Last stop Hong Kong: InterNations founder and co-CEO Malte Zeeck pays a visit to our local expat community before heading home to Germany once more.
Hong Kong has recently been all over the international media, because of the so-called “Umbrella Revolution”: Students and Hong Kong citizens have been protesting peacefully for free elections in Hong Kong, as promised in 1999.
I stayed at Lan Kwai Fong Hotel, in the Lan Kwai Fong neighborhood, an area that’s highly popular among expatriates and partygoers alike. It’s full of bars, pubs, and restaurants, and the venue for the upcoming InterNations Event, the Magnum Club, wasn’t very far.
An Interview with the Epoch Times
Right after checking in and changing out of my travel clothes, I needed to leave for the club already: A reporter from the Epoch Times was waiting for an interview before the event started.
The Epoch Times is an international media organization that is publishing newspapers in 15 languages and over 60 local editions around the world. It started out as a Chinese language daily in NYC, and the Chinese edition remains its flagship.
This interview was therefore a great opportunity to introduce InterNations to a worldwide audience. We talked a bit about the idea for our network and the platform in general, the booming Hong Kong Community with its 22,000 local members, and the results of the Expat Insider Survey.
In our overall country ranking, expat hub Hong Kong “only” made it to #13 (out of 61 countries altogether). However, when it comes to the overall quality of life, Hong Kong did rank among the global top 5.
Our survey respondents had a fairly positive impression of the local infrastructure and the many leisure activities. But expat residents seem to struggle with the high cost of living – families in particular rated the costs of childcare and education rather negatively.
The InterNations Hong Kong Event
After the interview, our Hong Kong Ambassadors Will (a true global mind from Hong Kong), Amai (a Chinese-Vietnamese business development manager who grew up in Spain), and Devi (a communications expert from Indonesia) gave me a very warm welcome to the InterNations Event. Unfortunately, Cyril, a French expat and the fourth member of the Ambassadors team, couldn’t make it to the get-together.
Will had also organized tapas-style canapés (sponsored by Just-a-Restaurant), and another sponsor called Ice Pop offered ice-cream samples made with liquid nitrogen. There was also to be a prize draw, where guests could win gift vouchers, bottles of champagnes, and other surprise treats.
I hope the big “thank you” to our Ambassadors in my brief welcome speech did them justice. The same goes for my thanks to our Group Consuls in Hong Kong, as well as our local volunteers. I also used the opportunity to talk a bit about the history of InterNations. After all, we celebrated our seventh birthday a couple of months ago.
By now, we have more than 22,000 members in Hong Kong and 40 Activity Groups (for hikers, squash players, jazz enthusiasts, etc.), including our InterNations Volunteer Program. The volunteer group is run by Kylie and Mavis, and they support several local NPOs for the elderly, children from low-income families, and refugees.
When the “official” part of the evening was over, I seized the chance to talk to the individual members – well, some of them: Over 250 people from 50 different countries were on the guest list.
Obviously, I could ask only a few to share their experience with InterNations, both in Hong Kong and other Local Communities around the world. I always appreciate getting personal feedback to find out how we can improve our website or our events and activities.
The event went on quite long – which was a very good sign, as it showed that all the guests were really enjoying themselves. But I tried (and succeeded) to make it out on time, so I could still have one last drink in one of the many busy bars around Lan Kwai Fong.
My Last Day in East Asia
The following day was to be my last in Asia: In the evening, a long-distance flight would take me home to Munich. So I was determined to make the most of it.
I boarded the tram up to Victoria Peak, the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island. Leaving behind a huge construction site for another shopping mall, I took the popular walking path on Lugard Road.
From Lugard Road, you have amazing views of the Hong Kong skyline and Victoria Harbour. As the Peak is a major tourist attraction, there’s also a restaurant in one of the quaint heritage houses, where I stopped for a cup of coffee.
Later that day, I was strolling through Central Hong Kong, where students had been protesting in thousands. But on that afternoon, nobody was actually to be seen. So I just proceeded unhindered to the Prince’s building, a fancy shopping center in Statue Square.
The square – a pedestrian area in the CBD – is dominated by numerous skyscrapers that house administrative offices and corporate HQs. For example, I imediately noticed the glass-fronted Hong Kong headquarters of HSBC, our Global Partner.
There I met up with friends currently living in Hong Kong: We wanted to have a snack together at Sevva, a bar and restaurant in one of the coolest locations in the city. The rooftop terrace was ideal in that kind of weather – a balmy 29°C, as compared to the 7°C that awaited me back home in Munich.
Joigin, Hong Kong! This is definitely a city where I could live for a few years, and I left with a slight tinge of envy for all the expats I’d met the night before.
(Image credit: 1) & 5) Malte Zeeck/InterNations 2) & 3) Tony Chen 5) iStockphoto)