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Book Review : Living and Working in Hong Kong

 Contributor Review:  Be A Contributor
May 2005 
Living and Working in Hong Kong - How To Books
by Rachel Wright
Reviewed by Diana McPartlin

In the expat fantasy, every day is an adventure, and dealing with a new language and culture a joy. After living in Hong Kong for five years, Rachel Wright begins with a reality check for those tempted by exotic dreams and seemingly generous expat packages. “Foreign talent and expertise is still in demand, but the extravagant salaries of the 1980s and 1990s are no longer common and many expats are now being offered ‘local’ contracts.”

On the cost of living: “Life is not fun if you’re living on the breadline, the pleasures
of dining out, drinking and dancing don’t come cheap. Singles should aim to earn at
least $30,000-$35,000 a month before tax to live in reasonable comfort.” On accommodation, she says: “If you don’t want to live in an apartment, don’t come to Hong Kong.”

With unrealistic expectations out of the way, she offers comprehensive advice to
newcomers, covering everything from arriving at the airport to getting around, finding accommodation, socialising, finding schools, starting a business and travelling further afield.

Driving, she says, is “reasonably safe”, although there are frequent complaints about reckless drivers. She quotes Automotive magazine: “The common mistakes by Hong Kong drivers are related to signalling. The main one is turning with no signal. Next up is signalling without turning. Third is signalling half-way around the turn.”

Wright is clearly a fan of the local lifestyle. She recommends Chinese restaurants for dining lower down the price chain, and praises the ubiquitous lunchbox: “They usually cost around $25 and are extremely good value and tasty.” Mooncakes also get the thumbs-up: “A meal-in-a-cake, it’s built like a fortress. Once you breach the heavy brown pastry walls and wade through the viscous melon paste, you are
rewarded with the golden treasure – a hardboiled, salty egg yolk. Irresistible.”

Wright urges taking care with cooked food or snacks from street stalls, and says that anyone who lives in Hong Kong for any length of time is bound to succumb to at least one bout of food poisoning.

There’s advice for trailing spouses who may find it hard to settle. Getting involved in volunteer work is one solution. Another is to invest in your own personal development. One expat wife took courses in Pilates instruction and sports nutrition when she couldn’t find work, and says that “Hong Kong is a great place to reinvent yourself."

Wright finishes with a candid chapter on sex in the city. Not all expat marriages survive the strain of “the rising executive in the oriental sweetie shop” syndrome, and spouses are advised not to spend long periods apart. The dating scene for expat women is limited, especially if they’re not interested in Chinese men: “Once you’ve cut out the local men, the gay men, the married men, and the men only
interested in Asian women, you’ve pared down the field quite a bit.”

Although most new arrivals will figure this stuff out by themselves eventually, Wright’s guide will pay for itself in time saved.

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