December 31st and instead of enjoying the last morning of the year cuddled up under the duvet, dreaming sweet dreams, I awoke before 6 as if I had a train to catch. If only it had indeed been a dream I would be perfectly happy running along a cold platform trying to catch the fleeting train instead of looking around the dark room and realising that I was wide awake and the day imposed itself on me.
I have always been a morning person, and the quiet hours that prelude the hustle and bustle of the day often are a precious time for me during which I would study, read, write or simply potter around quietly. When the first signs of someone stirring down the hallway appear I know my time is over and the day has officially begun.
A feeling of melancholy marks this morning as 2011 is about to draw to a close and I wonder about the magnitude of changes that have occurred in these 12 months. Will it go down in history as a dramatic year? The death of Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, Steve Jobs, the spring uprisings across the Arab world and the quasi-financial meltdown of the Euro zone certainly give 2011 enough credentials to carry this title. Each one of us will define the year for ourselves. Mine certainly carries the label ‘dramatic’ although for none of the reasons mentioned above.
Although I wish to remember the year by the two most positive events that changed my life, marrying a wonderful man and expecting our first child, it is the move to Hong Kong that has most characterised my daily life. For months on end this event hijacked my thoughts, changed my outlook on the society that surrounds me as well as the one I left behind and cast a shadow on what I cherished the most about myself, creativity.
Our move was accompanied by much excitement and high expectations for how my husband and I would spend the next three to five years in Hong Kong. Like for many expats, the plant was that life in Hong Kong would allow us to travel around South East-Asia, start a family, make new friends and of course, make enough money to allow us to work at a slower pace when we returned home. In a nutshell these, especially the last one, were the main reasons why we considered leaving a lifestyle in London, which by most would be considered very comfortable and successful. Ours was not a case of the grass is always greener on the other side.
When we began considering the options put in front of us, Europe was not in the state it is in today, so we were not escaping the gloom and doom many are trying to get away from today. We had visited Hong Kong, and like most first time visitors were mesmerised by it’s efficiency, quality accommodation (albeit at a huge cost), international flavour and overall ease of fitting in.
Like many businessmen coming from large headquarters in London, Paris or New York, Mr. Chattybrain was attracted to the fact that although his company was fully operational and booming in Hong Kong, it operated on a smaller scale allowing him more visibility into a broader range of business areas. Since arriving here, we have often heard foreign expats praise the small pond, big fish phenomena many enjoy here. I on the other hand looked favourably at the various clubs, organisations, charities and social groups as a sure way to keep me busy while I made the leap from busy professional in my own right to mother-to-be.
Almost a year has passed since landing at Chek Lap Kok Airport, and now seems like a good time to draw a few lines between expectations, assumptions and reality of life in Hong Kong. Although this is purely based on personal experience, it might be of use to others considering moving to Hong Kong in the near future.
Expectations versus reality of expat life in Hong Kong: