Hong Kong is a popular destination for expats, and having just returned from a short break there I can see why. It’s worlds apart from the life we have in Brunei: busy; bustling and full of unexpected sights and tastes. One of the things I loved most about Hong Kong was that you never knew what you were going to find around the corner – a designer shopping mall; green park; beach; traditional shopping street or temple. There were so many different experiences to be had in close proximity to one another, making it a fantastic holiday destination and, I would imagine, an exciting place to live.
Having been in the ‘Brunei bubble’ for a while, I saw my first (and next few hundred) selfie sticks; ate my way around the world – from Dim Sum to western to oriental; rode up the steep streets on escalators; scaled The Peak (with the help of a tram); gaped at the price of designer baby clothes when we visited the wrong mall; and walked further than I have walked in over a year. It was a fantastic experience, but I was glad to get home and put my feet up!
It made me think about what different experiences are available as an expat. I know some people who have barely lasted any time in Brunei because it is so quiet whereas I think, as much as it would be nice to have numerous good restaurants and activities on my doorstep, that I couldn’t live in such a big city as Hong Kong. The first morning when we tried to walk into the city centre we got caught up in a crowd who were exiting a church and were trapped amongst a shuffling mass of people for ten minutes, barely moving anywhere. From our apartment you could see into the rooms of every flat opposite, even down to what they were watching on TV. Because space is at such a premium, apartments are small and crammed together as well as costing a fortune. I certainly wouldn’t choose to live on the island, but I imagine there’s quite a commute if you don’t.
Choosing where to live is an important part of being an expat, although it’s also important to remain open-minded and sometimes just to take the plunge – the great thing is that contracts can be short enough to experience the flavour of a place and to then move on (hopefully) to experience something new.
What would be your ideal expat location? A big city or somewhere quieter? Hot or cold? Crowded or peaceful? Do you already live there? Nowhere is ever perfect, and I know there are plenty of places I wouldn’t want to live, but part of the beauty of being an expat is getting to try out a new lifestyle and seeing what fits.