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What’s hot — I found some work!

In April, I wrote about my search for work here in Hong Kong. I am excited to say that I finally landed my first contract in early June with Premiere Performances of Hong Kong, a small arts organization that presents world-class recitals, an annual chamber music festival, outreach programs and school concerts. It was founded and is run by a Canadian woman (totally coincidental) with a great deal of energy and drive to bring some of the best recitalists and chamber musicians to Hong Kong. I had attended a few of their performances and was impressed by what they were doing. I intended to contact her, thinking it would be yet another cold-call, but happily I was e-introduced to her by a friend here in Hong Kong. This opened the door to a meeting; she said she knew she needed to take her marketing to the next level but didn’t have the expertise and couldn’t find what she needed here in Hong Kong so she was very happy that I came along. I am working a couple of days a week, mostly from my home office, providing capacity building, planning and general hands-on support to her terrific and talented staff. We’ve gotten a lot done in a short period of time and I’m having fun. It’s a win-win all around.

I am continuing to network and have been told that I am “firmly on the radar” of a couple of other organizations here. But for now, this is a great start for me in Hong Kong and I am so glad to be making a contribution in this way.

What’s not — No Working 9 to 5 here

Coming from Canada, we are accustomed to working hard but we always strive for work-life balance. Of course it’s not all nine-to-five in Canada, but protecting one’s down-time, taking work-free vacations and spending time with family are things that Canadians can expect and most manage to achieve.

Not so here in Hong Kong. People here seem to work all the time. In fact, the term “work-life balance” is pretty much non-existent here. It is well known that the Chinese have a very strong work ethic, that kids are driven hard by their parents to achieve, and that adults work crazy long hours. Seeing this in action has been eye-opening. Most shop and business workers start around 10:00 a.m. and just keep going. About 25% of working people put in 52 hours a week or more. It is not unusual for Paul to have meetings scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m., and these are not dinner meetings. Not many workers have two days a week off. There are no laws regulating working hours. After studying the issue for two years, a government committee decided “the way forward” was to let each company work it out for themselves; all they need to do is spell out expected work hours in the employee’s contract.

A recent survey showed that 77% of people take work-related calls when on vacation. Vacations more than a week long are rare. Maternity leave is ten weeks. Paternity leave is three days!

There is an attitude here that hard work is what makes Hong Kong great and its competitive edge would be lost without this approach. Perhaps. But some would say this type of work ethnic is what hurts Hong Kong’s competitiveness. How do you draw the line and still stay in favour with the boss? Finding the necessary balance when dealing with long-standing attitudes of this type is a challenge when trying to adjust in a new culture, and was certainly not one we had anticipated.