Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happiness is...

Target

A hot, fresh everything bagel + hazelnut coffee for $2.50

Cable TV with 800 channels (literally!) on a 60" flat screen

10 varieties of every product on the shelves - greek yogurt with honey, greek yogurt with blueberries, greek yogurt with pomegranates, plain greek yogurt...

The bank teller, grocery clerk, telemarketing idiot on the phone speak your language

Top Shop, J Crew, Urban Outfitters and the many many stores that line NYC streets

Guacamole made tableside at Rosa Mexicana

Bananas that taste like bananas

Watching live sports in the afternoon and at night

And Just Like That...

...I'm a New Yorker again.  Technically.  Since landing in JFK last week, I've spent the holiday laying on my in-laws couch, shopping like crazy and eating my face off.  So really it's not like I'm back to normal life, more like I'm on vacation. I keep having to remind myself that I'm not hopping on a 16-hour flight back to HK in a few days.

One stark reminder we're not in Kansas Hong Kong anymore...the weather.  The high in HK today was 68 degrees.  I'd be walking my dog in jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops.  Maybe with a light scarf tied loosely around my neck (for decorative purposes only) and some sunnies on.

Here's how I looked when I just walked him in NYC's 33 degree weather:


Note the "Do I *really* have to go out in this crap?" look on his face.  Yeah, and 33 is MILD for December.  Oy freakin' vey.

Monday, December 12, 2011

And the Award for Most Inappropriate WiFi Network Name Goes to...


Sitting in the Hanoi airport riding out a 3-hour layover on our way to Siem Reap.  Find the only restaurant in the airport, which, much to our elation, offers free wifi! Then my husband nearly spits out his pad thai when he sees the options.

HorseCock

Yep.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Swinging Update

This may not even be that interesting to you, but I happened to be sitting in the Plaza (main part of town) and witnessed the most awkward exchange between the wife and husband who used to swing and are now split up.

The husband is standing outside the door of a popular coffee place, talking to a friend.  Then I spot the wife (ex-wife?) coming from across the Plaza, clearly not seeing him, but walking directly towards him.  (The friend the husband is talking to is blocking the husband from view.) As she's about 6 feet away from him she realizes he's there, but obviously can't turn back now because she's only 6 feet away from him and it would be really dramatic to do a complete about-face.

At this point, the husband sees her and peeks around his friend, smiles at her and says hi or something to that effect.  (I'm too far away to get sound on this soap opera.)  She literally walks right past him into the coffee shop as if he didn't exist.  He then gives his friend a look like "I tried" and continues their conversation.  Two minutes later she walked right back out and blatantly ignores him again.

I realize that this could fall under one of those "you had to be there" moments.  But take a sec to think about seeing your husband (or bf or wife or gf) standing outside a Starbucks and walking right past them like they don't exist. And worse, imagine that you have to fear these types of run-ins all the time because you both live in a town the size of Gramercy Park.

I think I'd have a nervous break-down.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advice to Newcomers

Casting my natural sarcasm aside, I've decided to share some earnest advice with newcomers.  (I know - what's the world coming to?!)  Putting my serious pants on for a sec, I did struggle for the first year I lived here - and knowing the things below was one small part of that.  Leaving friends and family behind, knowing not a soul in HK - that made up the rest of it.

So as my good deed for the year, here are all the things I wish someone would've told me the day I moved to Hong Kong:

Groceries:
As an American you MUST make your way to Gateway - a ghetto version of Costco.  It's in the basement of an unremarkable building at 188 Des Voeux Road, but don't let that (or the shabby decor or bad lighting) scare you off.  They carry all the brands you're used to and for discounted prices.  Jif peanut butter, Triscuits, Diet Mountain Dew, etc. They are particularly good for bath & body items (Pantene shampoo and REAL Q-tips) and cleaning products.  TIP: You order everything and then it's delivered to your flat a week later (depending on where you live in HK.)

If you can't find something there - or you want fresh or upscale food items, head to one of the Western grocery store chains:
  • 360 (Landmark Building and Elements)
  • City Super (IFC)
  • Olivers (Prince's Building)
Expect to pay a lot more though!

Get Plugged In
Grab a copy of The List (a free magazine you can find around town) every month.  Sign up for dedicated emails from Sassy Hong Kong http://sassyhongkong.com/ and DimSumAndThenSome http://www.dimsumandthensome.com.hk/. Join the American Women's Association or YMCA.  They have great programs for American newbies.  I've heard that the other Chambers of Commerce (e.g. British Chamber of Commerce) host similar events and group get-togethers.

Furniture:
If you need real furniture (sofas, dining room tables, etc.) there's only one place to go - Horizons in Ap Lei Chau.  You see, unlike other large cities, Hong Kong decided to house all of its furniture places in one building on the outskirts of town.  Don't get me started!  Horizons is an 18-story building with various furniture stores on each floor.  TIP: Take the elevator to the top and walk down via the stairs.  Otherwise you'll spend 3/4 of your time waiting for the elevator.  Not fun.

All the stores in Horizons have smaller (*much* smaller) counterparts in Central.  These shops are the size of your bedroom, so the merchandise is limited to like 4 items.  IMHO, it's not worth the time.  There are also a few Ikeas in HK, if you don't want to spend a lot of money.

If you're looking for something small and beautiful or a gift, I'd recommend the following stores: Homeless (on Gough Street), G.O.D. (skip the Central one; opt for Causeway Bay store instead), Shanghai Tang (found in most malls) and Bals Tokyo (Elements Mall).

Clothes:
I'm sad to say the shopping in HK is subpar - am sure I'll get lots of negative comments for that one.  Unless you're uber-rich and can shop at Chanel, Louis Vuitton and their ilk, you're limited to the following: H&M, Zara, Mango, Club Monaco, Massimo Dutti, French Connection, etc.  Granted, there are a few original boutiques, but they aren't easy to find and merchandise is limited because the stores are the size of a postage stamp.  They just opened up a Gap, are close to opening an Abercrombie & Fitch and rumor has it J Crew is coming to HK.  They also have Marks & Spencer, if you're a Brit.

Also, sizes are bizarre.  At the Puma store, they actually print "Asian size" in the tags so that you realize a medium here is an "Asian medium" (e.g. not a fat-ass gweilo medium).  What I like to do is 1) order clothes online from stores in the States and have them shipped here via OneNow http://www.comgateway.com/CGW/com.comgateway.cgw.Home.do?pw6gcgtyxsd=Ujg06gXwWjEjNxNORWEdr5OfFt0%3D or 2) have clothes I already own copied in Shenzhen (see next blog post).

Malls:
As a New Yorker this was a huge turn-off to me.  I'm still not used to it.  The entire HK population lives for malls.  The good ones are Pacific Place and IFC in Central, Elements and Harbour City in Kowloon. Harbour City is a maze, so leave bread crumbs.

Getting Around Central:
If you're like me and hate the thought of walking amidst 1,000 people with no manners, opt for the elevated walkways.  You can use them to get pretty much anywhere in Central.  You'll have to walk though a maze of buildings, but it's definitely the more civilized way to go.  When going to a doctor's office, I'll start at IFC, then walk through Chater House, Alexandra House and Landmark before arriving at the Central Building.  It takes a few attempts and you'll def get lost the first three times you try, but is so much nicer in the air con than sweating and avoiding spit in the street below.

Doctors:
90% of all HK doctors are located in 2 buildings - Princes Building and Central Building.  There are some others scattered nearby, but for some (very convenient) reason, all doctors are located within a 4-block radius from each other.

So that's about it.  Sure, there's more like- take a taxi because they're cheap and be prepared for people to not hold doors for you.  But really those are big things that will help you get settled.  Enjoy!

Advice for Newcomers: Shenzhen Special

You are koo-koo bananas if you live in Hong Kong and never make it to Shenzhen.

What is Shenzhen?  A city in southern China where all the global factories are located and where enterprising locals make money by selling knock-off everything!  Go to Shenzhen for bootleg DVDs, knock-off designer handbags and clothing made. You also get some cheap-as-chips spa treatments. Here's my ideal Shenzhen trip:
  1. If you're a country like the States who China doesn't like, you'll need a Chinese visa.  If you're Dutch, no visa required.
  2. Book a Saturday night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
  3. If you want to know where you're going, buy a little red book at Dymocks that's basically the Cliff's Notes for Shenzhen.  The title is escaping me...
  4. Grab the train from HK in the morning on Saturday.  Bring a an overnight change of clothes, plenty of renminbi (Shenzhen is CASH ONLY), any clothing you're having copied, a list of all the TV series and current movies you've been wanting to see and a trolley or large backpack (to haul everything back home).  Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and bring an oxygen tank.  I kid, but do give your lungs a pep talk on how miserable they will be for the next 24 hours.
  5. Get off the train and head straight to Lo Wu.  (You can't miss it!)  Go directly to your tailor on the 5th floor as this will take the most time.  Have all your clothes made - show them the piece you've brought, get measured, etc.  They'll take you to the fabric section to choose your fabrics.  They'll ship everything to you 5 days later. 
  6. Next head to Betty and ask for the good DVDs.  She will direct you to another stall where you'll sit in front of a laptop operated by a Chinese guy.  He will flip through movie and TV series posters; you say "yes" for the ones you want.  He then crawls up into the ceiling (I kid you not) and comes back with everything you ordered.
  7. It's a no-brainer, but I feel compelled to come right out and say it - Skip the dental implants and cosmetic surgery places.  
  8. Head to Ling Ling for purses.  Tell her you want to see the good stuff in the warehouse and follow one of the shopkeepers as she takes you outside of Lo Wu, across a busy street and up into a semi-frightening building.  She'll open the doors to a flat filled with designer handbags and wallets.  PURE HEAVEN.
  9. Grab your purses, head back to the Grand Hyatt, shower away all the Lo Wu grime and get a bite to eat.  Fall into bed after all your hard work!
  10. Get up the next morning, grab breakfast and head to Queen Spa.  It's a 5-story building that's dedicated just to spa treatments.  It's part cruise ship/part Vegas, but so worth it.  Don't freak out when you and your spouse get separated.  They do this so that you can get undressed and showered in the women's changing room.  You'll meet again on the 3rd floor.  I recommend getting a 75-minute full-body massage in a private room.  Then meet up with your spouse in a common room where you'll settle into an enormous Lazy Boy-like chair, equipped with a mini TV.  Spend the next 5 hours, watching TV, ordering food and getting various spa treatments - head massage, pedi, hand massage, etc.  
  11. Get dressed, say a teary goodbye to Queen Spa and head back to the tailor at Lo Wu for a second fitting.  If you're getting suits made from scratch, INSIST on a second fitting. 
  12. After your fitting, grab the train back to HK.
A week later, your beautiful new clothes will arrive looking like this:

Don't be alarmed!  It's not a dead body.  Grab some scissors and carefully open the "package".  Consider wearing a face mask because all of the lovely lung-destroying cigarette smoke from Lo Wu will come rushing out.  Pull out your clothes and hang each item in front of a window to air out (you can also dry-clean, but that ruins clothes quickly) and iron when the smell is gone.  Voila!  You have an entire new wardrobe!

You MUST MUST MUST go to Shenzhen at least once in your life.  And this is coming from someone who hates crowds, dirt, smoke and general chaos.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In case you're curious

This is what a Chinese keyboard looks like:


Sometimes it's the little things.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Noodle Heaven

If there's one thing I'll miss about HK, it's this:


A piping hot bowl of vermicelli noodles with fat shrimp wontons - all nesting in a hot broth.  Add a splash of chili oil and loads of tangy vinegar... sorry, I think I was just possessed by the spirit of Nigella Lawson.

Have I mentioned that this satisfying meal costs less than $3?!  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Urinal Dos and Don'ts

If you're like me, you don't spend a lot of times around urinals.  While I get the efficiency, I find them creepy.

You're in luck if you travel to Thailand because they have very clear instructions on what to do and NOT do at the urinal.  And here I thought the only option was to pee.


And no, I wasn't doing covert blog research in a Thai men's room. At least not for this post - badum-bum!  It was sent to me by my friend David who said, "I guess this means I can't wash my feet in the urinal anymore."  Guess not.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

And another thing

...I won't miss - military time. The rest of the world uses military time, something that took a lot of getting used to. I still take half a second upon seeing 16:05 on my clock to decide if it's 4:05pm or 6:05pm.

Up to now this has been a mere annoyance. However today it became full-on issue when I showed up at the airport for my 1pm flight to Tokyo only to find out that I'm 12 hours late. The flight took off last night at 1am!!

The Cathay counter lady pointed out to me that 1:00 was 1am and 13:00 was 1pm. Um yeah, I know, I really do. However a 1am departure seems ridiculous to me for a 3.5 hour flight. And I guess I'm always going to naturally think in American time.

Another reason I'm looking forward to being back in the land of am and pm.

On

I thought Milky and Chewbacca were funny names. Then I was served at our local Starbucks by a guy whose name tag read:

On

Just On. His name is On.

He wouldn't let me take a picture of it. I guess I would be emabarrassed if my name was On too.

I wonder if his sister is named Off?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Have I mentioned?

...that we will be leaving beautiful 70-degree weather in Hong Kong for brutal NYC winter weather??  Since there was a nor'easter in October, I'm preparing myself for the worst.  Am having faint memories of being too cold to shower in the morning, stepping into invisible ankle-deep black slush on the street corners and being pale as f*ck.

Have I also mentioned that 60 degrees feels cold to me?

Yeah, I'm screwed.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lists, Lists and More Lists

As I start to contemplate life after Hong Kong, I feel compelled to wrap things up in a nice, neat package.  For someone like me (a Type-A Virgo who believes she can control everything including weather on her wedding day) that means a list or, in this case, a few lists.

Here's what I will miss and not miss about this place...

What I will miss about Hong Kong
  • Hot pot
  • Hot pot
  • Did I mention hot pot?

  • T-shirt weather in December
  • 2-hour plane ride to Thailand, 1-hour plane ride to Vietnam, 4 hours to Singapore, 4.5 to Tokyo, etc.
  • Clean streets
  • Cheap taxis
  • Reliable, timely, clean subway system
  • Star Ferry at night 
  • $4 bowl of shrimp wonton soup on Wellington
  • Weekly tai tai lunches with Laura


What I will NOT miss about Hong Kong
  • Rice Kings
  • Playing chicken with the locals who try to walk through me (actually, I might miss that!)
  • Annoying telemarketing calls in Cantonese
  • Sweating through all my clothes
  • Pollution 
  • The sights, sounds, smells and disgusting stuff on the ground at the wet market 

  • America bashing
  • Feeling like a giant around 90% of the population
  • The lack of black people, Hispanic people, good bagels and Mexican food
  • The panicked frenetic beeping sound from the crosswalk lights 
  • Malls - if I ever step foot in one again, shoot me

What I will miss about Discovery Bay
  • Poolside at Siena Club 2pm on a Sunday 
  • XL iced teas at ZAKS
  • Manic Mondays, Jump-n-Pump and other Christa-led classes
  • Walking Victor leash-less around La Costa
  • Coffee at a picnic table in the Plaza at 10:30am on a Monday
  • Wine/beer/alcoholic beverage in the Plaza at 5pm on a Thursday
  • Being surrounded by friends who are exactly in your situation (kind of like college for adults)
  • After-work tennis game with the hubby on a Monday 
  • Being called "sexy" by well-meaning Filipinas
  • The views

Boxing Day 2010
What I will NOT miss about Discovery Bay

  • Sucking in diesel fumes while waiting for the ferry
  • Fusion cashiers not understanding how a conveyor belt works
  • Life in a fishbowl
  • Parents who have NO IDEA where their 3-year old has wandered off to in the Plaza
  • The HKR fun police
  • People farting/burping/clipping their nails/[insert disgusting behavior here] on the ferry 
  • The Forum (ok, maybe a little) 

Hong Kongers and DB-ers - what am I missing?!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Start Spreadin' the News...

I'm leavin' today.
I want to be a part of it...
New York, New York

 Well friends - I knew this day would come eventually...  As an expat it's kind of inevitable.

We are moving back to New York.

Yep, packing up our dehumidifiers, rice maker, chopsticks and milk teas and heading back to the land of bagels, lox and black people.  It's surreal because the whole thing came completely out of the blue.

I'm filled with excitement, sadness, hope and nostalgia.  The minute we got the news, my love of Hong Kong grew exponentially.  Which is funny because I didn't even know it existed in the first place.  Now I have a bucket list as long as Dwight Howard's arm for things to do/see/experience/visit before I leave Asia.  And only 6 weeks to do them in because we will be back in New York before Christmas!


Before you fret about this blog disappearing (because obviously this is an integral part of your daily existence!), keep in mind that I still have six more weeks of Chinglish and swinging ahead of me.  Er, writing about them, that is.  Or maybe I should try some swinging before I leave - after all, this could be my last chance to end up as a salacious topic on The Forum!

I haven't lived in New York for three years, which means I'll technically be an expat when I return.  Even now when I go back stores are gone, others have cropped up (there is a Trader Joe's on the UWS!) and I can't remember which stops the 4/5/6 trains make.  When I left New York in 2008, Obama had just taken office, bin Laden was still alive and Kim Kardashian was dating Reggie Bush.  Feels like a lifetime ago.  ;)

I've been told by expat friends that the transition back home is not a seamless one, so be prepared for lots of moaning about how I miss my life in Hong Kong.  Also be prepared (if you're an American) for me to say things like "air con" instead of "AC" and "quite" instead of "really."  Years ago I had a friend who lived in Australia for a year and then moved back to NYC.  She came back saying "mate" and a little piece of me died every time it came out of her mouth.  Now, I'll be the one people are rolling their eyes at and thinking "well, isn't she high and mighty with her international vocabulary".

In summary (this post deserves some formality!), while I am moving back to New York, I will continue blogging about life as an expat.  I'll just be doing it from a noodle shop in Chinatown.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chinese Halloween

Hong Kong Resorts, the Chinese corporation that owns our town (not kidding), is organizing a haunted house in our town center for Halloween.  They did it last year and I'm pretty sure it was a hit.

I was talking to an HKR employee (a sweetheart named Pearl) and asked her if they were doing a haunted house again this year:
PEARL (very excited): Oh yes, except this year the haunted house is going to be Chinese.

ME: Really - what does that mean?

PEARL: There is a bridge and on the bridge there's an old lady who will give the kids poison soup.  Then the kids will fall off the bridge.

ME (not sure what to say): Oh, okay.
I've walked around for the last week wondering what in the hell she was talking about.  Then today, a friend of a friend on Facebook wrote this:
I know this story!! It's believed that when everyone dies, the spirit will have to pass the 'bridge', at the end of it, this old lady will make you drink that soup... after the sip, you will FORGET everything, everyone of your life and move on to wherever you are suppose to go.... sob sob...
I have two thoughts on this subject: 1) Are kids going to understand what is going on inside that haunted house?! 2) This whole thing is VEEEERY creepy.


Have I mentioned that these Halloween festivities -- all geared towards kids - are called "Journey to Hell"?!  Slightly inappropriate, wouldn't you say?!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Drug Driving

The HK government put up a new sign on a major tunnel here leading into Central (e.g. our Midtown). It reads:

Drug driving maybe your journey to death.

I'm going to ignore "drug driving" and "maybe" and focus on the crux of the message.

While creative and unusual, "journey to death" is a bit too fun for their point. It sounds like you're about to board the latest rollercoaster at Six Flags. "Get ready for the scariest 3 minutes of your life on the new Journey to Death. After your 350-foot drop, you may just not come back." (cue sinister laughing)

As a child of the late 80s/early 90s, I prefer the "This is your brain on drugs" approach. Visual, straight to the point and dramatic - well as dramatic as frying an egg can be.

PS - thanks Laura for the heads up on this!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Soup for Sluts

A bonafide product you can find in grocery stores here:


You gotta love the tag line - "Cheap, fast and easy"!

Someone needs to tell Ricky's, the Pleasure Chest and other adult shops in the States.  Would make a great companion for penis macaroni, no?

Thank you David for this submission - it's right up there with "No Fart Inside Room".

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Rice King


 A common sight in this part of the world:

Old, fat and/or ugly White man + young, attractive, thin Asian woman

When I say common, there are days I come across seven of these couples before lunchtime!  Usually it doesn't bother me - especially when the couple seems to be equally matched in at least one area - age, attractiveness, etc.  What does make my skin crawl is when I spot a 70-year old man with an Asian woman in her 20s.  Gag.

I know what drives the women - money and security.  So many of these women are dirt poor and doing anything they can to feed themselves and their families back home.  (I'm writing this in earnest - no sarcasm here.)  I get doing anything you can aside from prostitution to better your situation.

I can't figure out what drives the Rice King.  Has he always had a thing for Asian women and so making his way to Hong Kong was a logical decision?  Did he not really have a thing for Asian women until moving to Asia and then he realized he was missing out?  Or is he just old, fat and ugly and can't find anyone else who wants to be with him?

It doesn't matter really.  As long as we're all of consenting age, who am I to judge?  But it does keep your gag reflex active.

Foot Note: Let me just be clear about something - not all white man + Asian woman couples fall into this category.  You know a Rice King situation when you see one.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Story of My Life

Had the following exchange at my bank yesterday--
Me: I'd like to deposit this check into my (pausing for effect and speaking extra slowly and plainly) c-h-e-c-k-i-n-g account.

Bank Teller (looking me in the eye and nodding his head): Yes, OK.

He types on the keyboard and looks at the check for a minute and then says...

Bank Teller: Checking or savings account?

You can't blame this kind of thing on the language barrier.  It's just pure stupidity or something.  Actually, I have no idea what it is - but it happens to me every time I go to the bank.

Reinforcing Stereotypes

Check out the headline on the upper right-hand side of the China Daily:


This is why I will NEVER live in China.  Ever.

That and the fact that the entire population stands around watching while a 2-year old gets run over by a van TWICE -- and does nothing.  Yeah, any place that's mean to kids and animals sounds like hell, literally.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why I Love Discovery Bay

The dog waiting area outside of Fusion, our supermarket


Brings a smile to may face every day!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Serenity Now

Turn on the TV and find this message on my screen:


After trying to reboot my cable box twice, I call the customer service line and go through all the prompts - 1 for English, 4 for customer and technical support, 2 for if you don't have video or audio on your screen.  Then, instead of putting me through to a customer support person, I get a pre-recorded message to the effect of "This is not a NowTV problem; you need to call another number."  Frustrated, I press 0 to speak with an operator; however the line just rings and rings and rings...for 5 minutes. 

Can someone please explain to me why I'm directed by NowTV to call this number for this specific error only to have NowTV tell me that I'm calling the wrong number??

These are the moments I realize it's a good thing I don't live in a country where guns are legal and accessible.  (Kidding.  Well sort of.)

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Check out the name of this taxi driver:


Butt King Yu.

Someone named their son Butt. Or maybe it's Butt King as in Mary-Kate or Ann-Douglas.

Either way it's pretty ridiculous, isn't it?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Fraggot

Only in Asia is it ok to have a TV personality named The Fraggot.  You have Stuart Scott in the States; we have The Fraggot here in Hong Kong.

Have a looksie at this commercial, which airs non-stop on our ESPN channel here:

http://www.espnstar.com/game/

Other than the ridiculous and quasi-offensive name of The Fraggot, are you astounded at the production quality?  The special effects alone are Oscar-worthy.

A Blogger's Dilemma

Almost three years into expat life here and I've reached a point that I've always feared could be looming ahead:

I have a great post that I want to write, but it's about a friend here who reads this blog who will instantly know I'm talking about her.  It's not negative, but would still be offensive, I think.

I'm also getting the distinct impression that other "friends" (ok, acquaintances) who read this blog are scared to hang out with me for fear something they say or do will end up on this blog.  Again, won't name names or examples of how I can tell, but I can.

So sorry for the radio silence recently - but alienating friends isn't a smart move.  Let's hope some t-shirt Chinglish or a good swinging story crossed my path soon!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cheese Please

I have an unhealthy relationship with cheese.  Not a meal goes by where some form of cheese - sprinkled parmesan on my pasta, a slice of swiss on a sandwich, a smear of cream cheese on my morning toast, doesn't find its way on my plate.

I'm not sure why I'm telling you all of this.  I guess it has something to do with this picture:


The beauty of being an international housewise is that you can assemble at 5 on a Friday for impromptu drinks and cheese with women from all over the globe.  And lest you think we're all work and no play, I'll have you know this Happy Hour gathering was educational.

I learned that Gouda (seen above with the cute Dutch toothpicks) is Dutch.  I've also learned that my pronunciation (goo-dah) is incorrect.  The Dutch say hu-dah.  For the first syllable, you need to sound like you're trying to hawk a loogie.  

See, it's not all tennis lessons and martinis.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Not to Wear

Spotted this demure flower on the Monday 9am ferry:


Because black thigh-highs lined with fake rhinestones, a miniskirt that barely covers your hoo-ha, camouflage and 4-inch booties are super appropriate for the 9am commuter ferry.

But you know what part of this ensemble bothers me the most?  The long pieces of hair that have been strategically pulled from her ponytail and are hanging in her face.  That and her scowl -  tres pretty.

I guess the only question I have is -- is this a ferry ride of shame or does her office have a "business sexual" dress policy? 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Chinese Man Purse

Another prevalent custom you find here is men carrying their wives/girlfriends purses.  Sometimes, when it's a satchel or Lands End-esque tote, I'm on board with it and think, "Aw, how nice of him to carry that heavy bag for his lady."  With how much crap my husband tries to shove in my bag (wallet, iphone, sunglasses, gum, etc.), he should be carrying it!

Other times, I see this (below) and think "werk it, gurrrl!"




Doncha just love how it sits in the crook of his arm - a la Jessica Simpson?! He's been doing this a long time to know where the purse carrying sweet spot is.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Profeshionel Chinglish

Oh, the irony...


I need to open up a business where Chinese businesses consult me before printing anything in English.  I would make millions...and finally be able to afford a golf cart!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Status

In New York City, social status was determined from things like your zip code or what school your kids go to or if and where you have a summer/weekend/country house.  Did you have the latest Mui Mui bag or were you still trying to rock a Coach (big misstep)?

In Discovery Bay, there are two things - and only two things, that will catapult you to the top of the social stratosphere:

Two helpers -- because anyone and everyone has one helper
A golf cart -- because mass transit is so pedestrian


Here in DB, cars are not allowed.  Instead, you are encouraged to take buses, walk or drive a golf cart.  I'm sure all the Americans are thinking, "Easy choice. I'd love to plunk down $3K for a golf cart instead of $30K for my SUV."  Except that in Discovery Bay, golf carts cost $800,000 HKD (~$120,000USD).  ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS...for a...GOLF CART.  The same golf carts that you use to get the 18th hole on a course - nothing extra special going on in these.

To put that in perspective, I just did a quick eBay search and you can get the following for $1,400 USD:
Club Car Golf Cart: New Tires & Hub Caps, New Tinted Fold Down Windshield, New Directionals, Golf Cart Encloser keep dry from rain, Battery Charger, Front and Rear Lights, Horn, Full RearView Mirror Across Top, Have Golf Bag Holders, Cup Holders, Two Compartments, Tee Holders, Ball Holder, 36 Volts Six Batteries. No tears on seats. Inspected and road ready.

Yeah, the math just doesn't add up.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The White Obsession

Most Asian women are OBSESSED with having white skin.  They wear huge poker-player visors (also known as welders masks); they purchase beauty creams that taut bleaching effects; they dip their heads in chalk.  OK, I'm lying about that last one.  But having white skin is a big thing here.  My theory is that whiter skin signifies higher social ranking - like, only the peasants who work in the fields have a tan.  And, let's be honest, staying out of the sun *is* good for your skin.

However, I thought all of this only applied to the face.

Nope.  Turns out, Asian women also want their underarms to be "visibly whiter".  Check out the Nivea "Extra Whitening" deodorant that my friend Laura came across at the drug store:


Um, call me crazy, but big ole white stripes under my arms is NOT the desired effect I'm looking for in a deodorant.   

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hot Lost Buns

These are sold at the concession stands inside our movie theaters:




If that isn't appetizing enough, when you order the hot dog, they don't give you a bun.  They just hand you a bare sausage to munch on!  Yesterday, I happened to be sitting next to a guy eating one and let me tell you - there is nothing more vomitous than a grown man chewing on a bare-fisted hot dog.  Nothing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

More T-shirt Chinglish

Spotted another beauty while walking in Central and - bonus points - this one includes Michigan!  Let's hope it's a slam on their football program.


And drum roll please, the tshirt says:

Motive Under Ground Janus
Rouces Run Bright
Supercrime
Exhausted
Michigan

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nursing

At a dinner party last night with lots of girls - Aussies, Brits, Dutchies, etc. - and heard the funniest story from an Aussie mom.

She was part of an expat baby group in Tokyo. When one mom arrived with her newborn, the group started ooh-ing and aah-ing over the little one. My friend said, "Oh he's so cute; can I nurse him?"

To which all the moms in the group gasped and clutched their children.  My friend was very confused until one of the girls asked, 'What do you mean 'nurse'?"  Turns out in Australia, nursing means cuddling or holding.  Of course these ladies thought she was about to whip out her boob and start feeding all their babies.

Now my friend says she cringes when her own mother says, "Oh I can't wait to nurse my grandson!"

Imparting my Expat Wisdom

For any Americans out there getting ready to embark on the expat adventure, I have one piece of advice for you:

Get a Slingbox and hook it up to your parents', sister's, brother's, neighbor's, friend's cable box.

Oh you thought I might say, learn the language or study the culture or join as many community groups as possible.  Nope, get yourself some decent television because chances are the TV where you're going sucks.

Community Caring Counter

There are 4 counters at our local HSBC branch -

Premier - people who pay a little extra each month so they can jump the line

Normal (unmarked, btw)- everyday people who have to wait in line (like moi)

Corporate - where cashiers from the local Subway and 7-11 deposit their daily earnings

And then there's the Community Caring Counter -


I have NO IDEA what it means or who's supposed to stand in this line.  People in the community who care?  People in the community who HSBC cares about?  Care Bears??

Expat Hedonism

All my swinging posts have come from a very lighthearted, "can you believe this stuff *really* goes on?" place.  With each new story that comes to light, however, I'm starting to feel like I live in the expat offshoot of Hedonism.

I know a 25-year old woman - a gorgeous, down-to-earth, has a good job and head on her shoulders, 25 year-old woman.  She has a serious live-in boyfriend; they've been together for a looong time.  One day she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her...with a friend of theirs...a 41-year old...mother of three...who's married....and also lives in their building. The two couples have been friends for quite some time.  Now, the wife has left her husband and is parading around town with my friend's ex-bf.

WTF?!? Have I left the universe of normalcy?  When did 25-year olds leave their hot girlfriends for married mothers in their 40s?  When did couples who are friends swap partners?  What sounds like the plot of a bad porno is going down in my town every night.  When did this all become ok??

The thing is - I have a lot of friends.  And when I look back at my other groups of friends (high school, college, NYC, etc.) I can't find one who is involved in swinging.  It's not all peachy-keen, trust me. Some have gotten divorced, others have hit rough patches and been in therapy, but none have been involved in rampant cheating....with friends or neighbors.  Not a ONE.  And of all the crazy, booze-filled parties I've been to, not one has ended with Husband #1 leaving with Wife #2.  Not a ONE.

So what is in the water here in Discovery Bay?  Why do so many people cheat, swing and/or hang out at the bars begging for someone other than their spouse to fluff their muffin?

Until I find out, we'll be sticking to bottled water in this household.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

And I Thought Fingernail Clipping Was Bad...

Experienced a new low on the ferry over the weekend.  Was sitting in my seat minding my own business when I hear someone behind me fart.  Turn around to find a Chinese woman wafting her crotch area with a fan...in my direction.  I guess she thought it was a good idea to fan her fart. 

And her husband sat right next to her the entire time.  That's love and devotion - or a seriously sick fetish.

You can't make this stuff up.

PS - Why is this blog suddenly dominated by flatulence stories??!




T-Shirt Chinglish

Happened to have my phone handy so was able to capture this classic example of t-shirt Chinglish:


For those visually-impaired, it reads:

I can not to for a call for you even if I call me many times

Saturday, August 6, 2011

China Owns America...And is Trying to Sell it Off

Husband was reading the paper (South China Morning Post) today and spotted this advertisement on the front page:


This is REAL. Our newspaper is inviting Hong Kongers to purchase foreclosed New York houses.  To make matters worse, they are selling them in bulk - "you choose any five" and presenting it like a Las Vegas buffet - "your choice, any combination".

If it wasn't painfully obvious that the States are in dire straits, it is now.  Every American who reads this should send it to their Congressman, thank them for doing such a bang-up job on the most important economic decision of our time and ask them to step down and never run for office again.

On the flip side, if any of you are looking to buy a house, let us know and we'll set up a meeting with these folks.  ;)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Important Notice

Spotted this sign in the changing room at our country club:


Which begs the question - what else are people using the hair dryer for???

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wife Swap

Awhile back I talked about a band of swingers -- and how one couple tried to break off from the pack and do their own thing, which ruffled everybody's feathers. 

Yeah, that couple has since legally separated from their spouses and are trying to give the whole swinging relationship thing a chance.  Not to get all Carrie Bradshaw on you, but it made me think:

Can you go from swinging to a real relationship?

And also:
Do you ever really trust this person?
How do you explain how you met: to your kids, your parents, people you just meet?
Do you continue to swing as a new couple?
Do you keep the same friends?
Are people scared to invite you to dinner parties?
What happened to the spouses that got left behind?  Do they still swing?

Then I thought of two stories where cheating/swinging actually worked:

The first is about a friend of a friend -- let's call her Z.  When Z was in her 20s she often hooked up with a guy who was engaged.  They'd have sex-filled lunch breaks (on the bed of the engaged couple!) and carried on for quite awhile.  Of course all her friends thought she was crazy...until the guy dumped his fiancee, married Z and they had two children together.  While this seems to have a happy ending, I'd bet my life that Z has spyware on her hubby's computer...

The second is a true story about two Yankees players who swapped wives and lives...for good!  Here's what I lifted from Wiki:
He may be best remembered today for swapping families with fellow Yankee pitcher Mike Kekich, an arrangement the pair announced at spring training in March 1973. Peterson and Kekich had been inseparable friends since 1969; both families lived in New Jersey, their children were about the same age, and often they all would visit the Bronx Zoo or the shore or enjoy a picnic together. They decided that they would one day trade wives, children, and even dogs.

The affair began in 1972, when the two couples joked on a double date about wife swapping, a phenomenon that caught on in some uninhibited circles during the early 1970s. According to one report, the first swap took place that summer, after a party at the home of New York sportswriter Maury Allen. The couples made the change official in October; Kekich moving in with Marilyn Peterson and Peterson with Susanne Kekich, but no word leaked out until spring of 1973. A light moment came when New York Yankees General Manager Lee MacPhail remarked, "We may have to call off Family Day." The trade worked out better for Peterson than it did for Kekich, as Peterson is still married to the former Susanne Kekich, with whom he has had four children. Kekich and Marilyn Peterson did not last long.[1]

My conclusion?  If invited to swing, politely decline. No matter how harmless and fun it seems in the beginning, someone always gets burned in the end.

A Tai Tai Hater

I don't want to bag on my fellow tai-tais, but sometimes they drive me nuts.

Case in point:

When walking around our grocery store you inevitably see a tai tai shopping with her helper.  She looks like a little tyrant walking around and pointing at various items while the helper runs behind her grabbing and then throwing them in the cart.  When it's time to check out, the helper does all the work, while Miss I Don't Want to Break a Nail stands there and watches.

Isn't the point of having a helper to make your life more easier?  If so, then why on earth are you both doing the shopping??  Shouldn't one of you be looking after the kids or ironing or something?  Divide and conquer, people. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Greatest Sign Ever Made



My friend Christa spotted this beauty when she was at a recording studio here in Hong Kong. 

Goooooo Team!

Another expat milestone crossed off the list - I attended an international sporting event!  We went to see Chelsea (English soccer team) play Kitchee (Hong Kong soccer team) at Hong Kong Stadium.  While maybe not as exciting as eating hot pot in TST or haggling over DVDs and fake Vuitton bags in Shenzhen, it deserves a blog posting.

Rather than go into some long post about how hot it was (BEYOND; never sweated so much in my life; whole place smelled like a dirty gym sock) or how hard it was to use the British vernacular (it's football, not soccer; a pitch, not a field; and a match, not a game), I will share with you what we encountered at the concession stand.  We looked at the menu:


Five items.  I like a simple menu with a few, straight-forward choices.  And I was super psyched to see things like fried rice and Thai noodles on the menu next to the hot dogs and chicken nuggets.

Then we spotted these two signs hanging under the menu:

Fried Noodles Sold Out and Hot Dogs Sold Out.  Got it.

Then we looked to the right and spotted another two signs:


Chicken Nuggets Sold Out and Fried Rice Sold Out.

Of course.  Guess that leaves - let me see here...math has never been my strong suit....5-4 = 1, so just potato chips!

Did I mention this was BEFORE the game even started?!   

Monday, July 25, 2011

Proud Pussies

Admit it - you thought I was lying when I told you people here call cats pussies.  Or you thought I was exaggerating.  To those of you, I say have a look at a page from the recent issue of "The List":


"Cats do not groom themselves, they lick themselves."  Duly noted, sir.

There is a God

...and he watches NASCAR, possibly has a mullet and knows every word to "Sweet Home Alabama".  He's heard my pleas for some Diet Mountain Dew (my favorite soft drink ever and what my best friend - who's from Connecticut - calls my redneck soda) and finally decided to bestow some upon me.


Found these at Gateway (our Costco) yesterday!  My husband said (in a serious voice), "Should we take them all?"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reader Generated Content

Two friends recently gave me some good blog-worthy items that I'm about to share with you.  Does this mean I have contributors?!?!  I hope so; it makes me sound very important.


The first is a story with no visuals (THANK GOD!) from my friend Tiffany:

Tiffany is in the changing/locker room at our country club waiting for her daughter to finish using the restroom.  She sees a Chinese woman changing into her swimsuit and watches as the woman takes her used panty liner out of her underwear and lays it on the changing bench!  Then she proceeds to put her swimsuit on and put away her clothes - all while her bloody liner lays out in the open (not wrapped up in anything) on the bench!!!  There is no shame in her game...

The second is a picture of a sign posted on one of those kids ball pits (e.g. the kind you find at Chucky Cheese) from my friend Laura:


Check out Rule #2 - No sleeping in the ball pit!  No kidding.

And for the record, we are happy to receive any good pictures, stories, etc. that HK people find out there, so send away!

Fun with Food

Two food-related items for you...

1. My husband spotted this gem:


I'm 99% sure they were going for "chicken nuggets," but let's be honest - "chicken nagged" is so much better.

2. And we both came across this at the Western-oriented grocery store in our town:


Because nothing quenches your thirst quite like...vinegar!  And I love the tag line - "Not only do they taste good, but they are good for you packed with lots of nutrition."  Who's "they"??

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TMI

Language differences and cultural differences are two, well, different things.  When someone doesn't hold the door for you, it's cultural.  When someone calls you and launches immediately into Cantonese even though you're screaming "No Cantonese.  English only," it's language.  A perfect shining example presented itself to me the other day...

There's a very fun couple in our neighborhood who we really like.  She's Malaysian, but speaks perfect English and is completely hip on what's happening in Western culture.  She could be any of my American friends except when things like this happen:

Me: How are you?
Her: Not feeling good.
Me: Oh no, what's wrong?
Her: I have very bad stomach pains with a lot of gas building up inside me.  (There were hand motions to indicate where the gas build-up was happening.)

This is more my style:

Me: How are you?
Her: Not feeling too hot.
Me: Oh no, what's wrong?
Her: Nothing crazy, just some tummy issues.
OR
Her: Minor stomach ache.

My initial reaction was to be embarrassed by what was being shared.  Then I realized she wasn't embarrassed to tell me, so why should I be embarrassed to hear it?  I feel like this is the message behind that popular children's book "Everybody Poops".

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kardashian World Domination Continues...


I have a real love/hate relationship with the Kardashian klan.  And it starts with the ridiculousness of their names all starting with a K.

Before moving to HK where TV is, excuse the repetition, ridiculous, I NEVER watched the Kardashians.  Never.  Didn't even think about it, ponder whether I should, allow my finger to hover over the "Channel Up" button while Kim appeared on screen, nothing.  In fact, I outwardly lamented to anyone who would listen that the world was coming to an end when people like Kim's ass and its familial relations were given airtime.  I had similar rants about Paris Hilton and The Hills cast.

Then I moved to HK and it rocketed to the top of my viewing list.  How can Courtney (I refuse to give into the K nonsense) stay with that douchebag?  Why doesn't anyone listen to Chloe, who seems to be the most level-headed in the bunch?  Is Rob a person or a prop and how did he escape the whole K name thing?  These became my inner thoughts which eventually turned into uttered complaints to my husband who just looked at me with pity.

I willed myself not to get hooked on the latest iteration of Kardashian insanity - I will NOT watch Khloe and Kourtney Take Miami.  I refuse to give into the fakeness that will be Khloe & Lamar.  Then I started to panic when I missed an episode.

Now I assumed that this was my own dirty little secret.  I am a woman, I used to work in the entertainment industry and I probably watch 40% more television than the average person.  Seems like the right ingredients for a Kardashian fan, no?  I'm sure none of our international expat friends watch this crap.

Cut to a fancy French steakhouse where I'm at a work dinner with my husband.  Surrounded by Morgan Stanley folks, I'm seated next to a proper Scottish man and the convo somehow turns to TV.  Turns out he also keeps up with the Kardashians and hates himself for it  - I used to just casually watch the show - a snippet here, a snippet there.  Now I find myself forming opinions on these people.  I knew something was wrong when I started saying things like, "That Lamar seems like a sensible chap."  I feel his pain.

On one hand, I'm happy to know that I'm not alone.  On the other hand, I am absolutely disgusted that Kris Jenner's master plan is working and Scottish men living in Hong Kong think she's a total bitch for making Bruce sleep in the garage.

M.I.A. in N.Y.C.

Hi all--

I have to apologize for going MIA on you once again.  Like most expat families in Hong Kong, we headed back to the homeland for four weeks.  I made plans for our apartment, our dog and our mail, but didn't give you folks any kind of heads up. Sometimes I forget that it's not just me, my best friend and a random Bangladeshi reading this blog.

Being home was delicious.  There's nothing like it.  While I maintain that New York City is still the greatest place on earth, I must also be honest.  This is what greeted me in SoHo:


This picture doesn't do justice to how ample the bum buttcrack on the corner of Houston and Broadway really was.  While snapping this picture, I took a moment to think about the people who are begging on the streets of Hong Kong.  Night and day, my friends.  Night and day.

I also spotted the NYC version of helpers in Union Square one day:



I hate to diss my own helpers (and Lyn if you're reading this, obviously I'm not talking about you, so please don't spit in my OJ!), but their NYC counterparts are killing them in the style department.  This last shot could've been pulled out of Vogue.

Anyway, I'm back to observing, ranting and musing on life here in Hong Kong and promise not to pull the shady Irish getaway on you again.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Best Part of a Brunch

Yeah, the coffee's good and who can complain about an omelet with lots of cheese, but the real good stuff at a brunch is the conversation.  I know, I know - I can hear the "duh" coming through the computer.  Here are two conversation nuggets I got in today's brunch:

1. My friend who's a flight attendant works with a male flight attendant who's name used to be Noel (pronounced like the Christmas word; not like a man's name) Lopez.  He legally changed his name to Noel Sugarplum Fruitcake.  Seriously.  Next time you're flying United and someone with a "Fruitcake" name tag serves you, it's not a joke.  (Oh and he's American, so I can't even blame this one on some language issue.)

2. Another friend of mine saw an old Chinese lady standing outside of our grocery store wearing a t-shirt that read: "I am very shy, but I have a big dick."  Now *this* one I can blame on the language issue.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Paging Captain Obvious


To get to the swimming pool at our country club, you have to walk through the changing room and then this mini pool area, for lack of a better term.  I believe the thinking goes that by walking through this you are decontaminating your shoes before you hit the pool deck.  Because an outdoor pool deck filled with hundreds of people and kids is germ-free...

Hopefully the humor in placing a "Caution - Wet Floor" sign inside this pool is as obvious to you as it was to me.

Oh and the decontamination logic doesn't stop there!  The doorway-like space between the changing room and the decontamination pool area -- a doorway you HAVE TO walk through, has water coming down from the ceiling - as if you're in the shower.  Again, I think this piss-poor attempt at getting people "clean" before they get to the pool deck is laughable  Why? Because everyone hugs the wall when they walk through so that the shower water raining down from the ceiling doesn't get you wet.  You can't see the shower water in this pic - it's coming out of the white tube on the ceiling over the doorway.  The helper in the black shirt is likely getting wet in this picture.


Hong Kong logic at its best.

Does Ronald Know About This??

Walk into McDonald's and order a vanilla milkshake - apparently for the first time in the 2.5 years I've live here.  Here's how that went down:

Worker: Can I help you?
Me: Yes, one vanilla milkshake please
Worker: Chocolate or strawberry?
Me: Er, um, vanilla.
Worker: We don't sell vanilla; just chocolate or strawberry.
Me - sighing dramatically, closing up my wallet and walking out the door.

Can this possibly be true?  McDs doesn't sell vanilla milkshakes?  Isn't there a reason why they're vanilla, a.k.a. the most generic, popular flavor on the planet?! Is it maybe because nothing in Hong Kong makes sense??

Honestly, it's times like these I struggle with reality.  I look around and think, "Really?  This is really the freakin universe I live in?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hasidic Unicorn in Hong Kong

Hell has frozen over.  Pigs and donkeys are flying.  And all the other cliches you can think of.  I just spotted this in line for the Star Ferry today:


I don't know, nor have I met, a moderately-religious Jewish person in Hong Kong, so to spot a Hasidic Jew waiting for the Star Ferry surrounded by a crowd of locals - well, the term unicorn comes to mind.  I like to believe that he has just teleported from the Lower East Side and is frantically typing into his time machine (which looks like a cell phone) trying to get back!

In reality he was with his wife and two kids - and didn't seem freaked out at all.