There’s so much swirling around in my head that I have had trouble figuring out what to write about this week, so I’ll just offer up a couple of random impressions.
I love it here! I’ve been in Hong Kong almost four weeks now, and while I may still be in the honeymoon phase, I really do like it and am feeling good.
To quote an Australian friend of mine here, “it’s damn hot.” Every day, all day, the temperature is 32 or 33 degrees Celsius, which is not so bad by itself, but the 95% humidity is a real kicker.
However, unlike many countries where a siesta kills off hot afternoons, they wouldn’t dream of that here. People work really hard here. A six- or seven- day work-week is not uncommon, especially in the trades and service industry, and ten or more hours a day is normal. There is no worry that you might have missed the laundry shop or grocery store because it’s probably open until 11:00 p.m. and the same person will be there from opening to closing. There are regulations governing stat holidays, “rest days” (days off, generally one a week and those can be regular or irregular) and annual leave, but nothing addressing standard work days or overtime. I read in the South China Morning Post (my new daily) that “…the concept of overwork has not been recognized by Chinese law.”* Professionals also put in long days here. Paul’s day is usually 9:30 to 7:00-ish which is not too bad but it’s a different approach. It is not unusual for him to have meetings scheduled for 5:00 p.m., even on Fridays (yuck). They don’t live for their time off here. BTW, minimum wage in HK is HK$30 (USD$3.75 or CAD$4.23 at today’s exchange rate). No doubt that partly explains why they work so much, especially given the inescapable, astronomical rents here.
Reams of material have been written about the amazing Hong Kong transportation system, so suffice it to say: yup. Even I – a seriously directionally-challenged, hopeless-at-reading-a-map, I-take-my-car-everywhere gal – love the public transportation system here and have been able to quickly figure out how to get around. There is a fantastic bus route map that everyone should have even if you don’t live here. (Check out the “Map Based Bus Route Search” at the top.) This app does everything except wash the dishes. The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) subway system is awesome. The stations are vast labyrinths of moving walkways, shops and restaurants, all bright and clean, very well signed in English and Chinese and super efficient. Last week, there was something on the news about a switching problem over a period of days on one of the MTR lines that caused delays of FIVE minutes (!!) and the guy in charge was saying how totally unacceptable this is and how the people at the top have to be accountable and the system performance review was coming up and this just was not on, etc, etc. How hilarious coming from, well, Ottawa.
Reams of material have likewise been written about how people are always rushing in Hong Kong. About this, I disagree. On foot, Hong Kong people saunter. They shuffle. They drift. They stop. More often than not, they have their noses buried in their cell phones while walking, and don’t think for a minute that that helps them keep moving apace. It seems that only Paul and I stride purposefully here. It is impossible to walk in a straight line here unless you are on a treadmill. Going for a brisk walk is out of the question in the city. However, I know for a fact that many wonderful walking and hiking trails abound just up and over the hill and I very much look forward to exploring them. For this though, I am waiting for cooler weather.
I feel like a perpetual tourist these days. Everything is an adventure. I can think of worse things.
*SCMP, July 22, 2014, “Mystery as hundreds of young Chinese workers are dying in their sleep“