became a trans, Kiefer Sutherland’s step son and a Hispanic fashion designer who looked more Asian than me. And they were one of the reasons why I’m so happy with my decision to go to New York. There is so much more color and diversity in that city than where I am from. It’s like everybody has their own story and their lives are so drastically different from mine so it was a blast just to listen to these people tell their stories and make me realize how vast the world is.”

New adventures
“It was quite stressful during my first few months in New York—new city, angry homeless people everywhere and the workload from school was crazy too. I had a panic attack one day and had to stop everything I was doing to take a break for a day before I could go on. But I got over the growing pain and soon found New York to be far better than Hong Kong. The rest of my stay in New York was nothing short of bizarre. Everyday there would be something weird going on in the city. If there wasn’t a crazy hobo screaming at folks in the subway, a kind old Korean lady would come up to you, tell you that there are too many Chinese people in her church and insist that you come on Sunday afternoons even though you’ve told her that you’re also Chinese, like the rest of the unwelcome strangers in her community. She would then proceed to get your number and call you every now and then, leave you voice messages in Korean and an especially long one on Christmas Eve. So yes, New York was inspiring in a way that if you paid enough attention, you will find gems everywhere in the city.”


Back in Hong Kong
“The biggest takeaway from New York, though, was not from the city itself. It was when I came back to Hong Kong. I started to force myself to like the city again. It’s very common for someone who is born and raised in a certain city to be bored and neglect many faces that his hometown has. So during the few months that I’ve been back, I have deliberately traveled to places that I haven’t been and do things that I had never done in the 18 years that I lived here. And so far it’s been a real treat. Rooftops in Hong Kong, for one, is one of the easiest and coolest places to go to in Hong Kong. Find a set of staircases, and go all the way up. Nobody really stops you.”


Advice for Digital Nomads
“So if I were to give a digital nomad a piece of advice, is not to forget where home is. And when you go back, visit your home like a foreigner and explore the crap out of your hometown, find new friends, hang out with people that has nothing to do with however long you’ve spent living at home. You will find something new. That said, treat your home like any other cities you are traveling to – once you’ve done your exploring, move on.”

According to Justin these three things are good about HK: Food, Safety, Transportation. And these three things are not so good about HK: People (we’re all the same), Lack of good art, Impossible to pay rent and have a life at the same time.

Justin is really social and is always open for a chat. Email him when you want to know more about local Hong Kong!


These are some of his awesome pics he posted on Instagram!