Sometimes people ask us if we visited Hong Kong before actually choosing to, you know, LIVE here, and the answer to that would be no. In fact, we hadn’t traveled in Asia at all, despite my desire to do yoga in Bali after reading Eat, Play, Love, like everyone else. I did, however, spend a lot of quality time in the last year googling the following: expat in Hong Kong, how to pronounce expat, American in Hong Kong, medical emergency hotline in Hong Kong, direct flights to America from Hong Kong, Putin and Hong Kong, babies in Hong Kong, and finally, make friends in Hong Kong.
All the Buzzfeeds pointed toward a posh, glimmering city that basically looks like the inside of Nordstrom, except the shiny effect would also be on buses and on sidewalks and on people. I was imagining “Whole Foods: The City.” Turns out, there’s pollution, massive crowds that make Black Friday look tame, and a wee bit of a wealth gap. It’s basically got all the good and all the hard like any other place on earth, which I guess…duh.
But let me tell you about the good ideas. These new-to-me concepts are making everyday life a little easier, and these are the things that make people say, “Hong Kong is so cutting edge and techy and OMG it’s the coolest city ever.”
1. Taxis have automatic doors. Passengers typically enter on the left side of the cab, and just as you lean out to grab the door handle, POOF! It opens for you! Technically, the driver opens it for you, and it only takes a couple of doors-to-the-toddler’s-head to get the hang of it. Small price to pay.
2. Buses come allllll the time. Need a bus? Why don’t you just walk out the door and wave your arm a little? Because they come at least every ten minutes, and usually more often. Bonus: They drive at the speed of light, so it only takes ten more minutes to get wherever you’re going.
3. The Octopus card, the reloadable, swiping wonder. Octopus was invented for quick payment on mass transit (again with the transit amazingness), but you can use it at pretty much any place you’d want to ever buy a pack of gum. That includes 7-11, gas stations, and the pharmacy. Ikea also accepts Octopus in its cafe, not that I’d have any experience with that.
4. Security guards are everywhere. From our apartment complex to the subway stations to the top of the escalator at the outdoor mall, there’s always someone whose job is pretty much to stand around and keep things in line via purposeful stares. I thought it might feel kind of militaristic, but it’s more the “how can I help” vibe. Unless there’s a toddler standing up in a grocery cart. Then it’s full-blown policing.
5. You can pay your bills about 8 different ways. The standard online and autopay options are available, but two other handy methods are at the ATM and also at the post office. The post office is my personal favorite, since it’s the main government service I feel is both the coolest and most under-appreciated in the States, so it makes me feel like a proud American, even when I’m using a service of the Chinese government. It’s a lot of complicated emotions while paying bills.
Honorable mention for this list is the speed at which construction takes place. Except, when people tell me stories about windows shattering in their apartments because of “impurities in the glass”… it’s hard for me to think the building codes are cutting the mustard.