Comments Off on HK world’s best city for commuters

HK world’s best city for commuters

Posted by | April 3, 2014 | living-in-hong-kong

Hong Kong public transport #1 globally

City Rankings

The Consultancy firm Arthur D. Little ranked Hong Kong #1 in Asia and #1 globally in their Urban Mobility Index report (2014), covering 84 cities. In declaring HK world’s best city for commuters the report includes aHong Kong case study (pages 66-67), which comments:

  • The Hong Kong public transport network is ‘one of the most efficient in the world’, with 92% of journeys being conducted through an integrated network and on foot.
  • The ‘city performs top with regards to financial attractiveness….smart card penetration, number of vehicles per capita, traffic safety….road density, and public transport frequency’.
  • There is positive comment around the rail and property method of financing, stating that ‘the policy of combining public transport development and urban development/renewal has led to an almost optimal situation in terms of finance, ecology and ridership.

In conclusion, the report states that ‘Hong Kong is a striking example of a city entering into a virtuous system (increasing density, building and improving the network).’

Marion Udall

Comments Off on What will the Chinese ‘Year of the Horse’ mean to you in 2014?

What will the Chinese ‘Year of the Horse’ mean to you in 2014?

Posted by | February 2, 2014 | living-in-hong-kong

Chinese New Year 2014 is upon us! This is the most important festival in the Chinese lunar calendar. Every year is symbolized by an animal and an element (wood, metal, fire, water, earth). This is the year of the ‘wood horse’.

According to the Feng Shui Society “the Wood element is about reaching onwards and upwards, planning ahead. Will your grand plans come to fruition? Be somewhat circumspect when it comes to formulating your blueprints for the year ahead. Whilst the Wood element may influence you to move forwards, the Fire in the Horse, which sits beneath the Wood, can burn up some of your designs, if you are not careful. You can set the world alight with your ideas, but put in place a Plan B as you might not have all the support you were hoping for at exactly the moment you want it. A burning desire goes a long way to bringing blue sky visions into the here and now, yet it would serve you well to keep your feet on the ground at the same time. The Wood Horse can bring an ambiance of excitement, yet it can also be quick to get angry when things go awry. Watch out for extremes of emotion. You can choose how to act on your feelings, be the rider who is in control of the Horse. In ancient times a Horse was an important mode of transport. Nowadays, we get into a car. Would it be a better choice to let excitement or anger sit in the passenger seat, rather than the driver’s seat? Things can happen quickly when the Horse is ruling the year, and matters can turn into non-events equally fast if those engaged in the endeavor lose enthusiasm. Look out for those moments when the leaders on the world stage think twice and change their minds in a flash. Will they be doing so to win over hearts and minds? Or will it be simply to look good? The energies of the Wood Horse are associated with both the heart and the eyes.”

To find out what the year might hold for you personally, you need to first work out the zodiac animal associated with your birth date. As CNY varies according to the lunar cycle, the years given below won’t apply to you if your birth month is in January or February, so you’ll need to check.

The following information was published by the Feng Shui Society:

RABBIT 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
Chasing your dreams can seem like hard work when what you are seeking is far, far away. Worthy goals are rarely achieved overnight, yet you can gain a sense of achievement by setting some milestones which you can race past at regular intervals. When an obstruction appears on your path, there is no need to feel defeated, you know you can often find a way to go around it.

DRAGON  1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
What sorts of strings are attached to attractive offers that are dangled before you? Be wary of getting tied up in a knotty situation, because you were not fully aware of all the details. Going on a fact-finding mission before you agree to anything will mean you can weigh up the pros and cons. There is no need to follow the crowd if you feel something is not right for you.

SNAKE  1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
Do not be surprised if you experience more rivalry this year. Is it you or is it your contemporaries? What truly belongs to you will find its way to you, yet there are those who will attempt to grab what is yours. With your competitive spirit you are not going to sit back and watch, you are going to play against your opponents. Some subtle tactics will remind all contenders that you know how to play to win.

HORSE  1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
As you trot into your own year, you might have already heard some remarks that it is unlucky when you meet your own sign. Life is not that black and white. Bad luck has not booked extra meetings into your diary for the year ahead. Meeting your own sign can mean it is a time for self-reflection. When you plan ahead, be generous in allowing enough time for you to make your mark in your own year.

GOAT  1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
What if what you wished for appeared right before your eyes? Would you be overjoyed? Or would you wonder if something that came so easily would be worthy? There is no need to chase after what you want. Trust that the universe can help you draw to you what you truly need. Count all the blessings in your life. When you appreciate what is truly valuable, you will be glad you have had it all along.

MONKEY  1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
Challenging circumstances are not going to prevent you from forging ahead with your plans because you are going to remain determined. If somebody says something is too difficult you will take that to mean you are going to do everything you can to prove that you can do it. Before you prove that you can do something, make sure that you actually want to do that something, rather than going all out to merely prove a point.

ROOSTER  1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
What makes a couple-relationship just right is a tolerance for all those little things which are not quite right. If you are a solo Rooster, the energies of Horse year can bring you romantic opportunities. Do you know what you are looking for when it comes to love? If you do then you will know when you are suited to someone. If you are still figuring out what would be a good match, remember not to be too fussy.

DOG  1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
If events do not unfold in your favour, remember you do not have to struggle on all by yourself. The Horse ruling the year can bring those to lend you a helping hand, yet you need to be strong enough to reach out. Let it be known you would like some support. It gives others the pleasure of making a difference if they can do something to make your world a better place.

PIG  1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019
You can feel more in control of certain tricky situations if you do not try too hard to be in command of every awkward individual or every minute detail. Having a plan does not mean you have to stick with it rigidly. Having a plan means that everyone involved is aware of what is supposed to happen, when it is scheduled and who is doing what. Last minute changes can make your plan work better.

Marion Udall

Comments Off on Who gets Lai See?

Who gets Lai See?

Posted by | February 2, 2014 | living-in-hong-kong

Chinese New Year 2014 is upon us! This is the most important festival in the Chinese lunar calendar. Every year is symbolized by an animal and an element (wood, metal, fire, water, earth). This is the year of the ‘wood horse‘.

This time of the year sees a profusion of decorations (red and gold), orange trees, red poinsettia plants, lion dances, firecrackers (occasionally though, as illegal in HK), the harbour firework display and new year greetings. When someone greets you with ‘King Hei Fat Choi’ in Cantonese, there may be an expectation that you will give the well-wisher a red packet containing crisp new banknotes. The etiquette around who gives and receives a red packet is complicated to those unfamiliar with the practice, as the gifts are one-way. Two people will not give each other Lai See in the way that you might say exchange presents at Christmas. has produced a humorous guide to ‘Who gets Lai See’ (PG rated!). See below:

Who receives Lai See

Who receives Lai See?

Marion Udall

Comments Off on English Proficiency in Hong Kong is in ‘stagnation’ as Mandarin rises‏

English Proficiency in Hong Kong is in ‘stagnation’ as Mandarin rises‏

Posted by | January 23, 2014 | living-in-hong-kong, Recruitment, working-in-hong-kong

Education First (EF) is an international training company that has helped 15 million people learn a new language. Based on 750,000 adults taking English tests in in 2012, EF have released their 2013 ‘English Proficiency Index’ (EPI). Their annual results have allowed EF to compare standards across countries in much the same way as the Pisa tests compare international education systems. Their conclusion is that English Proficiency in Hong Kong is in ‘stagnation’ as Mandarin rises‏.

Asian EPI Trends 2013

Asian EPI Trends 2013

In absolute terms, Hong Kong’s EPI Ranked 22nd with ‘Moderate Proficiency’, grouped with South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The latter two are increasing proficiency, whilst Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan have declining proficiency. The ‘Moderate Proficiency’ group lags behind ‘High Proficiency’ countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, in 11th and 12th places respectively.

The Hong Kong report and infographic (download the PDF) makes several observations, such as “Hong Kong struggles to maintain its traditionally high level of English proficiency” and “Hong Kong presents itself as an international hub for business, trade, and finance. English is today’s language of global commerce. If Hong Kong’s English proficiency cannot keep pace with that of its neighbors, it may be losing its competitive advantage.”

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages scale

The Hong Kong report also noted also noted that ” With mainland China as Hong Kong’s top trade partner, accounting for half of its total trade in 2012, mainland tourists has compelled the retail and service industries to hire employees who can communicate with these guests. To accommodate these economic realities, the Hong Kong government adopted its trilingual policy in 1997 and has invested millions in improving its workforce’s Mandarin skills. As a result, the number of Hong Kong residents who reported that they can speak Mandarin increased from 33% in 2001 to 48% in 2011. Though the rising importance of Mandarin has not devalued English in the Hong Kong job market, it follows logically that when the focus shifts from a single foreign language to two, there is less time allocated to English study than previously, and proficiency levels suffer as a result.”

Note: The ratings exclude countries with the highest (C1+C2) and lowest (A1) proficiency ratings, based on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) Languages scale.

Marion Udall

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A happy Hong Kong education

Posted by | January 18, 2014 | living-in-hong-kong

A happy Hong Kong education

Click to enlarge image

I have previously blogged on the subject of the Pisa tests (Program for International Student Assessment) run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Tests taken by 500,000 15-year-old pupils are used to compile league tables comparing education systems in different countries.

This week I saw a graphic from entitled ‘The best schools and the happiest kids’. For me, it really underlined not just the quality of the Hong Kong education system but that the kids here enjoy their education.

When looking at my home country and those of most of my expat friends, they are mostly classed as ‘Unhappy’.

You can read more about access to and the cost of EMI education and the Hong Kong education system by following the links.

Marion Udall

Comments Off on Corporate Team Building in Hong Kong

Corporate Team Building in Hong Kong

Posted by | December 12, 2013 | working-in-hong-kong

Corporate team building in Hong Kong usually comprises meals or a fairly restricted range of internal or third-party activities. If your team has tried scavenger hunts, paintball, art jamming and ‘Virtual F1‘ (or you simply want to try something different), try ‘Crossroads’.

The Crossroads Foundation is a Hong Kong based, non-profit organisation linking those who are in need with those who can provide help. They offer four intersections, literally crossroads, to bring both together.

One of those, their Global Village range of simulations, provides a crossroads between the lifestyles of the rich and the poor.

Teams are immersed in situations that simulate the challenges of those in need. During a half day or whole day, teams are taken through activities that reveal insights into the lives of people and families living with specific challenges. The Crossroads corporate team building therefore raises awareness of issues and could serve as a springboard for corporate CSR initiatives or personal volunteering.


The ‘Struggle for Survival’ saw us trying to earn enough to survive by making paper bags out of newspaper and home made glue. We had to earn enough to pay for rent, food, sanitation, medical needs and education. Groups that couldn’t make enough money ended up in the hands of a loan shark. We had to deal with unexpected setbacks and some very thought provoking decisions and outcomes.

In conclusion, the simulations are a great way to support a local NFP whilst building a team and raising awareness of those in need.

Peter Udall
Guest Editor

Comments Off on World class Hong Kong education system

World class Hong Kong education system

Posted by | December 4, 2013 | living-in-hong-kong, moving-to-hong-kong

2012 Pisa tests

Comparative Education Systems

The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, (‘Pisa’) tests are run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. These two-hour tests in maths, reading and science are taken by 500,000 15-year-old pupils.

The resulting international league tables are used to compare standards in different countries. Individual pupils don’t get results, it’s education systems.

Although access to and the cost of EMI education is an ongoing issue, the report underlines the fact that we have a world class Hong Kong education system.

As reported by the BBC:

  • The table-topping Asian education systems, such as Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, are not just beating everyone else, they are accelerating further ahead.
  • Vietnam has a higher standard of education than the United States. Think how unlikely that once would have seemed. Think of the turn of history’s wheel.
  • South Korea’s children are the least happy at school, as well as being among the highest achievers.
  • The happiest schoolchildren, according to data gathered alongside the tests, are in Indonesia and Peru. These have among the worst results in the world.
  • The UK’s results have failed to show any real sign of movement and are flat-lining.
  • If the US state of Massachusetts had been ranked like a separate country it would be one of the best in the world. The mediocre US national score conceals a wide divergence between states.

Visit our Schools page | OECD website | Report: Comparison HK, US & UK (pdf) | Take the test!

Author: Marion Udall

Comments Off on Human Capital is the #1 CEO challenge for Asia

Human Capital is the #1 CEO challenge for Asia

Posted by | November 27, 2013 | Recruitment, working-in-hong-kong

global labour migration

Global Labour Migration

The Global Talent Competitiveness Index measures the performance of countries across the world on their talent competitiveness, i.e. their ability to attract, develop and retain talent. Produced by Adecco, INSEAD and the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) the 2013 GTCI Report doesn’t include HK specifically but makes some interesting observations.

Human Capital is the #1 CEO challenge for Asia (page 70).

The ‘Importance-Adjusted’ strategies for managing Human Capital in Asia are:

  1. Grow talent internally
  2. Provide employee training and development
  3. Raise employee engagement
  4. Improve performance management processes and accountability
  5. Increase efforts to retain critical talent
  6. Enhance the effectiveness of the senior management team
  7. Improve corporate brand and EVP to attract talent
  8. Hire more talent in the open market
  9. Improve effectiveness of front-line supervisors and managers
  10. Improve leadership development programmes

The full 284-page report makes for some interesting reading, with a China specific report on page 110.

Peter Udall
Guest Editor

Comments Off on Christmas in Hong Kong

Christmas in Hong Kong

Posted by | November 26, 2013 | living-in-hong-kong

Christmas in Hong Kong

Christmas in Hong Kong – St. John’s Cathedral

For the expats who don’t head ‘home’, Christmas in Hong Kong has lots to keep you and the family entertained. Some of our suggestions include:

  • Join a Christmas service with carols at at St John’s Cathedral
  •  Buy a real Christmas tree and stock up on European cheeses from a most unlikely source –  Tony the Tailor!
  • Visit one of the Christmas attractions such as Winterfest or Ngong Ping 360 Musical Winter Wonderland
  • Take a cocktail or pre-dinner cruise, or take the Star Ferry to enjoy the harbour’s Christmas skyline
  • Go shopping for gifts in Shenzhen
  • Visit Ocean Park or Disneyland. Both theme parks celebrate Christmas in style
  • Enjoy the decorations at one of Hong Kong’s top hotels and take in a High Tea
  • Visit the shopping malls with their extravagant decorations or go to the Christmas Fairs
  • Nominate your very own Santa and invite your friends and their kids to your very own Santa Party! Costumes can be bought in ‘The Lanes’ and eveyone can bring labelled and wrapped presents for their children, for Santa to distribute.
  • Go to an English Pantomime

If you have some favourite activities of your own for Christmas in Hong Kong, please feel free to comment on this page.

Marion Udall

Comments Off on ESF in the media

ESF in the media

Posted by | November 23, 2013 | living-in-hong-kong, moving-to-hong-kong

ESF, the largest provider EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) education in Hong Kong attracted the attention of the media twice this week.

In a welcome development, it was reported in The Standard that ESF is to open a new Kindergarten in Tung Chung that will have capacity of 360 students. With a waiting list as large as the total ESF capacity for Kindergarten places, this will go some way to relieve the chronic under-supply.


DC Feature after 11 minutes 50 Seconds (Part 2)

A less than complimentary edition of ‘The Pulse’ aired on RTHK this week highlighted the facts around the CPI-busting increase in fees and charges at Discovery College in Discovery Bay.

Following the Education Board’s U-turn in approving increases of 53% 2013-2017, it was highlighted that this is already leading to a disturbingly high student withdrawal rate at Discovery College.

Whilst students and their families may currently have the option of ‘voting with their feet’, the loss of the ESF subvention (subsidy) and the willingness of the EDB to approve fees of this magnitude is likely to severely limit cheaper EMI alternatives over coming years.

The show repeated concerns that have been the subject of a previous blog: Hong Kong to be less attractive for Expat managers?  Please refer to our schools page.

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