Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can cause the biggest wrench.
The details that you don’t consider in amongst the rush and pressure of schools research, shipping insurance quotes, closing one set of utilities down while trying to discover how on earth you determine a reasonable quote in a city you have never lived in and have no gauge to measure against.
Sometimes, it’s not until you are actually in your new city when it hits you, right in the middle of the grocery shopping. I don’t know any of these brands … how do I know which detergent and fabric softener to buy? Which ones will suit both my family’s skin and the water here?
This is a pervasive expat experience, which is amplified if there is a language barrier to contend with as well (and where an accurate translation app is invaluable). The sense of silent floundering in everyday tasks that used to be easy and simple and something you didn’t really have to think about.
It does get easier
In time, it does become easier. You learn which products are your new go-to staples. Where to get the familiar products from home or a previous posting that are worth the effort of tracking down.
But there will always be a residual sense of ‘what life used to be’ attached to the mundane and everyday. After a while in Hong Kong, I now know which supermarkets I can find my favourite products from France, or Australia, or the UK (sidenote – why can’t they all be in the same supermarket? Or in all of them?).
But that being said, I am still discovering hidden treasures – small grocers in hidden away locations that have ridiculously well-priced Polish biscuits, or nuts and dried fruits in bulk and that don’t cost the earth, or where to find 1kg refill packets of Vanish. I suspect I’ll be finding them for a while!
But you are constantly adjusting to the differences
To top this off, there’s the variations in online grocery shopping and delivery between countries and cities. Delivery services in metropolitan and suburban London is brilliant, and I didn’t realise how much I took them for granted until I was confronted with an earliest delivery date of 7 days hence, which then was rescheduled without notice or reason on the morning of the expected delivery. I now only order my meat (from a tested and reliable supplier) and Nespresso online. For everything else it’s less stressful to do it in person.
So for those of you who thought expat life in Hong Kong is all swanky cocktail bars, finding the trendy new restaurant and rummaging through street markets, you can add both bricks-&-mortar and online destination grocery shopping to the list.
Parental Choice and Parental Choice Asia provide bespoke relocation and orientation advice and across APAC and EMEA. We work with corporate HR and Global Mobility teams, as well as directly with relocating families and individuals.