My Impression of Hong Kong

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been back from Hong Kong. Here is a list of things that I liked and some of which I didn’t like about Hong Kong.

Liked:

People speak English: It was so refreshing to walk into a restaurant and have the waiter come over and speak to us in English. It made everything so much easier. Also, most billboards/shop signs/directions are in big bold English letters which makes life easier.

Food: The food was more varied than in Chengdu. We even went to an Irish bar and got really nice food. There were Indians/ Thai/ Vietnamese restaurants all over Hong Kong, so it was nice to try some different food and not having to stick with spicy food all the time.

People: Unlike Chengdu, Hong Kong people don’t conform to the typical ‘dress-code’ like Chengdu people do. They wear their own things. It was nice to see girls with short hair, men with long hair, girls not wearing skirts up to their bum. In Chengdu, the girls MUST wear really short skirts. They must not have their hair cut really short. Men shouldn’t wear long hair. Hong Kong people are more individual, and they want to look different, whereas Chinese people (in my opinion) feel they need to conform to a typical ‘look’ or else they will be deemed different to other people. God forbid you would want to be different.

I nearly got caught up in wanting to look like the Chinese girls, with their lovely dresses and their shoes and their pretty bags. After my trip however, I’ve now shaken that away. Why would I want to look like millions of other Chinese girls? I’d rather be comfortable than stylish, so I’m sticking with that motto.

Driving: The driving is literally like back home. There were hardly any e-bikes to be seen. I saw double decker busses, and there was no beeping whatsoever. In China, they love to beep. Traffic in Hong Kong is much more organised and safer.

Westernised: In general, the whole of Hong Kong is much more Westernised than mainland China. It felt as if you were in a western country instead of being in Asia.

Safe: I’m not sure if Hong Kong is an actual safe place, but I felt safe. I thought it would be the opposite, because of the sheer amount of people that live there. Although I do feel very safe in China too.

Didn’t like:

Crowded: People were walking everywhere and anywhere. There were no quiet areas to relax.

Too many foreigners: I think that was one of the worst things about Hong Kong. It is full of foreigners. I couldn’t believe how many there were. From coming from a place where every day I get stared at, to arriving to a place and the people don’t bat an eyelid at you is a little off putting.

Expensive: From transport to food, there is a big difference in the price of things. China is known as being cheap, so coming to Hong Kong made me realise how lucky I am to live in China and being able to buy things inexpensively.

Claustrophobic: Because the buildings are so tall, you feel very cramped, and when you add the cars and people, that makes it worse. My friend said its very claustrophobic which I agree.

I was only in Hong Kong for around 3 days so I didn’t get to see many places. But in my opinion, I would like to visit it again because it’s a nice city, but I just wouldn’t like to live there.
Aisling

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Hong Kong for my Visa

Last week I had to go to Hong Kong to get the correct working visa, the Z visa. At the beginning, I was so excited to go. I was looking at where to visit, where we could stay and generally just looking forward to getting out of Zhonghai.

But as the time came closer, all that changed. I didn’t want to go. I had to go during my days off, meaning I wouldn’t get a weekend. Travelling by plane, waiting for hours in an airport, queuing for hours at the visa office, spending tonnes of money on accommodation and food… no thanks. It was too much effort, too much money. And worse. It was for business.

But I had to go. So after class, me and a fellow teacher boarded a plane for Hong Kong. The plane was delayed four hours though, meaning we were put in a hotel until they called us. Great start. We arrived in Shenzhen airport at 4:30am so we decided to stay there until 7am, where we got the subway to the Hong Kong border. By the time we got to our accommodation in Hong Kong it was about 11.30am.

I would recommend you to stay in the Check Inn hostel. It is about a 10 minute walk from the visa office and the overall hostel was fine, with great air conditioning and free wi-fi in the rooms. Although it was a little bit dearer then others, I would stay there again. There is another hostel called CheungKing Mansion (not sure of spelling) and I heard it is the cheapest in Hong Kong. But if like me and you need to go to the visa office, then stay in Check Inn. Cheungking Mansion is on the mainland of Hong Kong meaning you have to get the Ferry to Kowloon Island where the office is.

For any other people needing to go to Hong Kong for their visa, listen carefully. At immigration you will get a small square piece of paper with a small blue design printed on it. It will have your name and what not on the paper. You NEED this. Don’t loose this. When you go to leave your passport into the office don’t forget to give them this along with your other documents, they will ask for it.

Another teacher who went before me told me about this. He said ‘Don’t loose that paper whatever you do’. I said ‘No I’ll make sure I have it’. What did I do? Well I didn’t loose it if you must know. When I went up to the counter, the lady looked at my documents and asked, ‘Do you have the receipt from immigration?’ I replied ‘What receipt?’ She then showed me the paper. I thought… ‘oh s..t’ She told me to go to the opposite building and get a new one, thus loosing my place in the queue. Incidentally, the other teacher left his at the hostel.

So we were walking back to the hostel and I looked in my bag, sure enough there it was. In my haste I threw the piece of paper in my bag, not knowing what it was.

So, keep that piece of paper.

Another thing I might add about the visa process. You hear people saying ‘Yes the lines are very long in the visa office, make sure you go early’. That doesn’t necessarily apply. Because we arrived late, we decided to go around 1pm. We arrived only to find out that it doesn’t open until 2. Although at this time there were about 50 people in a long queue waiting. The whole procedure was quite quick, but with our misplacement of our receipts we had to leave and come back. But by 3pm there was literally no queue. So I would suggest to people, if you are going during mid day, go at around 3pm. There is no queue because people would have went at 2pm.

Because we paid for express, our visa was ready the next day. We went in at around 3pm and picked them up. The whole process was quite easy, although we were constantly worrying in case we would be rejected.

So, make sure you have the right documents, your money to pay for the visa, and that small piece of paper, and everything should go smoothly.

Aisling.

Public Holidays

 

This weekend the Chinese had a public holiday. That meant: no classes. Because its a private company, we have to work during public holidays. Usually my weekends are jammed packed with classes, so it was really strange to see that I only had 1 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. Although it was great that I didn’t have to teach, it also means I won’t be getting paid… but I won’t say no to the offer of a day free of teaching.

I also should be heading to Hong Kong this week for my visa. Although I’m looking forward to it, I know it’s going to be expensive, meaning what money I did save up, I’ll most probably spend a good chunk of it over there. Another teacher needs to get his visa so we’re going over together. Now I plan on doing some sightseeing while I’m there, because god knows when I’ll be back there again, but I think I’m the only one who is planning that…

It’ll also be the first time that I’ve been away from Zhonghai since I’ve arrived here, so when I return, will the feeling of being ‘home’ hit me.

When I was here for my internship, it didn’t really feel like ‘home’. The apartment didn’t feel like ‘my’ apartment, because I was sharing and I didn’t pay rent. I also didn’t feel like I ‘belonged’. Yeah I worked, but it didn’t feel intimate. I worked with hundreds of teachers… I knew none of them. I was swamped by students. There weren’t any other foreign teachers near me. (apart from my room-mate).

This time around I feel like I belong. I live in my own apartment and pay my own rent. I don’t rely on anyone but myself. I work in a place with great people and everyone is in the same boat. Everyone helps each other and there is absolutely no bitchiness. I’ve heard that in other campuses there is a lot of bitchiness going around. Every one of my colleagues is so nice and helpful. The students actually seem to like me and I have a great time with them. Most of the time they are laughing at me because I do something silly; but that’s the only way to bring out their own silly side.

I remembered when I worked in the college and thinking “It’s all so serious”. I was jealous of the other interns; they worked with children and pre-teens, meaning plenty of games and laughter. I worked with older students and the whole atmosphere felt subdued and serious. Students were studying for exams, and the whole college took rules a little too seriously.

Now there’s laughter, joking, chatting, plenty of games, and generally a happier atmosphere. Of course there are days where I just want to stay in bed, and not have to go in and (try to) teach some particular students. But generally it’s ok.

I suppose the only way to see what kind of teaching you like is to experience them all, both in public and private teaching. You won’t know until you try.

Aisling

My Medical Examination Experience

International Travel Health Centre

International Travel Health Centre

So finally, things are under way to get me to Hong Kong to get my work visa. Because I was so busy, I forgot I actually needed to go, until another teacher told me he was going to get his Medical Examination. That got me wondering about my visa, and WHEN exactly my current one expires. Getting worried, I looked at my visa and suddenly I realised; it expires on the 11th of May. So I got in contact with the company and both my-self and another teacher from my campus got our medical done yesterday.

From what I expected, It turned out completely different. The ‘Clinic’ was not a modern, clean, dis-infected relaxing area. No, it was a building with people queuing for this and that, the bathroom’s were grubby, there was NO, I repeat no soap to wash your hands, and it was generally just not what I expected.

I had to get like 8 tests, from a urine sample, eye test, ultrasound (I thought only pregnant ladies got these), x-ray, heart check, weight measurement, blood pressure and blood sample. Another bizarre one was a man sticking a rod up my nose and checking my ears. Done in 5 seconds, it still counted as a test.

First we had to give a urine sample. Beside the bathrooms were about 100 small cups in a big container, so you can pick your own. A self-service job. Then it was the dreaded blood test. It was just like a counter. There were 3 slots and you had to sit down in 1 of them, the lady in front would strap your upper arm, and would literally puncture your arm. Oh no, there was no small private room where the nurse would make you relaxed. It was literally in a hallway and everyone can see you getting it done. Once your done, bam, away you go and the person behind you is next.

I said it’s like a conveyor belt. Once one test is done, away you go looking for the next room. The nurses don’t talk to you, they do there business and usher you out of the room, where a line of other people would be waiting.
But, it was efficient. There was no dawdling around waiting for 20 minutes for each exam. It was in and out. When we were finished, we were each even given a carton of….. milk. Maybe it’s an award. “Well done Aisling for doing ALL those terrible tests we cruelly made you do, here’s some milk, you deserve it.”

The results should come back in a few days, so hopefully everything will be all clear. Our Chinese helper said 2 people had to go home because there was something wrong with their test results.

Oh and in my last post I mentioned we had our team building workshop. We went for Hot Pot and then to KTV. Because it was my birthday in April, they were celebrating everyone’s birthday which occurred in this month. Anyway, because two of the teachers weren’t there (and their birthday is in April) it was just me that night.

The Chinese staff bought a big cake for us April people, and because it was only me there…. The whole cake was for me! I was completely and utterly shocked! Everyone gathered around, lit the candles, and sang happy birthday to me. I had to blow the candles and they all clapped. It will be something I won’t forget. Just because I had no idea that that would happen, now I know what it must feel like for people on surprise birthday parties.

So because I was the Birthday girl (although my birthday was at the beginning of April) I cut the cake for everyone.

And I’m beginning to look forward to Hong Kong now. A fellow teacher is coming with me for his visa so at least I’ll have someone with me. I can see more of China and it’s a little break from teaching.

Aisling