Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hong Kong - British territory, expat living and a museum

Displays in the Hong Kong Museum of History
With my sister having been over in Hong Kong for over twenty years, and her partner for even longer, our stay here also gave us a brief introduction to the life of an expat. I have always thought of expat life to be a strange way of living, as it seems like you fully belong to neither one country nor the other, so it was interesting to see.

With Hong Kong having been a British Territory for ninety-nine years, and with the people desiring to remain apart from mainland China, this is certainly a relatively easy place for a British person to live. Of course this may change; Mainland China is increasingly exerting its authority in Hong Kong, leading to rising unrest amongst the Chinese locals, and a growing concern about whether it will remain a comfortable place for foreigners to live.
Horse Racing in Hong Kong

For now however, all is well. English is widely spoken where needed, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants that cater to westerners. We joined my sister at her regular pub quizzes in Central, and there is little difference from spending a night at your local in the UK, albeit that the 'locals' here come from far and wide.

A big feature of life in Hong Kong for some expats, is the Clubs. They are members of a number of the Clubs, which host regular events, as well as being somewhere to eat, drink and meet other expats. We particularly enjoyed the champagne brunch at the Football Club - no surprise there, there was unlimited bubbly!

It was also good to get along to the horse racing in the comfort of the Club box. Nic even came out ahead on the betting, which was nice.

Lantau Island, Hong Kong
We also took a drive over to their house on Lantau Island, and had a tasty lunch in a local restaurant on the waterfront.

But somehow, I'm not sure that an expat life is for me - even a relatively comfortable one like theirs. It isn't that there is anything wrong with it - in fact it is quite a nice life, and we enjoyed our stay. It is just that I think I would personally feel disappointed with myself for being in a country, but not really being immersed in it.

Perhaps this is because I have always felt that, looking back, even though I was a child at the time, I missed a great opportunity to properly experience living in Germany. We were in an armed forces environment, with British schools, homes, events, shop and cinema, so there was no real need to speak more that a smidgeon of German, or to get involved in the community there. And I regret that I didn't.

That perhaps influences how I feel, but I don't think that I would be truly happy living on the edge of a different country. I have always said that if I ever lived abroad, I would want to speak the language, live in and fully engage with the local community, rather than in a British enclave. That isn't to say I wouldn't welcome some interaction with fellow Brits or other English speakers - that would be great, but as something to do sometimes, not a way of life.

Of course, in somewhere like Hong Kong, there is the difficulty of both the complexity of the language and of being accepted into the community even if you want to be. In common with many places, perhaps especially in Asia, the local community are necessarily too keen for you to become that involved. We certainly have heard a number of people say that they have had difficulty mixing in to the Japanese community on a long term basis.

I suspect, therefore, that were I to live abroad, it would have to be somewhere that was happy to have an immigrant like me in their community, and where I had at least a reasonable chance of getting to grips with the language.

Displays in the Hong Kong Museum of History
But anyway, on the subject of Hong Kong having been a British Territory, we visited the Museum of History. As we are often finding to be the case, it makes for uncomfortable reading for us British. I can't say I was taught much at school about our Empire days,and what I did learn was largely positive, about trade and exploration. They forgot to teach us about all of the terrible things that we did when we invaded countries and tried to hold down the indigenous populations.

Here in Hong Kong, however we might try to dress it up with excuses about the behaviour of the Chinese, we basically invaded the place because they didn't want us to keep selling opium to their people.

The Chinese leaders could see the damage being done to their people and society, and tried to ban the British from selling their drugs to them. So we started the First Opium War. We bombarded their homes and eventually, because we were the stronger military, forced them to give up part of their country to us - and of course we kept peddling our drugs.

Later, we and the French ganged up on the Chinese together, and took more of their territory in the Second Opium War. It is from these wars that we established our territory here. It is things like this that make me so sad when I hear British people talking about our 'glory days' of the Empire, as, even if we did do some good things too, far to much of that glory was built on the foundations of other peoples' misery.

A piece of Ming pottery in the Hong Kong Museum of History
On a lighter  note, it was interesting to read that, if you look in the right places, it might be possible to pick yourself a piece of Ming pottery. Ok, so it is likely only to be a shard or two, but still. Apparently the area around Penny's Bay on Lantau Island was used by ships trading ceramics as a dumping ground for broken pieces. Some 10,000 bits of pottery have been found, some of which is Ming. I've included a photo of the Ming mark on the bottom of a bowl, so if you do happen to find a piece, you'll know what it is.

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