From Australia to Hong Kong - Expat Interview With Nicole

Published: 23 Jan at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Hong Kong
Nicole was a Journalist and News Reader with Sky News Australia for a decade before making the life changing decision to move to Hong Kong with her hotelier husband James. Swapping the news desk and microphone for a change table and nappy bag, Nicole has since become mum to hyped-up blondie Ava. It's a journey of reinvention, she says, as she navigates the minefield that is motherhood whilst establishing a new career-path as a freelance Journalist, Presenter, Master of Ceremonies, Writer and Media Trainer across Asia. Having emerged from the sleep deprived baby-bubble, Nicole reignited her passion for writing, to begin her blog Mint Mocha Musings (see listing here) on her two year anniversary of arriving in Hong Kong. Her expat journey to date has been filled with plenty of intriguing and humorous tales. Her aim is to be educationally entertaining!

Meet Nicole - expat in Hong Kong
Meet Nicole - expat in Hong Kong

Here's the interview with Nicole...

Where are you originally from?
I was born in the 'land of the long white cloud' New Zealand and lived in the beautiful habour city of Auckland before moving to Australia with my family as a teenager (kicking and screaming).
The kicking and screaming didn't last long, embracing the sunshine and the great aussie spirit I never looked back and until two and a half years ago lived in the stunning harbour city of Sydney.

In which country and city are you living now?
I must have a thing for harbours, because I now live in Hong Kong, which means 'fragrant harbour' in cantonese.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We've lived in Hong Kong for almost two and a half years…how long we are here is anybody's guess? My husband works in hotels so the next move could be (deep breaths) just around the corner.

Why did you move and what do you do?
We decided to do that thing called 'living life on the edge' and took an opportunity with my husband's job to relocate to Hong Kong.

Our family
Our family
Did you bring family with you?
You could say that! I was barefoot and pregnant at the time! Actually we found out we were 'expecting' the very same week we accepted the move to Hong Kong. Gulp!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Life changing! A little bit terrifying but also exhilarating!
Not only was Hong Kong an unfamiliar city, it's one of the most densely populated cities in the world! Dynamic but frantic, adjusting to the pace takes time.
I've definitely suffered my fair share of culture shock and whilst english is widely spoken, I've been lost in translation on many occasions.
I've also had to adjust to being an unemployed 'career girl' and becoming a mum in a foreign country without family support.
My return to work has been more difficult than had I been in Australia able to step comfortably back into a part time role as a News Presenter/Producer.
In a city where maternity leave is generally no longer than three months and it's full-time work or nothing, I've had to redefine my career.
Slowly but surely I am finding my niche - at home with my beautiful daughter and freelancing as a Journalist, Writer, Presenter, Media Trainer and Master of Ceremonies when the opportunities arise.
It's been an unexpected chance to start anew and find out what I'm really passionate about. It's been challenging but in the long run, hopefully character building.

Starbucks Hong Kong
Starbucks Hong Kong
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Yes, thankfully I had two close girlfriends already here living the expat life which made the transition far easier than I could have ever hoped. Being pregnant also, believe it or not, helped. I (reluctantly) joined a mother's group and it was the best thing I could have done. Many of these wonderful women have become my closest confidants. Most are expats too so we have a common bond that endures the ups and downs of motherhood and expat life.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Where to start? Hong Kong has great shopping from designer goods to cheap market trinkets. Mongkok Ladies markets and Temple Street night markets are definitely a sight to see and you can pick up all sorts of gadgets (including my favourite - copy designer handbags).
If you have young children, Disneyland is a must and the Big Buddha is breath-taking for the whole family. Take a ferry ride out to one of the islands and dine in one of the cheap and cheerful authentic chinese restaurants overlooking the water. Delicious and different!
If you're single, Lan Kwai Fong is the place to be. The outdoor dining, bars and street atmosphere is electric. When it comes to dining in Hong Kong, being 'spoilt for choice' is an understatement!

Hong Kong skyline
Hong Kong skyline
What do you enjoy most about living here?
Hong Kong makes you feel alive! It's a vibrant city that never sleeps. I love immersing myself in another culture and it's great being able to explore so many interesting and idyllic Asian countries right on your doorstep. Plus I get lots of visitors from back home keen to see what all the fuss is about!

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Depending on the lifestyle you lead, some things are significantly cheaper like public transport (taxis are on-tap and dirt cheap) while other things such as rent and real estate can be triple that of Sydney prices.
In supermarkets a lot of goods are imported and you'll pay the price if you choose to buy things like meat from Australia or elsewhere.
However, you can live very cheaply if you buy locally, especially fresh fruit and veges from the markets.
Schooling in Hong Kong is extortionate and something you need to be prepared for if you're coming with children.

The crowd crush at Christmas
The crowd crush at Christmas
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Being so far from my precious family is the biggest negative.
It also gets incredibly hot here in summer (May-August) you literally can't go outside for a couple of months. There's a lot of pollution which can leave you feeling the ill-effects.
(Oh and get used to a lot of pushing and shoving in public places. With limited space and so many people, locals are not used to 'personal space' ).

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Expect there will always be challenges living in a foreign country, it can be frustrating dealing with cultural differences and it takes time to find your 'mojo'… It won't happen overnight but one day when you least expect it, you'll hear yourself call it home.

The quintessential Hong Kong
The quintessential Hong Kong
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Adjusting to being a stay at home mum in a foreign country without family support.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Yes, I'm sure in many ways we'll feel like we never left, but at the same time we're forever changed. I know it will take time to settle again but we'll be taking home a suitcase full of memories, not to mention our darling girl.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. If you're not working, try to meet other expats, look online for groups that suit your situation.
  2. Before you come, speak to people who've lived here as expats to find out where the best places to live are, schooling, doctors, hospitals etc.
  3. If you are renting and don't speak cantonese, I'd recommend having a local act as your 'go between'…the process can be fast, confusing and expensive.
  4. Learning cantonese would be a huge bonus but it's an extremely tough language to master, so don't be too hard on yourself. You can get by without it.
  5. If you want to get a helper, seek advice from others and find someone reputable through word of mouth.

**Side note: If you're fair or blonde get used to being 'papped' on a regular basis! The mainland Chinese are intrigued by westerners and can be very trigger happy with the camera!

Seeing someone pregnant and blonde is apparently something of a rarity
Seeing someone pregnant and blonde is apparently something of a rarity
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is called Mint Mocha Musings.
Why that title? Mainly because I've become addicted to Starbuck's Mint Mochas …they got me through pregnancy, sleep deprivation and way beyond! Rarely a day goes by without one.
My blog's subtitle is 'An Hotelier's wife: an expat affair in Hong Kong' which pretty much sums it up. I try to write about the culture and experiences that I find are a far cry from home. My aim is to provide people with a little bit of knowledge about Hong Kong and Asia while at the same time offering humorous (hopefully) first hand accounts of my daily encounters.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Follow my blog (see link below) for all my contact details. You can also find me on Twitter @nicoledwebb.

Nicole blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Mint Mocha Musings has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Nicole, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 2 comments

Lance Webb( Current Customer) wrote 11 years ago:

Fantastic overview of the life in Hong Kong, makes you somewhat" homesick" as having enjoyed Hong Kong hospitality several times now ,it is a vivid reminder to you of how friendly the Hong Kong Folk are...after all we are(were) the visitors!Great about Mint Mocha Tours, throughout the highlights!

Ted & Liz wrote 11 years ago:

A very good account of life in Hong Kong Nicole, extremely helpful for those following in your footsteps :-) Lovely photos of you all and of the area where you reside.

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