I came to Hong Kong just after the 1997 “Handover” of the British colony back to China. I had a little bit of savings in my pocket from my marketing job in Moscow with Deloitte. I was born in Hong Kong so I applied for permanent residency once I had tracked down my birth certificate. My boyfriend, a German photographer, whom I met in Moscow, came with me and we found a place to live on a tiny island called Cheung Chau through a friend from the photo world. My plan was to chill out after the stress of Russia in the late 90s and write my novel. Within a week I had a freelance job writing a brochure explaining broadband services to consumers. I found myself at Hong Kong’s largest telecom company in a strategy and design meeting with Hong Kong Chinese, Germans, British, and Australians all working to create a brochure and campaign. It was exciting, challenging and a cross-cultural trial-by-fire. I was hooked on Hong Kong.By my second week in Hong Kong, Deloitte hired me again, this time to manage the marketing for Asia Pacific. As a hub for the region, many regional roles are based in Hong Kong and require travel, cultural sensitivity and long hours. I was setting up conferences in Bali, Taipei and Singapore and loving it. It was too hard to get into the city by ferry everyday from our remote spot on the island, so we found a tiny flat in the city and said goodbye to the banana tree and island lifestyle. We found a local flat rental agent to help us, but took a flat that a friend knew was opening up.
I had left Deloitte when I left Moscow, so I didn’t get an expat package when I got rehired in Hong Kong. I was able to get my 30 cartons of household stuff sent to Hong Kong, but had to pay for storage when it arrived, until we found a place.
We moved to an area that was then a bit off the beaten track, with small printing shops nearby, and that is now much more integrated with expats. Many of the flats have been bought and renovated by foreigners.
Living on Hong Kong Island is much more multicultural than Kowloon, because of the many expat residents. Our building’s security guard was from Pakistan and our favourite restaurant was Japanese. The local shopkeepers on our street all knew us and would wave and say hello everyday.
Eventually, I left Deloitte and began freelancing as a writer and editor in Hong Kong. My boyfriend, the photographer, and I got married in New York City and our son was born in Hong Kong in the same hospital where I was born!
We love Hong Kong and plan to stay at least until our son finishes high school. We started our own Hong Kong registered business and enjoy the benefits of permanent residency. We found our Hong Kong friends to be warm and welcoming, but unlike our Russian friends in Moscow, they rarely invite us to their homes. Many live in small places and live with their parents. Our friends now are from all over the world and we enjoy going to bars and restaurants with an amazing choice of global cuisine.
We love to travel with our son and when we are not visiting family in the US or Germany, we love to explore the region. At times Hong Kongers can feel very materialistic and acquisitive in a high-pressured and commercial culture. On the other hand, they have been successful merchants for generations and are hardworking and industrious. Hong Kong ‘s air quality is not great, but it is a relatively clean city with great public transportation. The train to the airport takes 23 minutes and we can be in another exciting city within a couple of hours. Every weekend we go on a hike or to the beach and enjoy Hong Kong’s many parks and trails. Hong Kong is the safest city I have ever lived in. The schools are good and the healthcare providers and hospitals are excellent.
We do miss family, but have wonderful friends from all over the world to celebrate life and share in the joys and challenges of parenting.
A vestige of colonial times, many expat and Chinese families are able to employ domestic helpers from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. While many of our friends in Germany and the US struggle to balance both career and family, we have been very fortunate to be able to afford help. Our helper is from Thailand and has been with us for almost 12 years. In that time I was a stay-at-home mom working full-time as a writer and then started my own scrapbooking and design business, Dove of the East. My company now has 250 products on Amazon.com that I designed and sourced in Hong Kong and had manufactured in China. Being part of the wave of manufacturing in China has been thrilling and challenging. I’ve spent long hours taking the train to factories across the border and working late into the night to get quality and results. It has been a privilege and a dream to be part of China’s creative energy and to see my products used by artists and crafters around the world. Only Hong Kong can provide this safe, stable environment for doing business at the gateway to China. Hong Kong offers us both a chance to spend time together with our son and to follow our creative and entrepreneurial dreams in a vibrant, transient and international city built by entrepreneurs.