Today marks 12 weeks to the date that I arrived in Hong Kong, and to mark the occasion, I'm finally getting round to answering some of your questions about the whole 'situation'. If there's anything else you want to know, pop it in the comments and I'll reply to you - as always - as soon as possible (:
Why move to Hong Kong?
I always knew I would live in Hong Kong at some point but I just didn’t realise it would be now. As I’m sure many of you know or have worked out, my Mum is from Hong Kong and we fly back every year for a holiday and to see family. In fact my parents made the decision to set me up with a residents' HKID when I was 14 so that I could eventually move here! I moved firstly for a new job and secondly to soak up the culture that I’ve grown up semi-knowing and figure things out for myself ‘while I’m still young’. It’s kinda hard to describe but I was raised fairly traditionally in terms of Chinese culture but I’ve also been raised very ‘British’ in comparison to my cousins. British-born Chinese life is difficult to explain!
What did you do to prepare?
But really though, I didn’t prepare myself at all. Lucky for me, I hold a HKID as well as a British passport which gives me dual nationality and means I didn’t need to apply for work visas. I wrote myself a furniture shopping list and a beauty shopping list, called a few friends and published an announcement blog post. Erm. I pretty much winged it. In hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing because it meant I didn’t have too much time to fret about what was facing me.
How did you make your final decision to move?
I wish I hadn’t thrown my pros and cons list out because it was the funniest thing I’ve ever written aside from a note telling my Mum I’d run away when I was 11. (I’d actually packed a backpack to move into our garage because I saw a spider in my bedroom. 11 y/o me obviously didn’t realise Aragog and her kids live in the garage.)
I wrote myself a pros and cons list that had the most detailed points on it. Things like: avocado and egg toast, Pokemon Omega Ruby earlier release, no double duvet, can’t go to Nando’s, get to buy Laneige, and stay out all night featured on there. I of course consulted my best friends who half couldn’t believe I wanted to leave and couldn’t wait for me explore somewhere new because they knew how bored I was of everyday UK life.
What are you doing there?
I moved here for a job at Lane Crawford’s head office. I also do things like get lost looking for brunch spots, walk into really-clean glass walls, eat out more than recommended, explore places that are Instagram-worthy and potter around my cute apartment.
What is the work culture like?
Ah that big question. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t too bad. If you’re not familiar with the Hong Kong work culture, basically it’s supposed to be long hours, standard six days at work, little pay and the expectation that you’ll put work before health, family, social lives, etc. I work Monday to Friday, 9am to 5:30pm and – sorry to talk $$ - earn a good amount more than I did at home. Of course the language difference is there but I speak fluent Cantonese and English and it’s all very easy to get used to. Deciphering emails from colleagues whose first language isn’t English is kinda like code-breaking so I can add that to the CV now, eh?
How about the living space situation?
I’ve already shared snippets of my apartment but living in Hong Kong takes small spaces to the next level. It’s tiny. I’m fairly petite at 5”1 or so and I’m a UK8 and like seriously some of these places push the limit. Again I’ve been really lucky in that my family own an apartment over in the New Territories and it is next to an MTR station, the bus terminus, taxi station and minibus terminus. I live there on my own rent-free but pay for all the bills and upkeep. Hi I’m Michelle and I bought myself a new stove and oven for Christmas…
How did you find the settling in process?
To be honest I feel very settled and yet still not settled in all at the same time. Because I live somewhere that I’ve stayed in at least once a year every year of my life, it already feels like home. But because I’m here living on my own, I still feel quite unsettled in that I don’t have a particular routine, I just do whatever I want. I find that I rarely feel homesick but instead wish that my best friends and family could experience this with me. I also have that added bonus of being bilingual so I haven't struggled much on the language side of things either. Oh! And the initial jetlag was like NO OTHER jetlag I'd ever experienced.
What's it like in Hong Kong?
I could be here all day, but in summary, it's exciting, fun and surreal in comparison to my UK life. There's no limit to the things you can do, see, eat and smell. If you thought everything was on your doorstep in London, then think again, basically. The Hong Kong lifestyle has a 'work hard, play hard' mantra and there's a huge mix of modern and traditional routine, just the way I've been brought up. The air-con game is strong, the shopping game is stronger, but most of all, there's an appreciation for every little element here - or maybe that's just me.
Best and worst things about living in Hong Kong?
Best: it’s so pretty, there are so many things to explore, Sasa (Asia's equivalent to Sephora) is 2-minutes from my front door, and the food.
Worst: my apartment geckos, air-con in the winter, and you can’t wear red lipstick without being stared at.
What would your tips for moving abroad be?
Pack lots of homely trinkets and photographs! You can buy clothes later. Which you will.
Think ahead about things like setting up Internet and bank accounts ahead of either arriving or ahead of needing them to pay bills and be paid from work. Stay in touch with your friends no matter how busy you find yourself. (Imagine my 8-hour time difference paired with the 9-hour working day... Hint: it means sacrificing your 8-hours of sleep.) Start using Facebook again! Download a dual-clock widget or app on your phone. Find yourself a good hairdresser ASAP. Make the most of every opportunity.
Currently I plan to stay in Hong Kong for a year. I’m still looking at it as an unconventional working year out but I haven’t booked any flights and nothing is set in stone. I do eventually see myself back in England as I have my baby tortoises waiting for me as well as my baby cousin. And I also have big, big plans for a new venture that would require me to be in England.