Why we moved from Hong Kong to Germany

From January 2005 to December 2007 I lived and worked in Kunming (PRC) and from January 2008 to March 2018 I lived, worked, got married and got a beautiful child in Hong Kong SAR. Moving back to Germany after living in Asia for 13 years was quite a move. Somehow I feel like having to write down why we made that move in the end.

Summerfest at Kindergarten

Education – The Main Reason

It’s a common theme in Hong Kong: When folks find out they are to become parents they start freaking out – big time. That’s largely due to the clusterfudged situation of the Hong Kong education system. I’m sorry, but there is really no better way to describe that.

I remember when my wife was 5 months pregnant we had a nice dinner with friends – a couple who were roughly at the same stage. During that dinner he dad-to-be asked me: “Which school is your child gonna go to?” I didn’t know how to respond. Come to think of it, we didn’t even know the gender of our baby yet!

Parents are freaking out

To be honest, it really is like that. Even before you’ve given birth you should know where your kid goes to school. If you want it to be a good school, you got to make sure the child goes to the right kindergarten. To get into that right kindergarten, the child needs to go to the right nursery. Of course, there are entry tests (think job interview) for 2 year olds. So basically you’re building up your child’s resume from the birth onward. It’s like an arms race!

Private is expensive

All of this is regardless of how ridiculously expensive international schools are in Hong Kong. Let’s look at the German Suisse International School for example. The tuition range is HK$148,960 – HK$194,100 (€16,286 – €21,222), which can be paid at HK$19,410 (€2,122) per month, but before you are even allowed to join the school and pay tuition, you need to pay a debenture of about HK$500,000 (€54,668). Source GSIS Fees.

Let’s assume you have that money and are willing to pay for it. You still need to get (your child) in by going through interviews, submitting resumes, etc. at kindergarten level. It might happen that your 5 year old gets three photos placed in front of her: one of President Xi Jingping, President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin. Then she gets asked to tell their names and their current title. (I’ll let that settle…)

Public is in Chinese

Of course, there is the public school system too. However, most of such schools teach in Cantonese or Mandarin. For us to be able to support our child during education – may it be just simply being able to understand what the homework is about – we would need an English-medium school. There are still a few such public schools in Hong Kong, but as you can imagine, these are quite popular and therefore quite hard to get in as well. Their school fees are affordable as well at about HK$3,000 (€330) per month or so.

Memorize or Learn

Besides the “getting into the school” and “paying for school” topics, there is – most importantly – the whole topic of how your child is being educated. The style of teaching and what is best for your child.

Still today, many styles of teaching all across Asia are focused on memorizing knowledge rather than learning, understanding and creatively using your free mind to come up with a solution. It is something I personally embrace and it is also very important to my wife who was fortunate enough to receive a liberal arts education in the US. We want our children to be free thinkers who can create new things and make the world a better place because they can think way out-of-the-box. Think of it like that: If high ranking government officials in Hong Kong and China send their own kids out of the country to boarding schools and colleges in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia — you know what they think of their own education system.

Roaming BL City Arboretum

Health Reasons

In Germany the air quality is definitely better than in Hong Kong. The kind of food you can buy (at affordable prices) is also of higher quality here than what you can get in Hong Kong. Though the differences are (in my personal opinion) marginal, they are definitely there.

Future of Hong Kong

1997 Hong Kong was returned to China, which was sealed by a joint declaration signed between the UK and China, which guarantees Hong Kong’s extensive autonomy until 2047. Almost half of these 50 years have passed now. Hong Kong has prospered like never before, but politically, nobody knows where that incredible city is headed towards. No one has an answer about how Hong Kong will look like after 2047. The only thing Hong Kong locals are experiencing is that the China mainland is slowly but steadily creeping more and more into the everyday lives of Hong Kong people. There are many small cases that happened over the 10 years I have been there and it really felt it is getting more and more. Maybe that was objectively not the case, but let me give some examples.

The Chinafication Hong Kong

Things like this happened: Booksellers who sell books critical to the China mainland political system disappear from Hong Kong and suddenly pop up somewhere in China at a police station. China law is being practiced in Hong Kong at certain border crossing stations due to ludicrous reasons, simply to create precedence cases of that. Independent, reputable and China-criticizing media companies that get bought over by pro-party mainland companies. Mainland liaison officials constantly targeting demonstrators with public statements that get broadcast all across HK, which in turn tries to influence public opinion and split the society. Liberal lawmakers getting disqualified for office (though some of them were serving as lawmakers for over a decade already) over an oath-taking ceremony that they felt being too pro-China. China having the power to re-interpret the Basic Law (kinda mini-constitution) that Hong Kong exists by. More and more public schools teach in Mandarin rather than Cantonese or English. Mainland Chinese business folks buying up property in Hong Kong en-masse in cash – probably with some kind of dodgy money – driving up prices and making it harder and harder for younger generations to find places to live. And so on …

If you look at each of these incidents individually, they are not that important. Yet, combining them, looking at the bigger picture and the (most likely) goal of the final reunification of Hong Kong with the communist mainland China; you can’t shake the thought of slow assimilation of Hong Kong into the China-System. I might be paranoid here, but it definitely has that kind of feel.

My wife and I were “foreigners” in Hong Kong. We possess permanent residency there, which means we can go back any time we want and don’t need a work visa. We are flexible and if SHTF it would have been easy for us to simply get out. But we also know a good number of locals who don’t have that kind of flexibility.

So again, this wasn’t a major concern for us at the moment, but it was a topic of concern and I truly hope Hong Kong’s people and politicians find a common ground with their China Mainland counterparts for a prosperous future of Hong Kong that guarantees individual freedom, rule of law and an open society as Hong Kong citizens enjoy right now.

Space

Another reason for us to move out of Hong Kong was space. As I mentioned earlier, Hong Kong’s property prices are ridiculously expensive. We were fortunate enough to live in a 990 sqft (91 sqm) apartment that we owned there. Rent for that would have probably been in €3,000 per month range or so. Yet, we only had 1 bedroom for the 3 of us. It was tight, but we managed for quite a while.

Besides normal living space, there are also these moments I remember from my childhood in Germany. I was able to just open the door, go outside, ride the bike around with friends, play somewhere in the woods and so on. That kind of play is simply not possible in Hong Kong. Because everything is so dense, there are people, cars, buses, trains everywhere and up until a certain age, you basically can not let your child walk around alone in HK.

Park with ducks in the city of Eschwege

Work & Friends

These were probably the only factors that were counter-arguments for moving out of Hong Kong. The majority of our friends are in Hong Kong — though quite a number have left already to other countries as well. Our work was in Hong Kong and everything we’ve built evolved around that incredible city. Though, most of work can be done online nowadays, certain things we’d like to do in person. I personally liked working in Hong Kong, I liked my colleagues and I liked the kind of work we were doing. It was great, inspiring, challenging and yes, even the controversial conversations I’ve enjoyed. So again, work and friends were the arguments for us staying in Hong Kong, but everything else eventually outweighed those.

Family

When it was just my wife and me, it was easy to live in Hong Kong. Even without any immediate family of either of us in HK, we could live there comfortably. We had the freedom to move around, go on holidays and visit our family whenever we felt like it.

With a child your life suddenly becomes quite a different one. You want her to grow up with her grandparents. That’s great for the child, but also for the grandparents. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a baby sitter option at hand, but that wasn’t that much of a concern for us. At the same time, for your child to be with her cousins and other relatives is quite something. It’s just fun.

Conclusion

While there were many reasons for us to move back to Germany, we truly loved Hong Kong and it was not an easy decision to move to Germany. Hong Kong is a very diverse city and in the 10 years I was living there, it never stopped to amaze me. There were so many hidden gems that surprised us and that happened again and again. Yet, the final reason for us moving was really for the sake of our daughter. She’ll get some great education, she’s got space to grow, play and roam around, she’ll grow up with at least one side of her family and she’ll be among many kids of her age whom might or have already become her friends.

We’ve moved to the small town of Bad Langensalza where I grew up in. Some of my friends still live here, most part of my family lives here too. It is a very different way of live here. It’s much slower (especially the Internet connection!), but it is great in its very own way.

We’re now in the process of building a house for us to live in. Again, it’s a much slower process than I anticipated, but I am sure I will share some stories about here as well. You’ll laugh your butt off! Stay tuned. Subscribe to my blog or join my Facebook page.

P.S.: Check out www.weitsprungmeeting.com (long jump meeting) which took place in Bad Langensalza two weeks ago. The world’s best long jump of the year took place right here in the green heart of Germany. Can you believe that?

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A fresh look

So yesterday and today I’ve been tinkering with my blog and gave it a quick new look. The old style was from 2005 and I figured a 13 year old look might not up to our trained eyes yet. The new look still has some quirks like the cut off images on the right, but it is already way better than before. When I have time, I’ll probably fix those.

Just for the sake of documenting my progress, let’s check out some comparison screen shots.

kozen.de look yesterday:

kozen.de look today:

 

It’s a bit easier on the eye now. What do you think?

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Why do I blog (again)?

That’s an interesting question and indeed the kind of the first one I was asked when I relaunched my blog yesterday.

I am using various social platforms for years now: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Youtube, Foursquare, WeChat, LinkedIn, Xing, BBM, Reddit, you-name-it. They all have the certain purpose — though, there are some that I really don’t quite get (Foursquare and Snapchat for example). Anyhow, none of them fits all my needs.

I’d like to share content in various formats. I like written content most, often accompanied by photos or maybe video, but sometimes it’s really just text. With other posts, there might not be any text. I want all my content to be accessible on the world wide web by everyone. So exclusively publishing it inside a walled garden like Facebook, is not that good IMHO. Audio is also a media I’d like to get into some day — though I still feel really awkward hearing my own voice.

Some content may be of more personal nature, some content maybe of more business / work-related nature. So context-related platforms like LinkedIn and Xing are not working all the time either.

As you can see, it is not that easy to choose a main platform to publish content on — if the requirements are as loosely defined as I defined them.

Furthermore, by posting my content on my own blog I retain full control over it. That’s not that much of a concern to me, but it’s a nice thing to have. I am happy to share my content and I truly hope it may help people in their life. One way or another. I have benefited in various ways from a lot of other people who shared their insight – may it be personal, business, tech or otherwise related. Perhaps someone might find some of my new content useful in future.

One of my greatest stories is that of Juergen who commented on my blog post Hong Kong ID Card – Fingerabdruck und Biometrische Gesichtsdaten inklusive, which I wrote 10 years ago in July 2008. A few years later, we actually met and became friends. He even ended up renting a room in our office in Hong Kong when we were renting out “serviced offices” there. Only then I realized it was actually him who commented on my blog post – way before he actually came to Hong Kong. That’s the kind of online content that brings people together. That’s what I want to share and how I want to build relationships with my readers with whom I then hopefully become friends as well.

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Change is Good – Life in Germany Launch

It’s been almost 4 years since my last article and 13.5 years since my very first article here on kozen.de. Things have changed, priorities have shifted and life just keeps changing.

To celebrate and document that change, I’d like to revive kozen.de and publish a few more updates here for my friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances and everyone else who is looking for what I have to say. As usual, it might not always make sense to everyone, I might not be very logical (though, I try to be) and some topics might be boring to some of you. Yet, I believe, I have some interesting stories to tell about our new life (back) here in Germany now and everything that’s happing around that and around the world, where ever I am involved or interested in.

In the following weeks, you can expect to see:

  • Visual relaunch of this blog
  • Stories about building a house in Germany
  • How it is like to live in Germany
  • Thoughts and articles about cryptocurrencies, startups & ventures, property, tech and projects I’m interested in

If you want to stay up-to-date, you should subscribe to this blog or like my page on Facebook.

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Hong Kong’s Not So Rich People

Just some days ago during an event at Cyberport, Hong Kong’s Tech Hub, I took a look out the window and noticed that right downstairs a rich guy and a not so rich guy (should I call him poor?) are living.

I find it interesting that these kinds of things are defined somewhat differently in other countries like Germany for example 🙂

P.S.: This post is more in the non-sense category, but after all the ‘serious’ stuff recently, I wanted to share another view about live in Hong Kong. By the way, none of the cars are mine and I am also not living there unfortunately. The houses are small, but they are bloody expensive.

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B.L. Flyers Weihnachtsturnier 2011: Wieder den Pott geholt!

This one is in German. Feel free to use Google Translate to a rough idea of what the heck I am talking about.

Wie schon seit mittlerweile vielen Jahren habe ich über Weihnachten mal wieder den Weg in die Heimat angetreten. Das ist doch immer schon was besonderes. Seit mittlerweile über 10 Jahren findet bereits unser alljährliches B.L. Flyers Weihnachtsturnier statt. Dabei sind immer alle aktuellen und ehemaligen Flyers eingeladen. Der Koz hat fast 10 Jahre gebraucht, um das Turnier und somit den Pokal zum ersten Mal letztes Jahr zu gewinnen. Dieses Jahr wurden die Teams ausgelost und wahrscheinlich war es Glück, aber ich bin in dem Sieger-Team gelandet. Von daher gab es dieses Jahr den Pott zum zweiten mal in Folge — nur aufgrund unserer Korbdifferenz (wahrscheinlich weil ich den letzten Dreier reingedrückt hatte ;)).

Achja, die Presse war auch vorbeigekommen. Aus irgendeinem Grund war meine Anreise von Hong Kong wohl sehr interessant und somit habe ich es mal wieder geschafft der netten Journalistin einen guten Titel zu verschaffen. Gern geschehen “cb”.

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This is Hong Kong – Everything Covered

This nicely done timelapse of Hong Kong and it’s people is definitely worth kozen’s world! Just click “play” below:

It covers everything: skyline by day and night, temple street night market, shopping, ICC (tallest building in HK), HK airport (by Norman Foster), bus rides, nature, bicycle rides, cultural centre, harbor, ferries, container ships, symphony of lights, and demonstrations.

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The Day The Awning Collapsed

… was yesterday. Cass and I were out all day and I came back first; at around 11:30pm from Squash. I noticed the apartment was really dark and I quick saw that the awning on our terrace collapsed.

This is what happened: A couple of months ago Hong Kong’s Buildings Department (BD) started cracking down on illegal structures all over Hong Kong. For about 6 years our landlord received mail from the buildings department on a regular basis about the awning on our terrace. Yes, they might not have had a permit to build it, but the awning was a proper construction; made out of solid wood poles and nice half-transparent roof. Well, the BD’s standpoint was: illegal, tear down, now! So with their crack down initiative, they actually sent our landlord a court order to dismantle the awning which of course, they did. Right, and a fine of HK$ 50,000 (€4.480).

Having that paid, the landlord stalled in install a retractable awning – which does not require a permit, but is quite costly. Koz being Koz, was sending nasty emails to our landlord tell him (or better their secretary / property manager) to freakin’ install something there. If Koz rents an apartment with terrace and awning, he is entitled to that. If there is no awning, I was about to deduct a flat 25% from the rent (for those $2,500 (€224) Cass and I could fly to Phuket and back over a weekend). Well, that threat had helped and they fairly quick (for Chinese measures) in putting something up. This is how it looked like yesterday morning:

From an engineering point of view, this installation was – how to say – terrifying. It rained a bit before and therefore water piled up in there. I couldn’t even open the terrace door properly because it would hit the awning. Side note: our landlord owns around 100 properties in the Sheung Wan area in Hong Kong, two antiquities galleries on Hong Kong’s Hollywood Rd. and one in New York’s SoHo. So you could get the impression that they know at least a bit about business especially with their experience in managing and running 100 properties in HK. This is their website btw: Dragon Culture. It is a small family ran business and I assume all family members are multi-millionaires. Yet, every single time Chinese people (no matter they are behind the communist walls or here in Hong Kong) do something – even if they did it a hundred times before – the result looks like they did that for the very first time in their life. It is always the very cheapest way in doing things. Quality does not matter, sustainability does not matter, environmental protection does not matter, the only thing that matter is money: “Make it cheap or cheaper and quick, now.”

So yeah, back to the topic: It was raining the whole day yesterday and when I came back home that awesome awning “construction” they built the day before, collapsed. Another example of wasted time, resources, nerves and money.

I couldn’t bother with it at all, so I went to sleep. Who cares that it crashed onto my clothes hanging outside drying; who cares that caused by the collapse (and the 1 cm gaps in between each terrace door) water was leaking into the apartment right till under the coffee table. I sent a rather nasty email to our landlord again this morning which Cass commented: “Wah you are so sarcastic!” Yeah well, I doubt our landlord is ever gonna ‘get’ that.

To be continued …

P.S.: The result of the Buildings Department’s crackdown on illegal structures, made ours a lot more insecure. Well done.

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Dragon Boat Racing in Discovery Bay


Yesterday was the dragon boat festival in Hong Kong — public holiday too. So for the first time in years I managed to attend the races in Discovery Bay which is only of many competitions taking place in Hong Kong.

The news reported that it was one of the hottest days in the year and it definitely felt like that! It was completely impossible to stay in the sun. With some showers in between it cooled down for 5 minutes and then heat was back on. I don’t remember who actually won the races, but it looked like a lot of exercise for all the participants. It is probably not that easy to paddle a boat at full speed in a non-rowing manner.

Remember the ship I wrote about a couple of days ago? I think it paid us a visit at Discovery Bay as well:

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Not all ships are equal

Who finds the ship that doesn’t quite fit in?

Deutsch: Wer findet das Schiff, was nicht so richtig hier rein passt?

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