Like Robots

Elsie with her children.


  • Rebranding Blackness

Elsie reflects on her ten years of living in Hong Kong. Unlike the poeple in the Republic of Congo, the people in Hong Kong appeared to live like robots.


Elsie: I came to Hong Kong in 2010 as a dependent of my ex-husband, by the time fiancé. It was not love at first sight when I come to Hong Kong because I’m a very homey person and it was hard to leave Republic of Congo and come to Hong Kong. In French we say “Qui ne risque rien n’a rien”, which means “if you don’t risk, you are not going to get anything.” When I came in Hong Kong the houses were disappointing. In Africa, we have huge houses, your bedroom you can put four Hong Kong bedrooms in one, that was my first disappointment because I love space and that was not what I found in Hong Kong. There are also too many buildings and I’m not used to that because I come from the village. In Hong Kong, I lived in a building for five years, and I never knew the face of my next-door neighbor. That was shocking because for us in Africa, I don’t know if this is true in all the countries in Africa, but we are family with all the neighbors, like if one of your neighbor is sick, the other neighbor can get out their car and bring you to the hospital. But I didn’t feel that way when I came to Hong Kong, they were not warm people, you see.


Elsie's okra soup.

This feeling was stronger when I started working in 2013, which was a challenge, not only as a black person, but as a black woman who can think and who is free to say a word. In Hong Kong they like people who can keep their mouth shut even if they know the answers. Since I was not that kind of person who could keep my mouth shut, I usually felt like people were blocking my way and it was frustrating because it’s meant to be a place of freedom. We don’t have that in the Republic of Congo, because we cannot insult our president; if you do, you and your family might be shot the next day. This is a place of freedom; everything is fine in terms of food, money, and work, but people live here like robots. If you don’t overwork yourself, you don’t get your rewards, and in a real African mind, it’s not like that. We don’t have to overwork yourself; every Friday you are going to see night clubs packed. Because people don’t only work, people enjoy their lives. You are going to see families have time together. Why? Because not only the working and the money are important. In Hong Kong I was not even able my kids for a month because I have to work.

The people here, I would say they don’t have a heart, because when you have a heart, you have compassion. I had a miscarriage in 2016, I was pregnant for three months, I was already here in Hong Kong but my company decided that they cannot give me a sick leave because some of my colleagues were already on holiday, and that I had to cover for my colleagues even though I was pregnant, and after I lost my baby, three days after they asked me to go back to work. This cannot happen in Africa. Not only was I grieving because I lost something that was really precious to me, but I also found out that people I saw every day in my life more than my family don’t even give a damn about my loss, that they give a damn about my presence at work which going to make them money.

I love this place, it’s a wonderful place, I am not going to move especially for my kids to study here because even I go to Canada or France, they won’t have that opportunity they have here, that’s the only interesting part in Hong Kong. My kids can learn four languages at the same time with me pulling so many strings. I can teach them French at home, and at school, they are taught Cantonese, Mandarin, English which I don’t even pay for. If I decide to move to Canada or somewhere else, if I want my kids to speak Chinese, I have to hire a teacher, or I have to send them to a private school. Everyone has their advantage here.


The members at Africa Center enjoying their meal.

For kids I think they have more opportunities, but for us, in this place, you are already an adult, if you don’t have solid background or you don’t think like the people do here, it will be difficult for you. When I was going to school, we did not have computers; I remember going to school and you have to sit on the floor because there are no more chairs, but today, the new generation goes to school with computers, they are going to have another way of thinking, maybe thinking better than our generation or my elder generation. Hong Kong is a place of challenge, and if you are not a challenging person, or you don’t like hard work, you are going to find it hard for you, which was my case. I’m trying to adapt myself with that.