Considering moving to a new country with your family, but feeling nervous about taking that first step? We spoke to a Mama about how she turned her dream of living in Bali into reality.
What does it take to leave the comfort of your hometown and embrace a whole new life overseas? The nerves, the relocation costs, the logistics, not to mention leaving behind familiar surroundings, friends, schools and your community; it can all get oh-so overwhelming! In this edition of Hong Kong Mamas who moved overseas, we spoke to Jeanine Hsu, the founder of the sustainable jewellery brand niin and our former That Mama on how she made her dream of living in Bali with her family come to a reality.
Can you tell us a little bit about you and your family?
My mother is Austrian and my father and stepfather are Chinese and I was born in London and raised between there and Hong Kong with a few years in Austria along the way – so lots of different cultural influences!
My husband Lars is German and has lived in Germany, the US, Mexico and Singapore before arriving in Hong Kong where we fell in love and soon had three beloved boys together; Kai who just turned 8 years old, and the twins Kuno and Cosmo who are 4 years old.
What brought you to Hong Kong originally, and what prompted your move away?
At the age of 7, my sister and I moved from London to Hong Kong together with my mother who remarried there. I lived in both cities at different stages of my life, following the best place for my studies and career.
During the pandemic, my husband and I took the children to Bali for some fresh air and to escape the mental health pressures that were unbearable for both small children and their parents in Hong Kong at that time. After spending time in Bali in that context we quickly realised that it could offer an alternative childhood rooted in lush nature that caters to them spiritually.
This dovetailed with it being a great opportunity for my business, so we decided to make the move.
How long have you and your family been living overseas?
We arrived here in May 2022. To be honest it was an idea I manifested in 2009 when I had the privilege to spend a month in Bali at yoga retreats and two weddings. I visited the remarkable Green School, a private school committed to making the world sustainable through education, where I was shown around by its founder and jewellery master John Hardy himself. I was inspired by and drawn to this realisation of a radical concept that resonated so much with my own values.
Prior to that, I had made the decision to uproot my life in London and move back to Hong Kong to be closer to my family. I had started the jewellery brand already (selling at Portobello & Spitalfields markets) but was questioning at that point whether to continue.
What’s your favourite thing about living in Bali?
The space, the immersion in nature and the generally positive and spiritual energy that is so apparent and celebrated daily.
And what’s the thing you’ve found most difficult to adjust to?
I think getting around Bali is the most difficult part. I have still not mastered how to ride a motorbike. In London, I had my bicycle and in Hong Kong, I walked everywhere so being dependent on someone else is rather frustrating.
How is parenting different from in Hong Kong?
The vibe here is generally more child-friendly, and socially children are welcomed into more diverse occasions which means we spend more time as a family here than we did in Hong Kong where we felt more reliant on nannies. We eat with the kids most of the time which means waking at sunrise and early to bed.
How have your career prospects changed since moving?
I have continued working on my brand niin, with the ethos of treading lightly on the earth. I am determined to bring this dream, which began 14 years ago, to its complete fruition. Living in Bali allows you to live more intentionally, immersed in a more like-minded community which acknowledges the importance of the impact we have, both socially and environmentally.
We are constantly meeting people who appreciate what we do at niin – spreading positive energy day to day and giving back where we can.
There are charities we are partnering with both in the environment and education sectors and we intend to find more strategic ways how together we CAN make a difference.
Read More: How To Teach Your Kids About Sustainability
How has it been making friends and establishing a social network?
Luckily we already had some good friends who lived here, then met some great people through them – plus you meet parents at schools all the time and they’re consistently pretty cool and/or friendly.
Top tips or recommendations for families moving to Bali?
It takes a village (and a lot of paperwork!) Get a good trusted agent for your VISAS / KITAS and join the group chats of communities which are super helpful. We are so grateful for our nanny too who came with us from Hong Kong and helped us massively to navigate Behasa and keep caring for our kids, and us.
What’s the thing you miss most about Hong Kong?
What don’t you miss about Hong Kong?
The cost of rent, formalities, and materialism.
Is there anything you do regularly with your kids to remind them of their time in Hong Kong?
Dim Sum, of course! We also keep up with the Hong Kong holidays and traditions so we celebrate our Chinese heritage regularly. We try to stop over in Hong Kong whenever we travel to visit the kids’ grandparents who live there.
What’s the one thing you’d miss most if you left Bali?
The mindful and relaxed way of life (which includes beautiful sunsets, affordable massages… and a sea of smiling people)