Hong Kong: the last 2 months

I knew it would happen, I wanted it to happen, but it happened much faster than I thought it would.

We are leaving Hong Kong at the end of July to return to the UK.

I love Hong Kong to bits, it’s such an amazing city full of contrasts and adventures, yet there are a few issues that mean it may not be the place where we settle.

These issues are:

  • The job market: simply put, I currently do not fit in.

I am a New Product Development Project Manager, but food companies with manufacturing operations in Hong Kong can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The few times I did see an offer, they regarded Chinese food, which I have no knowledge of…  Additionally, I do not speak, read or write Cantonese AND Mandarin fluently.

Mastering both Chinese languages is becoming increasingly mandatory and only a few sectors are exempt (banking being one of them).

 

  • Housing: renting a small apartment at high price doesn’t bother me too much. However, we want to eventually buy property, yet buying anything in Hong Kong seems unachievable. Not only is the price very high, the flats are tiny and the deposit is hefty. It simply isn’t achievable for us in the short/medium term.

 

  • Work culture: this one concerns Jeff rather than me. People at work are extremely competitive and do not hesitate to backstab colleagues and shoe-shine managers in order to get promoted. I’ve been told this behaviour is very common in certain industries/teams with local staff as it is instilled in people since kindergarten.

You see, there are only a handful of universities in Hong Kong, so parents put extreme pressure on their children to stand out from their classmates. This starts at a very young age with kids being enrolled in music, sport, arts & language classes, the only goal being to enter a prestigious primary school, then a prestigious high school and finally university. Children compete with one another on all aspects and this behaviour is carried over into their working lives.

 Hong Kong has so many good points: it’s safe, has easily reachable countryside, varied landscapes and no end of activities to try. Let’s not forget the food, central location for Asian holidays and warm weather.

 

I’ve learnt in the past seven years that no place is perfect and that it’s not about finding the place that ticks all the boxes, but the one that ticks the most important boxes…

I don’t know if England will tick the most important boxes (I’ll be honest and say I am concerned about safety)…but we thought we had to try, so when the opportunity came, we grabbed it.

 

We will try our best, but I would not be surprised if we eventually return to Hong Kong or try another country.

 

 

P.S: I do not plan on stopping the blog for now, even after I return to the UK

 

 

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Fun activity in Hong Kong: Chinese Dessert Cooking Class

Teacher's coconut noodles in mango soup

I’ve wanted to take some Chinese cooking classes for a while but never got round to it.

Since I’ve got plenty of free time recently, I thought it would be the perfect time. After browsing various websites, I realised that English speaking classes in Hong Kong are on the pricey side (no surprise), so I decided to start with only one workshop.

I chose the Towngas cooking center, as it has plenty of interesting classes designed for leisure (no need to enrol in some kind of training program) and offers workshops in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.

I absolutely love Hong Kong style desserts so when I saw a class was coming up I enrolled in a heartbeat!

The three hour workshop taught us to make 3 dishes:

  • coconut noodles in mango soup with sago
  • mango rice rolls
  • mango ice cream (teacher demo only)

 

Each workstation was already prepared with utensils and ingredients set out and weighed for us. We were each given printed copies of the recipes, in Chinese and English. Once everyone had put their belongings in the cupboard we were called to the front of the room were the demo station is.

 

The teacher demonstrated each task and then sent us to do it ourselves at our station.

Each time a step was completed, we were called back to the demo table for the next task.

Once the teacher had finished the demonstration desserts, we were all invited to taste them.

 

Joanne, the teacher spoke very good English and made sure everyone had understood the steps. She also walked around the workstations in case we had questions. Kinda felt like I was in Master Chef!

 

Most of the attendees were middle aged local housewives, who seemed to be regulars. They were quite competitive, completing tasks before the teacher had instructed us to do so, peering over their neighbours shoulders and calling after the instructor “Missy! Missy!”!

 

The desserts were easier to make than I thought they would be and I’m glad I learnt how to make these iconic HK desserts… I feel I learnt to “make” a bit of the local culture.

I recommend the Towngas cooking Center, they have plenty of adult & children, Chinese and Western cuisine workshops and the teacher was good. I recommend taking a class if you want to experience the local cuisine in a hands on way.

 

 

Tips:

  • Bring 2 or 3 Tupperware boxes with you to take your creations home
  • Bring a sheet of paper & a pen to take notes
  • Bring your own apron

 

 

Towngas cooking center

9F Lee theatre

Causeway Bay

Cost: 450HKD

Course: Sweet Delicacies – Sweet Mango Rice Rolls

https://www.towngascooking.com/en/Course/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1960s Hong Kong style food court – TBG Mall

We recently made a small yet cute discovery.

 

While walking around TBG Mall in Kowloon Bay, we stumbled upon a newly opened retro food court designed to look like 1960s Hong Kong.

The food court features traditional Hong Kong style street food, such as cheese noodles, spicy noodles, grilled meat skewers, bubble tea and egg bubble waffle.

 

The corridor is filled with quaint green metallic gates behind which hide small stalls selling traditional candy, handmade soap and various bits and bobs.

The walls are lined with Mahjong tiles, abacuses, old movie posters and the food court features old style wooden shop fronts & signs.

According to my mother in law it is designed to look like the Dai Pai Dong (open-air food stalls) and Cha Chan Teng (HK Style cafés) that used to line the streets of Lower Ngau Tau Kok estate, demolished in 2010.

 

I’m really glad we discovered this little gem; I find Hong Kong doesn’t keep enough of its cultural monuments/buildings in the name of modernization. I simply love this kind of place that makes a point to remember the past, just like the Starbucks on Duddell Street.

 

 

Chinese remedy: Ginger tea

Ginger tea is a little Chinese remedy that I regularly turn too.

It’s really great at fighting the common cold, but also works wonders on any kind of tummy pain, nausea and “monthly” cramps.

In Asia ginger tea is available at the supermarket in teabags, but otherwise simply putting a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger in a cup of boiling water does the trick.

Real life saver!

Lin Heung Tea House – The Hunger Games

We were looking for some lunch but Saturday midday in Central means long queues for all restaurants.

We ended up in front of Lin Heung Tea House and decided it was a great time to give this very traditional tea house a try.

The first shop opened in 1889 in Guangzhou and the Hong Kong branch opened in 1926. It hasn’t changed since.

The experience was overwhelming but authentic and it gave us a glimpse of what dim sum in the 1960’s would have been like.

Upon entering the dining hall we had to pause a few seconds to take in everything that we saw: old fashioned décor, worn out chairs, dirty tables and noisy crowds.

We noticed that most customers were elderly regulars and a few tourists had dared to try their luck. Staff didn’t speak any English whatsoever.

Tables are communal and we had to find seats by ourselves. We shared our table with two elderly men who were obviously regulars. They didn’t seem too keen to have us at their table as they claimed some of the chairs were taken but nobody ever joined them.

Food is wheeled around the restaurant on little carts by ladies well over their 60s and no matter how much we asked them what was on offer, they wouldn’t reply. We then realised that only regulars got their food brought to them… everyone else had to stand up and chase after the carts to get the food before all of it was gone.

They should change the name of the restaurant to “The hunger Games” because this is what it was. No queue, no patience. Everybody aggressively trying to get food from the cart before anybody else could. The “aunties” who push the carts aren’t patient and will shove the cart into anyone who is standing in the way.

 

I found the food to be average and I was still a bit hungry when we left but it was worth it for the experience and the decor. Lin Heung Tea House is a must try but one should be mentally prepared!

 

Warning: poor quality photos from my phone

Shenzhen is underrated

We don’t know Shenzhen very well and are mainly familiar with the immigration check points.

These checkpoints aren’t the nicest places and are a little bit dodgy, so for a while that was the image we had of Shenzen as a city (dirty, full of black market traders).

However, we discovered quite a few nice areas, usually where the richer people and expats hangout.

Upscale brand new shopping centers, artificial lakes with light shows, western restaurants, aquariums… all fairly new, nicely designed and much cheaper than their equivalents in Hong Kong!

Photos below aren’t great because the weather is pretty grim.