English/Dutch Expat in Hong Kong - Interview With Laura

Published: 23 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Hong Kong
Laura Besley applied for a job in Paris. She was excited by the wine, the cheese, the bread, and was even prepared to do a little teaching there as well. Instead, she was sent to Duesseldorf in Germany, a city she\'d never heard of. However, it was the best decision of her life (that she didn't technically make herself). Her two years in Germany were brilliant: she had great students, met some wonderful friends and her future husband. Then she decided that she wanted a 'real adventure'. When her husband was offered a job in Hong Kong, she said yes immediately. Laura's expat blog is called Living Loving and Writing (see listing here)

Meet Laura - British/Dutch expat in Hong Kong
Meet Laura - British/Dutch expat in Hong Kong

Here's the interview with Laura...

Where are you originally from?
I'm half-English and half-Dutch and grew up in both England and Holland.

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

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived here since February 2010 and am not sure how much longer I'll be here. At least another two years and then we'll see...

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved here because my husband got a job at the British Council in Hong Kong. I work there now too as a teacher of Very Young Learners (ages 3-8) as well as being a part-time writer. As a writer, Hong Kong is a great place to be: there are large writing networks (of native and non-native speakers, ex-pats and locals) and many publications in English, unlike in many other Asian countries.

My husband, Nick, and I
My husband, Nick, and I
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Really hard. I had lived in Germany before moving to Hong Kong and had found that adjustment relatively easy. Living in Duesseldorf reminded me so much of Holland (the large river running through the city, all the bicycles, the flat landscape) that it immediately felt like home. Moving here was much harder. First it was really cold (yes, it does get cold in Hong Kong!) and damp, then it was hot and humid. I was initially out of work and therefore felt quite lonely. The people were nice, but I was finding it hard to make 'real friends'. Then suddenly it all fell into place.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Most of my colleagues are expats and once I started working I found it easier to meet people. I also joined the Hong Kong Writers Circle and met other writers through their workshops and meetings. I think it took me over a year to make any 'real friends'. I think abroad it's very easy to meet people and 'hang out', but it still takes time to develop real friendships.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There are the obvious tourist attractions: The Peak, the Big Buddha, Victoria Harbour, the markets, Central District. However, there is another side to Hong Kong. Most people, including myself, are always surprised as to how green Hong Kong is. It's great for hiking, just not in the summer. You can't beat the tram either that goes almost the length of Hong Kong Island for 20 pence!

Hiking in Hong Kong, big wave bay
Hiking in Hong Kong, big wave bay
What do you enjoy most about living here?
It's the perfect blend of east meets west. It's safe, colourful, noisy, friendly and I can get beans on toast if I really want to!

How does the cost of living compare to home?
It's expensive to rent (I pay about the same as my sister does in London), but utilities and transport are much cheaper. Food can be as cheap or expensive as you make it, but alcohol is expensive whether you're drinking out or at home.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The humidity in the summer!

Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Bring a hot water bottle and a fan!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Being so far away from England, I sometimes have to miss out on big events because I can't 'just pop home for the weekend'. Recently I had to miss my sister's 30th birthday party - it was heartbreaking.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
To be honest I have no idea. I'm obviously hoping it will go smoothly and that I'll love being back in England, but no doubt there will be irritations and there will definitely be things about living abroad that I miss.

Lanterns at Wong Tai Sin Temple
Lanterns at Wong Tai Sin Temple
What are your top expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn a few phrases. In Hong Kong it's not as essential as most people speak English, but when you make the effort, people really appreciate it. And be aware that the people who speak the least English are usually taxi drivers!
  2. Explore as much of your new environment as possible as soon as possible (before daily life takes over).
  3. Don't forget how privileged you are to be living in a new place and experiencing such amazing things.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I set up my blog: Living, Loving and Writing (www.laurabesley.blogspot.com) just over a year ago and write weekly book reviews, pieces of flash fiction and pieces about living and/or travelling in Asia. I find that people love looking at photos and reading about things that are completely different to what they know. We all want to escape from the daily grind, don't we?

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Just leave a message for me on my blog - I check it almost daily and will get back to you asap. Or contact me on twitter @laurabesley.

Laura blogs at http://www.laurabesley.blogspot.hk/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Living Loving and Writing has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Laura, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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