Prior to moving to Hong Kong, I had visited this crazy city a number of times, for both business and pleasure.
I had always said if I were to live anywhere other than Australia it would be in my favourite Asian city, Hong Kong.
I guess the Universe heard me?
Because I had visited quite often and always enjoyed my time here I naively thought I would adapt straight away.
I quickly learnt that visiting a place is very different to living in a place.
This got me thinking of how my life has changed since moving from Sydney to Hong Kong. There are so many little things that are different which adds up to a new way of living.
Not every ‘different life experience’ is bad and the annoying little things really are ‘first world’ problems.
But after reflection I’ve realised that these experiences provide funny anecdotes and I thought I would share some with you.
The first 11 Quirky Life Differences in Hong Kong
1. Space is a luxury
Hong Kong apartments are tiny.
Our apartment isn’t that small compared to other apartments we looked at renting on the Island.
But to put our space in context, I can vacuum our entire apartment from the one power point.
James calls our bathroom a ‘walk in shower’ as the shower takes up most of the space and the rest is tight to say the least.
Bench space in the kitchen is non-existent which makes cooking a meal a balancing act of pots and pans on the window sill, top of the microwave and cooktop!
You get the picture.
2. Going to the bank is like going to the deli at Coles….only it’s your worst nightmare.
To be honest, everyone here has a nightmare story about banks and the banking system (or lack there of).
Setting up a bank account was a highly stressful yet hilarious experience.
At one stage I thought I was going to punch Connie, our Personal Banking Advisor, in her pretty little face.
The red tape, bureaucracy and ‘take a ticket and we’ll call you to the counter when we feel like it’ process is enough to cause a panic attack.
We have a joint account with no money in it, we haven’t been approved for a credit card yet, our bank cards are ATM cards ONLY…so don’t think you can go online shopping with a debit card or use Paywave in a store!
What do you think this is? The financial hub of Asia?
I could seriously write a whole blog post about our banking experience….this really is the tip of the iceberg…but I want to avoid negative vibes…so lets just leave it here shall we!
3. Swapped my Opal for an Octopus
We don’t have a car (there is no need + they are VERY expensive) so public transport and our own two legs are our best friends.
Public transport here is phenomenal, particularly the MTR (underground trains), and my Octopus card gets a daily work out.
The best thing is you can use your Octopus to pay for so many things….groceries, McDonalds, the gym in our Club House.
Sydney, take note! The Opal card could be overhauled ASAP!
4. Express Rubbish Collection
Our rubbish is collected every day and I only have to take seven steps to ‘put the rubbish out.’
You can even throw out big items and they seem to take it away.
I am tossing up whether to throw out our microwave to replace it with an oven…and I’ll just put it in the bin!
(More on ovens in the next post!).
5. Warning – don’t drink the water!
When I came to Hong Kong for business I never drank the water.
But upon relocation, for some stupid reason I started to hydrate myself on a daily basis with water from our kitchen tap.
Apparently this is a big ‘no-no.’
Not even the locals drink the tap water.
Heavy metals anyone? Oops.
So we are currently drinking bottled water with the aim of getting a water filter installed.
6. Stand to the right
As a pedestrian in Australia you usually walk on the left, stand on the left of the escalators…we mirror how we drive a car.
In Hong Kong everyone seems to walk on the right, stand on the right side of the escalators even though they drive on the left!
This doesn’t seem like an issue except when you walk everywhere and catch the escalators everywhere, it does become slightly annoying.
7. “Where are you from and how long are you staying?”
This is the standard question most people ask when you are introduced.
It was quite confronting when I first landed but people are keen to discover if you’re here short-term or for the long haul.
Because Hong Kong is so transient it’s easy to form friendships and then be heart broken when someone leaves.
I’ve only been here a few months and one of my Irish friends is heading back to London in March and I am slightly devastated!
8. Whatsapp is in. Texting it out.
Everyone here is obsessed with the texting platform Whatsapp.
The second thing people ask you is “Are you on Whatsapp?” and then they will swiftly add you to whole heap of random Whatsapp groups.
My Art Class Whatsapp group goes nuts on a daily basis.
The only problem is – they’re all Cantonese.
9. Bush walking is out. Hiking is in!
What do you do in your spare time?
You go for a ‘hike’ of course! Hiking is the cool weekend activity here.
It provides a much needed escape from the concrete jungle and some fresh air.
I bought a Hong Kong Hiking Guide for James for Christmas (he was thrilled – insert ‘eye rolling’ here!).
Me on the other hand, cannot wait to get amongst it!
10. Where is a Bakers Delight when you need one?
The local bread here sucks big time.
Think spongy, sugary, fair floss and that’s their bread!
There are a few artisan bake houses around but they are pricey. (Think $7-8 AUD for a loaf).
The only bread we will eat from our local (non-artisan) bakery is a French stick.
They are baked at 11am on a Saturday and we set an alarm to run down and buy one before they sell out….because once they are gone, they’re gone!
11. Late night shopping is REALLY late night shopping
When I would visit Hong Kong on business I was always thrilled to know the shops were open to all hours of the night.
This meant I could work and then head out on an extravagant shopping spree.
But living here it’s a bit different.
I’m an early riser and like to tackle my to-do list first thing!
But businesses and shops open here quite late which makes ticking of my jobs for the day more drawn out.
The major upside of late trading hours = having dinner and drinks and then stopping off at ZARA at 11pm to buy a winter coat before flying to London the next day!
So that’s Part I of how my life is different in Hong Kong.
Have you lived overseas and experienced quirky little differences in your day-to-day life?
I would love to hear them in the comments section below!