Posted by: Sam Olsen | August 2, 2012

Home vs home

The British expat can be a critical creature. Blighty’s letters pages are stuffed to the gunnels with complaints about the country – the dogs, going to, etc – but none are more venomous than those signed “Sydney’, ‘Limoges’, or dare we say it, ‘Hong Kong’.

So it was rather a surprise to see how much we have enjoyed being back in England again. Whilst it may be true that our infrastructure creaks like an old Victorian bed, there is a lot to celebrate.


After the party

If Cecil Rhodes had been able to compare the undergrounds of Hong Kong and London he perhaps wouldn’t have declared that “to be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life.” The driver-less trains of the former colony are never late (is there perhaps a connection to the lack of a chauffeur? Ask a Union) and their sleek insides look like the alimentary canal of a robot – clean, functional aluminium. In comparison, London’s tube feels like a rundown 1970s sitting room, with gaudy coloured fabric and a nasal voice apologising for delays that seems to spring straight from Abigail’s Party.

Above ground the situation is rather different. The City’s low-rise buildings resemble the bankers and barristers that inhabit them: short, broad and very expensive. We rather enjoy living in HK’s Blade Runner cityscape, but the power of London – although not quite what it was – pulsates with every marble window-sill. Asia is still definitely rather nouveau.

Another advantage of the UK is that there are no more smogs. In comparison, Hong Kong’s air is still declining:

Hong Kong suffers “worst” air pollution

Hong Kong suffered from the worst smog ever recorded in the southern Chinese city on August 2nd, with officials calling on local residents to stay indoors and avoid the blanket of toxic haze in the area. Air pollutant readings broke records going back to 1999, except for levels reached during a natural dust storm in 2010. A government spokesperson called on people with heart or respiratory illnesses and the elderly and children to avoid physically strenuous activities outdoors. Officials said air pollution was exacerbated by Typhoon Saola, which killed six people in Taiwan. The pollution was particularly strong in downtown Hong Kong. Anti-pollution activists claimed the government could not keep blaming the weather or mainland Chinese factories for the pollution.

There are far more differences to unpick between our former and current homes. But one thing always remains the same: the grass is greener on the other side.


  1. Aww I just discovered your blog! I live in Hong Kong too. Are you back yet? Come take a look at my blog 🙂 xx Olivia

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