Hong Kong is a 24/7 city, it never sleeps. Lights are always on and there is always a lot of noise. I could not sleep with my windows open for the first month here.
Back in Manchester I enjoyed sitting in silence at home, but silence is not appreciated in Hong Kong. Once Nico and I had friends over for dinner and while everyone was busy eating without talking, one of them suddenly spoke up, ‘This is so quiet! Why don’t you turn on some music?’
Work-life balance is definitely another thing I lack in Hong Kong. Efficiency and flexibility is very much part of the work culture here. The deeply-rooted capitalist lifestyle means long working hours (a minimum of 44 hours per week), overtime work without any pay, and limited annual leave (some workers get only 7 days annual leave a year!).
My fieldwork study involves conducting interviews with individuals and groups. The long working hours of some research participants leave me no choice but to carry out the interviews at night and at the weekends. At its peak I was working 10 to 12 hours a day on average. In Hong Kong, work-life balance is only a slogan and not even the employees take it seriously.
There are also things about Hong Kong I really enjoy. The first one is definitely language. Being able to speak my mind freely in the language (Cantonese) I am most familiar and comfortable with is a blessing. I feel more relaxed and am able to make jokes knowing that it is culturally acceptable. I feel more in control of my conversations and interactions with other Cantonese-speakers.
The second thing is convenience. Public transport systems are very advanced in Hong Kong. Getting around is easy by bus, rail, ferry, taxi or tram, whichever you’d prefer. They are quite affordable and efficient. We have an Octopus Card (similar to Oyster Card in London) as an electronic means of payment which is not only used for public transports but for supermarkets, restaurants and even clinics. It saves a lot of time and hassle. However, I do miss getting around on my bicycle in Manchester – Hong Kong is far from a bike-friendly city.
I read news from and about Hong Kong but I prefer living in Manchester. That’s probably one of the biggest revelations for me this year.
Some people say, ‘Home is where the heart is’, and I feel like I now have two homes.