Dan Casey-Dunn: Daring to Move from Michigan to Hong Kong
Our special guest on The Moving Roadmap podcast, powered by Avvinue, is Dan Casey-Dunn. Dan is the host of the Really Makes You Think podcast and is an expat who moved fromMichigan to Hong Kong.
Transcripts are automatically generated and may not be an 100% accurate transcription.
Nicole (Host): Welcome to the moving roadmap podcast powered by Avvinue. My name is Nicole, and I'll be your host for the show. In this episode, we're excited to introduce our guests, Dan Casey-Dunn, who is the host of really makes you think podcasts and an expert who moved from Michigan to Hong Kong. Welcome to the show, Dan.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Thank you. It's super exciting to be here digitally.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. Okay. So tell us a little bit about what made you move abroad to Hong Kong.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah, so, I went abroad for the first time when I was an undergrad at Michigan State University. And I went to China because I really liked Chinese food, honest to God.
Yeah. It feels like not the worst reason. So I started studying Chinese when I was an undergrad at Michigan State. you know, like I had this interest in politics and, had worked in political campaigns, went back to school and I thought like, you know, I love ordering Chinese food and they keep messing up my order.
It'd be cool to be able to talk to them in Chinese. Right. And Michigan State also has, thousands of Chinese students that were starting to come to the university around that time, too. And so it was like a cool time to, you know, to get into kind of Chinese culture and to think about what the relationship between the US and China would look like politically all sorts of things.
And so I started studying Chinese in my undergrad. and I went, on a different program for my university and I went and spent a semester working in Washington, DC, for the house foreign affairs committee. And then the people who ran that were like, Hey, you know, we have this program that's going to China.
And it was like two, three weeks out. do you want to go to China? And I said, sure.
Nicole (Host): Yeah.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. So I spent that summer in China and then I spent the next four summers in China. and so that first summer I went on the program and I was a student. And then the next year I was in grad school and they said like, do you want to be an assistant on the program?
And I said, sure. And then the following year, I had graduated from grad school and I ran the program and. I did that for two years while working and teaching at Michigan State. Right. I was in and out of Hong Kong every time. And I was like, and the city is so cool. You know, it's unique. Hong Kong is perfect combination of a lot of different things that are very cool about Asia.
Very unique. You'd get a, you know, unique British culture here. And I said like, I need to live there. and so I eventually, after working at Michigan State for two and a half years, decided that I was going to go to Hong Kong to live full time. And so that's what I did.
Nicole (Host): Wow. Awesome. So like going, obviously, as, you know, as a student going abroad during the summers, what was the difference then transitioning and preparing yourself to feel ready to make an official permanent move.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah, very good question, because I always kind of thought like, ah, you know, I've spent time abroad, you know, I spent all this time traveling, moving abroad will be super easy. Right. and this is going to sound a little bit pandering to, you know, your, what your company does in this podcast, but like genuinely the hardest thing to do to move abroad is all of the annoying paperwork and bureaucratic stuff.
And like just. Like, it's fine when you're visiting a place for a few days or even, you know, when I was doing these university trips and I was going to the same place and I had kind of institutionalized support behind me. Right. Like, it didn't matter that I couldn't find like the cheapest place to get groceries because you know, the university was paying for this and that.
And so it just, it didn't, it didn't quite relate. Right. But then I moved here, and all of a sudden like, Oh man, what's the cheapest way to get across town on a daily basis. Hmm, you know, where do I find the cheapest groceries? How do I apply for my Hong Kong ID card? How do I do all of this annoying stuff?
That's like, you have to do when you're living in a place for an extended period.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, definitely. I mean, it goes from being dependent on it, then the university figure it out for you or at least be that guide. But then when you're moving on your own, it's a little tricky trying to figure it out. And of course you start, start realizing what your real budget is.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah, that too. Yeah. Hong Kong is, they say real estate was more expensive than San Francisco, which gives you an idea. Yeah, it's crazy. I mean, a hundred square foot studios, which I've spent in, in like, you know, a nice part of town that you'd want to live is a little bit over a thousand USD.
Wow. Yeah. So it's, yeah, it's pretty, it's pretty nuts.
Nicole (Host): Wow. That's crazy.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. Figuring that stuff out yeah. Is difficult and was stressful. And just moving abroad is incredibly stressful. But the flip side is so like, you get some experiences when you're visiting a place and you get more experiences when you do kind of a short term study abroad in a place.
And I worked. In the study abroad industry. Right. And so like, I've thought a lot about these things and what it looks like for students, etc. But you get a different level of cultural experience and cultural connection when you have to move to a place and kind of deal with the bureaucracy as well, which I think is invaluable.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, absolutely. You learn a lot about their culture when you go through. Yeah. Like you said, like. The bureaucratic process of government paperwork, or like you said, getting the Hong Kong ID card, different things like that. Are they still faxing? Are they, do you need to wire transfer all these different things, especially coming from the US comes across as, Oh, this is, this may be like an outdated system or why is it not very clear what I need to bring with me?
So I know that was the case for me moving to France. Not sure if that was the case for you in Hong Kong, but.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, there's all kinds of strange things. Yeah, absolutely. So had you, had you lived abroad or done a study abroad out of curiosity and as an undergrad or grad student or maybe me wherever?
Nicole (Host): No, I didn't. So I only traveled and my family's from the Dominican Republic, so I been there many summers, but never actually, of course, doing the tedious paperwork and I, and I knew from having. Parents that were immigrants that they had to go through, Oh, they need to get a green card and they need to update this and they need to get a citizenship and all these little things.
But of course, it didn't affect me because I was born and raised in the United States. So that also kind of inspired me to move abroad and say, you know what? I want to know what my family went through and how they had to navigate a different culture, different language. And that was really my. You know, my deep reason why I wanted to move abroad because I actually have connected more with my family because of now making that connection, like, okay, I moved and I got settled, but now, okay.
How do I make friends? If I don't speak the language? And so my mom now of course, through this pandemic and everything we just share. Oh yeah. I remember now she shares all these stories I know, heard of. And, so it's really interesting and weird, but it makes sense. So many more connections in different ways.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah, that's, that's very cool. I know I had, I had a similar experience. Dad was in Vietnam. and so he spent, he spent a while living in Asia, so he was in Vietnam and then, he worked for the government in and around Asia, you know, for. Five or so years after Vietnam. and yeah, kind of being able to connect with him.
I'm on like, oh, I'm in Tokyo in the hospital, you know, I stopped by the hospital where you spent six months recuperating after you were shot down is, is cool. Right. And I felt like I could connect with him in a way that's like, I just couldn't otherwise. So I can definitely relate.
Nicole (Host): Awesome. Yeah, it, it just opens up doors for new conversations, whether it's with family, friends, and other people.
So, very cool.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. I mean, if there's one thing, like, I just feel like I have to say on anything where I'm talking about moving abroad is that moving abroad fires your brain in different ways. Right. And I just think that experience of, being abroad. And I realized, right, I'm a super privileged, average white guy from the Midwest.
Very easy for me to say like, oh, I'll move abroad. but it’s like, you know, it does fire your brain and you have to kind of, think in different ways. Right?
Nicole (Host): Absolutely completely. And a lot of things that you realize the norm and your country is not the norm somewhere else. so that's another thing too.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. So what's, so like, so do you don't speak French. Is that fair to say?
Nicole (Host): Yeah, I moved here with just taking one class of French, and of course one class is definitely not enough. Probably just scratch the surface of maybe this is kind of how you pronounce the French alphabet. So now only being here around nine months, I've learned a lot being immersed, obviously, in a French environment.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: What was the strangest cultural norm that you experienced when you first moved there? The fact that everyone smokes is my guess.
Nicole (Host): It wasn't too bad. But yes that comes to mind because I'm trying to think. Yeah. When we first arrived, even the first day, we arrived here in Lyon, which I never visited too before, as we went out to eat and yes, everyone outside was smoking and we, of course, wanted to sit outside, you know, look at the beautiful architecture. So that definitely, but having traveled throughout Europe, I already knew that, so I was expecting that. What I wasn't really expecting is everyone is riding scooters and, the foot scooters, electronic scooters.
They're like everywhere, literally young, old people. Everyone uses it everywhere here. so you're not only just dodging people. But traffic you're literally dodging all of these electric, electric scooters so that I wasn't expecting better. You don't really see too much in the States, especially in New York.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Well, so I was going to say, New York, probably not. So like right before I moved here. So I moved to Hong Kong a year and a half ago, right. About, like it's started to catch on a Detroit and like, Big Midwestern cities. You had more and more of those little hand scooters, which are super annoying to navigate.
Yeah, much less in a foreign country where, if it's like Hong Kong, the traffic just moves in a different way that takes getting used to.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. I mean, in New York you don't see them. so it was just like, they're literally everywhere here. So, and I was pretty shocked cause I, I thought, you know, okay, well, young kids are going to be using this, but everyone uses them and you see couples on them.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: But they're super convenient. Right? And like, they're nice when you need to go down the street and it's like, Oh, I don't want to have a car, but I can just use this little thing and pop down.
Nicole (Host): I was a little nervous to ride one, but it was fun. It was fun.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: And you've survived so far. You haven't gotten hit by any French taxis or anything like that. Flying baguettes, I guess, I assume in France, taxis are crazy and people are just throwing bread all the time.
Nicole (Host): Maybe more so in Paris. And Lyon is a smaller city. Everything seems to always like, be in order, except for, of course when there's protests, but everything seems to be like an order, versus like what I saw.
Yeah. Versus like when I've traveled to like Italy then okay. Everybody is kind of doing their own thing. Even in the Dominican Republic, everyone kind of drives there way. There's no real rules if it's, you know, a red light. Okay. Well, you could still go, just make sure you honk while you're going. but here, everything seems very in order, which makes me excited because I'm now looking into maybe getting a best buy or something fun like to add to this cultural experience abroad.
But knowing that people pretty much follow the rules is helpful.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. That's so tell me about the protest. What did the protest look like? Because as you know, right, the last year and a half in Hong Kong have been constant protests.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. well, I can definitely share my experience of being right in the middle of one. So I had a meeting across town and I was running a little bit late. Unfortunately, and as I get out of the subway, I'm just literally one block from the office, but I notice, Oh shoot. There's like a protest happening. There's a ton of people. It's the typical street protests that happened. So I wasn't caught off guard.
I just was like, Oh, all right, well, let me just head to my meeting. So I. I tried to go the typical way I walk and these police offficers are standing there, you know, with their full uniform and, guards, protection. And so they. They told me, no, you need to go around. You need to go the other way. And I'm like, okay, well, I go to the other way.
And I see like hundreds of cops all running towards me and where they're starting to run towards me is literally the door to my office. And so I'm like, I just need to get there. Like I have, I just walked in. I don't know what it is, but at the moment you're not really thinking straight. You're just like, okay, well they're running this way.
It's okay. There's some space for me to get to the office. I really would like to go to this meeting. but they start telling you something and like pointing and they're saying yelling something through their math. I don't even understand. And it's not the French, words I've learned. And then I realized I hear it.
Boom, boom. Then I'm like, Oh my God, they just spread gas. And my eyes started tearing up and I start running and I'm like, Oh my God, I'm literally right where they just threw them. so. I never experienced that before and I just immediately start running. And again, what do in the world do I do like, do I just run that way?
Which way do I run? Like, should I let the people know I'm not going to go to the, like, what is happening and I'm, and I'm wearing heels and a dress, and I'm just running, not knowing where I'm going. And then, so that was, that was pretty much my main experience. I actually never even shared that with my family.
So if they hear this they'll know, I don't want to like worry them. Oh my gosh. Like I got like right in the middle and my, my dad was in the military as well. And so he. Would probably panic knowing, Oh my goodness. My little girl was in this experience. Oh, wow. Abroad. So that was probably one of my experiences with the protest.
But other than that, yeah, you see them, pretty much every Saturday. even, even yesterday, actually there was a, there was a protest. I didn't go to see what it was about, but. now that the doors are open, people can leave their homes from the confinement. The protesting has begun.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Right, right. I mean, that's so that's, so my experience actually was pretty much the same.
Like there've been times when I've literally just popped up out of the subway and saw police on one side and protesters on the other and got tear-gassed, which as you know, now, not very much fun to get to your gas.
Nicole (Host): No, you hear about it, you see it in movies, but like now, even just the word, your guests, like I'm tasting it.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Right. It's like, Aw, man. Like, yeah, that sounds like fun. Right. I remember the first time like you can kind of tell here sometimes when they're going to have tear gas, and like, you know, I used to go down and just wash it and like, I just wanted to see what was going on and then. I got tear gas for the first time.
And I was like, that's not fun. That is not worth it.
Nicole (Host): You're going to watch a protest watch from afar, you know?
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. Yeah. And just something about running from the police in a foreign country that feels. Just a little bit scarier than a, like when you're doing it in the US not that I ran from the police that much on us, but there's a known quantity, right.
Like I know in the US the police, if they catch me, like, I can talk to them about what's going on and be like, oh, I just happened to pop up at the wrong space again, probably because I'm an average white guy. but like in Hong Kong, like, I can't do that. Right.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. So it was definitely an interesting experience, adrenaline rush, and once the ad and the books, for sure.
So let me ask you again. So like with your, with your relocation, cause I'm curious to know more like how your relocation was, what were some challenges you experienced when you moved abroad? And I know you mentioned like the paperwork stuff or anything like that, but was there any specific story that shows on a challenge that you had?
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. I mean, there were, there were a lot, so I remember, one of the things that was very annoying early on is that, so I went and I got the Charles Schwab, banking now because you don't have to pay international, debit card fees or like you can pull money out without paying a fee. Right. Which is super cool pro tip.
They're not even sponsoring me. I just think that's really cool. and so I transferred like all of my money there. but I didn't have a relationship with them at all. And so I transferred all this money into the account and moved to Hong Kong where I had to pay. I think it was like, 5,000 US dollars for a deposit on an apartment.
Right. And so I had to pull all of that money out of this bank account that I had just set up, and they flagged me for like fraud. Oh, am I good in hindsight? Makes sense. And I've maybe I should've thought that went through a little bit more, but so I had to go through like the whole big process. So talking to them, and then I had to talk to the landlord here and I pretty much, like, I was really lucky that, you know, found a really nice landlord and he let us move in.
He was like, Oh, it's cool. I'm like, you know, I'll let you move in before I get the full deposit, which wow. Awesome. Yeah. As you know, I'm trying to talk to my bank in the US and tell them that I'm a real person. I just happen to transfer a lot of money into that account and then need to pull it out, like within a month of opening the accounts.
But it's cool. and so, yeah, that was a total pain in the butts. but the money stuff is always a pain in the butt, right? Like the longer I live abroad, the more I realized like there's no good way that you're not going to get hammered on fees, moving money from one country to the other.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. Yeah.
I can definitely relate with that. you know, with the whole banking, one thing that I wasn't used to or ever heard of was when I opened my bank account here in France, they have a limit, they have a monthly limit on your card, so it doesn't matter how much money you have in your bank. They give you a limit that you can only spend 1500 in that month.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. Okay. Yeah still, that's not, yeah, that's not very much money.
Nicole (Host): It's not when you're moving. So we were like, okay, we need to get her apartment. We need to pay the deposit. And not only that, we moved into an apartment that we needed to build a kitchen. So we're like buying all these things and furniture and hitting this limit.
And I didn't know about it obviously until we hit the limit and I was going into the subway and I realized like my card is a decline. I can't even get on the train. So I'm like, what in the world what's going on now, instead of going running, used to go, we're going back to the bank, which we probably went to the bank like 10 times just to, and get clarity on like, what's going on?
What is this? Oh, no, it's just a limit. You have a limit and I'm like, okay, what can we increase the limit? Cause we just move like so many things like, hello, we just moved. We're getting an apartment. We're doing all these things almost that you would think is obvious. Like we're going to need access to our money. But it's not obvious because that's the cultural norm here.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. It, like that stuff, pops up and especially here, right? Like I just want to be like, don't you guys realize that this is not the most efficient way to do this. but yeah, that's easy for me to say and I'm sure that they would disagree.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. so, okay. So now looking back, so you've moved in. How many years have you been now living in Hong
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Hong Kong? Just 18 months. So just about a year and a half. but yeah, in and out of China, people ask and I always give the credit, like I was in and out of China for five years and then moved here. Cause he needed to have some like international crowd whenever people ask.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, of course.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: So yeah, but just 18 months just living here in Hong Kong.
Nicole (Host): Okay. Nice. So, okay. Now, after living there roughly 18 months, what would you have done differently in planning your move? And of course, it's for listeners who are also planning their move.
So definitely wanting to pick up any advice you have for them.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. I would wait to find a place. So I would have found a short term place for probably two or three months. So when we moved here, we moved to a neighborhood. because I had a job, that was like right down the street and my partner, she. Also had a job that was right down the streets, like in the same building, actually that I was working. And so we thought, okay, cool. We'll move to this neighborhood. But within a month of being here, she got offered a new, awesome job on the complete opposite end of town, but we'd already signed a lease on a place.
Hmm. and so. She now commutes and she's had a commute for the last, you know, however long, like an hour, both ways. Yeah. But I just think when you move to a foreign country, you're going to have always that element of like stuff is going to come up. Stuff is going to happen. And I just, I wouldn't lock myself into a longterm lease from the get, go as nice as it sounds, because, for us, we'd been traveling for two months.
Right. And we did the Southeast Asia swing and we did, you know, we did Cambodia, Japan, Vietnam, you know, all those countries, Singapore. And like, we just want it to be settled somewhere. Right. And so we were like, okay, let's sign a place and just call it good. But looking back now, I'd have waited. I'd have done like a short term lease and, and figured it out for two or three months while figuring out exactly what neighborhood I wanted to be in and, and kind of what it looks like for the city.
Nicole (Host): Definitely. Great advice. Absolutely. Yeah, that's a really good one. I know actually a few experts have been sharing on that because obviously in some countries you need an address in order to get another address or get an address to open the bank and to open, get her phone and all these things that you need in order to even get an apartment.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: So. A short term. Yeah. I would go through employers if I could, like, I'd have just used my employer's address for everything. because I found out that's what all my coworkers had done and it made their life a lot easier.
Nicole (Host): Yes. Having a local address for sure. Yeah. That was definitely the case for us too.
I'm seeing like so many similarities, obviously in, our conversation because, You know, when we moved, we actually didn't know we were moving. we had already decided let's take a month vacation in Lyon and let's just see how it is there. And so we booked a temporary apartment and then when we found out, okay, we were accepted to launch a startup, then we're like, well, this is the perfect time. Let's do it. Then let's just move then. So the temporary apartment was in place. If we had taken our, you know, just decided from a distance or even first upon arrival picking a longterm apartment, we probably would have picked a really bad neighborhood. Like we would have just not know the best areas where we would want to live. So that's really good advice.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. I mean, I kind of wish I lived in a different neighborhood, but at the same time to way stuff works out, that’s way it's supposed to.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. Yep. Absolutely. All right. So kind of just like to wrap up our call, I always like to ask this question, where is the best city you've visited?
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Oh, best city. I visited, man. Do you want an Asian city? Do you want a Chinese city? Any city?
Nicole (Host): Just to make it hard for you?
Daniel Casey-Dunn: I mean, Hong Kong is the best city I've ever visited, but now I've lived here, so it can't be Hong Kong. Right?
Nicole (Host): You just gave credit to Hong Kong. So we'll add that one, but now another city,
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah, best city I've visited that I've enjoyed.
yeah, probably Kyoto, I had such a nice time and every time I've visited Kyoto, I've had such a nice time there and I could not recommend it highly enough.
Nicole (Host): Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. Okay. So where can our listeners find you on social, your podcast? Where can they find you?
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Yeah. So my podcast is “ReallyMakesYouThink”
You can download it from anywhere that you do podcasts. So it's just called “ReallyMakesYouThink” it's just a podcast, my best friend. And I started when I moved abroad, he had a kid which is pretty much the same thing, as a joke. but no, and so we really just started doing it so that we could, we could stay in touch with each other and like chat about our lives. And we've enjoyed doing it. So we still do it.
Nicole (Host): Very nice. Awesome. If you want to check out Dan's podcasts, definitely we'll include the link in the description so you can follow him in his journey abroad. Awesome. Dan, thanks so much for joining our podcast. We really enjoyed hearing you’re, journey and we'll definitely be following up to hear more about how your life is in Hong Kong. So we are excited to feature that. Awesome.
Daniel Casey-Dunn: Great. Awesome to meet you. Thanks.