Did you know that Koala Girl started out as a Facebook page? Recently this gem of a post came up and with it a flood of memories about my first year in Hong Kong. I Remember the excitement of living in Hong Kong, but also recall the stress of learning to fit in with this new place and it’s culture.
Oh, and let’s not forget the feeling of anxiety after coming from Australia, a place where I “knew” what my plans and goals were for the next year, to coming to Hong Kong, where I was the trailing spouse and was completely clueless as to what I was meant to be doing.
Sigh!! Such an exciting time of my life. So full of hope and expectation but also in a state of learning as I was stretched in new ways. I desperately miss this time of my life but unfortunately time waits for no koala!
K.G x 🐨
The difference between a Hong Kong holiday and Hong Kong life.
I have been in Hong Kong for almost a year. I have no idea where the time has gone.
One thing people have asked me since making the big move is “is Hong Kong life what you expected?” Funnily enough, depending on the person, the tone of this question may be different; people from home ask in a hopeful sort of tone, where as local Hong Kongers are more jaded, almost like “is this still your favourite place now that you can’t escape?”
Hong Kong holiday activities:
While our Hong Kong trips were hardly relaxing due to the amount of personal commitments, Panda and I would make time to do ‘touristy’ things in between, like theme parks, trips to the islands, holiday eating and of course, this being Hong Kong, shopping. While Panda and I were not joined at the hip, we spent most of our time together.
Hong Kong life:
When I moved here, the most exciting prospect for me was the travel aspect. Other than Hong Kong we haven’t travelled to many other places.
Hong Kong itself has lots of amazing places, plus the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ is surrounded by plenty of other destinations. Singapore, for example is only four hours away. In Australia, we are pretty isolated in comparison. On public holiday long weekends here, many people evacuate the city, hopping onto planes, travelling into neighbouring countries for the week end.
Since moving here, I can’t say we have had those new travel experiences. Why? Hong Kong life is crazy busy! Panda works long hours, and even when he is home, he is working, Hong Kong style. I myself even have more commitments here in Hong Kong than at home. Between my commitments, his work commitments, occasional sickness due to chronic illness and weekly family commitments, we don’t see a lot of each other.
Sunday afternoon is down time. We have enjoyed visiting Lantau Island and Stanley so far, and are hoping to add some more day trips to the list soon. Everything is so close in Hong Kong! Add to this the fact that there is always some sort of festival or cultural celebration going on, so there is always something to do here. The time we spend together now is more planned, so inadvertently, by having less time, we now have more quality time.
One thing about spending less time together is that I lost my Cantonese interpreter. Normally the most complicated discussions I would have might be what I want on a menu but now we are living here, the discussions have become more difficult and I am by myself. I would say travelling around HK without canto wasn’t too bad, but when dealing with unavoidable things like security guards at apartment blocks and visiting repair men, it can become tricky.
Another difference about being a Hong Kong tourist and a resident is what you are doing during your day to day activities . Less open air tourist buses, more trying to work out which bus will get you from one appointment to the next on time. Less visiting Disney Land, and more visits to the libraries. Less shoe shopping, and more shopping for essentials, like groceries and furniture.
Hong Kong holiday shopping:
I am not a big shopper, this is Panda’s forte. Don’t get me started about his sports t-shirt collection, it is out of control!
In Hong Kong over our holidays, I would relax the purse strings and buy a few pairs of shoes. I love shoes In Hong Kong; they are cute, less conservative and a good price. The other thing I would splurge on would be shirts from Marks and Spencer (M&S). Not so cheap but M&S are not in Melbourne, so in koala logic, this is completely justifiable!
Hong Kong life shopping:
I will admit, I have bought shoes and shirts already, but there are only so many I can buy. In our “Australian” sized home, we had three ward robes in which to store our frivolous spends, but here in Hong Kong we don’t have that luxury of space. We have one wardrobe between us and no room for another. Come to think of it, it was outrageous how much space we had in AUS.
A lot of money has been spent in IKEA and Price rite (or as Panda calls it “The Hong Kong version of IKEA”) I love storage solutions and printed serviettes, and Panda loves Ikea’s Swedish meat balls so this is a win/win situation.
Now we have sorted out the furniture situation, our next big spends will be air and water purifiers, I expect. We are in Hong Kong after all.
Most of my effort however, has been put in to grocery shopping. For the first few months, I would spend my afternoons searching for good coffee joints and supermarkets. Being the one who cooks meant I had to work out what foods were available. Of course different stores have different items and it has taken trial and error to work out where to go and what tastes good. What you can get easily in Australia is either not available or very expensive here. In the first few months, the International supermarkets were both a source of great delight and torture; finding an item you never expected to see, then seeing the price.
Hong Kong holiday eating:
One thing we did more than shop, was eat. It was easy to over indulge in Hong Kong. While catch ups in Australia may entail a home cooked meal in a friend’s home, or a coffee catch up, here catching up with friends and family normally meant dining out; think yum cha, lunch dates and big dinners. Add to this the daily temptation of street food snacks and mid night beef brisket noodles and you ended up looking and feeling like a big, fat char Sui bao by the end of the trip. Still, this was the price you paid since you knew in 2 weeks when you stepped on to that plane you wouldn’t be able to indulge in your favourite Hong Kong delicacies for a very long time, and we could always ‘detox’ once we got home.
Hong Kong life eating:
It took a couple of months here to remind myself that I was not on holidays and that all this glorious food I had been dreaming about for some time, wasn’t going anywhere (and neither was I).
While I am attempting to eat my version of what it is to “eat well” (less rice, fatty meats, fried foods and gluten – all HK staples), I find it difficult to maintain the diet I had at home for various reasons. This is one adjustment to be made, but it’s an important one. I am still trying to work it out almost a year later. Yes, I am a slow learner!
All this aside, I realise how spoiled we had it in Australia for variety, freshness and quality.
Most things we eat here are imported or if I can get it, organic. Of course you can buy produce at the local wet markets, but I am never really sure where it has been come from or what it has been grown with. I have heard enough food scandals from surrounding regions to have a healthy scepticism. I don’t remember having to think so much about what we were eating in Australia or even before while we were holidaying here. Part ignorance or maybe I am only thinking about what I am putting in my body now. Having said that, the panda family only buy from the wet market, and they haven’t grown a second head yet.
Some closing thoughts:
Back to the question first posed at the start “Is living in Hong Kong what you expected?”
To be honest, it is not what I expected. I am generally a glass half empty kind of person, so while I wanted to move here, I still prepared myself for the worst. Fortunately for me despite the adjustments and difference in lifestyle, living here is even better than I expected. I would rather be here than anywhere else at this point in time.
Of course, frustrations creep in, but I am enjoying being in a different environment, and the positive things going on for me at the moment are Hong Kong centric. There are things to be grateful for and as long as I keep my mind open to learning, growth, and a child like wonder for all things different, I am sure I will continue to enjoy being a Hong Kong Koala.
Koala Girl xo
Are you living in a country other than your own? Have you lived somewhere other than “home?” Where would you like to live? Share with us below!