By Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung
Before meeting Brian Yeung, I read his book, Stepping Inside A Foreign Land — Russia, which changed my impression of the country.
We decided to use “curious about the world” as the theme of our face to face. He told me: “Being curious about the world gives my life meaning.”
Apparently, it was curiosity that led Yeung to work in Russia. He recounts the experience in the preface of his book: “Living ina new country, life was difficult without being able to speak Russian. Staying in a village house in rural Sochi and living on a salary of 20,000 rubles (roughly HK$2,200)- with delayed payments the norm — there was a cultural shock between my fantasy of living abroad and the brutal reality.”
The less than ideal job and living quarters were only some of the many challenges Yeung had to face living in a foreign land. But he said the word “regret” does not exist in his dictionary. “Many opportunities were opened for me to choose from, but I chose challenges.
“In university, I went to the Netherlands as an exchange student to study English and learned about helping each other. In our class of 10, we had to grade each other’s homework and help each other get good grades.
“That experience was precious. It made me realize that learning is not about getting higher marks than everyone else, but helping everyone get high marks. This understanding has deeply influenced my attitude at work — when you help others, you are really helping yourself,” he said.
He said his first job was hard, but that wasn’t a problem. There was a language barrier, and he needed Google Translate to communicate in Russian.
“I had to wait a long time to take the minibus to work. When it rained, I became soaking wet, even with an umbrella. There were many inconveniences, but if you persevere, you will get ahead one day,” he said.
He talked about his friend Elena, a new-generation Muscovite. “When the Soviet Union broke up, she was in primary school. The television was showing Swan Lake when Mikhail Gorbachev suddenly made the announcement that he was stepping down.”
Now Elena and her husband both work in management roles at a multinational firm.
Working in Russia gave Yeung a new perspective on work, and he founded content agency Brainstorm Content Solutions.
Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung is the retired headmaster of Diocesan Boys School
This article was published in The Standard on October 29, 2020. URL: https://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news/section/5/224226/No-regrets-as-curiosity-conquers-all