Sunday, December 16, 2007

Still slightly Hongkers

After a couple of days back from Hong Kong, my wife told me something that needed saying. I was getting (just a little) boring the way I began each sentence "In Hong Kong they......".

I credit myself with at least a few sensitivities and I know there are few things more tedious than someone who returns from holiday (or other trip) only to bore everyone to tears with details of a place that the other party has not been to. Some of course have a great curiosity about all places and want to go there themselves. However for the majority of people a few photos and and a handful of summarised highlights are probably all they want to hear about a trip particularly if they themselves have been stuck at home working hard.

It is sign of how commonplace long haul travel has become that few want to hear in great detail another account of travels to X, wherever X may be. Another response to too many travel tales is "place bingo" or "snap" where people seem to work through lists of places, the object apparently being to work out who has been to most.

So I did sympathise with my wife, when I realised that I was talking perhaps a little too much about my business trip to Hong Kong. She had been at home looking after our 5 month old son.

However, on my second trip to Hong Kong, I was struck more than ever what a little paradise it can be for a small minority of English people.

Put simply it is a modern metropolis built on a tropical island. In December in comparison to London its climate is mild and pleasant.

People seem to behave in Hong Kong. There is little sign of graffiti, of litter and of people wanting to interfere with you as you go about your own business. You can ride the metro (MTR) late and night and you are more likely to see a young family returning home than the drunken businessmen you see on the London tube at a similar hour.

The people of Hong Kong are, in the main, extremely friendly. English is almost universally understood to some extent. For a foreigner doing a middle ranking kind of job, life is very comfortable. Technology is generally state of art and most things cheaper than home. Hong Kong is a city where the pick up fee for a taxi is under £1. For those wanting to exit the metropolis, the green Victoria Peak or nearby islands on a short ferry ride are obvious options.

Best still, for visiting Brits they drive on the left and use exactly the same electrical plugs as we do back home !

In short Hong Kong is a city that seems to work with a warm climate (although I am assured this is too warm in summer) and friendly hard working people. It compares very favourably to winter London with its delays, struggles to work and general hassle if you stay out late.

Of course, I do realise it is possible to take the rose tinted spectacles off in Hong Kong and see a few realities. The climate is so favourable in December but in summer the tropical heat combining with epic levels of pollution from China's Pearl Delta industrial area make the air extremely unhealthly. I was told that people with children even move them out of the City in the summer.

The cheap prices are nice but this is largely achieved through an army of low paid workers from the Philippines. Many middle class Hong Kong chinese have Philipino domestic helpers often paid around £250 a month to live in and cook, clean and iron or baby sit. It is better work than that available in the Philippines but I cannot see that happening in London.

People are well behaved but democracy is at best fragile in Hong Kong. It is an experiment tolerated by the Chinese Government but is obviously subject to certain limits.

That said, most people seem genuinely happy in Hong Kong. They work hard but enjoy life.

Maybe for that, the absence of the Dimbleby's on Question Time is a price worth paying ?!

Many expats who go to Hong Kong really love it and some never return home. One expat I spoke to on my visit summed it up like this "I like London and will always go back there to see my family and friends. But I really like the buzz, the food and the climate in this place. I'm not ready to trade in Hongkers just yet".

I've been back in London reality a week now but I think a part of me is still slightly Hongkers.....

1 comment:

Steve said...

I love Hong Kong too