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Columnists > Nicole Webb

Nicole Webb

Red Taxis, Chopsticks And Chinglish: 10 Things That Make Me A Happy Gweilo In Hong Kong!

  Posted Tuesday June 10, 2014 (03:18:38)   (5504 Reads)


Nicole Webb

I know eventually there will come a time when I am (through no fault of my own) forced to (with a very heavy heart) pack up my chopsticks (just kidding I don't really own a pair), put away my Octopus card and leave those clean, clean (did I mention clean) toilets behind for less superior greener pastures.

With the notion that relocation comes to all hotelier's wives at some point on my mind (no matter how long you try to hide the passports) I started thinking about what I would really miss most about Hong Kong. No really miss!!

What is it about this melting pot of cultures, customs and far too many swanky restaurants serving up tiny cakes for High Tea to count, that will leave me wanting, yearning, heart broken for possibly years (decades) to come?

Albeit slightly tongue in cheek (with just a teensy hint of the truth) here's my list! Brace yourself!

1. Did Somebody Say Automatic Taps?
Yes! I kid you not. This is something I, in my new germ-phobic high-density city-living phase, have come to relish - along with, 'ta da'... automatic soap! Think about it ladies & gents, how refreshing/simple/civilised the world is when you can simply place hands underneath and…Voila! No touching of germ-ridden faucets required. I'll go one step further and add "self-flushing toilets" to this. AGAIN… er hello - a complete hands-free bathroom stop - something I will long for forever more.

2. Bring Me a Barricade
If you're not from Hong Kong or have never been, picture this: you're walking along in your local shopping centre, innocently minding your own business when your small person accidentally spills her milkshake - SPLAT! But don't fret there's no need to dig frantically through the chaotically displayed contents of your handbag, embarrassingly looking for the always elusive in a 'situation' packet of wipes! (What is with that by the way?) Instead, before you can blink, half a dozen assistants will have gathered around you, stealthily sizing up the situation - the area is instantly declared an 'emergency zone'… barricades go up (sometimes you'll even get orange cones and flashing lights - depending on the immediate danger deemed lurking)! Security will talk in hushed tones on walkie-talkies about the, er 'situation at hand' and may even call for back up! All this leaves you, my friend, free to carry on 'as you were' (minus the milkshake of course). For the gazillion security staff, feel proud that you've provided them with some excitement and a talking point for the day.

3. Taxis on Tap
Hong Kong's iconic red taxis are well known for their omnipresent force, making up part of the city’s vibrant landscape…and inside you're in for a treat. As outdated and basic as they are, doors open automatically (Oh yes! There’s that automatic thing again), at least a dozen mobiles decorate the dash (just so you know you're driver’s um, tapped into every Hong Kong hot spot at all times) and… the biggest benefit by far, the cost! About US$3 will take you at least 5 km! Hong Kong taxis are like beer on tap! They never seem to run out! (Except of course, when you need one!)

4. Chinese and Chinglish
Yep television ads, train rides, people's phone conversations, lift chatter…even listening to the world's most famous mouse speaking in mandarin (that's Mickey I'm talking about) is, believe it or not, quite a soothing experience…. you don't need to understand what's going on, which means you get to TUNE OUT! The one bonus of having limited (make that extremely limited) Chinese. Which brings me to 'Chinglish' …ahh the ease of omitting those unnecessary words in many a conversation! "Me wine" …Ok La! It’s every lazy girl’s dream.

5. A City Connected
It is highly possible in the world's most populated space, to connect all the way through Hong Kong, under-ground, over-ground (Wombling free)! From car parks to shopping centres, through train stations, through passageways, tunnels and bridges, Hong Kong is a city connected. If a typhoon's on it's way, don't sweat it, a large part of Hong Kong is on your doorstep and under cover. If you’ve just had a blow dry and it starts to rain, no problem…if you play your cards right, you’ll be home safe and dry in no time!

6. Hairdressing Heaven
Speaking of blow drys - and let me rephrase that…hair-washing heaven! At (most) hairdressers in Asia, you don't just rock up to a sink and crane your neck back ever so awkwardly wishing your neck was of giraffe proportions.. only to come away feeling like you need a quick trip to the chiropractor, nope, these wash basins have long comfy chaise-like lounges where you get to lie right back, legs stretched out like the cat that’s got the cream (somebody bring me a blanky). Oh and top that off with a head massage that lasts way longer than 10 seconds! Just one reason to make it a weekly event!

7. Doctor's Orders
So going to the doctors and getting your medication right there and then at the doctor’s as opposed to having to then make another trips to the nearest chemist with your prescription is definitely a winner with me. Talk about convenience (even if anti-inflammatories are the answer to every illness presented, ever in Hong Kong and even though you get about 14 small, plastic packets of pills to swallow, just in case).

8. Typhoon Thrills & Spills
When a typhoon is headed for the mighty Kong, the city immediately goes into ‘mission overdrive!’ Well before it’s even within tree-snapping distance, apartment complex security guards don crash helmets, barricades go up (of course) and hip hip hooray, much to the delight of many an expat, when a Typhoon warning signal T8 is hoisted the city shuts down and schools and work is officially cancelled. It’s party time (although don’t tell my poor husband in hotels…for some reason, he’s immune to the perils of a typhoon and must show up)!

9. The City that Never Sleeps
I’ve been told this is an overused name given by media who like to hype things up. There’s a fair chance this is true, but you can rest assured there won't be a leaf blower within ear splitting distance before 10am! All is quiet in the land of the Kong! It's at dusk when Hong Kong really comes alive…shopping centres fill up, streets overflow and Hong Kong is well and truly buzzing into the night! But come dawn, the city finally heaves a sigh of relief and takes a tiny cat nap before it all starts again. Shops that are open well into the evening, won't open until at least 10am and nothing really gets serious until a 'decent' hour. For a night owl like me – it’s better than brilliant!

10. Mint Mochas
Last but by no means least… laugh you may well, but don't tell me you thought this wouldn't make the list! With a Starbucks in almost every country in the world you'd expect I could get my hands on some magical mint syrup! (I'm convinced it has significant healing properties) but no, all I get is caramel, white chocolate and vanilla! Fear not! I think they're saving this festive flavour for Christmas. (And no, peppermint is not the same!) My husband thinks my only option is to carry a bottle of syrup in my handbag (permanently)!

So, naturally -- there are far more important and meaningful things I will miss when I leave Hong Kong shores, like fabulous friends (aka my expat family), a wonderland with everything from the bright lights of a big city to the magnificent waters of the tropics; and of course the amazing help and quite simply ease of life.

But this list, is just one of those that only those people who've experienced the mad scramble of HK will probably really appreciate. Others may sit back and shake their head at such lunacies, but don't knock it till you've tried it! (Especially the Mint Mochas!)

Cheers!


by Mint Mocha Musings blogger Nicole Webb.

Nicole was a Journalist and News Reader with Sky News Australia for a decade before making the life changing move to Hong Kong with her hotelier husband.

Mum to hyped up blondie Ava, Nicole has swapped the news desk and microphone for a change table and nappy bag but is still enjoying the best of both worlds, freelancing as a Journalist, Presenter, Master of Ceremonies and Media Trainer. Her expat journey to date has been filled with plenty of intriguing and humorous tales. Check out her blog Mint Mocha Musings and on Twitter @nicoledwebb

Read Nicole's other Expat Focus articles here or click the button below to view her own blog...



Nicole Webb
Nicole was a journalist and news reader with Sky News Australia for a decade before stepping outside the box (literally) and making the life changing move to Hong Kong with her hotelier husband. Four years into the mad but momentous journey of chopsticks and chickens' feet, she is mum to hyped up blondie Ava and has just embarked on the next expat posting in Xi'an, China. When she's not juggling play dough and princess outfits, Nicole works as a freelance journalist, copywriter, presenter, media trainer and Master of Ceremonies across Asia. Nicole documents her hair-raising expat tales on her renowned blog Mint Mocha Musings - you can also find her on Twitter where she tweets as @nicoledwebb.
 
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