Hong Kong daily life

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One of the challenges of living the expat life is getting used to day-to-day differences you can't really prepare for. Here we provide some thoughts on all the 'little things' that make daily life in Hong Kong so interesting -- and occasionally infuriating.

Customer service: where's Andy Lau when you need him?

If you've sat on a bus in the last month or so, you've probably seen the short video clip where Andy Lau encourages staff in the local service industries to go the extra mile and offer excellent service to their customers. We could have done with his help last night ...

Mr B headed to the Dung Wong restaurant in the Tsing Yi Shopping Mall, to join his friends who had arrived a few minutes earlier. The table cloth set the scene, it looked as though it had been walked over ...

Mr B : Have you already asked them for a clean tablecloth? Read more »

Why paying your Hong Kong taxes should make you happy!

Mrs Tall and I recently paid our yearly Hong Kong taxes. I used to dread this day, since I have a real aversion to sending money to any government. You don’t want to get me started on my US taxes, for example!

But I’ve come to appreciate the Hong Kong tax system.

First, you can’t deny the beauty of its simplicity. I filled out my tax form this year in about nine minutes. That included time: to get a pen that wrote instead the dud I picked up first; watch several minutes of the news on TV; and to eat an entire Fuji apple while trying to avoid dripping on my tax form. I’m also not that bright when it comes to formulas and numbers and ratios and such, but the Hong Kong tax form is so simple even I’m not held back by it. Most people can probably finish theirs off in an ad break between TV shows. You really need only three bits of information: your income, which your employer will tell you about; your charitable donations, which the organizations you donate to will tell you about; and your mortgage interest, which your bank will tell you about. The situation gets more complex if you run your own business, of course, but that’s what accountants are good for. Read more »

Owning a car in Hong Kong

One of the key decisions any reasonably well-off family in Hong Kong must make is whether or not to keep a car. For many expats, especially we Americans, life without a car borders on the unthinkable. But running a car in Hong Kong presents a set of very particular problems.

I think I can offer some well-balanced comments on this subject. Mrs Tall and I didn't have a car for the first four years of our marriage, and then for three years we did -- and now we don't, once again. Read more »

Life in a Hong Kong high-rise

There's something unnatural about living on the 46th floor of a building. This is, however, the location of the Tall's current home.

In a previous article, I've described how precious space is in most Hong Kong people's flats. Here I'd like to discuss of few more consequences of high-rise living. Read more »

In Hong Kong, you just can't get enough of it: space

Mr and Mrs Tall are currently immersed in planning the decoration of their new flat. Design magazines are piled high at the old Tall homestead, and several expeditions to furniture and materials shops have already been made.

It’s fun, of course, but as always with life in Hong Kong, there’s a special challenge to it. You could say that when decorating any house or flat, you’ve got to reach a balance amongst a number often-competing elements: style, function, and price are all important, of course. But in Hong Kong, a fourth element almost always dominates the mix: space.

Almost everybody in Hong Kong could use more space at home. Flats here (very nearly no one lives in actual detached houses) are small. For expatriates, this almost always means adjusting to living somewhere that’s quite a bit cozier than you’re used to. The only exceptions are those granted very generous ‘expat packages’ providing ‘home country-style’ housing, which generally means the company pays for a townhouse or a very large flat. These days, though, the declining economy in Hong Kong means fewer and fewer expats are granted such perks. Read more »

The Batpo's Tale of Woe

What a tale of woe I have for you! I woke up today and the heavens were crying, the clouds were storming and something up there was having a hissy fit. Turned on the TV, and it's only an amber rainstorm warning. So I put on my all-weather gear -- cropped trendy trousers with too many pockets, trendy teva-type sandals, trendy Nike anorak -- and packed my work clothes into my ultra trendy backpack. Oddly enough, I didn't look uber-trendy -- only like I had finished work at the fish market. I then waded out of our village -- the irony being that the huge puddles in the road were caused by the building site where the governmentt drainage department are building a pump station to stop our village from flooding -- pah! Read more »

Hong Kong: tropical hellhole?

You'll see it pointed out occasionally in tourist brochures: Hong Kong has a 'seasonal' climate. The point of this, I guess, is to differentiate Hong Kong from tropical hellholes like Manila and Bangkok.

It's true that Hong Kong is not a tropical hellhole, although you'll never convince someone who's just arrived here in August of this. No, Hong Kong does indeed have four seasons -- it's just that they're not seasons as those of us from more temperate climes know them.

Without further ado, then, I'll introduce you to the Four Seasons of Hong Kong.

The Steamy. The Steamy is quite brief -- comprising just March and April most years -- but it brings its own special brand of unpleasantness. It's characterized by day after day of mild temperatures (usually hanging around in the low or mid 20s), but high, high humidity, mist and clouds. In Chinese this season is charmingly called 'the wall-sweating time', because they do just that. Now, speaking of sweat -- human, this time -- we move on to . . . Read more »

Acupuncture in Hong Kong

Mrs B Senior has been in town for an extended visit. Complaining of a very painful shoulder, she's been recommended to give accupuncture a try. After several weeks' treatment, what's the verdict?

Mum's got in to a regular routine now, heading along to the doctor's every afternoon. Each treatment lasts for between 30 minutes and two hours, though it's never a continuous treatment. Instead the doctor starts with a check on what's hurting, puts some needles in her head (click photo for a bigger image)  Read more »

The Batpo vs the roach

Last night was seriously dramatic. There I was, cooking my spicy noodles, lost in my own little cookery dream state -- when something moved in the sink . . . . the hugest, most monster-like, genetically-modified giant of a cockroach had crawled out of the plughole.

Its body was easily 2 inches long, so that would be 4 inches including the antennae, and about 1 inch wide. Well, I tried to flush it back down the plughole, but it just sort of stood there, Moses-like, parting the water -- almost like it was enjoying the spa.

I was a screaming heeby-jeeby by now, and it was crawling up the side of the sink. Using my spring onion as a fencing sword, I managed to flick it back down, but it kept on coming back up! I couldn't find any bug spray and I didn't want to leave [well, I did but I couldn't] in case it hid somewhere. So it crawls out of the sink, towards my bowl, over the bowl [ohmigod], out of the bowl [which I have by now thrown away] and flopped towards the cooker. My trustee epee [the spring onion] only managed to stun it, and it crawled under the cooker. But because it was hot, it crawled back out and flopped onto the floor, where I did this funny polka trying to step on it but not quite managing. It then crawled under the plastic bags bag and then scuttled out towards me. WelI, I thought, it's now or never, and I did the deed with a nauseatingly loud crunch. Read more »

The Batpo takes a ride on 'The Ferry Without Mercy'

It's been said by someone in the long-gone past that travel broadens the mind. They obviously have never attempted to travel by public transport in Hong Kong. A simple one-hour journey with possibly one change of mode of transport can transform any sane person into a raving loon. Forget about those outward bound courses to rediscover yourself; travelling in HK is a true test of self and self-control. Now public transport schedules in HK are rather good compared with other European countries -- frequency of buses/trains/boats cut out a lot of stress. No, the main problem is the sheer volume of people deciding en masse to travel at the same time and quite often to the same places as yourself. Read more »

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