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Expat Experiences

Hong Kong > Expat Experiences

Hong Kong

Roald Andersen, Hong Kong

Posted by: Carole on Monday February 04, 2013 (23:41:59)
Roald Andersen
Roald Andersen

Who are you?

Hi! My name is Roald Andersen. I am originally from The Netherlands but have been living and working in Hong Kong since the summer of 2011. I am an IT professional with over 15 years of experience, an entrepreneur and personal coach.

A major part of my work involves travelling. As an IT project manager I have managed projects in Europe, the American continent and many countries in Asia. But besides work, I have always had a passion for exploring this world, and therefore I consider myself very fortunate that for more than 10 years now I have had the opportunity to travel around this planet and meet so many interesting people.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

In the summer of 2011 I gave up my life in The Netherlands and relocated to Hong Kong.
The first time I ever visited Hong Kong was in 2005. I had to go there for my work, and I still remember the first impressions when I arrived; the high-rises, neon signs, the millions of people, the food. In the past few years my work required me to travel back and forth to Hong Kong regularly, and every time I arrived, the excitement about this city grew stronger and stronger. So when in 2011 I got the chance to relocate here, I didn’t hesitate for a moment.

“Of course I’ll move!”

What challenges did you face during the move?

Hong Kong is a modern and developed city, so in general my life here did not change so much compared to how it was in The Netherlands. The only really noticeable change is the fact that my work-life balance has shifted more to the work side as I am also involved in starting up my own IT business in Hong Kong, which as you can imagine requires a lot of extra time.

The biggest challenge for me personally was the change in climate. As you may know, The Netherlands has a fairly cold northern European climate, which suited me perfectly.

However, Hong Kong with its high humidity and extreme temperatures was a real challenge, and it took me more than a year to get adapted to it. Besides the extreme humidity and temperatures, the air pollution also takes its toll. I am a person that likes to do outside activities such as running and cycling, but unfortunately there are only a few places where this can be done without any serious risk to your health. (and those places are far away.)

How did you find somewhere to live?

I was lucky that I knew Hong Kong already quite well, as I had been a frequent visitor since 2005 when I was working as an IT project manager for a Hong Kong company. I already knew a bit of the area and had a fair idea where it was acceptable to have an apartment. Nevertheless I asked the help from a real-estate agent as I was not fully aware of all the procedures for renting property. It turned out that the agent showed me several locations that I really even didn’t know before, so looking back I am glad that I took his help. I have several articles in my blog where I explain the process for renting property here, so if you are interested, please take a look at www.beingdutchinasia.com.

Are there many other expats in your area?
There are a lot of expats in Hong Kong, and the expat community in Hong Kong is very active with lots of events every week. Especially in the areas around Central and Tsim Sha Tsui you will find a lot of places where you can meet fellow expats and make new friends. (including locals)

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Hong Kong is a very internationally oriented city. Most of the (young) people speak English and are open for interaction with foreigners. The older generation though is more closed and you will need a decent Cantonese language skill set before they will really talk to you.

Another issue is the fact that most Hong Kong people keep their private life very far away from outsiders. If you really want to become friends with someone, you need to be patient and really take the time.

What do you like about life where you are?

Simply said: I am living my dream. I always wanted to move here, and now I finally did it, I am enjoying it as much as I can. The life here can be so different and so the same, but every day feels like a discovery. Hong Kong has so much to offer: Tonight you can have excellent food from every region of the world, tomorrow you can enjoy the incredibly huge shopping malls, this weekend you can go hiking in the mountains and next week you can go to the beach. It’s all there!

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Being here means I am far away from my home country and my family and friends. Besides that, I do miss the typical Dutch food with lots of boiled potatoes and vegetables. Asian food is delicious, but sometimes you want something different than rice or noodles. And who is going to send me some Dutch “stroopwafels” please?

How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?

Hong Kong is extremely convenient for shopping and perhaps you can even call Hong Kong one big shopping mall as a whole. Everywhere you go you will find huge shopping malls, and even on the streets, everywhere you go you have thousands of shops to buy anything you desire. Make sure you ask a local though where to get the products for the lowest price as there is a lot of difference in shop prices between certain areas.

What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

The food in Hong Kong is simply excellent. Hong Kong calls itself Asia’s World City and I think that is also a bit related to the food. You can really get any kind of food from any region in and outside Asia. From Japanese sushi to delicious Thai food. And don’t forget the traditional Dim Sum; the small steamed dishes which are very famous in Hong Kong.

Besides all the delicious food, there are also dishes that I do not really like to eat or even like to smell. For example: cooked intestines (Stomach and other animal parts) or stinky tofu. Even though I have a high tolerance of these kinds of things, I avoid those restaurants on my way from home to work. (Although I have tried most of those dishes at least once...)

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

First of all, when you have a job here, try to learn the local language. Even though most of the people speak quite good English, you will miss out a lot when you don’t speak or at least understand a little Cantonese.

When you start working here as a fresh Expat, the first few weeks your colleagues will be polite and speak English to you, but after a while the honeymoon period will be over and you will find yourself at the lunch table staring at the ceiling while 10 other people having an entertaining conversation in Cantonese.

Also: Try to not be overwhelmed by the dynamic city life. Try to find the right balance between the Hong Kong life-style and your own. Keep on doing the things you were doing before, your hobbies, your sports, as it will help you to deal with the (potential) stress that comes onto your shoulders. Also, try to resist all the temptations that Hong Kong has to offer. (read more about it in my blog)

What are your plans for the future?

For the near future I am focusing on making a success out of my newly started IT Company in Hong Kong. In the spare time I have left I will try to keep on exploring Hong Kong by foot and on my bicycle, as I love the vast nature in the outskirts of the region. For the long term I am not sure yet about my plans, but Taiwan seems to be a place where I also would like to live someday. For the past years I have been there several times, and there is something about that country that attracts me as well, so it might be that I will take on another challenge in the future when everything in my life is settled in Hong Kong!

You may contact Roald through his blog beingdutchinasia.com or by email at andersenroed@gmail.com.

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