Across The Miles

In the past year, as virtually all clubs around the world met online, countless members have taken advantage to visit other clubs, not only across cities or across districts, but across countries and time zones! Perhaps you have dropped by one, two, or many yourself. But have you consider actually joining one? I did!

It has always been well known that if you join a second club, perhaps an advanced club for example, you gain a tremendous amount of growth, learning and insights you may never get with staying with one club. You get feedback from members of different experience and perspective. You will discover how each club has a different culture and different way of doing things. You can take the best of one club and bring it back to the other and make improvements benefiting both clubs. But when your second club is across the world, with a different culture and background, that’s a whole different level of learning!

It started as a curiosity. I was born in Hong Kong, but immigrated to Canada when I was relatively young. My mother tongue is Cantonese and ever since joining Toastmasters, had a thought of doing Toastmasters in Cantonese. Then the opportunity arise when clubs around the world went online. I checked out clubs in District 89, southern China, for clubs meeting online. Now, if you do some quick time conversion, you will quickly realize if you want to join any club meeting in the evening (as most clubs do) in that part of the world, you will need to wake up at some God forsaken hour in the morning in Vancouver! While I admit I am a morning person, 4am or 5am even once a week is a bit early for me! As luck would have it, I did find a club in Hong Kong, the Shatin Evangel Toastmasters (SETM), which meets just twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Sundays at 2:30pm HKT. That works out to Saturday nights around 11:30pm our time, and that fits my schedule just fine. At first I thought I’ll just visit a few times. But when I was asked to introduce myself as a guest each time, and then started taking on roles at meetings, I felt a bit guilty. Besides, their president actually asked me if I wanted to join, and I couldn’t say no! The first hurdle was figuring out how to pay the club due. Since we can’t pay directly to Toastmasters International yet, it took some back and forth before we figured out the easiest (and cheapest) way to make fund transfer to the club in the local currency, and they take care of sending that back to headquarter in US funds.

Shatin Evangel Toastmasters is a bilingual club which holds one meeting in Cantonese only and the following meeting in English only. While I am right at home at the English meetings, it was an interesting challenge doing table topics, providing evaluations, and presenting prepared speeches in Cantonese meetings, trying to find the right words without the ah’s and um’s. It was like I was a brand new Toastmaster all over again! As a member since last July, we have certainly exchanged many valuable ideas, and I’ve made some interesting observations. First off, I have definitely improved my Cantonese! I’ve also find this is an excellent way to test out speeches at the international level, finding out what works with my Canadian clubs that might go over the head of audiences from Hong Kong. It was also interesting to try out speeches I’ve done in English and localizing it for my Hong Kong audience (in Cantonese, of course), and then the other way around as well. That’s something Google translate will never figure out! I have also observed, perhaps as cultural differences, the type of speeches members from SETM do are subtly different from my home clubs in Vancouver. What I mean is not that they don’t do Pathways, they all do. But how the content are presented, in general, have a different feel. In addition, as a member of a club in a different district, I also get their district emails, promotions, and information. I was even able attend their District conference and contests last year, and yes, most definitely I have learn much more than just attend either our District 96 or their District 89 conference alone!

Among all the things I have gained through joining and participating in a club across the Pacific, the single most important thing is definitely, the friends I’ve made! There are no difference with any other clubs I belong to or many of the clubs I’ve visited. When your club members are friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic, you know it is time well spent! The only thing is as the pandemic slow settles down, more and more clubs are going back to in-person meetings. This appears to be doing so faster in different parts of the worlds and certainly I hear this from other clubs in the Hong Kong area. Although my club in Hong Kong is considering the hybrid model when they do go back to more regular in-person meetings (as I’m sure many clubs are as well), to make it viable if only a couple of members are online will not be easy. However, regardless of which direction my Hong Kong club will take, I know I have made many more life long friends! And my Toastmasters family has grown and it is truly global! If you have never venture out of the couple of hours a week in your club or joined a second (or 3rd or 4th) club, then you don’t know what you’ve been missing!


Vincent Li DTM, is a charter member of Community Impact Speaker to which he currently still belongs, as well as a member of Parakeets Toastmasters, Burnaby Toasters, and Shatin Evangel Toastmasters. Vincent has been part of the Toastmasters organization for over 25 years. Vincent can be reached at