By Debbie Woodley
Having spent some 30+ years working for New Zealand Van Lines my husband, Warwick, felt it was time for a change. He’d always wanted to experience life and work through an ‘ex pat’s’ lens and when the opportunity came up to join Andy Mak and his team here in Hong Kong at Asian Express International Movers he jumped at it. Me?...well, I wasn’t so sure - the term ‘trailing spouse’ was just not in my vocabulary!
Anyway, after much discussion and many late nights debating the ‘pros and cons’ the decision was made – let’s do it! I’d been to Hong Kong once in my life and certainly liked what I saw…but could I live there? Only one way to find out and that was to jump in with both feet!
We duly sent off all the relevant forms and supporting documents to Hong Kong Immigration and waited and waited…finally a 2 year work visa was approved for Warwick (my dependents visa being attached to his but still allowing me to work).
Our Auckland home goes under the hammer at auction, our two cats sorted - not easy!, our daughter kicked out to her brother’s place (she had moved back home temporarily), resignations duly tendered at our respective work places and time to sort out 40+ years of accumulated personal and household effects…a daunting task which wore me out just thinking about it!
My Life is in Boxes!
Three weekends and two rubbish skips later what was left of our effects were sorted into three separate destinations. Items to be kept but not needed in Hong Kong were going into private storage, furniture and smaller household items (vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances and tools) were separated into a pile for family and friends and then we had those items destined for Hong Kong. When the packers arrived (courtesy of New Zealand Van Lines) I thought I was organised and all ‘good to go’ but it's not until you go through every drawer and cupboard (of which we had plenty) that you realise how much stuff you actually have…and this was after a huge cull….it was just never ending! Warwick quipped I'm one box away from being on an episode of The Hoarders! The packers were very patient and understanding, letting me take my time whilst I made those last minute calls of what to take or leave. I was very conscious that we’d be moving into an apartment but regardless you still need certain things no matter how small the home. I got it down to about 8.50cbm which the packers were impressed with!
House settlement day found me sitting in an empty house with our remaining cat (going to a cattery prior to our children taking her on), numerous suitcases and an acute case of PPTSD which is an acronym for ‘Post Packing Traumatic Stress Disorder’…you won’t find it in Wikipedia but I can assure you its real! I was also informed by my son, Matthew, that I was now officially a NINJA - No Income, No Job nor Assets! Honestly, there was just too much to think about in too short a time frame. We had our suitcases packed to visit family in various locations throughout New Zealand, being winter we had warm clothes for the South Island also our summer clothes for Hong Kong. Upon arrival here and much to my horror I discovered I had packed odd, mismatched footwear – damn PPTSD! But hey this is Hong Kong with shoe shops aplenty!
Looking for an apartment
On arrival in Hong Kong no time was lost settling into our hotel and Day Two found us apartment hunting. Discovery Bay looked appealing but a two hour commute each way for Warwick was just too far. Also, after some reflection we didn’t want to live in what is pretty much exclusively an ‘ex pat’ area…we came here to experience the city, the culture and its people. Apartments in Hong Kong are much smaller than in New Zealand and go to some pretty lofty heights…and still with balconies at 60 stories up - definitely not for the faint hearted! (Also think downsizing, oops better take those large beds out of our consignment!) After several weeks staying in a hotel an apartment was finally secured and we moved into a two bedroom (read one and a half!) apartment in North Point on Hong Kong Island. The Asian Express team was very well organised and just so efficient – they arrived with their handy men to hang pictures and fill any holes left by the previous owners and even hang the new curtains. The view from our apartment is just amazing…180 degree views from Central on the left, over Victoria Harbour to Kowloon straight ahead and over to Kowloon Bay on the right. From the 40th floor I’ve seen ships and boats of all shapes and sizes, from junks to cruise ships, sailing past below our lounge windows. A single bed was purchased for the spare room and the unpacking began, nowhere to put everything, "you have too many clothes" bemoaned Warwick noting there are no built in wardrobes in these apartments. Several (many) trips to IKEA remedied all of that!
The apartment has very good security 24/7 and the men on the door are friendly and welcoming they greet us as we come and go and they’re very open to a laugh and a chat.
North Point is what they call a very ‘local’ area and is drenched in the Hong Kongese culture…lots of little shops and alleyways to explore, noodle shops on every corner, washing drying at every window, electric wires dangling everywhere (I’m amazed there are not more electrical fires here!) and very few signs in English (and very little English spoken). Nevertheless it all works and I’ve been very impressed with the friendliness and sincerity of the people I’ve had dealings with here…from the fruit and vegetable stall I frequent, to the meat market and in the local Chinese supermarket…everyone has been so helpful to the new ‘gweilo’ who had just moved in to the neighbourhood.
Shopping in Hong Kong
Shopping in Hong Kong is very different to New Zealand. Firstly we don't have a car here, which at first we thought we would miss, back home I would do a large supermarket shop once a week. But without a car that's not possible, although if you want the supermarket will deliver. I tend to purchase fresh ingredients daily and with a supermarket right next door that's very easy. They have a reasonable selection of wine and beer too…so everyone's happy!
We’re really settling in well...the MTR (underground) station is just down the road, the bus terminal across the way and our doctor and dentist a stone’s throw away. We’ve been exploring the city when time permits (remember Hong Kong is all about the work!) and whilst I’ve seen quite a bit of Hong Kong already there is still a lot more to see. It really is an amazing city…crowded beyond belief, it’s exciting, the range of food is fantastic, it’s efficient, clean, getting around is a breeze (taxis are cheap) and just so exciting!
So if you are visiting Hong Kong do look us up and remember there's always a bed for a friend albeit a small one!