Why I’m staying in Hong Kong: high mobility, low crime, green spaces – and Hongkongers themselves
- After 34 years at the Post, I’m taking a much-needed break, but Hong Kong will remain my home
- Friends wonder why I’m not heading abroad for retirement; yet despite recent hardships, our city’s benefits – and people – remain unmatched
In the age of the gig economy, I am a dinosaur. I worked continuously for this newspaper for 34 years and three months, joining at 25 and, as of this column, ceasing full-time employment with retirement. Such occasions can be turning points, but my thoughts are only of a much-needed break and exercise – for how long, I can’t tell. Of one thing there is certainty, though: Hong Kong is my home.
Friends overseas and acquaintances express surprise when I tell them I’m staying in Hong Kong. I could retire to the place of my birth, Australia, or to any of the European Union’s 27 member states.
I’ve considered a unit with ocean views on Queensland’s Gold Coast, a village house in Portugal or an inner-city flat in Munich, where my father was from. But after considering the advantages, costs and otherwise, I’ve opted to stay put for now. The reason is that the positives vastly outweigh the negatives.
To start with, let’s put the politics of Hong Kong and the rest of the nation aside. Hongkongers have never had a say in the way their government is run and their ability to influence its decisions remains limited, no matter how improved we are told the system is.
Other than Hong Kong and Australia, I’ve lived for stretches in London and Manila. Four decades of travel have taught me much about how others live and what is good and bad about their countries. There’s much more to see and I can think of no better place than Hong Kong from which to be based.
But there is more to Hong Kong than travel convenience. There are few major cities where crime rates are so low and personal safety so high. I’ve never been robbed, had my flat broken into or been assaulted. There is no risk of a subway shooting as sometimes happens in New York and for all the police claims over the years of terrorism plots, there has never been an attack.
Some friends who have left regret their decision. They miss the country walks, ability to get numerous errands done in a day, relatively low cost of living and tax rate that is often a fraction of what they are now paying.
My son living in Paris recently had his flat burgled and his first remark when telling me was that this would not have happened in Hong Kong. Trying to deal with the French bureaucracy is also frustrating him; in comparison, the Hong Kong government is a breeze.
We each have different ideas of what retirement means. Talking to a fellow pub patron recently, I learned he had chosen a Lantau village house over Australia and Britain. A British passport-holder married to an Australian, he had decided to end his working days in Hong Kong and found the lifestyle, ease of living and most of all, the people, to his liking. Perhaps that is the biggest selling point; I also like the people.
This is Peter Kammerer’s last column for the Post – for now