Marc grew up around the Scottish Borders and after a short contract took him to South Korea he knew he just had to get back to Asia! Marc now owns his own business in Hong Kong and tells us about his new life with his family.
1. Where are you from originally? I was born in Edinburgh, and moved around the Scottish Borders as a child, finishing up with a Master of Arts degree at the University of Glasgow.
2. Where do you live now? Hong Kong
3. What first attracted you to your new home? I had my own insurance consultancy business in Glasgow and a contract in Seoul (South Korea) saw me truly sampling Asia for a three month period. I loved it! I had to get back to Asia, so I closed down my own business and sought work out in Asia.
4. Did you try anywhere else on the way? I also had a short spell in Kuala Lumpur before Korea.
5. Did you move for work or for lifestyle? A little bit of both, but mainly the lifestyle. I had many friends from the UK who had made successful (and far more exciting) lives in anywhere from Australia, to Canada to the States.
6. What kind of property do you live in now? I currently live in a 3-bedroom apartment in Hong Kong with my wife and baby daughter
7. Will you stay there? We’ll stay in Hong Kong for a while, for sure, as I now have my own private medical insurance brokerage which is aimed at the expatriate market in Asia.
8. What’s your ideal place to live in within your new country? We’re perfectly happy where we are, right in the middle of Happy Valley, with all the facilities you could hope for on our doorstep. My wife, however, would love a garden – but I tell her that it’s just too expensive for such a luxury in Hong Kong (and also partly because I’m Scottish too, and therefore tight with my cash!).
9 . Are you speaking a new language? No, the locals here speak very good English – those who don’t speak English will speak Cantonese – and, broadly, apart from Hong Kong or ex-Hong Kong residents, nobody else in the world speaks Cantonese. So there isn’t much point in learning it – it’s also a lot harder to learn than Mandarin.
10. What do you do for a living? I run a private medical insurance brokerage – advising expatriates and their families/business on appropriate medical insurances which are portable, flexible and tailored to suit the applicant’s demands.
11. Where do you physically work from? We have an office in Times Square, a famous shopping mall in Hong Kong.
12. Do you work with clients/customers back in your home country or your new one? No, but we deal with insurers all over Europe and America, so we do sometimes have to allow for time differences when we’re assisting clients with claims or applications.
13. Do you work online? If so, what is the internet connectivity like? Yes, we have a simple and fresh website which generates referrals on a regular basis. I think I read recently that Korea was the best place in the world for technology and technological “toys” – well Hong Kong can’t be far behind. It’s hard enough walking the streets of Hong Kong as it seems everyone is online using their mobile phones or iPads!
14. What software do you commonly use on day to day basis? I’m lucky not to require too much software apart from anti-virus software. We use the Cloud as our place for storage which is excellent, and it cannot be lost ever! No need to really do any back-ups, even though I do this every week automatically from habit!
15. What would be your top tip for online working from your new country? Not sure, you’d be better asking a business partner!
16. Are you paid in your new home currency or in pounds/dollars/euros? I am paid in Hong Kong dollars. Do you exchange money often? . If so, what service do you use? Very, very rarely do we exchange money, I’m happy taking credit cards on holiday with a few hundred GBPs worth of local currency (I told you, I’m Scottish).
17. Do you have children? If so, how did they adapt to the move? Yes, our daughter has just celebrated her first birthday. She’s a Hong Kong baby, so no adjustment will be required – I might have problems taking her back to the cold of Scotland, though.
18. How are their schools? Are they bi-lingual? Schools over here, sigh, are very very hard to get into – there are huge waiting lists, and education is expensive (10,000 GBP+ per annum). Our daughter is a dragon-baby (born in the Year of The Dragon) which is the wish of every local parent (it’s considered to be very good luck) and this means that schools will be even more congested by the time our daughter attends one. There are some excellent schools and can you broadly pick whichever one you want (if you get in, and if you can afford it) and they’ll all do at least one language. We would like our daughter to go to a traditionally British school, but also to learn Mandarin. But there are plenty of Swiss, French and German schools.
19. Are their good future career opportunities within your new country? Yes, there are plenty of regional opportunities too.
20. Did you bring any pets with you? No.
21. Is your life better than it was before? If so, how? Yes, much better. We miss our friends and families but having so many beautiful and interesting places on our doorstep means we can travel extensively around the region. We also pay less tax. And we have no need for a car as the Hong Kong system for buses, trains, boats and trams is excellent as well as being very cheap.
22. What are the best things about living in your new country? Meeting new friends – we meet new people almost every week – coming in or going out of Hong Kong, it is a very transient place. The weather is excellent too (especially this time of the year) though the summer can be wet and humid.
23. Has the move been good for the whole family? Yes, absolutely no regrets.
24. What are the most challenging things about moving to and living in your new country? I didn’t actually find anything to be particularly challenging. Perhaps leaving behind my parents and family was tough – but I would recommend that newcomers get involved in sports and leisure. We got so many invitations for hikes, BBQs, parties, meals, drinks, that we didn’t have a spare minute! Just say Yes to every invitation you get (and there will be many) and you’ll love it!
25. Are you there for good?If so, why? If no, why not? We won’t retire here, but there’s every chance we’ll be here until retirement. The only two gripes I would have with Hong Kong are the noise (it’s constant, be it buses or drills, or the locals screaming at each other down the phone) and the congestion, or lack of space. As I said earlier, my wife would like a garden (among many other wishes!) and some solitude.
26. Any partings word to people thinking of moving to your country? Don’t hesitate, get on that plane.
About Marc Meldrum.
Marc graduated from university and fell straight away into the world of insurance sales. and has not changed a thing in the last 25 years. He has worked in senior positions within the Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC Private Bank and American Express, on three continents and with hundreds of different nationalities. Now his business provides high-quality advice and recommendations for medical insurance to expatriates in Asia-Pacific. Marc’s lifestyle had revolved around many sports (particularly football, squash and golf) and leisure (hiking, touring, travelling) but now everything is geared towards their baby daughter and his life is much quieter (but better) than ever before. You can visit his website to learn more about what Marc does at www.expatinsurance.com.hk .