Finding love at altitude: Lara and Mark's Asia experience
With a shared passion for aviation, entrepreneur Mark and flight attendant Lara rather appropriately met on a flight. Years later they were married and together moved from their native cities of Brisbane and Kuala Lumpur respectively to start a new life together in Hong Kong.
What was the catalyst leading you overseas?
Mark — Having travelled extensively for business over the last decade, I started to feel more at home in Asia than my home in Brisbane. Having recently sold my business in Australia, it was the perfect time for a change in scenery. A roll of the dice meant Hong Kong was the winner!
Lara — I’d been working at AirAsia for three years, based in Kuala Lumpur, when I got the tap on the shoulder from a large premium airline to be based in Hong Kong. While the move was career driven, Hong Kong has always had a special place in my heart.
How long have you been living abroad and what do you miss about your birth country?
Mark — I’m a newbie expat. Living in Hong Kong for just over a year, I’m very much still in the honeymoon phase. I can make regular trips back to Australia and satisfy the cravings for kebabs and meat pies. However, I do miss my family and the clean air back home. There’s not much of that in China!
Lara — I miss Malaysian food! Nothing beats Mum’s local cooking. Also, growing up in Malaysia with 365 days of summer — I’m still getting used to this ‘four seasons’ stuff.
Describe your current home. How is it different from your previous homes throughout the world?
Mark — Home is now a beautiful apartment overlooking Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok Airport. Every day I gaze out the window from my lounge room and see airliners from all over the world landing and taking off from one of the world’s busiest airports. My apartment in Brisbane is smack bang in the middle of the city – more of a hotel living environment so it was an easy switch from one city to another.
Lara — Hong Kong apartments are not known for their expansive floor space! As much as I love living in the pigeon hole in Hong Kong, I do miss having a backyard in Malaysia. But, my family is here and that makes it worthwhile.
How has your work situation changed since moving to Hong Kong?
Mark — Opportunity, opportunity! Hong Kong is 100× faster pace than Australia. People here want to do business, they want to make money and thrive on a busy work culture of commerce.
Having had my own start-up businesses, being in Hong Kong has been exceptional for business where access to more people, resources and an incredible start-up community has helped my businesses flourish.
Lara — Despite taking a step down in seniority within the airline, working with my new employer gave me the chance to learn different cultures, new languages and travel to more countries. Sometimes we all need to make the leap of faith is to move up in our careers and shifting gears to life in Hong Kong has been a wonderful experience for my work life.
Solo or with a partner? How has this affected your experience?
Mark — I met my wife in Hong Kong and, as we’re both in the travel industry it means we share many common dreams and travel aspirations. Moving alone would have been daunting, especially with language barrier issues.
Lara — I came by myself, not knowing any locals, but my company has been very supportive and accommodating; helping me meet new people. I couldn’t imagine doing this by myself without any assistance.
Where do you consider ‘home’? What’s different about day-to-day life in your current city, versus your previous homes?
Mark — I’m a citizen of the world! While a big advocate of ‘life is what you make of it’, there is certainly more diverse opportunities when you move to a new city or country. Day-to-day now means learning Cantonese. Can’t say that was too high on the agenda in Australia.
Lara — Hong Kong became my new home when I met my husband and even more of a home since our baby girl came into the world. Getting around is the biggest difference in Hong Kong compared to Malaysia. Here, the MTR is is very cost effective and efficient making getting around extremely convenient; whereas in my home town driving was the transportation of choice where public transport was almost non-existent.
What are the best things about being an expat in Hong Kong? And the worst?
Mark — Best: The expat community in Hong Kong is large, diverse and growing. Being able to connect and network with others in similar position from different cultures, backgrounds and countries around the world is a primary way of bringing people together. Worst: Air Quality.
Lara — I have almost everything provided by my company like housing, insurance, local ID card etc., and with this comes the benefits of access to local resources. In this sense I can be a local or a tourist depending on the situation. This can be advantageous in situations with local street vendors and negotiating ‘locals’ rates because they think I’m a local.
What are some of the logistical considerations you’ve had to face? How easy was it to get a visa, find a home and open a bank account. What have you learnt with the benefit of hindsight?
Mark — I took a different approach to most. While I have indeed moved countries, I didn’t bring a lot of stuff with me. Instead, I took the American Express approach and started out fresh with a new version of everything. Not only was this great for earning new frequent flyer points by spending up big furnishing my new home, but had the added bonus of not worrying about trying to send a shipping container across the sea. Bank accounts were straight forward as financial laws in Hong Kong are quite liberal and straight forward. So long as you have a minimum deposit they’re happy to take your money! What would I have done differently/advice to others thinking of a similar move? Use the right credit card and maximize the miles – ha!
Lara — I’m very lucky to have my employer arrange all sort of pain such as accommodation, bank account, local ID card, medical insurance etc. I couldn’t imagine doing this alone or without the help of a large company, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the laws, procedures and local language.