Yesterday, my older cousin took me to Hong Kong Island. The Financial District to Causeway Bay.
It was malls, malls, and more malls. Then some outdoor malls. I was completely overwhelmd by the number of bright lights and dollar sign numbers. Things were not as cheap as Kowloon, but — my God — I felt like I'd been ripped off most of my life in Canada. Even things like Converse sneakers and Columbia Jacket (all real) were cheaper after tax.
My cousin took me to a Japanese Restuarant and I had a Sashimi on rice. It was okay. Works out to be around $7 Canadian, but slightly smaller.
My cousin and I talked about various things. I think I was waaay too much prying about many personal issues. But, y'know, I don't know when I will have another chance in my lifetime to ask him these questions.
He is an accountant. Corporate Tax Expert. I asked him about his working conditions. He tells me that it's tough. He is expected to work 10 hours a day and 5-6 days a week. This not just during audit time; it is his normal time. He has to work even more if the workload pilesup.
He asked me about real estate in Canada. He was interested. I told him that now is not the time because of the structural crisis in the MBS market.
We also talked about consumption and savings a lot. He was so suprised when I told him that the average savings rate in the US is -10%. He thinks Americans are crazy. He said that he and his peer saves anywhere between 50-70% of their income. I was boggled. He told that becaues working conditions are so poor, they all want to retire early: at age 40. I told him about how in Canada, some people are sueing their employers becaues they are being for to retire at 55.
Hong Kong is nice to visit, but I don't think I want to ever live here. Everybody is super-competitive. I wonder what the ROI for small- and medium-size enterprises are. Cuz margins are so low in everything here. They seem reliant on high volumes.
And Hong Kong seems to have a strange devotion to money. We went to Statue Square, which is right next to the Legislative Building, overlooking the water to Kowloon. In the middle is a statue to a former manager of HSBC. This is he first time I heard where they commemorate a banker in this fashion. My cousin explained to me that this dude was responsible for moving the headquarters of HSBC from London to Hong Kong a houndred years ago… and along with it, KMPG. This move eventually made Hong Kong into a financial centre for Asia.
I turned around and there was the World Headquarters for HSBC. I looked around and everywhere were towers named after banks. Indonesian and Phillipino domestic workers all gather here on sundays for a picnic. They are eating apples, pastries under the shadows of glass.