It’s the end of another school year. As friends prepare to move on, three mums tell Carolynne Dear what they really miss about Hong Kong.
After six years at Bel Air in Cyberport, The Baskervilles moved to Kuala Lumpur. Mum Fran explains how it went.
Kuala Lumpur has been a massive change for me as I no longer work (I had a full-time job in Hong Kong). It has been quite easy to make friends here, mainly through the children’s school and playing golf, and as an “expat” destination it hasn’t been too much of a change. My husband and I worked really hard in Hong Kong and to be honest we were looking forward to a new challenge and a new environment.
However, we do miss the vibrancy of Hong Kong, the fantastic places to eat and drink (mid-week socialising is a lot slower in Kuala Lumpur), and that feeling of living somewhere surrounded by energetic, driven people. I loved the work hard, play hard culture. We miss the junks, Sunday brunches, the view from our apartment at Bel Air and our lovely mates.
The boys also miss their Bel Air friends – the sheer size of the residential complexes in Hong Kong compared to Kuala Lumpur means the boys had loads more friends on their doorstep and lots more facilities to enjoy. If someone were to offer to send down a care package from Hong Kong, I’d definitely have some really good pork dumplings and a cocktail from the Feather Boa on my wish-list! It will always be a special place for us and I would definitely recommend it as a place people should experience.
The Harnett family spent eight years on Hong Kong Island. Mum Danni tell us about the move. We left because we didn’t want to send our children to boarding school, and felt that secondary education in Hong Kong wasn’t working out for us. Lots of families tend to send their children to board at the end of primary, which leaves a bit of a social black hole for those that remain. It’s a very difficult situation, and to be honest re-locating has been pretty rocky for all concerned.
We lived in a high rise development in Pok Fu Lam and I really miss the vertical community living and having friends so close by, as well as the open space and complex facilities that the children enjoyed. There is no “clubhouse” at the bottom of the elevator in suburban Sydney! Things are a lot quieter and less social where we are now.
We all miss the lifestyle in Hong Kong, the friendships, the cultural differences, the travel opportunities and the world class public transport system. Hong Kong is a dynamic city that never sleeps, yet it’s easily navigable and lacks the aggressive undertone of other large metropolises. Mostly though, I miss my helper who, after eight years, I would also call my friend. She was a tremendous help with the running of our large and busy family.
I also miss rummaging around in the multitude of markets all over Hong Kong, uncovering bits and pieces and little treasures, and wandering around the art galleries on Hollywood Road and Sheung Wan. Top of my wish-list though would be some orchids – I just loved them. After eight years, the children consider Hong Kong home. Although their schools are working out well here and they love being closer to their extended family, their hearts remain firmly devoted to their Island home.
The Williams’ family spent three happy years on the Peak. Sarah Williams reflects on her Hong Kong life.
We left Hong Kong because my husband’s work transferred back to Sydney. I loved Hong Kong – the freedom, the brilliant public transport, the abundance of taxis, cheap(er) French champagne, great nightlife and fantastic friendships. Treasured memories include leaping off the back of a junk with a seabreeze, Lantern Festival in Tai Hang, The China Club, having my very own tea set hand-painted in Kowloon City – but most of all the friendships.
I also miss the adventures of travel – we flew all over South East Asia – and going to sometimes weird, but always fascinating, hidden places – often tucked down the back of an alley, up the third staircase, past the little shrine on the left, and so on. I’ve definitely become a Chinese food “snob” since arriving back in Australia. I crave good noodles and dumplings and when we have an average dim sum experience I am very disgruntled. I have also been known to present my business cards to Sydney associates with two hands and a little bow – slightly embarrassing.
It’s clean, fresh and there’s loads of space back here in Sydney – but Hong Kong will always hold a special place in my heart.
Making the break? Top tips from those that have done it.
• If you’re going “home”, familiarise yourself with the concept of reverse culture shock – it’s real, and it’s very disconcerting to feel like a stranger in your home town. It doesn’t last long, but you need to know it’s coming.
• Be as open as possible with decision making, and involve the children. Be as positive as you can. Moving is a huge upheaval and kids need to see this change as something worthwhile.
• Don’t leave it too late in terms of schooling – kids need time to socially adjust before academic pressure builds up.
• Stay strong – with a robust family unit, things always have a way of working out in the end.