Tag Archives: costs

Hong Kong McDonald’s (Part 3 of 3)/ CDotD – Cheapest Weddings in HK Too!

(And now for make-up post 2/4, and the final HK McDonald’s Post… for now).

So this is hardly a CDotD, as it was first rolled out in January 2011, but in case you haven’t come onto this news — Hong Kong’s McDonald’s offers McWeddings!  And this, my readers, is ano a baked apple pie wedding cake, dress made out of party balloons, kiddie party favors for guests, and of course, catering by McDonald’sther reason why Hong Kong’s McD’s is the cheapest in the world!

Apparently, McDonald’s had been getting up to 10 calls a month  requesting wedding events, since so many HK couples had met or bonded over McD’s — not surprising, it being such a cheap and comfortable hangout.  So given the demand, the fast food chain responded and now couples can take on a variety of wedding packages – ranging from just under $1200 for 50 guests with the “Warm and Sweet Wedding Package,” which includes a baked apply pie cake (i.e., a pile of McD’s apple pies). 

Alas, a few setbacks — no alcohol and the restaurant is not closed for your event, so there will definitely be onlookers and plenty of potential wedding crashers!


Hong Kong McDonald’s – Part 2 of 3 or CDotD – Hong Kong’s McD’s is the World’s Cheapest!

Obviously I have NOT written a post each day since my pledge on 14 June!  But that’s not an excuse to quit and I can make up my missed days now!   So why not continue with my McDonald’s series, that I started almost 3 months ago!

As I began in that post – McDonald’s in Hong Kong is ridiculously cheap.  In fact, it turns out that it is actually the world’s cheapest! When my colleague told me this, I was floored and began to do my basic internet research right away.

Though it’s true, it’s India’s Maharaja Mac that has the cheapest “Big Mac”  for the past few years running, I don’t think it’s a fair comparison, since it is not made of the same materials (beef).  So in 2011, Hong Kong had the real cheapest burger.  However, just looked up the most current Economist Big Mac Index, and it appears Ukraine has edged HK out by 1 cent!  I won’t let that discourage me on my claim that HK is the world’s cheapest, and even if I’m technically wrong at this moment in time, let’s just agree to say that Hong Kong is one of the world’s cheapest!

Doing my quickie internet research I stumbled upon this very interesting post by another Hong Kong expatriate blogger, and thought anyone interested in more, should check this one out – as it is chock full of interesting information on the impact of McDonald’s in HK since it’s first restaurant opened in 1975.

And indeed, it hints at my third post on McDonald’s in Hong Kong.

(OK, one down, 3 more to go to make quote for June 18!)




Crazy Discovery of the Day: 黑鬼油

Today I was wandering about, just working on getting some errands done — bought some fruit and other groceries, had another facial at 98 HKD (my skin needs help as it adjusts to this hot and humid and pollution-filled weather), and even bought my first clothing items here in HK (some really cute items for under $9 each — and saw something that really made my pause: 黑鬼油.  Yes, for those who can read Chinese — that, as google translator terms it, is Chinese for “n*gger oil”.

I did not call it that, people! I did not even translate it thusly.  As some of you may know, the Chinese are not exactly all that politically correct, and have historically been rather xenophobic.  It is part of their ordinary language to basically call all foreigners 鬼老, which roughly means “old ghost.”

I guess you can say the Chinese or rather racist, since it is a part of their regular vocabulary, but truly, there isn’t necessarily anything hateful implied.  In any case, 黑鬼油 still blew my mind.  (I happened to be going to the pharmacy to look for the famous cure-all white flower oil, incidentally.)

I was too embarassed to ask the store clerk what 黑鬼油 was for, but then looked it up with the powers of google when I got home.

It’s tanning lotion! It allegedly helps you to get dark, and also has some other typical Chinese medicinal properties, like anti-bacterial, cooling, etc.  It has no known SPF protection, however, but supposedly will work to get you dark as well, a black person.

How the Other Half Lives

Hong Kong is an interesting place because there can be such an extreme difference between how the various communities live here on what is one of the most densely populated areas on earth.  I happen to straddle across two very different communities — my student community at CUHK up in the New Territories, where I cross through Kowloon, and the vast ex-pat/finance community who primarily live Island-side.

In my small classes, we have one Dutch guy, a few Koreans, including a Korean HK resident, a Japanese student or two, and one young lady who hails from Kowloon Tong, but has spent the past few years studying law at Oxford.  I know a few of the students from the other levels, which includes another English-educated HK resident and a few Americans.  Based on our cafeteria (or canteen — because it resembles the Chinese word 餐廳(can ting)) conversations, the lifestyle I have chosen as a student is very different.

I appear to be one of the oldest of our group (although I know there are a few older students in other sections), and I’m lucky in that I’ve squirreled away a bit of savingsfrom my life as a lawyer and still have some income flowing from the family biz, so my choice to live in a serviced apartment in Wan Chai is relatively extravagant.  I also have spent a substantial amount of time with the working ex-pats, who tend to hail from the finance industry, make a whole lot of dough and typically benefit from decent tax benefits.  Quickly I learned how differently this other half lives.

The junk boat party I attended on Saturday seemed like an entirely common occurrence for ex-pats.  They work so hard all week long, that it is not uncommon for them to wind down nearly every weekend on a boat for hire, complete with unlimited drinks and food.  The cost is about 500-600 HKD per person which, while not a lot compared to the cost required to do the same in NYC, is an awful lot of money in HK when you consider that a meal typically goes for about 20-50 HKD.

In contrast, it was not something any of my classmates, including those who have now lived in HK for a year, even heard of.

Evert, my Dutch classmate, who lives on a very small budget, lives in an idyllic town just north of the University.  There he is surrounded by a very Eastern atmosphere, and does not seem to feel infused in a Western world, as I do here in Wan Chai.  He doesn’t have the funds to come out and experience the Westernized Island life, and surely neither do many other Hong Kees, as they affectionately refer themselves.

I look forward to figuring out more of the differences.  Not all of Hong Kong is glam, glitz, and shopping.

Getting Away or Running Away (A Post for Procrastination’s Sake)

I haven’t posted a “feelings” post in a while, and aptly, in order to procrastinate from class preparation, I am writing this blog entry instead.

Today I spent a lazy Sunday just getting some errands done — a long-needed facial (at a mere 98 HKD/$12!) and bought some groceries to complete my spartan kitchenette (even though I mainly cook Chinese-style food, it somehow feels better when I make it, even if it’s less tasty, than going out every meal, no matter how cheap it is).

As I was walking by Times Square (in Causeway Bay), which is – yes, you guessed it, another shopping mall here in Hong Kong, I suddenly felt emotional.  Often I’ll notice myself here in this new country, realizing that I am no tourist, and wondering, “what on Earth am I doing here?!”  Am I living in a fantasy? Is this fantasy the delusional/insane type, or the wondrous/amazing type?

I started thinking negatively again, worrying about where my life is going.  Why did I give everything up back home to come here? Even though in many ways I’m actually far more productive here in Hong Kong than when I was in New York, particularly by taking this intensive Mandarin course and practicing Cantonese in daily life, I somehow feel worse about my spending here. I actually feel like a bum – maybe because I’m among so many hard-working finance folks.

Worse, I’ve been missing a particular person back home.  Even worse still, I suspect part of my coming here was to put an end to that missing.  Often I’ve wanted to give him a call (my mobile allows me very cheap international calls at about 3 cents a minute), or just to send an e-mail, but then I realize there is no point.  That repeated realization gets rather painful at times.

I’ve also been thinking about Mom now and again.  I couldn’t possibly avoid it, now that I’m here in one of her former cities.  The thoughts can be rather painful, actually, and, I’m not sure if it’s fortunate or unfortunate, I’ll just shove any sadness aside because I just don’t have the time to cry!

Is it running away? My former fencing coach and dear friend Jarek immediately asked me what I was running from when I told him I was planning to move to Hong Kong.  Somehow he smelled it out over the phone, and I just don’t know how to answer that question. I’ll admit that a part of me suspects the same, yet on the other hand, I don’t doubt that I won’t be productive in coming here anyway.

Over the weekend I met more people having gone to a barbecue at someone’s apartment (which was incredibly spacious and well-furnished, which gave me hope of living here yet) and my first junk.  I felt encouraged to work here in HK, in spite of my apprehension over the inordinate hours people seem to belabor here.  So in a sense, I became more intrigued about actually staying here for some kind of long-term stay.

And that’s a good thing! In New York, I’d lost all fervor for life and love, it seemed.  I was living comfortably, but not particularly productively.  I had great ideas, but no motivation to execute them.  Something was most certainly wrong.

In addition to those few tasks I got done this Sunday, I also spent a good amount of time revising my resume — something I hadn’t wanted to do in ages.  I was inspired by this German banker I met at the bbq on Friday, who has worked in several cities, including Amsterdam and Singapore.  He encouraged me to look out for good opportunities, because it was his firm belief that just about any opportunity here in HK would be good for me and my career, and the experience of living here as an employee, and not just a student, would be fruitful.  So getting away/running away – who cares, I’m getting somewhere.

So This is Jetlag…(A post on housing and brief recap on orientation)

I’m up at 5am this morning.  It’s my fourth day here now, and a Saturday.  Back home, friends are looking at the clock to get out of work and start the Labor Day weekend.  Me? I’m in bed here wondering if I should try to get more shuteye or not… Instead, I decided tocatch up on some blogging.

I’m homeless (not quite – I’m staying in a rather luxurious apartment in the prestigious Mid-Levels), and actually feeling a rather lot of anxiety about where to live.  I’ve seen three apartments now, in three differnet neighborhoods — Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, and Sheung Wan.  Out of the three, I’m rather liking Wan Chai.  I get a sense of a mix of people – both Westerners and locals, so prices aren’t skyrocket high.  I also noticed access to both small shops, wet markets, the ever-present malls, supermarkets, post office, and not that far from the water/MTR.

When I was doing my inital housing search from New York, I was dismayed to find that HK’s craigslist.org is rather spartan and useless.  If anything, it’s inhabited by ex-pats (Americans), and your choices are very limited.  Plus, as I started trolling the AsiaXPat and GeoXPat sites for HK, I realized I did not have any good understanding of the various neighborhoods of HK, and that there would be no way for me to make a decision until I was on the ground to explore.

Although the wealth of information on the 2 XPat sites are primarily on the difficult to search talk threads, after reading enough discussions on the subject of accomodations, I realized that the serviced apartment would suit me best at this stage.

Serviced apartments are essentially furnished rooms that typically come with bathrooms and some form of a kitchenette (although not all include one or the other), a variation of utilites (for the most part I’ve seen them come with (wired) internet, local phone calls, water and gas, and usually electricity), housekeeping, linens/housewares and can be let for anywhere as little as a week to several months (sometimes years).  Some get really fancy, and include gym, business center access or laundry, among other things, too.

Being that I have no idea as to what I wanted or how long I needed accommodations for, the serviced apartment seemed perfect for me.   They allow me the flexibility to leave/change apartments/neighborhoods, and suits me insofar as I may or may not even take a second semester (or more).  But where? And how much am I spending??

The apartments I viewed in the past two days ranged from 9,000 HKD to 14,000 HKD.  You do the math (1 USD is approx. 7.75 HKD).  And what I get are really tiny spots — I mean, I’m fortunate if I exceed 350 s.f. (homes are typically measured by “usable” square footage).   So dollar per square foot in HK is incredibly expensive — vastly more so than NYC.

Yesterday I saw what could be my home in the neighborhood of Wan Chai (彎 仔).  This apartment was on a residential street (meaning the lower floors are all shops,  while above are all residences), but very close to the MTR, and major shopping needs.  I bargained it down from 13k HKD to 12k, however, I’m still responsible for electricity and government charges on top (it costs 200HKD to draft the contract, and 25HKD per month to maintain its stamp — something foreign to Americans); so it works out to about 12,200 or 12,300 HKD.  It’s a close approximation to what I pay in NY at the massive Chelsea duplex, WITH cable, DVR, phone, electric, wireless internet.  Insane.

I fear of picking the wrong neighborhood; or that I won’t be able to stand living in a box.

Unlike Causeway Bay, which I thought was waaaay too congested (even for HK), and Sheung Wan, which I had no real feelings for one way or the other, Wan Chai felt right when I got there, and I felt happy… then I went home and did some research.  It was once a red light district, also made famous by The World of Suzie Wong.  However, further research (including asking people I know that know HK, like Peter and Liz), as well as some of the advice on the XPat sites) shows that it is pretty much safe now, even if there are some grosso girlie bars along Fenwick Street, where guys can apparently still buy drinks for girls in exchange for blowjobs (ick!) it’s actually a more dangerous place to be a guy than a girl, because the ladies of the night tend to be protective of other girls while guys are often harassed to come join the STD-filled fun.  Plus, all this is pretty much restricted to Lockhart Road (where there also happens to be a serviced apartment within my price range).

I wondered if living on HK Island is worth it.  I still haven’t explored Kowloon, and I know at least 2 classmates who live out there.  I figured that like in NYC, you’d probably want to live in Manhattan or at least say you lived in Manhattan even if for just a little while.  For me, most of my friends wanted to go out there, and while I grew to find myself with friends in Queens and Brooklyn with more frequency of late, staying on Manhattan made a difference.  Similarly in HK, the nightlife is concentrated on the Island, as well as the always fun-seeking expat community.

Anyway, this serviced apartment is not permanent, and I might just switch to Kowloon later… but I’ll take a look, hopefully Sunday.

As for orientation on Thursday — it was quite good.  It took me about 30 min from Central Station to get to the University, and what I found was a true blue campus on a mountain top, and stunning views of water (there is also a lake and reflecting pool).

The Yale-China Chinese Language Center, as it is now being rebranded, has only two buildings, but the program seems very strong.  I have five different classes for each of the five days, and each class is 3 hours.  There is a class wholly dedicated to TV Commercials and another to News! Perfect – as this is where I feel I just can’t seem to teach myself for some reason.

I’ve always believed my Chinese was decent (although I’m worried that Level 4 will be really hard for me), but just can’t get to that level of fluency required to say watch television or read a magazine.  Generally I can’t keep up the concentration needed for that kind of speed or I just lack the proper vocabulary.

As for certifications — if I take 2 semesters, I can earn a Certificate from the Uni; and if I take 3, all the way through the highest level (6 — which I didn’t realize existed), I can actually skip over to getting an Advanced Diploma, which ordinarily requires about 2 years of study, or 90 credits.  For now, I am aiming to get the Certificate, and we’ll see if I can actually stay the Summer to do the final level.  Unfortunately, it also requires a 2,000 character essay plus an oral examination — so I’m not sure if I’ll be up for that challenge!

The class is extremely diverse, including three students from Africa!  Other countries I recall being represented were Switzerland, Sweden, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Canada, England, USA.  So far, everyone seems nice enough, and I really am curious to find out what has motivated folks to come study Chinese here.

One very friendly Japanese woman seems to be here because she’s been living in and out of HK for the past 8 years, and has a boyfriend and life here.  Another Chinese-American guy similarly decided to just step out of his life, quit his job, and come here for a few semesters to create change.  Another middle-aged Chinese American who has been living in Singapore for the past few years decided to bone up on his Mandarin to assist his work as a missionary.

OK – more positivity!!! It’s another day, and more apartments await me.  Plus, Avi invited me to join him and his friends to a comedy show tonight.  So some socializing at last!

A Review of Day 1 Via Costs

I’ve arrived!  Already I feel incredibly accomplished.  Just after getting through customs and loading up my 2 big suitcases alongside my carry-on luggage, I found my beloved HSBC Premier (let me say — if you can get Premier status at HSBC, do so — they are absolutely the best bank for the international traveller!).  I was just going to stop in to get a coffee, cash, and maybe check some e-mail, but found that I could establish my local bank account even without a local address!  Several minutes later, I walked out with my first off-shore account!

Next – transportation to Avi’s in the Midlevels.  With all that luggage I’d have to hire a taxi, unfortunately.  It wasn’t exorbitantly expensive, as it is a rather long way to Central (the airport is off on a completely separate island firstly), but it wasn’t cheap either.  With tolls I ended up paying $340 HKD (~$43).

I make my way up to Avi’s gorgeous apartment and realize that I need a couple of things — toothpaste, something in my stomach, and at least one adaptor (had issues getting that sorted in the US).  There is a convenience market just yards from the apartment, as well as this guy with a shed selling electronics gadgets.

At Wellcome I spend $27.10 HKD on (1) one full-sized tube of Darlie toothpaste (I just had to get it) in Lime-Mint flavor @ $14.90 HK ($1.91),  P1010117(2) one 300 g package of noodles (probably good for about 4 meals) @ $3.30 HK ($0.42), and one packet of 8 wontons @ $8.90 HK ($1.14).

I then bounce over to the shed guy and take one converter for $15 HK.

Total costs for today (I’m certain I shan’t be spending more, as I am getting close to crashing at what is merely 7:30pm):  $382.10 HK or $49.11 (give or take — today I noticed the rate was 1 USD to 7.78 HKD)

Not too shabby – and I’m hopeful of bringing those costs even lower in the near future, as I happen to be in a rather expensive part of town at the moment, and the convenience market isn’t exactly a value shopper’s paradise.  However, right away I find cabs are cheaper (a ride from JFK to Manhattan, which isn’t comparable in distance at all, would cost $45, not including tip, which is not customary in HK), the toothpaste and noodles cheaper by a little, the wontons and converter cheaper by more.

Tomorrow – orientation!!