Lesley: Lesley in Hong Kong
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Hong Kong, etc.
I am originally from the North East of England, Co. Durham. I have lived outside of the UK since 1989, first Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, then Bahrain and since 2001 Hong Kong. I started living this expat life when my husband began pursuing a teaching career in international schools. Both of our children, now 21 and 23, have been ‘expats’ their whole life and think of Hong Kong as their home. I wasn’t a teacher myself when this big adventure started but I am now and I love it.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I did a distance learning degree course which involved a lot of writing and when that finished I missed the writing, so I began to write long emails to my friends. Usually about experiences that were funny, but true, stories. They often said they enjoyed my emails so I decided to put my emails on a blog. Instead of writing to just a few people I could write to the world, or any one who wants to read it.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I really like two blogs about being new to Hong Kong and what to expect but the most hits I’ve had in one day was about the lack of tickets for Lady Gaga when she played in Hong Kong – people were outraged at the time.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Hong Kong differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
After living in the Middle East for 12 years prior to arriving in Hong Kong I found it quite easy to settle here. I was quite shocked when I arrived though because, for a start I had never been here before, and I really thought it would be much more British as it was a colony for 150 years. I was very surprised at how ‘Chinese’ it is. Oh and paying tax was different, there is no tax on salaries in the Middle East, I kept thinking they had made a terrible mistake by sending us a tax return.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Hong Kong? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
As I had lived abroad for a number of years before arriving here I think I was quite a seasoned expat but I wasn’t prepared for the high rents and general high cost of living. If I could change anything it would be to rent a less expensive place and not get sucked in to having a pool or a guard on the gate because those things are just not necessary, whereas that was quite normal in the Middle East so we got a place similar to that – we only stayed one year but it was a lot of money over a year.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I do all the time – read my blog Lesley in Hong Kong.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Hong Kong?
- Be accepting of your new environment and don’t say “Back home we do it like this” because no one cares.
- Obey the rules always, otherwise nothing gets done and you’ll have no phone or TV or driving license or place to live.
- Find out where the happy hours are and don’t flush your cash down the drain on expensive cocktails in expensive bars.
How is the expat community in Hong Kong? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
To start with I had no job and I personally didn’t enjoy that time. I’m sure many ladies who lunch have a grand time but it wasn’t for me and I felt quite lonely and just didn’t seem to have anything in common with them. Once I got a job things changed and I really began to feel part of the Hong Kong community, not just the expat community.
How would you summarize your expat life in Hong Kong in a single, catchy sentence?
I work hard and I deserve to have a full-time helper.