>Residency Requirement

>How long do you have to have spend in a place to say that you have lived there? What is the cultural residency requirement?

On my last sabbatical, which we spent in New Zealand, I remember talking with my older daughter about two months out. I asked her why she thought we had come to New Zealand to stay for more than four months. She quickly replied, “because it takes two months to get used to everything.” There does tend to be something almost magical that takes place at around two months. After two months in New Zealand I had mastered driving on the left and begun to match the way Maori place names were spelled with how they were pronounced. We all knew what the All Blacks were and who Helen Clark was. I had started to master the names of all the bays of New Zealand, used as geographic markers in conversations. And life took on a routine. And we had come to know Great Barrier Island.

I went through a similar, though shorter adjustments when we lived in Guelph, Ontario for 3 months. By two months I had found the best route to walk to the university. We knew where the different grocery stores were. We had discovered that Canadian Tire did not sell many tires, but we could find household items there. My favorite potato peeler is still in my kitchen drawer at home, acquired that summer. After two months we had found our favorite places to walk and visit when friends came. We knew that when someone told us to turn right at the Ontario Hydro facility, we did not need to look for water, but a power station. And we had fallen in love with the Niagara escarpment, having traced it from Niagara Falls to Tobermory.

I was much more purposeful, intentional, and conscious of our adjustment to Hong Kong. Karis and I talked about it before we left and she said she knew we were going to have an adjustment.

Probably that magical moment came earlier than two months. What are the signs? I just showed somebody where the Chinese Resource Building was on HK Island, how to get a visa, where to find the line, and where to go to get Starbucks coffee after you had gone through the process. We now ride the subway without having to look at our guide (mostly) and take some buses. I can get in a taxi and explain myself in various ways that result in getting near to home–which works because I recognize the neighborhood and can then find my way. In fact we are learning the SHORTEST ways home.

I am comfortable taking my walk which takes me through an estate development, down to an athletic field, and back along my street to stop at the Wellcome grocery store for a few things, and then pick up a South China Post newspaper at the 7-11 on my way home. And I will be the only non-Asian along the entire route. And I can count change without having to just hold my hand out with a pocketful of coins for the clerk to choose from.

The CityU guard and I greet each other every morning as I go past his post on my way into the tunnel that goes from CityU to Festival Walk and my office. And the young man at the Starbucks just looks at me and says: skinny capaccino grande?

OK. And I just found the full length mirror which was on the back side of a closet door I rarely use.

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