French Expat Living in Hong Kong - Interview with Saz

Published: 4 Sep at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Hong Kong
Saz is in her mid twenties and is a mix of three different cultures all in one person.

She has lived in three different countries and likes to think that this has made her very adaptable person. But being an expat, one can never be adaptable enough!

She’s sarcastic like the British, she complains like the French and she eats like the Iranian.
…Not too sure if that’s a good mix…

She has very curly hair, which was already a bit of a problem in Europe but has become a major pain in Asia where people can’t even imagine hair like this can be natural.

She enjoys eating and discovering beautiful sceneries and monuments.

More details in the interview! Saz's expat blog is called Nifty Pifty - Life in Hong Kong is pretty nifty (see listing here)

Colorful boats drying in Lama Island
Colorful boats drying in Lama Island

Here's the interview with Saz...

Where are you originally from?
Well, this is kinda complicated.
My dad is British, my mom is Iranian and I was born in France.
Since I grew up and was educated in France I usually say I’m French but the truth is that I’m a mix of British and French with a dash of Iranian…

In which country and city are you living now?
I am now living in Hong Kong, and more precisely in Kowloon Bay.
Many people consider Hong Kong as a city, but to the locals it’s a country with many cities and areas!

How long have you lived in Hong Kong and how long are you planning to stay?
I’ve been here for exactly one year!
Planning to stay at least one more but most probably more. Sometimes, no plan is the best plan.

Tai Hang Fire Dragon festival
Tai Hang Fire Dragon festival
Why did you move to Hong Kong and what do you do?
I used to live in England and moved her because my partner is from Hong Kong. He was a fresh graduate and we thought it would be easier for him to find a job in his field in his home country.
Finding work is always difficult, even more as a fresh grad in a foreign country!

I am a Product/Project Manager, so my work involves coordinating product launches, account management and marketing.

Did you bring family with you?
Only the boyfriend!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
To be honest, I found it fairly easy. My main issue is not being able to communicate fully.
I think that being a third culture kid helps and the fact that my boyfriend is a local is a huge bonus.
He introduced me to the culture and explained things which would have otherwise really frustrated me. Having someone by my side also creates a sense of belonging and I don’t feel homesick.

Still Hong Kong has a very different culture to France or Britain and it takes a while to adjust.
Many people say that HK is the city where East meets West, but I don’t agree. I think that East and West are both present in the city but they don’t blend, they stay quite separate.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I was lucky that most people in my company are the same age as me and we all get on well.
So I made most of my friends at work.
I also got to know people via my partner.
I basically have two groups of friends: locals and expats.

But I’ve been lazy and haven’t made a particular effort to meet fellow expats outside of work.
I think it would be fairly easy since there’s so much going on in Hong Kong: meet-ups, associations, food events… But I don’t have a strong need to mingle with fellow expats.

Snake alcohol, anyone?
Snake alcohol, anyone?
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Hong Kong is NOT only skyscrapers and the harbour!!
Hong Kong has countryside, full of forests, mountains and wildlife!

I personally love Sai Kung, it really has a different atmosphere compared to the city. Sai Kung is a coastal village in the countryside of Hong Kong. The mood is relaxed; you can enjoy seaside restaurants, water sports, animals, hikes and fresh breeze!

To future expats I would say: do not make the mistake of solely staying on Hong Kong Island or visiting expat hotspots.
Use your weekends to explore the whole city, Kowloon, New territories and outlying islands.
You will discover some beautiful places and friendly locals.

I also recommend trying Hong Kong style dessert (Tong sueil 糖水)!

What do you enjoy most about living in Hong Kong?
The weather! The food! The language!

It’s no news to anyone that the weather in Hong Kong is way warmer and sunnier than in England!

The food here is amazing and can be so cheap. Hong Kong food is delicious and can be…surprising to say the least. But the city has restaurants from all over the world, so you can have whatever tickles your fancy.

Cantonese is notoriously difficult to learn. I can only speak a little, but enough to get a vague idea of what people are talking about. And let me tell you, Hong Kong people may look serious, but most of the time they are just talking utter crap and swearing. It’s quite hilarious!

How does the cost of living in Hong Kong compare to home?
Cost of accommodation is REALLY high.
But food and other commodities are okay. You can easily have a meal for HKD40 (£3) as long as you are okay with eating in a small Hong Kong Café. Riding the MTR usually costs under £2 for a cross harbour journey.

However, the cost of everything easily doubles in expat dense areas!
I usually eat and chill in more local areas meaning things are fairly cheap. So for me cost of living is similar to England ( I did not live in London).

If I were to live in an area popular with expats, the cost of living would be higher than back in the UK.
I guess it’s comparable with cost of living in London.

Monkeys chilling in Monkey Hill
Monkeys chilling in Monkey Hill
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Hong Kong?
I had trouble adjusting to the banking system!
I find it so not-user friendly! Debit cards are accepted pretty much nowhere, direct debits aren’t free and there are many hidden charges!

The very high humidity in summer also makes everyday life very sweaty.

Did I mention cost of living?

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Hong Kong, what would it be?
Learn Chinese. Cantonese is best for everyday life and bonding with locals, whilst Mandarin will be useful at work.
Do not speak to locals in Mandarin and expect them to reply, they will not. The language of Hong Kong is Cantonese, never forget that.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I think for me it has been work.
I was lucky enough to get a job really quickly even though I do not speak the language fluently and require a work visa.
However, I’ve been trying to progress in my career but have been unable to land a job that matches my goals.
This is due to several things: language, industry and visa status.
But it’s okay, I have a job, I know many people who came here without a job and simply never found one!

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I’m not looking forward to going back. If accommodation was affordable I would stay in Hong Kong!

I’m dreading the British weather, the aggressive drunkenness on Friday and Saturday nights, the feeling of insecurity when walking home late.
No more cheap and delicious fruit, Chinese massages, weekends on sandy beaches, all you can eat barbecues…

Dragon Boats in Sai Kung
Dragon Boats in Sai Kung
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn Chinese. Even if it's just a few every day sentences.
  2. Go off the beaten trails and discover areas outside of the Island MTR line!
  3. Try to make some local friends. It can be quite difficult but there are language exchange evenings to start with.
  4. Go hiking! Hong Kong has many trails for all levels and it’s a great way to meet people and discover the city.
  5. Try to make a distinction between Hong Kong and China. Not only as countries, but also in terms of culture, behaviour, language.
    You will gain a deeper understanding of Hong Kong and it’s people that way.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I made the blog for three reasons:

-reassuring my mother. She was quite worried about me going all the way across the globe. Reading about what I do and seeing pictures makes her feel better and gives her a glimpse of Hong Kong.

-for myself: I think it’s so easy to get wrapped up in daily life and forget about all the things I’ve experienced and seen here. The blog is a great tool for keeping all my memories in one place.

-I thought it may be helpful to one or two other people planning to come to Hong Kong as well.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I’m more than happy to be in touch with expats/future expats.
I think it’s always helpful to have a chat with someone who’s already in the country.
The best way to get in touch with me is to drop me a comment on my blog!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingSaz is a French expat living in Hong Kong. Blog description: Life in Hong Kong is pretty nifty!
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