I am Joanne, a Sydneysider. I own and design the lifestyle label, Eclectic Cool, based in Hong Kong. I have been living in Hong Kong for 4.5 years with my family: a husband, 3 kids and a dog.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I moved to Hong Kong as my husband was doing a lot of travelling from Sydney all around the world chasing great business opportunities. A move to Asia meant that he was closer to the action and the travelling was easier. I was also keen to develop my business ideas in Asia.
2. How do you make a living?
I trained as an interior designer and have always loved design. I particularly love product design so my label consists of jewellery, homewares and furniture produced all over the world. It has a global vibe but is heavily influenced by classic design so it has a bit of a vintage/retro feel. A lot of my designs are limited editions.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I was completing some design jobs in Sydney and there was a period where I was back home every two weeks. It meant that I still used to frequent the same haunts to the extent that acquaintances did not realize that I lived overseas! Now we get back home every few months. We still have a house there and feel very connected with friends and family.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Hong Kong?
I adore the vibrancy of Hong Kong. I love the people, the food, the reflexology and the ease of doing business. All the businesses I work with that help me produce my designs are so helpful and willing to give you what you want. The graciousness and efficiency of service is the best in the world. I love the airport and my id card allowing me to skip passport control. I also love the fact that the plane touches down in HK and I can be home in 50 minutes!
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Hong Kong?
Being away from home and finding your way around is always difficult, however, the proximity of Hong Kong to Australia means that I don’t miss home too much. Sometimes the bureaucracy can be a bit of a pain. But the worst is making great friends that leave to go back home or are posted somewhere else. It is difficult to say goodbye to people you have come to love.
6. What do you miss most?
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
When I arrived, I did a course at the YWCA English Speaking Members Department called "At Home in Hong Kong". It is a great course and I met lots of people. I have three kids so I met quite a few people through school events, pickups and dropoffs. I also moved next door to a fantastic neighbour who introduced me to her circle of friends.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Some locals have quite different habits…burping being quite acceptable. I was once in a taxi, where the taxi driver belched loudly and continuously during a trip of half an hour. I felt like telling him to stop the taxi so that I could give him a pat on the back.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I think that the amount of open space can be quite surprising to visitors. There are so much hiking and outdoor activities here. The weather also suprises newcomers. It can get quite chilly in here in winter and few places have central heating. You will find yourself dressed in thick coats indoors for a few weeks.
10. What advice would you give other expats?
To keep an open mind and really embrace the place that you live. Try to meet as many locals as you can. Learning Cantonese is impossible: if you try the locals just laugh at you. However, a few words in Cantonese means you can get around more easily.
11. When and why did you start your blog?
My blog, Eclectic Cool is a blog about design and good living. Though I am based in Hong Kong, I am lucky enough to travel all over the world so my blog posts reflect this. I also like to catalogue the things that I love and that inspire me. The blog has been very well received. I try to keep the entries short but with lots of information about design. I am slowly trying to increase the amount of my own images, both photos , drawings and layouts. I also am using it to introduce new products- a lot of my products are one offs so they get snapped up pretty quickly once they appear on the blog!
12. How has the blog been beneficial?
Since I don’t have a bricks and mortar store and I rarely met customers face to face, the blog has been a great way for my customers and people who are interested in design and lifestyle to learn a bit about design and about how I work. I also try to include some articles about living and setting up home in Hong Kong so that new expats can use this resource to make themselves at home more quickly. In a little while, I am going to introduce interviews with creative people based in HK, but from all over the world. There are so many, doing amazing things; it’s going to be great fun!
Joanne's blog, Eclectic Cool
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