You’re on the plane. The headphones and blankets are coming around.
You’ve been talking about it for months, the planning is done.
No more talking.
No more planning
You’re doing it
You’re going on exchange.
I arrive at the gate, the cleanest and most efficient airport you’ve ever seen – a highspeed MTR wizzes me to the terminal.
Everyone is rushing to get where they are going.
Could be an allegory about the whole city.
Hong Kong is really about success – make money and go where you are going. Everything is flashy, everything is about showing what you have. Nothing is preserved, it just about building and buying bigger and better. So the skyline is impressive and brands are everywhere.
But it can sometimes feel a bit cold and soulless. You’re surrounded by people, but yet you are a bit alone.
The defining feature of HK is its compactness. The size of central brisbane; but home to 7 million people. It’s all about packing everything tightly, making more with less.
This centrality gives a critical mass of people to create an incredible infrastructure – the best transport I’ve experienced; and (rightly or wrongly) an underclass of people who keep it meticulously clean.
Hong Kong IS business. A massive port, banking skyscrapers – if you’re into finance, trade and economics come here.
But even if you’re not, come here.
The flexibility of exchange presents an opportunity to do things that you might not be able to do otherwise.
I’m here finishing the last few parts of my Business (economics) degree, while gaining some perspectives on my law degree. Whilst that means I’m exploring the wild thrills of econometrics and micro-economics; I’ve also had the chance to indulge in my love for development and aid, Asian relations, security and Chinese law.
Whilst the easy marks sometimes offer the temptation to ignore study – it also presents an opportunity to engage with the subject on your own terms.
The inability to work and minimum accountability to anyone by myself presents the chance to really take stock of what I’m learning.
Looking beyond the obvious. Reading past what is asked. Instead of “getting through this assessment” and “just ticking the boxes” – it’s a chance to open my mind to some of real issues and expand my passions. The work is not longer about marks, but about learning for me.
A sire of British order, and Chinese hierarchy and harmonization – Hong Kong is about process; a city run by bureaucrats. It certainly needs to be – in order to manage 7 million in a tight spot, HK requires following of rules. I found myself, surrounded by signs instructing my behaviour (no littering or sleeping in trees – noted), and red-tape blocking my way.
While success in Australian culture is defined by your ability to speak informally to authority, cut through bureaucracy and charm your way through inflexibility; I found I needed to adapt quickly to Hong Kong’s ways. Patience through the process
HK’s tight space also means that it imports pretty much all its food. While Australia has some of the best produce in the world; fresh vegetables, cheap meat – expect to pay through the nose for it here. And it won’t be much good. Eating healthily requires some clever thinking and patience.
And don’t expect much in the way of good coffee.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find amazing and delicious food. Seafood galore (I can’t go past pavement satay squid), a brunch of dim sum (yum cha dumplings and chicken feet) to the positively novel – snake soup (I thought the snake blood was a bit depraved) and chicken testacies.
Savior of bars falling down bars, the world over.
It’s a cliché, but Hong Kong never sleeps.
Well, it does, but just not at western times. It’s not surprising to find that shops don’t open to 11am-ish (emphasis on the ‘ish’). However, everything will be open until 11pm at least, and it’s not surprising to find people walking around a shopping centre until after midnight.
Of course, this has the unfortunate effect of shifting your sleeping patterns from 11am – 3am each day. For my own mental health and productivity I’ve attempted to maintain a certain level of normal routine and functionality. But, when in Rome….
People who know me well, wouldn’t be surprised to know I’m never far from holding up a bar.
Nightclubs here are a myriad of live music, tiny haunts, high-class skyscraper bars and (what I suspect are) triad-fronts. Whatever you want, they’ve got; with the emphasis on showy and ostentatious.
The best fun I’ve had though, was kareoke! The locals absolutely love it, what better opportunity to sing canto-pop at top volume!
The bar district Lang Kwai Fong in central Hong Kong, remains a popular centre for local yuppies, ex-pats and Australians who should know better.
I don’t know if it’s the humidity, but I always wake up with an awful headache.