Having lived and worked as an expat in Hong Kong, Malaysia and twice in California I am often asked where my favorite place is. A simple question, with no easy answer. Each place I have lived I have been at a different stage in my life and no location can ever be the same as another.
In Hong Kong I was newly married and felt at home immediately. The first departmental meal out was a challenging adjustment, however, with ducks’ tongues, chicken feet, abalone and other specially selected delights designed by our local colleagues to stretch the taste buds of the gweilo's (a local term of endearment for western expats).
Life was a constant whirl of nights out and boat trips to seafood restaurants on the islands. We got involved in local events like the Mud Olympics (wheelbarrow races and other ill-advised events in a paddy field), dragon boat racing, sedan chair races, rickshaw derby and many more. We had access to membership of clubs, such as the Hong Kong Club, the Hong Kong Cricket or Football Club. It was indeed the perfect lifestyle of a newly married couple.
From our base in Hong Kong we had memorable holidays and weekends in China, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, India and Australia.
However, all good things come to an end. One friend said to me ‘I have had a great time in Hong Kong, but I feel it is time to leave.’ He had been in Hong Kong for 18 months. On the same day a neighbour used exactly the same phrase after 35 years in Hong Kong.
The rather pat phrase at the time was ‘When you tire of the views in Hong Kong, it is time to leave Hong Kong’. We never tired of the views or the lifestyle, but nevertheless it became time to leave.
In Irvine, California we had the joys an American lifestyle in one of the most sought after destinations in the US. This time we arrived with two young children in tow, a joy and a challenge and very different to the life of a newly married couple.
California has its own delights such as living where the sun shines with effortless consistency for month after month. You can arrange a barbecue six weeks in advance and know that the weather will not be an issue, a huge and welcome change for an Englishman! In California you have Disneyland, Hollywood, San Francisco, San Diego, Napa Valley and Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, many other options close to hand which is perfect for entertaining children.
Fresno, the destination for our second sojourn in California, was very different to Irvine, but both provided access to a great lifestyle. This time the children were not at a convenient point in their education to travel and stayed in the UK at a boarding school. Fresno put us close to Yosemite, King’s Canyon and the ski slopes were only an hour away.
Each time you move to a new location you find new elements that could contribute to your ideal location but you miss more things about home and the other places that you live. On each occasion you are at a different stage of your life with sometimes new requirements and needs. So in answer to the question my perfect location is somewhere that is warm throughout the year, has an enormous range of excellent Chinese restaurants and Sports Bars, serves Harveys bitter, is an hour from challenging ski slopes, has easy access to exotic beaches, Asian temples and is an hour or less from our relatives!
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