As I approach my 10th month here in Hong Kong, I continue to live the ordinary life of a resident and not that of a tourist, and there are just so many small things that are not the same. Being on the small scale of differences, I can easily glean over them, and just accept them as the new way of life and carry on. I figured I’d list a few here.
I noticed this early on in HK, but just never remarked about it for some reason. Upon entering an ATM branch, I finally understand my granny, who lived in Hong Kong for ten years before moving to New York in 1966, and her obsession with getting her bank passbooks updated constantly. Here in HK, there are not only your typical cash machines, but automated machines just for updating passbooks! They now Chinese grannies and their obsession with passbook updates — because, after all, the money is not in the bank until it’s actually stamped on your passbook!
Another small thing — cash comes out LAST in HK. If you get a receipt, that’s first, then your card (which is always swallowed up, no swipe machines from my experience so far – but I primarily only use HSBC and Hang Seng machines), and finally your money. I was very unaccustomed with this initially, as it is the opposite in the U.S., and once in Thailand, I nearly forgot my card because of this same reverse order! (Not as bad as the lady I saw who was about to walk away from the ATM without her money in HK!).
You can also pay your bills at the ATM – just start pushing away at the buttons and you are sure to find all government utilities, as well as a bunch of other private companies. Am I missing something – but do we have that in the US?
Oh — btw, you can deposit checks on other people’s behalf at the bank too (at least at HSBC). Just write down the account number on the back and slip it into this bin in the bank.
I’ve been quite impressed with the post office and service in HK. First, it’s really cheap — it’s only $3HK to send an international letter — that’s roughly 36 cents in the US! We can’t even send a local letter for that little! How much is a stamp in the U.S. now anyhow?? With it’s near annual increases, I even lost track while living there!
I think a local letter is $1.7 HKD, and I recently sent something by Speed Post – HK’s version of FedEx – to the U.S. at $174 HKD for 500 grams – not too shabby.
I also recently discovered that when you receive a certified letter or package, the mailman comes straight up to your apartment for signature — I didn’t think that was the case in a NY highrise, or am I mistaken (I never lived in one really, and where I lived in doorman buildings, the doorman accepted our packages, etc.) I have a doorman here at my apartment building, but they don’t do much but sleep, disappear somewhere, or be nosy.
Oh — and another convenient thing, at the mail slots outside the post office, you can buy stamps right there and then in the event you arrive after hours!
Paper, Ink, and Books
I went to buy paper for my inkjet 3-in-1 printer (which I bought used for just $150 HKD thanks to a departing American MBA student at the CUHK that posted an ad on geoexpat) and discovered there is no such thing as 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper here — indeed I could only find A4! I’d heard about it when I was learning about international resume, rather CV, writing, but it just didn’t connect that I’d have to use it here. Silly me.
And while I’m on the topic of paper, why not ink — talk about convenience. The person who sold the printer to me referred me to a ink-hk.com for refills, where I can buy cartridges for $47 HKD each, get coupons for redemption when I return used cartridges for recycling, and delivery is FREE when I order $100 HKD or more. INSANE! Crazier — the delivery came the same day I ordered.
Similarly, I found ordering books incredibly easy too! When I wanted to get a new Coelho novel, I was sure it would be useless to just walk into any random bookshop hoping to find it (although Swindon’s in TST is pretty well stocked), so I broadcast my query on facebook and discovered that paddyfield.com is the HK answer to amazon.com. However, I ended up ordering form HK Book Centre Webstore, where I could browse tons more titles and have my book delivered to a local store for pickup free. That was easy enough.
Speaking of convenience… 7 Eleven is more than just your one stop shop for beer, dim sum, and phone cards — but did you know you can change your RMB here? Charge your phone here? Refill your Octopus? Pay your utility bills?! Yes, that’s right, you can pay your Three mobile plans, HK electric bill, etc. etc. Apparently you can also pay many of these bills at Circle K too, but I never go to that shop, and it is not as prevalent as 7 Eleven.
Do I sound completely idiotic here? Either way, I am loving all these small things, and really ought to give ’em props!