I lived in Beijing, Hong Kong and London during the MBA journey. I spent the maximum time in Hong Kong – 8 months – my first living abroad experience. Here are the top three things I missed as a student. Of course, being Indian added other interesting elements.
1.FOOD: Price and Variety
As an Indian, the first and constant thing I missed was the food. Firstly, food is expensive for a student in Hong Kong. Secondly, there is a major lack of street food options, which we Indians thrive on.
I will admit though that when I just moved, because of the language barrier, I did not explore the very local Chinese places, where one can find tasty food at reasonable prices.
Another thing I and most of the Indians found difficult to digest (pun intended) was the concept of salads as meals. We do not eat salads. Period. Well, we start with a sumptuous breakfast, then a tiny snack before lunch, followed by a hearty lunch. After that it’s time for tea time snacks, munching on random stuff before dinner and finally dinner around 9 pm. Where is the need for salads? But I developed a mentality for having salads as a meal. I think it was because the vegetables are much fresher and there is greater variety in the components and dressing. And it was legitimately filling.
Definitely, there were Indian food options too, but it would usually get heavy and also lacked the original taste to a great extent. If something could get me to cook, it was the desire to eat Indian. And to fulfil this, Apoorva was my saviour! Thankfully she knew how to cook and I happily assumed the role of a helper. We cooked chicken curry and jeera aloo (Potato dish) on few occasions when the workload was bearable. We cribbed about food together and got excited about the prospect of going home for holidays only because of the food! I was so motivated that I learnt the recipe of Shorshe maach (Fish in Mustard curry, typical Bengali cuisine) from my thaku ma (grandmother) and cooked it in Hong Kong 3-4 times! Me!?
In hindsight, as a student- on a budget-in a fast-paced 1 year MBA program- it isn’t easy to discover/look for the best food options. So I winged it more or less. And adaptability is a good policy! I explored new cuisines, understood what a satisfying meal feels like, discovered my preferences and realised how important it is to eat properly. I think I have adapted to a variety of flavours by now. I really like the very local Cha siu bao (Cantonese pork bun), will happily eat at Cafe de Coral (yes, my friends here can go ahead and give me a disbelieving look), love sushi now, explored Vietnamese, Korean and Singaporean fast food options, among many others. Also for the Indian touch, I was recently introduced to an awesome Nepali place which has the best momos and chai (tea) in town. So food discovery is a constant process and one which I embrace happily.
2. TRANSPORT: Well-connected and efficient yet where is my autorickshaw?
Let’s just say there is a lot of walking involved, which we don’t do at all in India. The Metro (MTR) is very well organized but some stations have SO much walking involved inside to reach certain exits, it’s like a mini trek. I was definitely not used to that. Also, within the Hong Kong Island, one can usually walk to most places. There is a culture of walking to reach your destination. In Delhi, for one you cannot walk as there is no place to. Footpaths exist but they are for hawkers or they are not well-connected to reach anywhere. Further, there is limited respect for a pedestrian, so it is highly likely it will be a frustrating experience to navigate your way.
What did I miss the most? Autorickshaws! Some locations can be very far from the MTR exit. So when you get out of the exit, you still have to walk 10 minutes to reach your destination. In Delhi, when you get out on the exit, there is a line of autorickshaws, so you don’t even have to walk two seconds. Finally, I missed my car. In Delhi, besides the Metro, the public transport is not well developed so the first option is always one’s car. That luxury was definitely lost as a student and that too in Hong Kong.
In all, due to my walking adventures in Hong Kong, I broke two pairs of sandals which just wore out!
But yes, I appreciate the organisation and connectivity that this city offers. Hong Kong has a very efficient and affordable public transport system- buses, trams, ferry and MTR- you can get to anywhere in good time. And if need be, even the taxi is a feasible option. A special mention to my favourite mode of transport in HK- the tram. It’s cheap ass, has a well connected network and is really convenient on the Island!
Photo credits: Musheer Ahmed. Check out the Facebook Page here!
3. HOUSE SIZE: Life in a room
I am going to sound pompous, but oh well~
Most of us back home have decent sized houses, which accommodate joint families and usually have a garden/backyard/basement/terrace included. We also have separate rooms such as TV room/ guest room/own room/parents’ room/dining/kitchen. And then you move to Hong Kong to live in a room which is smaller than half of any of the above rooms :D.
The double whammy is the ridiculously inflated property market in Hong Kong and that one is a student! Icing on the cake is of course, that Hong Kong features in top 2 most expensive cities in the world in different studies: Knight Frank Report and Economist Intelligence Unit Report.
So one misses the expanse and comfort of SPACE. At the same time, I realized the value of it. I know I am damn lazy when it comes to cleaning my room but if I didn’t, I would not have any area left to put my foot in! My room is never in a photo worthy state, so no pictures here
I push and pull, adapt and change, accept and enjoy. Whatever I don’t like, it means it’s time to change the situation. Settled and found solutions (although no replacements) to each of the above mentioned misses!