We’re Colin Simpson and Sue Brattle and we run the Afaranwide travel blog. We’re from the UK and have been married for nearly 25 years. We’re both journalists, and worked on national newspapers in London for many years.
1. Why did you move abroad?
Twelve years ago we felt it was time for a change, and we wanted to experience life in another country. We’d always loved travelling, so it seemed a natural step to take. We went to Dubai first and had spells in Saudi Arabia, the US, the Seychelles and France before going to Beijing. We moved from there to Hong Kong four years ago.
2. How do you make a living?
We’ve worked as journalists or in communications everywhere we’ve lived. Along the way we’ve both had jobs that forced us out of our comfort zone (to put it mildly). Working conditions, standards and cultures in the countries where we’ve lived have been very different to what we were used to at home – not always a bad thing. Currently, Sue is Editor of The Correspondent, the magazine of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong. Colin’s most recent job was at Bloomberg News in Hong Kong, where he was an editor and writer.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
We keep in touch with our families at home through email and Skype. Facebook and other social media are good for letting everyone know we’re OK and for maintaining a link with the younger generations.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Hong Kong?
It’s a travel hub so it’s ideal for us as bloggers as we explore the region. Our most recent trips were to Australia, India, Japan, Bali, Vietnam and Singapore.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Hong Kong?
Sky-high rents and the cost of living generally.
6. What do you miss most?
Sue misses the English countryside. We used to live in Kent so we had easy access to France and the rest of Europe, and we miss our road trips. It’s not worth having a car in Hong Kong because of the high cost and the excellent public transport, but we both miss driving.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
We’ve tended to rely on meeting people through our jobs, which doesn’t always work out. Sue found going to book clubs, and later running one, created a good network. We’ve found expat friendships tend to be functional – people help you settle, for example, but we all tend to move on so they don’t last. We’re lucky to have a few lovely exceptions to this, though.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The fact that Chinese people love to eat chicken feet, they’re regarded as a delicacy.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Hong Kong is known as a business center, but we’ve sometimes found that service is poor.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living in Hong Kong is much higher than in Beijing, where we lived before. As a result, we eat out less now and probably live in the smallest apartment we’ve rented in our 12 years abroad. The only thing that’s cheap is public transport.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Get the best possible job you can from your home country so you’re a foreign posting and get a package that includes moving costs, etc.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
We launched Afaranwide in April this year. We’d had a lot of interesting and challenging experiences during our years abroad and wanted a platform where we could write about them on our own terms. We write from the viewpoints of expats, travelers and tourists, and feel that as an older married couple we have a different perspective from other travel blogs. We also reserve the right to disagree with each other!
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