As mentioned earlier, I was in Hong Kong for the first time during the second week of April. Paul was in meetings with his new team at the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, while much of my time was spent looking at both long and short-term housing options. We have decided that rather than committing to a permanent apartment when Paul starts his job full-time in May, we will live in a serviced apartment (furnished with housekeeping) so that we can explore neighbourhoods and decide where we feel comfortable living permanently. An apartment is one thing; a neighbourhood is another.
In any case, my first impressions of Hong Kong … I would not describe Hong Kong as beautiful, but it sure has a “wow” factor.
At first I felt like a deer caught in the headlights, a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size, noise, and heights. But I seemed to wake up after a couple of days (could have been the jet lag) and found it easier to take all those elements in stride as the week went on.
We will manage not speaking Cantonese but we will miss a lot, so I will look into language training (both written and oral) when I arrive.
I’m going to need a personal food guide. Seriously. I was surprised at how different real Chinese food is from what I’ve experienced here. Breakfasts are completely different (they eat noodles, congee, etc.). There are totally unrecognizable items in markets (is that a fish or a vegetable?), and restaurants are packed ALL the time. There is every type of international food available, but I figure if I’m living there, I might as well get with the program.
Hong Kong is a shoppers’ mecca. There are massive, endless malls, street stalls and markets, boutiques and bargains, and countless designer stores with people queued up to gain entry. Consumerism is alive and well in Hong Kong. But where do people store all the things they buy?! The apartments I saw (and they were probably big by many standards) had virtually no storage space. Perhaps Hong Kongers are natural purgers as well as natural shoppers??
The people I encountered were unfailingly polite. I was never given the cold shoulder because I didn’t speak the language or use chopsticks like a pro. Retail, hotel, and restaurant staff were always helpful and patient. Residents of apartment buildings would smile and greet us. Government workers, locals and expats — everywhere we went, people were consistently courteous.
In short, I can live there. I know I will have a lot to learn, but I absolutely came away from that week feeling that I can make a home there and enjoy it. I can’t wait to get started.