American Expat Living in Hong Kong - Interview with Sharon

Published: 29 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Hong Kong
Sharon began her career as a financial writer in the banking industry, explaining complex subjects in plain English. She has written and taken photographs for many magazines and had a column in her local newspaper. She is now living in Hong Kong and trying to take in all it has to offer.

An avid photographer, Sharon loves wandering with her camera shooting the many sides of one of the most photogenic cities in the world. Hong Kong is also an excellent jumping off point for journeys throughout Asia so she and her husband try to travel as often as possible. Sharon's expat blog is called A Ticket to Anywhere (see listing here)

Hong Kong's skyline is one of the most beautiful in the world. The Aqualuna, red-sailed junk boat is a great way to see it.
Hong Kong's skyline is one of the most beautiful in the world. The Aqualuna, red-sailed junk boat is a great way to see it.

Here's the interview with Sharon...

Where are you originally from?
West Palm Beach, Florida but lived in Charlotte, NC for many years. When we return, we'll end up in Palm City, Florida.

In which country and city are you living now?
Hong Kong, SAR

How long have you lived in Hong Kong and how long are you planning to stay?
We have been here for almost 2 years and will leave at the end of the summer.

The pace of the city is very fast.
The pace of the city is very fast.
Why did you move to Hong Kong and what do you do?
We moved for my husband's job. I am on the board of AWA Hong Kong, a group of over 600 women from more than 30 countries. I also lead a photography group.

Did you bring family with you?
One of our daughters came with us but has since gone to college in the US.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Hong Kong and Charlotte could not be more different. After I adjusted to the pace, the heat and life without a car, things became pretty normal. Hong Kong is a pretty easy destination for expats.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I have made friends from all over the world. You have to put forth some effort but it's really worth it. The women here are fabulous, so smart, funny and up for any adventure.

Laid back Stanley, on the South Side, is a big contrast to the city.
Laid back Stanley, on the South Side, is a big contrast to the city.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Naming one best thing to do in Hong Kong is like being asked to name my favorite child. There are so many things I love to do. If I had to choose one thing, I really like taking the bus to Stanley on the South Side. The views from the top level of the bus are spectacular and Stanley is a relaxing, laid back part of the island.

What do you enjoy most about living in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has everything,a glittering skyline, mountains and hiking trails, beaches and an international ambiance. I love the way the cosmopolitan side of the city blends with tradition. You'll see temples surrounded by skyscrapers and "hungry ghost" shrines outside luxury boutiques and hip nightclubs. Hong Kong is also one of the safest places in the world. I can walk almost anywhere any time of the day or night without worrying.

How does the cost of living in Hong Kong compare to home?
Astronomical. Our rent is eyewatering, but our apartment has a beautiful view. Groceries are often two or three times what they are at home. Clothing is either luxury brands or ultra-cheap with very little middle ground.

I never get tired of temples. The Wong Tai Sin temple is an interesting place to spend an afternoon.
I never get tired of temples. The Wong Tai Sin temple is an interesting place to spend an afternoon.
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Hong Kong?
I'm very far from my family and friends and with the 12 hour time difference, it is very hard to even call them.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Hong Kong, what would it be?
Explore all you can. Hong Kong has something interesting to see around every corner. The culture is very different and it can be frustrating, but be patient. That's just how it is and getting annoyed will just prevent you from enjoying this amazing place. You may get lost but it will all work out.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Opening a bank account at HSBC. It took two months and repeated requests for the same information. Thanks to the Obama administration's obsession with people who stash money in overseas bank accounts, it is very difficult for ordinary American expats to open bank accounts. Banks have rigorous reporting requirements and many of them won't deal with Americans at all because of the paperwork. We had to provide passports, visas, our marriage license, American driver's licenses and then a week later they asked for it all again. What a nightmare. Try to deal with Citibank instead.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I think it will be great. I'm a "bloom where I'm planted" type. I will always miss Hong Kong, but I don't want to be THAT person who blathers about expat life constantly. I will enjoy seeing my family and friends and being in a familiar culture.

Hong Kong is a city of contrasts. Dai pai dongs, or street food stalls flourish next to upscale international restaurants.
Hong Kong is a city of contrasts. Dai pai dongs, or street food stalls flourish next to upscale international restaurants.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Get an Octopus card right away. It isn't just for our modern, efficient public transportation system. You can pay for things like coffee, groceries and incidentals with just a swipe. You can reload at any MTR station or 7-11 store or link it to your bank account, once you finally get one.
  2. If you're a woman, no matter what nationality you are, join AWA. First, they help get you acclimated to the nuts and bolts of living in Hong Kong. They offer lots of adventures and opportunities to help the community. You'll meet amazing women from all over the world and make great friends. It's been a lifesaver.
  3. Bring clothing and makeup with you. Options are limited for clothing in "Western" sizes and makeup is more for Asian complexions.
  4. There is no pattern for walking and Hong Kongers seldom look where they're going. Try to follow a group of people going the same direction as you are. When walking down a crowded street, adopt a 1,000 yard stare and keep walking. If you step aside for everyone who walks directly at you, you will be doing so all day. It's exhausting. Just hold your ground and they will avoid you, even if they are staring at their cell phones, which happens a lot.
  5. If you want to make friends, you have to put yourself out there. Accept invitations. Pick up the phone and call a new acquaintance. Get business cards and give them out. Join an interest group. Having a circle of friends helps you get acclimated and helps deal with homesickness. That's what I've loved about AWA.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I have always been a writer and photographer so starting a blog to document my experiences in Hong Kong and travels in Asia seemed like a natural thing to do. It started as a kind of a postcard so family and friends can keep track of what I'm up to but has had a wider reach.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Follow my Facebook page, Ticket2anywhere or Instagram, Ticketanywhere. I'm always glad to offer advice so I'd love to hear from anyone who is coming to Hong Kong.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingSharon is an American expat living in Hong Kong. Blog description: Travel adventures with a Hong Kong expat
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