Posted by: Sam Olsen | September 19, 2011

You can run but you can’t hide

Everyone in HK is so friendly to new arrivals that we have had plenty of “friends we haven’t met yet”, as Aggie likes to call them. These are people who you email to get in touch, explaining that Bob Hope or whoever has put us in touch, and would they be around for a drink sometime soon. They invariably reply quickly and invite you over to their house/club/favourite restaurant. All following so far?

But then comes the interesting part: working out how many degrees of separation you are from them through how many contacts. And Saturday night was a classic example of this.

Jim and Karen invited us over to their house overlooking the wonderfully tropical Clearwater Bay to watch the rugby, have a BBQ and let Lawrence play with their kids. Yet our relationship with them was tenuous to say the least: Jim’s sister is married to a man who is the brother of someone Aggie knows through work. Yes, it staggered me too. There was another couple there too, called Gus and Rosie, who also had two children that Larry loved playing with especially since the boy, Jack, was exactly how we imagine L to be when he is 3.

Family fun in the swimming pool was followed by the men watching Ireland beat Australia while the kids played with iPhones and the mothers enjoyed some white wine and Ribena. We all sat down for huge Australian steaks while Rosa, the helper, looked after the 5 children upstairs and ensured that the (adult) tears were kept to a minimum.

So far, so nice, but as we said, pretty tenuous too. “How many degrees of separation are we all removed from each other?” asked Jim. You then listen to what they have done in their life and work out if there is any overlap. And there sure was. It turns out that Jim used to live with our mate Ben (Kay) in Singapore, and then they both moved to New York where Jim used to hang out with Alistair (Calvert) and other people we know. Karen knows Henri Gourlay, Alistair’s sister-in-law, but through a different route. Plus Karen is from Wiltshire too, like Aggie, so they are bound to know people in common there. But it doesn’t stop with these two. Gus and Rosie happened to be really good friends with Graham (Rule), as Rosie is a colleague with him, and they were only recently talking about us with them but hadn’t put 2 and 2 together.

So a very random dinner party suddenly becomes something that would be familiar to us back in London, swimming pool and view notwithstanding. And the thing is, this kind of thing happens all the time. It really must be that the expats out here in HK are all from a rather narrow background, or at least the ones we hang out with. So no matter how far we go from the UK, we will never be able to leave our past behind…

This is what comes up when you type "Coincidence" into Google Images


  1. I know Gus and Rosie too! Susie, my friend from school (not Susanna) is married to Gus’ brother Giles.
    Oh and did you know that Andy Nicholl was at school with me though a few years about but he knows all my bros too
    very small world…see you in 4 or so weeks

    • Very small indeed. Blimey. But you sound much more refined than Andy Nichol!

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