Hong Kong: The Expat Factor

The past month has been so weird – my first month as an ‘official’ expat (though my badge is yet to arrive) has been hectic, stressful and involved countless journeys up, down and across Hong Kong. Now I’m finally settled in my new/old home, it’s only just dawning on me how wonderfully bonkers the past four weeks have been and the joy of living once again in my favourite city on earth is starting to sink in.

For those who don’t know, I moved back to Hong Kong last month to start off life as Native English Teacher with an NGO called Chatteris Educational Foundation. I guess it was only a matter of time before I came back, given how much I fell in love with Hong Kong last time I was here, though even I didn’t expect to be back so soon! This time last year I was still touring Asia post-Hong Kong and now I’m back here once again.

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As if I needed reminding why I came back… that skyline.

Despite being delighted to be back, Hong Kong felt more like a backdrop for my first couple of weeks here. Knowing where to go and what was what made this vast city (especially HK Island) feel like a comfy pair of slippers whilst I got stuck into training and meeting the other graduates on the programme. I remember when I lived here last time and I just threw myself into touristy stuff instantly, whereas I’ve honestly not had time since I arrived here. I can’t take the same liberties I did as an exchange student this year!

It didn’t help that our accommodation until we found a flat was Mount Davis Hostel, a bizarre, spectacular and incredibly frustrating hostel on top of Mount Davis in Pokfulam. I actually hiked the mountain last year and looking back I have no idea how. Either that, or the hill has grown several dozen feet taller since I was here last. You could almost hear the hostel’s sporadically timed free shuttle bus cursing at us as it lugged 20 or so Westerners up the killer hill hour after hour.

The pay off came on a rare clear evening in Hong Kong when we would get a spectacular view over Kowloon, Tsing Yi and some of the outlying islands. Unfortunately, such clear evenings came about twice whilst I stayed there, but they were pretty damn fine when they did pop up.

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Worth the trek up the hill each night.

They were a complete rarity though. Instead, we were mainly treated to Hong Kong’s monsoon season in full flow. Even when I landed, the weather looked absolutely fine and yet by the time I disembarked the airport bus, a full on typhoon appeared to have hit Hong Kong. I forgot how instantly the weather can change and, having luckily missed out on monsoon season last time round, I got a bit of a wake up call about how aggressive Hong Kong’s weather can be. Never again will I endure a British person moaning about rain. Rain? You don’t know what rain is.

Beyond training and being reintroduced to the glorious Hong Kong food scene (I swear I’ve eaten so many dumplings that I may well become one), the most important thing on our agenda was to find somewhere to live. Once we got past the awkward subtleties of trying to work out who wanted to actually live with you without asking anyone (I’m so British), we then endured the ‘fun’ task of descending on an area of Hong Kong, barging into estate agents and attempting to flat hunt.

It’s fun for maybe half an hour. Then we got bored and just wanted someone else to do everything for us. The most popular place in terms of location and price (HK$4000 – HK$5000) for flat hunting in Hong Kong is the Kowloon area and we fixated on Prince Edward due to its convenience for commuting and the fact it was so close to the bustling area of Mong Kok without the density and general stresses which come with living in such a mad area.

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We tried to rent out ICC but it was a bit over our $5000 budget.

It felt like we walked into every estate agent in Prince Edward – we probably didn’t – and yet we only got one viewing. Either they had nothing in our price range or they claimed not to speak English. After two days, we’d pretty much got nowhere. Luckily, Chatteris is really helpful with flat-hunting, distributing Cantonese speaking interns to help with the viewing process. Despite only being 17, Allister was a miracle worker, managing to not only find us a coveted 4 bedroom flat (a rarity in Hong Kong) but in a prime location in Prince Edward and also at a fantastic price. The living room was by far the biggest we’d seen and it also came with two bathrooms, a sporadic collection of battered furniture and a brand new washing machine.

It all happens so quickly – I arrived in Hong Kong less than a month ago and yet in that time, I’ve met a whole host of new people, found flatmates, found a flat, furnished said flat (lugging furniture round Hong Kong is not the most fun you’ll ever have), trained for my new job and started work in a Youth College. It’s been pretty full-on.

It’s absolutely fantastic to be back living in Hong Kong, but one month in and I’ve barely even scratched the surface…

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