In August our family relocated to Hong Kong from LA for my wife's new work assignment. I am adjusting to my new role as a trailing spouse here. I will continue to maintain VeryCleverDesign as a California based company and build websites for clients remotely through email, WhatsApp, and Skype. For scheduling real-time conversations please use www.timebie.com to see when our work hours overlap.
Due to the time difference, My LA friends joke that I live 16 hours in the future. Hong Kong was the inspiration for a future LA in science fiction movies like Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner. Director Ridley Scott is quoted as describing the film's depiction of LA as "Hong Kong on a very bad day." Hong Kong is typically characterized by a tight juxtaposition of old and new, east and west, primitive and ultra-modern, and any other combination of opposing adjectives that I can throw out.
The visually dense environment of crowded steep streets lined with vertical buildings adorned with Chinese character signage, pipes and AC units is a stimulus overload compared to the highways and sparsely peopled horizontal suburban landscape of Los Angeles. The flipside to the stereotype is that a larger part of Hong Kong is covered by undeveloped county parks. These are accessible by public transport or foot if you are in moderate to good shape.
快啲啦 (Faa3 Di1 La1) Faster!
Like any city with a rich history of migration there are layers of cultures and languages: English Hobson Jobsons and Cantonese mistranslations of English words are part of the local vocabulary and placenames.
Reading the air is the approach I’m taking since I arrived illiterate in Chinese. Now Hong Kong moves at a fast pace. Like New York or Paris there's brusqueness to customer service that you only crack once you become a regular face. It's very different from the attentive hospitality and care for detail you'll experience in Japan or the studied casualness of Los Angeles. But, like any place with a tough reputation you will be surprised by random acts of kindness: Electronic interfaces for payments or ordering restaurants are a challenge until you discover the English option or someone walks you through the process. After 3 months here and some language lessons I'm starting to make out patterns and pick out a few words here and there. I hope to learn enough to order from a Chinese menu with a satisfying outcome.
Hong Kong Monopoly
Hong Kong is a radically different business environment from LA. The level of vertical monopoly concentration is frightening. Several large conglomerates own everything, real estate, utilities, ports, etc. Real estate prices are high but other services like mobile phone service are comparable and even competitive with US equivalents. Some every day processes are efficient and others feel a few years behind the US. I see plenty of family owned businesses geared towards a local clientele, but I understand that the high rents make starting up a new small business a very risky proposition here and that older ones may not have the resources to compete with the big conglomerate owned chains. Adapting to this new business reality is one of my near term projects.
Thank you for reading this tangent from my normally web oriented posts.