- Hong Kong has slipped down the table of places people want to live, and high cost of living is only partly the reason
- It’s no coincidence that Taipei is top of the list, just look at how friendly the people are
We all have different opinions as to what makes a city liveable, be it quality of life, general lifestyle, or social interaction. But when it comes to defining what makes a place a home, there are some fundamentals that cannot be compromised, such as safety, happiness, and a sense of belonging.
The city we call home is more than just a place to live and work; it is an extension of ourselves. And we need to feel we belong and comfortable enough to settle down or maybe raise a family.
We might have grown up in one city but moved to another place, which can eventually become our new home where we continue to grow and develop as individuals because it makes us feel enjoyable, safe, respected, valued, and allowed us to interact with others to become part of the larger community.
Hong Kong is a global melting pot, with many of its residents coming from all over the world, but sadly it has gradually lost its international appeal to expats as revealed in a recent survey.
According to InterNations, an expat networking website with 3.5 million members, the city has lost its preferred status among those looking for places to live because of its exorbitant housing prices, high cost of living, and a severe lack of work-life balance. Other complaints included dirty streets and high pollution.
It has placed Hong Kong 52nd out of 82 cities globally, behind Singapore, Shanghai, and Taipei. Some even said they are considering leaving Hong Kong if the anti-government protests continue.
Taipei, however, came out at the top for the second year in a row in terms of the high quality of life, and low cost of living, mainly because of its affordable housing.
Regardless of where one comes from, they can feel at home in a city where they live and work if the place makes them feel welcome, comfortable and happy. But in recent years, Hong Kong seems to be losing its charm with expats, many of whom have been long-time residents.
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The general discontent regarding the high rents and tiny flats are nothing new. In fact, those unpopular factors are balanced out by the ample work opportunities in Hong Kong. It is the essential "soft" contents that make people feel like they belong that is often missing.
A sense of belonging does not just happen, it has to be nurtured continuously. People can feel truly like they belong to the place they live in if it allows them to engage, grow, and develop to become part of the system, in a continuous interactive manner and consequently feel community identity and pride.
The concept of home often conjures up sentimental or nostalgic attachment, and these feelings come from inside us. This sense of belonging is a perception that should not be only influenced by economic factors or practical reasons. That means when we feel attached to a place where we live that sentiment should not be triggered merely by its affordability, or that it offers better schools, better shops or better restaurants.
Hong Kong is not all that affordable, but it offers a lot in life regarding schooling, employment, lifestyle, entertainment, and other tangible options. But, it has still failed when compared to many other Asian cities, and that is because Hong Kong lacks intangibles that take care of its residents from the inside out.
A great city should focus on caring and sharing. It should create special experiences not only for visitors, but its residents, so they feel the spirit and warmth of the place deep inside and feel connected.
Hong Kong needs to invest more in enhancing the soft content of the community, its people, by reinforcing the teaching of ethics, values and good manners.
For example, when people visit Taiwan " even Hongkongers themselves would admit " the first thing they notice is the warmth, helpfulness, and politeness of the locals.
In Hong Kong, people don't have the patience or intention to be nice, maybe because everything has to be rushed. But being efficient doesn't mean you have to be rude.
In Taiwan, the difference is you can feel people are giving you their full attention and patience whenever they are dealing with you, and that makes you feel welcome and accepted.
It is not just about having better schools, better neighbourhoods, or more green spaces, which Hong Kong also needs to improve on. A happy "home" is made up of happy people who make each other feel welcome, cared for, loved and, ultimately happy.
Having a sense of belonging is a common experience that needs to be nurtured and shared. Belonging means acceptance to become a part of a community. It might sound simple but it is a huge undertaking if we want to make Hong Kong a truly happy home for locals and expats, rather than just a fancy international city where people come to make money.
Making a place "homely" and comfortable is not sufficient. A truly great city provides an environment that isn't just to live, work and play, but one that defines its residents as to who they are and how they perceive life and ultimately defines itself through their experiences.
Luisa Tam is a correspondent at the Post
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