Why Hong Kong?

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I didn't intend to come to Hong Kong at all. Instead I was heading to Australia courtesy of their working holiday visa. But, there was a lady I'd met previously in Canada that I'd taken a fancy to. She was living in Hong Kong, so I thought I'd stop here on the way.

Near to the departure date she announced she would have left Hong Kong by the time I arrived, but with the plane tickets already booked, I figured there was no harm in spending some time here. I left Britain on a frosty October morning in 1989, flying in to the old Kai Tak airport. I remember the bus ride from the airport to Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) through Hung Hom, all grey concrete with not a Western face in sight and me thinking "What have I done?".

Following the guidebook I was clutching, I headed for the backpacker's haven in TST, Chungking Mansions. I was quickly spotted by a tout and whisked up to one of the guest houses. Since I was planning to be around for several months, I started looking for a room to rent and ended up in Kimberley Street, also in TST. $2,800 for a room in an old walk-up building, shared with two other gweilos that I hardly ever saw. One was a DJ who slept all day then went off to do his DJ thing at night. The other worked in a hotel and basically lived there, just returning to the flat late at night with what seemed to be a different attractive Asian lady each night.

With somewhere to live, the monthly expenses were lower, but I still needed to find work ASAP. Cue that old 'White face in Asia' standby, and MrB was teaching English. Not very well. One lesson sticks in my mind where we were practising 'vocabulary around the house'. The conversation went something along the lines of:
MrB: "This is the bedroom, where people sleep, and this is the living room where we watch TV. Which room do you sleep in?"
Student: "The living room"
After repeating this sequence several times, another student who spoke more English put us out of our misery by explaining that the flat had two parents, five children and two bedrooms. Several children slept in the living room... Thankfully for all concerned, the teaching work didn't last long.

Now what I really, really wanted to do was write computer programs. Sad but true, I am a shameless geek, and in the UK had been a happy programmer. But, despite writing lots of replies to job ads, I had very few interviews. Was it that my skills weren't exactly right, I was asking too much, or employers worried I wouldn't fit in with a Chinese team? (Remember that at that time a UK passport meant no visa worries). I eventually found work by attending a computer show, and asking at any likely looking booths whether they had any work. One gave me a name to call, which turned into a lunch, and eventually a job to pay the bills.

I left around the middle of the following year, making my way to Australia via Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. During that time I thought how much I'd enjoyed living in Hong Kong, and how much speaking Cantonese would have helped. I arrived in Australia in Sydney (not the original plan at all, but there were some shenanigans getting flights out of Bali, so I ended up taking whatever flight I could to arrive in Australia before my visa entry date expired - I arrived on the last day!). A happy benefit of living there was that it had lots of people who wanted to learn Cantonese - some were second generation Chinese immigrants who couldn't communicate with their aging Grandparents, and the rest were Westerners who'd married into a Chinese family. So I signed up for an evening class in Cantonese, read my 'Teach yourself Cantonese' on the bus to work, and gradually picked up some basics in Cantonese.

When the time in Australia was over I headed home to the UK for a couple of stints as best man, got a job, saved enough to buy a plane ticket, and flew back to Hong Kong. That was in early 1992, and I've been here since.

How about you? What brought you here - and kept you from leaving?

Comments

I first came here on a

I first came here on a computer contract in the late 1980's and didn't really like it. After the contract I returned to England and some more overseas contracts later and I was back. I stay because of my family and because it has become as much a home to me as anywhere.

What brought me here?

Wunderlust. I was 21 and stuck in a dead end desk jockey job at a betting shop in the UK and the onlt fact I knew about HK - 1993 - was I could work. Knew nothing of backpacking, travelling, expats - just hadn't come across it growing up.

The first 5 years were predictable. Wanchai/LKF have never had such a good friend. Lots of shit jobs heavy drinking and sleeping with whatever I good get my grubby hands on.

The epiphany came when I landed a job managing a team of 28 women (no, no....it's legit). I just found I couldn't go to work hungover anymore - I was actually ashamed to. While sober I found I liked HK a LOT. Met a woman, moved in, married, arguments, love, Kids etc.

I don't have the richest life in terms of money (which I hope to change, one day....) but I would bet my life against anyones for happiness. It does exist here fopr expats a lot more than you'd think considering the sad sacks we see.

How I got here

I came to HK via Mainland China. How I got there is another story heavily featuring the youthful assurance of my own invulnerability that, sadly is no longer a feature of my recent travel experiences.

Insert into this part of the story every mother's horror story about washed passports, missing visas, dodgy documents and a night in Lang Kwai Fung that ended up with me on a plane to the UK with a Hong Kong Chinese man, a spur of the moment decision to marry (actually it took a couple of weeks...).

Six years later and we arrive back (on the same date we left only with differnt numbers in the year catagory)in Hong Kong. Parents are getting older, wanting to finally start a family (will we, won't we...) and it seemed like the place to be.

And so it is. Hong Kong drives me nuts, keeps me on my toes, frustrates, confuses and makes me happier than I ever was living in England.

It is just a great place to be.

Arrived only a few months

Arrived only a few months ago from a lifetime spent in Sydney, Australia. Am of Chinese origin, but could not be more Australian - don't speak Chinese, prefer to eat Western food, everything. When I was 16, I became friends with a Hongkongese who was newly arrived in Australia - he was international school educated and spoke with a US accent. After being best friends for over 5 years, we fell in love and end of story.

Well, not quite. After a year and a half, he moved back to HK to work (he always regarded it at home, family still lived in HK) and after much thought, I moved over as well.

I was expecting to hate it. He was expecting me to hate it. I'm a girl used to a front yard, a back yard, living in a house, having room to swing a cat if need be. But I was pleasantly surprised. I fell in love immediately, and now regard it as home.

I love the frantic pace, I don't mind living in an apartment, and I love that everything is just so closeby and that there seems to be 4 different countries within one little nation.

Sometimes I still crave my bright blue skies, my Sydney Harbour, the feel of sand of Sydney's beaches, the feel of grass under my bare feet. But when I return to Sydney to visit my family and friends, I crave everything about Hong Kong.

Why Hong Kong

Expat Interviews (link via Travel-Itch) is, perhaps not too surprisingly, a whole website full of interviews with expats, asking about their experience of living in another country. An interesting read if you're wondering what it might be like to live overseas.

They have interviews from all over the world, including three from expats in HK: Spike, Heather Chase, and Elizabeth Briel.