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Expat Experiences

Hong Kong > Expat Experiences

Hong Kong

Christine Navin, Hong Kong

Friday March 08, 2013 (19:49:16)
Christine Navin
Christine Navin

If you've never been to a wet market in Hong Kong, you are more than welcome to tag along with me. Loosely translated, a wet market is a catch-all phrase describing any open air market offering fresh produce, seafood, meat, and fowl, among other exotic-to-me delicacies. Fresh, as in the fish are still swimming and the ducks are still quacking. If you're with me, you won't be around when the swimming and quacking, not to mention chirping or grunting, comes to an abrupt end. No. We pay for our most boring tropical fruit purchase and walk quickly away, turning around only when we hear "gweilo faan wai" being called out, which I believe is Cantonese for white lady with the squeamish stomach.

Just six months ago, we decided to shake our family's snow globe and move across the world to Hong Kong. (It's a fantastic thing when your world turns upside down; all the beauty floats to the top.) My husband has worked for a British corporation for his entire career, so we assumed we'd someday move to a place where high tea and crumpets were afternoon staples. Maybe we'd meet the Queen. We never in a million years thought those details would instead include puerh tea and an order of xiaolongbao. And an in depth conversation about communism - regarding our northern neighbors.

I thought I could live in a skyscraper, but one bout of vertigo and one look at a tiny oven that could never bake a three layer birthday cake changed my mind. We ultimately chose a suburban-esque townhouse surrounded by other expatriates, which has made getting to know Hong Kong so much easier. We share hard-to-find ingredients, directions to the closest Starbucks, which snakes are dangerous (hint: pretty much all of them), and our inevitable bouts of homesickness.

The perfect prescription for homesickness. Retail therapy. My favorite escalators lead to the double doors of Hermes, Chanel, Dior and Tod's. While all these high fashion stores make me swoon, my financially responsible husband starts mumbling words sounding like retirement funds, 401k, money market, zzzz... So I usually scour the racks at H&M for more serious basics. My fashion fixes now require everything be tried on as most clothes are made for the petite Asian figure. And there are no returns here. {Secret- sometimes I still sneak into Shanghai Tang for just a peek.}
Life here is hard here in tiny ways. You wouldn't think all day preschool/kindergarten is a game changer. But it is when you're the first grader without in a sea of those who did. Resulting in an occupational therapy referral because of poor Mandarin calligraphy skills. Or your fifth grader is ridiculed for not knowing how to play Mozart's whatever on the trombone. By his teacher. Read the Tiger Mom. Spot on. Violin as soon as they can hold a spoon. Check. Saturday math tutors. Check. Trilingual. Check. Creativity. Imagination. Free play. Nope. Nope. And nope again. East meets west sometimes equals the west having a lot of parent teacher meetings with the east. Some culture differences will just have to agree to disagree. And there's nothing wrong with that. Especially, when the kiddos love it here despite all that.


But as with all things in life, perspective is what keeps your feet on the ground and your dreams up high. The view from here, even during monsoon season, is clear on most days...

Christine shares more experiences of life in Hong Kong through her blog patterson estate and on Twitter @ChristineNavin.

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