The concrete cityscape of Hong Kong and its 90 per cent humidity during monsoon season can be overwhelming for any Australian having grown up in an expansive space by a breezy shoreline. Yet the former British colony – home to around 100,000 Australians and more than 600 Australian businesses – has not only one of the largest Australian communities abroad, but also is the fifth most preferred home from home for the nation’s expats. The charm of the city lures many Australians to make the move. Sydneysider Bruce Ryde, who arrived 18 months ago, says that his desire to live in Hong Kong started at an early age. “When I was an eight-year-old, my best friend at school went on a round-the-world trip; that was highly unusual and a very big deal in the 1970s,” Ryde says. “When my mate returned, he showed the class a Super 8 movie of his adventure, projected onto a screen in the classroom. “The footage was so evocative — it showed Hong Kong harbour, the massive Queen Elizabeth [cruise liner] was in port, junks with red sails floated past and there was the extraordinary vista of the city as a backdrop. “I remember thinking ‘Wow, what a city’. As an eight-year-old boy in suburban Sydney, Hong Kong seemed like the bustling centre of the world.” Ryde, now living in Hong Kong in his capacity as vice-president of Marriott International’s luxury brands and brand marketing division, spends his day overseeing the hotel group’s expansion across Asia Pacific, including subsidiary brands such as St. Regis, which will open its luxury hotel, The St. Regis Hong Kong, in Harbour Road, Wan Chai, this summer. Ryde began his career in Australia working in the ground-staff customer service department of the fledgling East West Airlines, a regional carrier which flew to Norfolk Island, Noosa and Alice Springs. “Much of the catering was home-cooked by local members of the Country Women’s Association,” says Ryde. “They’d supply fabulous sandwiches and home-baked biscuits; when we tried to move from fresh to long-life milk for the tea service there was such a protest from customers that we didn’t dare make the switch.” I was regularly flying back and forth to Hong Kong because it's the commercial centre for the hotel trade in the region. Bruce Ryde Stints with travel companies, including Viva Holidays, also acquired by Qantas, followed. “I remember the first group trip I guided for the company,” Ryde says. “It was the early 1980s and I took a group of travel agents on a 23-day tour around China.” The trip included three nights in Hong Kong, which was Ryde’s first visit. “We landed at Kai Tak [Airport, in Kowloon, right beside Victoria Harbour],” he says. “It was such an extraordinary arrival into a city that I’d wanted to visit since I was a boy.” Ryde, and his guests indulged in all that Hong Kong had to offer: high tea, riding on a tram and dinner at the revolving restaurant at the now demolished Furama Hong Kong Hotel. “It was a glamorous and exciting city then, just as it is now,” Ryde says. That initial trip fuelled Ryde’s interest in living in Hong Kong one day. His career continued in Australia, managing properties on Hamilton Island and in Sydney. In 2003, he and his Australian partner, Thomas Milazzo, who runs his own events agency specialising in luxury and lifestyle, made the move to Asia. They have since lived in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore, Hanoi and Shanghai, managing and launching hotels along the way. “In each of those cities that we’ve called home, I was regularly flying back and forth to Hong Kong because it's the commercial centre for the hotel trade in the region,” Ryde says. The pair have lived in Hong Kong for the past 18 months and regularly invite friends and family from Australia to visit them. “The longer we lived away from Australia the more we realised how much we were enjoying living and working in Asia,” Ryde says. “Living in Hong Kong is a dream; it’s the ultimate city in Asia and for us it’s a continuation of our 15-year adventure away from home. We want our family and friends to be part of the adventure. “My sisters have been to every city we’ve lived in and my 82-year-old mum is about to visit. We are a conduit for our families and friends to experience the city.” Ryde and Milazzo return to Australia at least twice a year for holidays. “When we go home we do very ‘Australian’ things,” Ryde says. “We have a hot family Christmas, we go to the pub, we see a show at Sydney Theatre Company, we spend time at our beach house on the south coast of New South Wales.” “I am from Sydney and Thomas is from Melbourne so we always fly Qantas home, and often again when we get there. We fly Qantas for several reasons: I love the service and, as an Australian who lives away, it feels like I’m already home from the moment I step onto the aircraft.” While he loves visiting Australia, Ryde has no plans to move home in the near future. “I love it here in Hong Kong,” he says. “Working in the hotel industry in Hong Kong is a dream because it’s a town where success is celebrated by everybody. People want to celebrate, enjoy themselves and spoil themselves. Everyone works hard and plays hard here.” It is not difficult to encounter the Australian footprint across industries in this city of 7.4 million residents. Even before landing at Hong Kong International Airport on the island of Chek Lap Kok, inflight announcements in softly spoken Australian twang have become a reassuring sound. In the streets of the Central Business District, it’s hard to miss one of the many food outposts under the Australian restaurateur Wayne Parfitt’s Castelo Concepts group, including St. Barts, Jaspa’s and Wagyu. Living in Hong Kong is a dream; it’s the ultimate city in Asia … we want our family and friends to be part of the adventure Bruce Ryde There are also the many Hong Kong-set Wong Kar-wai films, including 2000’s In the Mood For Love, 1997’s Happy Together and 1994’s Chungking Express, all shot by Christopher Doyle, the award-winning Australian cinematographer, fashion company Grana and Soho and Causeway Bay cafes, Fineprint. The community from Down Under is certainly well and truly established – and its foothold in the city has never been stronger. Editor’s note: Qantas is making every journey to Australia easier. From now until 30 March, flying to the east coast of Australia from Hong Kong could cost less than flying to other cities in Asia. Explore the special rate on their official website.