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Sassy x Humans of Hong Kong

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What’s it like to be a working woman in Hong Kong? We teamed up with Humans of Hong Kong to find out firsthand! We interviewed several women who all work in different fields to see what the best and worst thing about working in Hong Kong is, where the best places to hangout are and what challenges they face. Inspired by Humans of New York, Humans of Hong Kong is a website that documents the varying lives and inspirations of people living in our vibrant city. The collection of portraits and stories that the site has acquired is an amazing way to see how diverse the population of Hong Kong is. Get a glimpse into the lives and backgrounds of true Hong Kongers! You might even pick up some helpful tips, tricks and advice too…

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Chamani, Product Consultant
I currently work for LinkedIn as the education speaker for customers in Greater China. I love my job because I think it encompasses all the things I thought my ideal job to be.

What kind of advice would you give people who want to work in Hong Kong?
Be curious about others. Take the opportunity and talk to people outside of your social circle as everyone has a interesting background in Hong Kong, so there’s a lot to learn.

What’s been the hardest part about living in Hong Kong?
I’m from Australia where if you were to walk down the main road of the city, you wouldn’t even bump into a single person. So you can see what sort of difficulties I had when I first arrived! But as I reached my 6 months mark in Hong Kong, I learnt to love the streets for what they are!

Recommend a restaurant a guy should take a girl to on a date.
Take my word and bring your girl to Les fils de Maman just off Hollywood road. You’ll be sure to steal her heart with this little French hideaway!

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Katie, Private Banking
I’m in finance. The hours are okay, but it’s quite intense… I work 12-13 hours a day and I’m kind of getting used to it.

What advice do you have for women who want to go into finance?
Always keeping learning, because when you’re in this industry for a long time you might get bored of it. Apart from the long hours it’s very competitive. There are always new people coming into the industry!

As a woman, what do you think is the best thing about living in Hong Kong?
Well, many people think it’s shopping, but I think it’s that you can be very independent. You can be financially and mentally independent. It’s not like China or Shanghai, where I’m from originally. In Chinese culture, girls tend to depend on the parents or guys, but in Hong Kong you’re pushed to be more independent. Figure things out, and do it in your own way.

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Stella, Entrepreneur
I’m running a garment manufacturing business now with my mum. The whole thing is still in its early stages, and will probably get serious soon. The main factory is based in China, in Sha Tau Kok (沙頭角). Luckily the office is not too far from Hong Kong, but I’ll need to travel back and forth from from Hong Kong to Sha Tau Kok.

What’s been the greatest challenge you faced starting up your own business?
I think that would definitely be working with family members. When you work in a company, you work for your boss. You report and obey your boss. However, for this garment company, the boss is my mum! It’s different because you can’t treat your mum fully like your boss – she’s your mum and she’s no stranger to you! When you work in a traditional company, you report to a stranger that has no relation to you.

Other challenges are just setting up the bits and pieces. You cannot imagine how crazy it is setting up a new company. Basically, you have to take care of every single thing, from admin duties to financial matters. There’s business registration, office renting, renovation, electricity set up, canteen, hiring people, opening bank accounts, HR, even buying stationery and trash bins! The list will go on and on. Hopefully the business will run smoother and reach its break-even stage by the second half of this year.

What’s the best thing about being a woman in Hong Kong?
I guess that would be the woman’s dignity, pride and power. As one of the Asian cities, it is quite interesting to see that women hold most power in relationships in HK, at least from what I see.

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Xilin, Sales Consultant
I’m currently a sales consultant at a technology firm.

What’s been the hardest thing about living in Hong Kong?
There are a lot of people in Hong Kong, and it gets really crowded during rush hours or the holidays. That’s the last thing you need in a city that can be so stressful. Be prepared to not just work really hard, but also work smart! Hong Kong can be really demanding, so make sure you have a good work life balance.

What do you think is the most challenging part of women working in Hong Kong, and what might be the most rewarding?
Not that this is a woman-specific thing, but family time is unfortunately the first thing that gets sacrificed when you have a busy work life! That said, Hong Kong has a lot of opportunities for women, no matter what your interests are or career is.

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Vicki, Freelance Fashion Designer
I currently work as a Freelance Designer in fashion with my main client being a Hong Kong based brand that designs women’s wear, everything from sweaters to coats. I also have an online vintage business selling clothing and accessories through Etsy.com (check out our Etsy guide here!). I do everything from sourcing, photographing and uploading the styles selected. I chose to become freelance so that I could build my own vintage business as this is a real passion, unfortunately it doesn’t pay the bills – not yet anyway. It’s also good to have the two jobs, each one helps the other.

If you could give some advice to people who want to do what you do, what would it be?
There is a blog I follow ‘Sincerely, Jules’ and she has T-shirts that state ‘DREAM BELIEVE ACHIEVE’. That pretty much sums it up. If you want something enough work towards it and it will happen. I would never have thought 10 years ago that I would be living in Hong Kong working as a designer and running my own business. I sometimes forget it even now. Of course there will be times when it seems that you are failing and its not always easy. Friends are there to help, the network of people around you are the best source of skills and experience you will have. Use them and buy them coffee as a thank you.

Where’s your favourite place to hang out in Hong Kong?
I love to escape the city. Jumping on a ferry to one of the islands is always good fun and helps to recharge the soul. HK is always changing, so having a favourite is hard. There are old favourites like The Globe, Senses 99 and Club 71 for super casual nights out.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Hong Kong?
I’d have to say Rakuen in Causeway Bay. Its a perfect little cosy setting with yummy squid ink rice and miso black cod. The Sake is pretty good too.

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Teresa, Digital Consulting & Marketing
I’m lucky to have a job I really enjoy. I’m currently an Associate Strategist at Social@Ogilvy, the digital consulting and marketing arm of Ogilvy & Mather.

What’s been the hardest moment of your life in HK?
I was pretty indecisive with my final choice to move to Hong Kong. My first month here, I kept thinking “why did I leave these friendships I’ve spent the last 4 years making only to move somewhere new again?”, but luckily that was very short-lived – I really don’t think I could be happier anywhere else right now.

If you could give some advice to people who want to do what you do, what would it be?
Blog more, Tweet more, Instagram more! I have such a bad habit of being on my phone all the time and it’s even worse now that I can use the excuse that it’s for work!

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Hong Kong you’d like to recommend?
Breakfast is hands down my favourite meal and a friend took me to Libertine this past weekend and it was amazing.

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Catherine, Sales & Trading
I work in Sales & Trading. I came from a background in entrepreneurship and Asian studies – although they are not directly involved in my job now, it’s help me approach each day in a new, yet understanding way.  Despite being an efficient city, there are areas where new perspectives very much help challenge and progress the global framework.

What’s your favourite thing about living in Hong Kong?
Something about the cityscape of HK’s illuminated skyscrapers surrounded by mountains that look straight from Jurassic Park make the architecture and various views of HK the most energising factor about living here. Pair the scenes of Hong Kong with its diverse demographics and it’s a perfect mix of urban energy.

What’s the best thing about being a working woman in HK, and whats the worst?
The ability to access a tight-knit group of women with similar opportunities and obstacles in HK is something that can be difficult to find of such caliber elsewhere, given the many accomplishments of women in Asia. The worst thing is the size of that group is too small!

Where’s your favourite place to hang out in HK?
I like to stroll around Sheung Wan – see new shops, eat great food and visit quaint storefronts. It’s relaxing and takes me out of the hustle and bustle for a Saturday afternoon.

What’s a restaurant you’d recommend a guy to take a girl to on a date?
I’m a fan of lunch at Heirloom Eatery – fresh food, great outdoor breeze, and you won’t run into everyone you know on the escalators. But a true way to a woman’s heart is through barbecue… 85 South sweeps me off my feet every time.

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Elyse, Freelance Makeup Artist and Jewellery Designer
I’m currently a makeup artist, but my main job is a jewellery designer. My favourite thing about being a makeup artist is being able to transform a woman to a natural beautifully bride on her wedding day.

How did you get into this field?
I learned make up with my friend. My friend was interested in make up, and asked me to accompany her for a make up course.

What’s the most challenging obstacle you face in this field?
It’s difficult to promote myself in Hong Kong because there are many competitors in bridal make up. There are many, many people doing this job. It’s also really hard work because you need to wake up at 5am, because we usually start work at 6am. For Hong Kong weddings, it usually starts at 9am or even 8am in the morning, so we need to start the make up at around 6am in the morning.

If you could give some advice to people who want to do what you do, what would it be?
The important thing is to be confident in your abilities, listen to your clients, and carry out what you think is a good combination of the client’s wishes and your expertise.

What do think you think is the best part of being a woman in Hong Kong?
A woman gets freedom and liberty and is respected by everyone in Hong Kong, unlike other Asian countries.

For more stories and portraits from the people of Hong Kong, check out Humans of Hong Kong here.

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