Brands that we know and admire, light the skies and the tops of buildings around the world. When designers roll out the latest trends, whether we live in Sydney, Hong Kong or San Francisco, we’re all wearing the same great new looks within months of one another. Restaurant chains offer internationally acclaimed dining concepts and large multinationals and financial institutions offer international services. So, it’s safe to say that the world is becoming flatter every day and we’ve come to expect the same quality and breadth of services, food and experiences no matter where we are in the world.
Many years ago someone told me that I should never assume, as it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. Common sense really! However, you’d be surprised how many times we assume things every single day. I was reminded of this fact just the other week when I transferred money from my European bank account to my Hong Kong bank account. I hadn’t yet activated internet banking, so I went to the ATM daily to see if the funds had been transferred. Everyday, I became more and more frustrated since my bank balance hadn’t increased a penny. I assumed that the money would automatically be deposited into my savings account. Never assume. On calling customer services, I heard that the money had, in fact, been deposited, quite quickly, into a suspense account. The bank wanted to leave it up to me when to transfer the money to my savings account, based on the best rate of exchange. Logical really, but not so, when you’re expecting something else to happen.
Hong Kong is a bustling city and those brand names could fool us into thinking that the world is identical, no matter where we are in the world. Luxury brands line the streets of Hong Kong and extreme wealth and consumer optimism, gloss over many of this beautiful city’s problems which are left undiscussed and well-disguised. A week ago, I met Liz Chamberlain, director of the Samaritans. Samaritans is an organisation providing emotional support to people who are suicidal, or in general distress. As a European, one may assume that if you have a problem, that you discuss it with family or friends in the spirit of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Not every culture is the same, so never assume. Many Chinese will not discuss issues with family or friends and they are then left to their own devices. Liz and her team are doing a sterling job to ensure that people in need are helped and in doing so reducing the numbers of suicides in Hong Kong. The Samaritans is always looking for great people who will give up some of their time to volunteer. Or you can donate to this worthy cause.
My move to Hong Kong has once again reinforced the fact that I have a lot to learn. Ask more questions and never assume!