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This girl abroad

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Hong Kong makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Hong Kong, etc.

I’m a Canadian expat who decided to pack up my life in Southern Ontario and move abroad to teach. Unfortunately, teaching positions where I lived were very limited (if only I could speak French!) and I was faced with two options: move back in with my family and supply teach or go abroad. For me, the decision was obvious and I have not a single regret since moving to Hong Kong just over two years ago!

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I wanted a way to communicate with my family back home, more specifically to share pictures of my travels and my time in Asia. Since sending lots of photos via email wasn’t exactly practical, I created a blog that was initially intended for my family only. However, as time went on I began to really enjoy reading other expat blogs and wanted to open my blog up to the world as a way to shine light on my experiences as an expat and traveler.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

I had the most fun writing my blog post “The Top 13 Mostly True Signs You’ve Become A Local Hong Konger”. I wrote this after about a year of living in Hong Kong and it is an amalgamation of all the little things that I found incredibly amusing and also incredibly annoying being a Western expat in an Asian city. Though not meant to be taken too seriously, it does offer a comedic glimpse into life as an expat in Hong Kong.

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?

I have gone from living in the suburbs back in Canada to living in one of the most dense and vibrant cities in the world, so a lot has changed for me. Initially, I had some difficulties adjusting to Hong Kong, but I moved here with a close friend so I was lucky to have someone I knew well to lean on during the first few months. I think when you expatriate to a new environment, you just need to keep an open mind and stay positive, and push yourself to get out there and explore, make new friends, and try new things.

I actually didn’t experience much culture shock because Hong Kong is such a Westernized city that there wasn’t much of a language barrier and anything I needed was very accessible.

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?

Absolutely not. The biggest challenge was (and still is) the weather. When I first arrived it was so incredibly hot and humid. Now, I can take the heat, but it was the humidity that really took me by surprise. If you don’t have a dehumidifier going in your flat, be prepared for damp bed sheets, possible mold growth, and just a sticky feeling all over. Also, get ready to start dripping with sweat after leaving an air conditioned building within seconds. In contrast, however, the “winter” surprised me even more. I had looked at the temperatures ahead of time to judge what clothes I should bring and the weather statistics stated that the temperature in the winter would be around 15C. For a Canadian, this sounded too good to be true. And it was. Winter in HK is difficult because even though the temperature appears moderate, the humidity and lack of any insulation or central heating in the buildings makes it feel painfully cold. It’s a to-the-bone cold that is difficult to explain unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. Remember to pack a winter jacket, sweatpants, warm socks and shoes, and mittens!

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

My time in HK has been filled with hilarious and bizarre experiences - I could probably write a book! On my blog I have a section called “Just Your Average Day In Hong Kong”, which outlines many of these. There are funny lost in translation moments, when you see families and couples wear matching clothing, and just people doing things you would normally only do in the privacy of your own home.

If I had to choose one thing, it would have to be the oddities that happen in the change room at the gym. The most bizarre thing I’ve seen (and this happens more frequently than I’d like) is women using a hairdryer to dry things other than their hair…

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Hong Kong?

  • Bring clothes for all seasons. This includes a winter jacket.
  • Do your research about where you want to live. Hong Kong doesn’t revolve around Central – there are many other great places with lots to offer.
  • Pack multiples of your favorite products just in case you can’t find them in HK. I make sure to bring lots of stick deodorant as most stores only sell aerosol deodorant.  

How is the expat community in Hong Kong? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

The expat community in HK is quite large and falls (roughly) into two categories: those in business and those who teach. I’m lucky in that I’m surrounded by Canadian expats at work, so it wasn’t difficult for me to meet like-minded individuals. I would definitely recommend you join activities outside work and really push yourself to get out there and meet new people, though. There are lots of sports teams, hiking groups, language/art/cooking classes, and various other meet-ups you can join. A great website is Hong Kong Meetup where tons of different meet-ups take place each day.

How would you summarize your expat life in Hong Kong in a single, catchy sentence?

I work at a job I love in the most incredible city; it doesn’t get much better than right now. 

Ruben Barbosa

"I found all my company's expat employees on this site, and they gave me great tips about life abroad in Hong Kong."

Barbara Richter

"The InterNations Events are the perfect place to meet and get to know like-minded people for a Hong Kong expat such as myself."

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