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Young Hongkongers
Time Out Hong KongFrom left: (top) Brian Pin, Yu An Su, Lucina Chan, Harmony Yuen, Julie Yang; (bottom) Marco Lam, Keane Lee, John Maguigad, Chi Him Tang, and Carlotta Traverso  

Young Hongkongers on life now

The postmillennial generation tell us how it is like to be 21-year-old in the city now

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Written by
Tatum Ancheta
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The pandemic has dramatically changed our lives and impacted everyone all over the world. To the post-millennial generation, the onslaught of Covid-19 has become a defining moment in their formative years. Gen Z is approaching adulthood riddled with obstacles, and the seismic changes surrounding their day-to-day life continue to reshape their values, influencing their choices, priorities, and how they look into the future. 

We talked to 20 to 21-year-old Hongkongers from different backgrounds. Read below to learn about their current status, how they are coping with life after a year of intense uncertainty, and what their current interests are. 

RECOMMENDED: More of Time Out’s This is 21 project

What's it like being a 20 or 21-year-old in Hong Kong now
Time Out Hong Kong

What's it like being a 20 or 21-year-old in Hong Kong now

Most 20 to 21-year-old Hongkongers are either taking a gap year from university because of the pandemic or currently taking internships, while those who have graduated into the coronavirus era have been struggling to find steady employment. Many have moved back home with their parents, and some are taking this time to pursue their passion and hone their skills. 

John Maguigad, 21, amateur theatre actor: "The current climate puts a lot of pressure on us to maintain or find a job or to finish school. A lot of the people I know have no time for themselves because they're overwhelmed with work. The pandemic had put life on pause and gave us a little breathing space to rethink, but we still face the challenge of dealing with change and uncertainty.” 

Brian Pin, 21, photography student: “I am taking a gap year right now because of the pandemic. If my life is in a normal situation, my life would be: attending school every day and maybe having a part-time job. Being stuck in Hong Kong is so stressful for me.”

Carlotta Traverso, 20, fashion student: "In Hong Kong, we didn't really have to deal with any lockdowns and strict restrictions. Venues were still relatively open as opposed to when I was in London where I felt like I was just stuck in my flat. I came back to the city in March 2020, and it was such a relief to be here. I was still able to enjoy myself during summer and even went out at night when the clubs reopened. We could dine out and even head to the beach." 

Harmony Yuen, 21, student, editor of Ourself Zine: “I recently graduated and I’m going to grad school this September. But apart from my studies, I also run an independent magazine called Ourself Zine, a publication for and by the queer community in Hong Kong. We started this project to create a more optimistic representation of the LGBTQ+ community in the city and share the stories of LGBTQ+ youth, shedding light on our relationships and everyday experiences. For some of my peers, they are taking masters. Some are continuing with their internship from their undergrad years. But, from what I know, almost none of them are got a full-time job.”

How the pandemic affected their views in life
Time Out Hong Kong

How the pandemic affected their views in life

The uncertainties of the past year have shifted their personal concerns and what they want in life. Some were able to take advantage and use the time for introspection and see the future in a different light. 

Yu An Su, 21, student and freelance writer: "I think that the pandemic accelerated the way I look at my future, with everything being shifted up in perspective by about a year. It's a little frightening to enter a job market in the most volatile state it's been in years. The pandemic has definitely made me realise that there's rarely anything that's set in stone, so just do what makes you happy in the present. You only have a finite time being alive, so why stuff it with useless work that pushes you away from happiness.”

Carlotta Traverso: "The past year has definitely changed my outlook on health and how important it is to take care of yourself, and be cautious not just for you but also the people around you. The pandemic has also taught me to be more appreciative about small things in my life, and to find happiness in every part of my day, even on the worst days.” 

Brian Pin: “I just want to live a simple life and not be pressured on making money but to spend everyday happily. Humans are so vulnerable, so I just want everyone to be safe and happy. I don't think that I will be staying in Hong Kong in the future due to my studies, but there are a lot of uncertainties on what will happen next. If I have a choice, I feel like Iceland would be a good place for me: less people, fewer buildings, and a slow pace of living.”

Lucina Chan, 20, student and choir member of LGBTQ+ The Harmonics: "During the pandemic, I had more time to work more on myself and take care of my mental health. I discovered that I have a lot of unresolved issues, and I didn't notice this because I was so busy with my work and school. All I want from life now is to be in tune with myself and to be content.”

Keane Chit Long Lee, 20, student and a freelance illustrator: "I think over these two years I had the time to just be alone and work through my personal issues. It allowed me to be more positive and be more relaxed about my future. I guess my goal is to be comfortable and happy, and everything I do moving forward is hinged on that, whether it's through my art, finding and building meaningful relationships, personal growth, or just discovering some banger music."

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What are their current hobbies and interests
Time Out Hong Kong

What are their current hobbies and interests

Twenty to 21-year-olds are part of the first truly digital generation. They have little or no memory of the world that existed before smartphones and have never known a time without the internet and social media. With Covid-19 restricting their activities in the city and at home, the situation has accelerated many of their digital behaviours and changed the way they interact with friends.

Marco Lam, 20, student: "I love basketball. I used to play a lot but ever since the pandemic, I've been put into a basketball hiatus, and it has gotten a little hard to pick it up again. I spent most of my time with my friends online, playing video games, watching films, and exploring new TV series. I'm also a huge fan of sports, so the Olympics have been a blessing to watch.”

Yu An Su: "Youtube is an endless hole of random content to watch and consume. I do end up watching a lot of cooking videos, even if I don't own the 11-piece equipment necessary to make fresh noodles. Film and TV also got me through a lot of slow days."

Keane Chit Long Lee: "My current hobbies include art-making, playing video games, watching movies, and bouldering. Aside from bouldering, all of my hobbies don't require going outside, so I didn't have much trouble transitioning to the pandemic lifestyle. Though I would like to go to a few music festivals or concerts once it is safer."

Julie Yang, 21, hotel management student: "I cannot live without my phone. I will feel so unsafe if I lose my phone and go out alone. I check my social media account almost every hour, and I enjoy watching funny short videos on the internet, as well as learning dance covers of new K-pop songs and sharing them with friends.” 

John Maguigad: "I do a lot of random walks around the city and enjoy finding new cafes and thrift shops. It's great just going anywhere and ending up with a hidden gem right in front of you. But I also obsess over Minecraft streamers on Twitch. Watching hours of content live with a huge community gives me such a sense of belonging, and it's really cool to be in a sort of hive mind with thousands of strangers.” 

Carlotta Traverso: “Whenever possible, I love going on junks and making a day of it. I love anything outdoors and being out in the sun. I wouldn't say I have an internet obsession. I think I go on my phone as much as the average person does, but I do love Instagram and Pinterest because of the visuals. I also spend a lot of time on Reddit. I feel like I learn something new every time I go on it." 

Chi Him Tang, 20, aspiring musician: “I’m an engineering student from Imperial College London who is taking a gap year to pursue my dream of being a musician. My afternoons are usually spent in front of keyboards, playing guitars, or shooting content for our music group. Apart from that, Youtube has been my main entertainment when I'm staying inside during my downtime. I enjoy watching philosophy talk shows on RTHK and math and physics videos on Youtube. 

What they want to change in Hong Kong
Time Out Hong Kong

What they want to change in Hong Kong

With endless choices and a constant flow of available information at their fingertips, today's younger generation is more vocal about political, environmental, and social change. They support social issues or causes they are passionate about. Some of our respondents have pointed out the environmental problems of plastic use in Hong Kong, and the outdated educational system is what they would like to change. But the majority of them think the main problem is the high cost of living and expensive housing in Hong Kong.  

Marco Lam: “One thing I would like to change is the housing system and prices. I get that Hong Kong is small and land is quite scarce, but the prices of flats and housing is so absurd. I worry that eventually, life in Hong Kong wouldn't be sustainable enough for people that have just graduated from school. This is actually something I am quite concerned about in the future because, in a couple of years, I would be put in the same spot as well when I decide if I want to work abroad or in Hong Kong.”

John Maguigad: “It really worries me that as much as I love this city, I wouldn't be able to live here if expenses get higher, but I am hopeful if the housing system is improved or if I get paid more, I'd love to stay."

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What they want older generations to know about them
Time Out Hong Kong

What they want older generations to know about them

Older generations often have generational assumptions on the younger gen, and most often they are on the negative side. As more and more gen Z-ers come of age, they're hoping that the constant labelling and generational comparisons will stop and that older generations can understand their point of view. 

Yu An Su: "We don't want to change things just for the fun of it. There are important and structural issues that exist and need to be corrected. I think the older generation has a general apathy for change. They always want things to stay the same. Their reluctance to join a large-scale societal movement slows us down at times.” 

John Maguigad: "Our generation is culturally diverse, and we aren't as sensitive as we're brought up to be. Our self deprecating humour doesn't mean we all hate ourselves; it's more of a reflection on a lot of the current events in the world.” 

Lucina Chan: "Sometimes the older generation say that we are lazy and don't get our work done. Actually, we're also overworked and overstressed. We just understand the importance of taking breaks. The constant comparison between the two generations should stop. Yes, I understand you had a hard life, but we shouldn't compare pain and trauma. This is just plain unhealthy behaviour. Just go see a therapist please, thank you."

Harmony Yuen: “Grown-ups should be more open, receptive, and empathetic. In secondary schools, teachers would ask the youth to repress themselves when it comes to relationships or ask us not to talk about it at all. They should be teaching kids how to set healthy boundaries in relationships instead, and signpost them to helpful websites or organisations if they need anything.”

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