Friday, October 10, 2008

HK - Life and Times of Hong Kong

Please note: This is an article which I wrote for the Times of India, Dated Oct 9, 08. The online version of the newspaper article can be seen here

"Hi, I am Venus, I work for SMSCountry Networks in Hong Kong. SMSCountry primarily is a Hyderabad based SMS Gateway Provider and I am currently deputed at our Hong Kong branch. 

Hong Kong – the government here likes to market it as "Asia's World City" and it is every bit a world city. Something which strikes you right as you get off the plane and set yourself into the city is the order and panache everywhere. Almost everything your eyes rest upon here is larger than life, oozing with style and made to work in seamless and perfect order. 

Hong Kong is predominantly a bunch of tiny and hilly islands, the city centre is a concrete jungle, but one that is sure to get you gasping at the beauty of its skyscrapers. In fact they say, these skyscrapers by night give HK the title of being the “Most Beautiful City on Earth at Night”. The further you go away from the city you get so much closer to the natural side of HK, lovely green hill, plenty of sea of course and a zillion spots for hike enthusiast.

The city has long been a British Colony, in fact until as recently as 1997. HK has managed to flourish under the British Crown like no other colony of this empire. And just as much as it has flourished it has imbibed into itself so many of the attributes of the Western World. From their dressing sense to lifestyle to work environments, almost everything is as ‘westernized’ as you get!!  However, from an Indian perspective for first time visitors it can come across as a bit of a culture shock! Surprisingly though for such a Westernized place English not much understood and is much less spoken. Going around the local markets and especially the taxi drivers can really be a big problem. On the other side, the public transport is excellent with locations and directions mentioned in both English & Cantonese (the local Chinese dialect).

Just going a bit further on the Language issue, I’d say as Indians we often find ourselves obliged to help a person who is unable to communicate with us because of a language barrier. If someone can’t speak Hindi, then we try to find someone across who could help that person. However, often I found in HK, that not knowing the local language was seen more as ‘my problem’ and not many actually feel our kind of an obligation to help. 

Having worked now in HK for almost four months now, I can say it’s really is now of the best places to work. People's are known to be hugely enterprising, hardworking and having a great work ethic. HK has for long been voted as a place which is the Best Place to Do Business, by a host of agencies and publications. And my personal experience says it is indeed true. The government processes are swift and sharp. There’s almost no red tape, and you get things done in a jiffy. The tax system is fairly low and simple. As far as governance goes, HK certainly is a dream.

Food is a huge part of people’s social lives; it’s by far the largest social activity you would get across. … Restaurants always teeming with people are a microcosm of the HK Life. From the exotic to wild … when it comes to food then HK is as good as is it get.  For many an Indian though, who are used to our spicy stuff, food in HK might not always be a welcome thing, and soon enough you start craving for the stuff found back home.

Life in HK, has given me so much more of a world perspective. You come of people of many different nationalities, it’s a very cosmopolitan place, it’s obviously a global financial hub, anything and everything that happens across the globe finds a resonance here. Living in such diverse environment, has opened up my mind to know, understand and more importantly appreciate the various perspectives of people. And as such it’s not a difficult thing being an Indian as plurality in society is not new to us!

Indians as everywhere can be found here in a sizeable numbers. There are a lot of Sindhis, Punjabis, North Indians here. In a region known as Tsim Sha Shui, you find scores of Indian eateries around and walk into any of them, dozens of Indian faces would make you feel very much at home.  We Indians have been known as warm people, and I have to say a thousand miles away from home it only gets better. 

There are quite a few Indian Clubs here where community specific get together’ are a commonplace. The Kowloon Cricket Club is another place where a lot of Indians are seen. The ordinary Chinese guy, in fact, respects Indians for their Knowledge Prowess much more than the Westerners for their financial muscle.

Though the average cost of living in HK is much higher than a lot of other places, people still find it lucrative given the impressive pay packages and excellent living conditions. Owing to this a lot of Indians have in the recent past made HK their home, and this number is only increasing by the day!

A tiny island in itself, HK is a shining star on the global financial universe!"

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