Prior to El Regalo
When Brian first visited Hong Kong with his family in 1973, Hong Kong became his most favorite city in the world; San Francisco then became his second most favorite city. In many ways the two cities are very similar. They both are harbors with mountains; both are very cosmopolitan, both have wonderful views and attractions, both are politically liberal as compared to their surrounding neighbors and both have large Chinese populations.
The decision to move to Hong Kong was one of the most rewarding decisions we’ve made and we still feel very blessed for the experiences. After we announced we were moving to Hong Kong, friends and co-workers would ask JoDon, “what’s it like?” Her reply stunned most people, “I don’t know what it’s like, I’ve never been there.” It was not a huge leap of faith as she had heard me speak of it highly during my frequent trips.
We moved to Hong Kong in the summer of 2005 with the expectation to live there for a minimum of three years. We ended up living there less than one year but it was such a great experience and we did so much that it seems like we were there for five. First though, a little background information about Hong Kong before you pack your bags to live there.
Modern Hong Kong was first shaped when mainland China converted to the Communist system in 1949. As a result, some of the best educated and best businessmen of China fled for the safety of Hong Kong, which was then a British Colony. Hong Kong depended on trade with China for its survival. When the United Nations proclaimed a trade embargo on China during the Korean War, Hong Kong
The population of Hong Kong is one of the densest in the world. Hong Kong is made up of 262 islands but most people live in Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories. About 70% of Hong Kong is national parks so this leaves very little space for the 7 million inhabitants. Hong Kong’s skyline at night is the most stunning in the world; Manhattan is not even a close second. Cantonese is the official language of Hong Kong while most of China speaks Putonghua (the politically correct name for Mandarin).
lost its major trading partner with devastating results. As a consequence, Hong Kong developed a strong apparel industry using cheap labor using Chinese immigrants. As wages and competition increased Hong Kong shifted from apparel to financial institutions. Hong Kong has now become one of the world’s leading financial centers. Hong Kong has been recognized many times as having the most open economy in the world. In 1979 the Chinese government proclaimed Shenzhen, China as a special economic zone which opened that portion of China to outside investors. As it is Hong Kong’s neighbor city to the north, Hong Kong businesses poured into the region establishing manufacturing, including apparel, auto parts, computers, etc. Many Hong Kong citizens now work at Shenzhen during the week and commute home for the weekends.
In 1997 the British government’s lease on Hong Kong expired to the People’s Republic of China. Before leaving the British negotiated an agreement known as “one country, two systems” and Hong Kong, along with Macau, became known as SAR’s (Special Administrative Regimes) of the Chinese government. China took over control of Hong Kong but promised not to interfere with the Hong Kong economic systems. Many HK people immigrated to Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand because they feared China’s intervention. Many of the people who emigrated have now returned back home.
Hong Kong is a very vibrant city and a very easy foreign city to immigrate. All business and government professionals speak English, signs are posted in several languages and the public transportation system is second to none. To get around all you have to do is buy a prepaid ‘Octopus’ card. You can use the
card to pay for all subways and buses. You can even use it to pay at most grocery and drug stores. How simple! You can even top-it-off at any corner 7-Eleven store. The subway system is unbelievable. Every three minutes extremely long trains load/unload about 10,000 passengers. The first time I was inside the train I thought I was looking in the mirror; the passenger cars extend so long that I never thought it could all be one train.
The train goes on and on...
Its ironic that HK has one of the densest populations of the world and that our weekend pastime was hiking in the mountains and along the coastlines. Sometimes it would take us three trains and two buses to get to the trail head, but we enjoyed the other side of HK that few visitors ever explore. The trails were extremely well maintained and we always managed to find a beer stop somewhere along the way.
Our other pastime in HK was, very unfortunately, EATING! We both got fat tasting every delicacy. Our office was located in a popular district between Lan Kwai Fung and SoHo. We made a rule that we would not go to lunch at the same restaurant twice. In six months we always found a new restaurant within walking distance, there are so many! One of our favorite dinnners was crispy duck. There were several take out stands on our walk from the office back home.
Hong Kongers are known to be aggressive and pushy business people. That’s generally good when you want something done very fast. The downside is that most HK’ees are terrible listeners. It’s very normal that when you begin a conversation, an HK’ee will interrupt you with, “yea, yea, yea”… and then proceed in providing an answer
without knowing your question. It can be truly maddening. Another cultural difference is the prevailing loud belching and smacking of lips while eating. We always burst out loud laughing when a cab driver would rip one; what can you do?
With the Internet and Skype phone systems it was easier than in the past to conduct business and keep in touch with family despite the 14 hour time difference. What an amazing world which we live! Amazing, that is, if you like 5 am business meeting conference calls with the home office. But, you learn to take the good with the bad.
While still living in Hong Kong my kids + Vanessa, Ryan and Kristi came to visit us and from HK we went to Beijing. It had been many years that we had partied until the sun came up!
Hong Kong is a very unique city that is unlike any other in Asia or the world. It is very cosmopolitan where Bentley automobiles are as common as old ladies pushing garbage carts up a hillside. Complicated culture but a fascinating experience which we thoroughly enjoyed.