Interesting first impressions on Hong Kong. Flying in at 9.30pm on a Saturday night, being hit with the wall of heat and humidity that heaps of people told me about, that was something that I had no idea about until now; definitely a feeling that is exactly as described but still surprising nonetheless. I’ve definitely noticed that I’m a minority among the crowds and this is amplified the further away from Hong Kong island you go, staying out in Tuen Mun means that I get quite a few curious looks from the locals, as I’m sure that not many gweilo are living in their area.
Surprisingly I don’t feel out of place, or odd at all being in a country that predominantly speaks cantonese, even when that’s all I can hear. Often being with Sylvia and her Hong Kong friends means that I’m used this, and I get the gist translated for me. I know enough small snippets of words, as well as being able to read body language, facial expressions, and tone to be able to gather what is going on in any given situation; something comforting to say the least. Other than that I have access to the english world on my phone, a peculiar comfort to have in the midst of Hong Kong.
I haven’t had any major run-ins with cultural differences here, there’s been a few different parts where I’ve been a wee bit embarrassed when I forgot how to use chopsticks, but apart from that it’s been fine. I shouldn’t underestimate the usefulness and help of having a guide for the first week being here though, things like keeping to the right on stairs and escalator to essentially make a slow lane was something that I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been told. Additionally having the opportunity to stay with Sylvia’s uncle has been a huge benefit, giving me the ability to save quite a bit of money – meaning that I have the ability to do more in the city. Travel to Tuen Mun takes quite a long time, but if you’re not in a hurry then it’s fine. I have some quite a bit of time to get anywhere, a good thing seeing as I’m not 100% on where I am going most of the time.
It’s interesting to see such a mass of people here looking at their phones all the time, especially when in transit. The difference to New Zealand is that while on public transport in NZ most are not on actively browsing. Maybe the difference in offerings here vs New Zealand. It’s a lot less overall to buy large amounts of data each month that in NZ. For 10GB of data on HK, it’s roughly the same price as 2GB in NZ, which also makes sense as to why over in HK most people have a fable device, as it might be their main method of internet access.
What about the business?
One of the main things that I want to get out of my trip over here is to get some more insight into the workings of business in HK, to get a *deep* understanding of what it means to do business over here, the different hierarchies, customs; then the different opportunities that lie within this. The thought that often crosses my mind is how much people earn over here and how that is going to affect my ability to live in my own home, rather than with others.
On top of this I’m interested in what it means to be a young white male, as well as an english speaker in Hong Kong, will it help me to learn as much cantonese as possible? Probably give me a leg up in terms of accessibility to resources. I’ve been told multiple times that it is a gimmick to have a gweilo as a teacher, or in other roles, but what about in a professional setting? Can it actually help me earn more, and give me a leg up and if so how can I leverage this?
Reading about the skills shortage in Hong kong there seems to be a gap in the area of IT and Finance, especially when it comes to marketing and the DevOps style role(s); a hybrid between technical and sales positions so as to interface with customers, providing both high quality insight and engagement.
There have been a number of articles that pop up, especially since 2012, and in conversations with people that I have met I’ve had the aforementioned shortages affirmed. It’s interesting that such a large and hi-tech city such as Hong Kong is experiencing a shortage of tech-literate specialists across disciplines. Whilst this is not good for Hong Kong, it does make it potentially easier for me to get a job over here as this is my area of expertise, especially within a business realm.
What skills are next?
To gain the most out of this opportunity I’ll need to up-skill over the course of the next year. Extrapolating out on what I’m doing currently I’ll need to take a look at the following:
* Venture support
* Digital Marketing
* Web development
* Service Design Process
* Print & Web design
* Business & Negotiation
With a skills package such as this I *should* be able to knock into the Hong Kong market, I’ll also need to brush up on my enterprise software skills such as excel, word, powerpoint, and learn how to use a few more bits and pieces.
One thing that has stood out to me quite a bit over here is the inherent attraction to appear affluent, and how this is a prime interest of most people over here. To have the latest smartphone (of which most people do), as well as buying brand such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Prada, are all must-haves to be a functioning part of society at large over here. I can see that to break through I’ll need to have a bit more of an update on my wardrobe and pull out those suits that I have at the back currently.
Internally I have a objection to these brands as they often represent ideals that contradict my own. However I’m also quite drawn to some of them as my own desire to dress immaculately, as well as taking pride in your appearance; which in turn is a sign of respect for those who you are meeting with / interacting with. Quite simply put, I love buying expensive brands and dressing to impress, but also don’t like the culture of consumption and excessive spending.
Some thoughts on travelling
After flying for ages to get here, finding out that you spend most of your day walking around, and feeling this intense heat, I’m even more sold on the idea of getting a more portable set up. Reducing my macbook down to 13” or less, or even getting a light Thinkpad seems like even more of a good idea now, especially as most of the time I find that I’m using my phone to access the internet, so there’s always quite a shock going from that to a 15” screen. Additionally buying full-sized studio headphones seems like a bad idea seeing as the size of them is enormous for everyday use. As much as I love them, travelling in Iron Heart heavy-weight denim is a bad idea – especially arriving into Hong Kong and the heat. It’s a much better idea to travel in chinos or tights like Sylvia did (kudos, should have listened to you here).
Currently I think my setup should be reduced quite a bit, and down to:
* Woods & Faulk Doctor’s Bag (conveniently carry-on sized)
* Macbook Pro 13” / Macbook Air 13” / Lenovo Thinkpad t450s / Lenovo Thinkpad x250
* Bose QC25 / Bose QC20i (Either of these, one being a headphone and the other an earphone)
* iPhone 6 Plus & Backup phone (currently Xiaomi Note 3g)
* Light Summer Wardrobe
* Deadly Ponies Mr Travel Wallet (turns out that cash is king in HK)
So far I’ve yet to use my camera in the city, I’ve been using my cell phone camera the most as it’s easy to carry around and much more accessible. I think the bulk of a DSLR is just too much to carry around at the moment, but I do look forward to having the opportunity for a few hiking photos.
Additionally this is only the first part of a four week trip, so I’ll need to get more insight as well as make sure that this is indeed the right city for myself and Sylvia.