Having moved to Hong Kong a year ago from jobless, chavtastic (& recently rioting) London… I was a little apprehensive on my arrival. A born and bred South-West London girl, what would HK offer that the bright lights of home couldn’t? Especially for someone who loves to eat well, drink copious amounts of alcohol and basically party until the sun rises. Little did I know I was coming to the right City!
It was a lovely surprise to discover that HK is like an Asian take on New York with its bright lights and bustling business district. It has smart, trendy open-rooftop bars with stunning views of the City, excellent restaurants, buzzy nightlife and loads of crazy expats to play with, whether you’re a mum of four hitting the town, or a single gal needing some fun.
When I arrived in September 2010, with twin seven-month-old babies in tow, my initial excitement quickly wore off. Something didn’t click with me about the town. Was it homesickness? Was it the lack of fresh air? Was it the whole “making new friends in a whole new place” shock that got to me? Who knows, BUT I wasn’t quite ready to dip both feet in right away. Why?
a) I was convinced the Husband had made a huge mistake and would eventually send us all back to London if I moaned enough
b) Who was I going to play with here? I knew NO ONE and going to playgroups is like torture for me, and
c) White wine & vodka had quickly become my new best friends, until I finally accepted my fate in this town… drinking apparently being a “classic expat Wife” thing to do.
So having now been in HK for one year, what advice could I offer a newbie, fresh off the boat and ready for a transition that will realistically take six months to evolve? I would say, get stuck in, enjoy your new surroundings, accept all the invites thrown at you and let things happen organically.
Also, get used to that little gem called a “Domestic Helper”. If you find a good one (through an agency or on-line; Asiaxpat and Geoexpat are pretty useful for this), they will make your social life bearable. Just be sure to do your due diligence and check all references before letting anyone into your home. I can tell some stories that would make your toes curl!
A whole new life is tough to begin with and when you have young twins (now disruptive, loud toddlers in my case), there are all sorts of things on offer to you: playgroups, mums’ clubs, nurseries, weekends out hiking in the glorious acres of lush mountains surrounding the island, days spent on junks in the sun, the beach life on offer in Shek O, Repulse Bay Beach or South Bay (my personal favourite with its stunning beach and funky weekend beach bar), drinking, barbequing, the fab weather, swimming pools in your building… its endless.
There are also limitless places to go for your hair, nails, massages and Botox, and they are usually full of people you know (something you get used to very quickly on a small island is bumping into a familiar face). Be sure to sign up with Groupon.com amazing 50-90% off deals, available daily; I’m still waiting on another Brazilian blow-dry offer to tame my curly hair in this humidity!
Yes, its a pain unpacking your entire life into something that resembles a shoebox in comparison to your old home, but look at everything around you! There really is so much to do and see, and children have a fantastic way of life that just isn’t on offer back home. Websites such as Geoexpat, Geobaby, AsiaExpat (and Sassy Mama of course!) are great sources of information too.
Now I know my way around HK Island, I have quickly built up a database of important people needed, especially with young babies. Doctors, dentists, opticians, gynaecologists, Pilates classes (I’m VERY obsessed with Pilates), Moms of Multiples Organization (for parents with the joys of having twins or more; we normally all look tired, grumpy and dishevelled when we meet), Pole Dancing (yes, that’s right, I’m a sexy mutha, err… I mean mama), Zumba classes, Ocean Park, Disney Land, social clubs (The Cricket Club, American Club, Aberdeen Marina Club, Football Club etc) and Macau, Asia’s own version of Las Vegas… minus the sin (shame).
My main issue with HK is that the cable TV here is rubbish. Why can’t we have SKY TV here? I mean, not being able to Sky Plus anything is just horrendous. I would highly recommend getting Apple TV to anyone that doesn’t have it already as this way, you can watch all your fave programmes from anywhere in the world (any True Blood fans out there?). Another negative is the need for better high-end on-line food shopping. If you hate going to do that big weekly shop for your family, there is Park n Shop and Welcome that do on-line shopping but I personally like to know what the quality of the food is.
Sooo…. for all those newbies who have just moved or are still finding their way around this gorgeous island, open your eyes and enjoy every minute.
Lots of love and enjoy it all!