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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Fishball revolution

The Chinese New Year has started with violent clashes in Mong Kok. Televisions have been blasting images of injured policemen and bloodied civilians’ and the “riot” was the main subject of family gatherings.

It all started off over a fish ball stall.

Street food is common in Hong Kong, especially during Chinese New Year. It is a tradition; it is Hong Kong’s culture.

So when the police decided to remove the food stalls – at this time of the year- people lost it.

 

The issue here is deeper than it looks. As Bernice Chan from the SCMP reports it “Hongkongers feel this ‘fish ball revolution’ is not just about street food, it’s about losing their culture and, losing their culture is also about losing a part of their identity. And there’s not much of the culture left so they feel like they have to grapple onto whatever is left and hang onto it.”

 

The government has slowly been washing away the local culture…

In the past few years there have been protests about amends to Hong Kong’s education curriculum aiming at promoting a deeper identification with Mainland China, Old villages have been destroyed to make space for new properties, owners of a bookstore selling books banned by China have been “kidnapped” and the umbrella revolution is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

 

On the other hand, the Chinese government is overseeing a country made of 56 ethnic groups, 22 provinces and a handful of autonomous and special administrative regions. Keeping things unified and cohesive is a difficult task, yet a priority.

 

 

 

HK habits: Airing dirty laundry in public

mtr-logo

The MTR (metro) seems to be Hong Kong couples’ favorite arguing place.

I have seen countless couples of all ages sulking, banging on walls and screaming in the stations and carriages. They seem oblivious to the people around them, intently watching, listening and in some cases filming.

More often than not, the argument is extremely loud and the general public gets a glimpse of the couples’ private life.

Nobody interferes unless it really gets out of control. In that case, someone will call the MTR security staff.

Occupy Central – civil disobedience

 

I wasn’t going to talk about Occupy Central because I really have a deep hatred of politics…however this is a major event in Hong Kong and since this blog is about life here I guess I do need to talk about it.
But I’ll try to stay as neutral as possible.

The basic Law

Hong Kong is ruled by the Basic Law which was drafted in accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed between the Chinese and British governments concerning Hong Kong’s future.
However, as with all legal documents, the basic law uses (obviously) legal and vague vocabulary. This means the document can be interpreted in different ways.

Current election method
Currently the Chie Executive is elected by a 1200 strong election committee.
Many Hong Kong people  dislike the current Chief Executive and call him the “mainland dog” because they believe he only wants to please the Chinese government and does not have Hong Kong’s best interest at heart.

The proposal for 2017 elections

The basic law states that the Hong Kong Chief executive shall be selected in light of the actual situation in HK and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress.
In the past China said it did not rule out universal suffrage in 2017.

The proposal for 2017 election is:
• The electing committee shall nominate two to three candidates for the office of Chief Executive. Each candidate must have the endorsement of more than half of all the members of the nominating committee.
• All eligible electors of Hong Kong Special have the right to vote in the election of the Chief Executive and elect one of the two or three candidates.
• The Chief Executive-elect, after being selected through universal suffrage, will have to be appointed by the Central People’s Government.

Why are people protesting?
Protesters state that since candidates will be screened by a vastly pro-Beijing committee, they don’t have genuine choice in the election. The 2 or 3 candidates will be “slaves to mainland China”, and the election is a fake “universal suffrage”.

The call for the resignation of the current Chief Executive and a new proposal for 2017 elections.

What’s next
The number of people gathering on the streets is really impressive…
Wednesday 01 October is (mainland) China’s national day and is also a bank holiday in HK, many believe this will be the culmination of the protest.

Protesters say they will not back down until the government listens to them, but the government and China have stated they will not back down…

The only thing I shall say is:
HK protesters are very organised: they have umbrellas, masks and goggles to protect themselves against tear gas. They also recycle their litter and have a little supply chain of water and food.

 

 

Social Phenomenon: Shy Hong Kongers

We were chatting away with my friends the other day and all agreed that it was easy to guess when Hong Kongers had lived abroad or not. Not trying to generalise here but often the Hong Kongers who haven’t lived abroad are very shy and more difficult to bond with. However, the ones who have lived/studied abroad are much more outgoing.

 

For example I have been going to the same dance class every week for 10 months now, only 2 people have come forward to talk to me: the instructor who studied in Canada and young girl who studies in Norwich.

 

I was wondering why Hong Kongers are naturally so shy and (part of) the answer is the educational system. Getting good grades so as to enter a good university is primordial here, so as soon as they enter kindergarten kids are in competition. If parents have enough money, the children will have tutoring classes after school, various hobbies and language lessons with the only aim of impressing the jury of good schools.

But people often forget: you don’t study to get good grades; you study to get a good job.

 

Jeff once had an interview but the recruitment consultant told him to not get his hopes up because the other candidate had studied at Oxford.

Turned out this prestigious candidate had no human skills, didn’t bond with the recruiter and also had poor spoken English.

 

The thing is, spending all these years studying and under pressure means that people often lack human skills. And having an impressive curriculum will land you the interview, but it will certainly not land you the job.

 

(I am not trying to generalise the situation, I’m just making an observation).