December 1, 2015

Local Knowledge

"In Hong Kong, you can do anything for a little bit of money, it's very convenient" my consultant reminded me yesterday.

We were sitting in the most efficient 15'x15' office, on the single tiny meeting table somehow arranged among six desks, a refrigerator, copier, and wall of counter space. I've quickly learned the office is a very standard real estate office and there are several thousand sprinkled throughout the city (honest, they're on practically every single street corner).

My consultant was hustling his contacts to find me a good deal on a paint job and deep clean of my new apartment. I told him I could paint myself, but when I went back to the apartment yesterday and actually gauged the garishness of the Fisher Price Fire Truck Toy red kitchen, I decided maybe a dozen coats still wouldn't fully cover up that red.
Angry red kitchen

Somehow, he negotiated a $150US discount on the paint work and snagged a great deal on a cleaner. Afterwards, he helped me buy paint at a store where I no doubt would have spent 3x the money just trying to figure out what/how much to buy. 

Of the dozens of people for whom I am very grateful were involved in orchestrating my relocation, my consultant--the last man in the process, which at times was tricky to navigate--has been the most above-and-beyond, practical helper imaginable. 

The move to China a few years ago was  very much "figure it out," aside from visa assistance and a quick 1/2 day tour of the nearest grocery store. I'm incredibly lucky and grateful to have the help  I do now from the consultant, two local friends and colleagues.

Hong Kong is friendly enough to expats that I would've figured things out eventually, like negotiated home internet or where to find a mattress for my special "HK-sized" bed, but the consultant has completely cut out the time required to do so. I've asked the poor man every single question I never actually figured out when living in China.

Drinking Chinese medicine-grade herbal tea.
This is  my "look polite" cringe.
Thanks to him, I've learned how to properly tend to my trash/recycling, cross the street like a local and navigate a good chunk of the city center through tunnels or above-ground walkways. He has one son who is about my age who has spent time living in the US, so he knows what it's like having a child far from home. "You are like my daughter, I'm happy to help," he told me today.

My local friends and coworkers have also shown me dozens of little quirks about the way things work here, helping me to feel more like I have a grasp on things. For example, I have a washer/dryer combo in my temp apartment, which is absolutely too good to be true. The washer works great, save for a weak final spin cycle, so when it moves into the "dryer" mode, the machine simply adds heat to the sopping clothes making them a steaming pile of, well you get the point.

Conversations during meals have brought insight to knowing how to properly manage cockroaches (still unsure if I can handle those..) and where to snag a deal on a sofa. Acutely listening and observing has taught me about restaurant decorum and a new acquaintance shared the context around why people quickly tap two or three knuckles twice on the table when a waiter brings more tea.

While there's beauty in learning how to figure things out on your own, there is also a lot of hassle. Quite frankly, moving here alone has been difficult enough, so I'm leveraging any of the help and advice I can get. The locals' knowledge and "make it through the day" tidbits are absolutely priceless and definitely convenient.

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