Photo Credit: @audraverse
A Day In The Life Of A Black Expat Living In Hong Kong
Audra makes life as a Black expat living in Hong Kong look easy (and colorful!) With many considering the move overseas to pursue a creative and new life, Black expats have been offering hope. Audra offers an insight into what it means to make a home in a vibrant city. Hailing from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, this island girl at heart found herself far from familiarity. This is what a day looks like for Audra, as she invests in her happiness and grows her business.
It was a beautiful day in October 2011 when I landed in Hong Kong for the very first time. A chance Linkedin connection empowered me to trade my life in New York City for Hong Kong without previously visiting. (Spontaneity keeps my life exciting!) The weather was perfect and the people were friendly, so I knew immediately that I would be here for a while. Almost 11 years later and Hong Kong is still my place. I was curious about the world since I was growing up on the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, but never had I imagined finding a place to call home in an Asian city almost 10,000 miles away.
Moving to “Home Kong” – as we affectionately refer to our city – has enabled me to pursue my interests, explore more of the world, and grow both personally & professionally. A few years after arriving, I took a career break to pursue my MBA here full-time. Doing so has led me to a semester studying abroad in London, an internship in Ghana, a six-month solo trip across Africa by road, and ultimately to a career that I truly love. That reflective period and the influence of people I met along the way, inspired me to leave my long-term banking career. Now I am a color-loving creative.
My journey has taken me to 76 countries across six continents but there’s no place like Hong Kong. I could not have asked for a better city to connect with other like-minded people who are eager to share their resources and encourage you to follow your passion. Hong Kong is safe, efficient, has low-income tax rates, and has a ton of entertaining social events. The recent COVID restrictions have impacted the latter but events are back, though at a reduced capacity.
The Black expat community has grown tremendously since I first arrived. I have managed to find my people from different walks of life who I call my Hong Kong family. I have a few friends of Caribbean descent who have been settled here even longer than I have. We would get together to make black cake and sorrel around the holidays and share plantains and green bananas when we come access them in our neighborhoods. (We travel far for plantains and green bananas here!)
Skyscrapers are the first things that come to mind when most people think of Hong Kong but did you know that there are beautiful beaches here too!? There are over 200 outlying islands so I tend to spend a lot of time beach-hopping and exploring new places on the weekends when I am in town. Camping at the beach is one of my favorite activities so I’ve invested in a tent and proper camping gear. The beauty of camping in Hong Kong is waking up to the sound of crashing waves at sunrise and enjoying the beautiful landscape with a great group of friends. It is important for me to get away from the hustle and bustle of city living to experience the greenery and calmness by the seaside. I’m an island girl so being by the water makes me happy.
Sundays are made for self-care, relaxation, and endless enjoyment. You may find me with a coconut spending downtime surrounded by people who I love. In the spring and fall when the temperature cools, I enjoy hiking to marvel at the wonderful views. This city is a foodie’s paradise. You can enjoy just about every type of cuisine here along with a fusion of the most delicious dishes. Nevertheless, I believe that the best Caribbean meals are made in my kitchen. I am pescatarian so I’m always keen to explore new seafood and vegan places.
My life here as a fashion founder is very different from my previous life as a banker. I am now the founder of Beam Bold, a vibrant fashion brand for color lovers of all sizes.
No two days are the same as I am constantly managing multiple priorities. Prior to building my dream team, I had been a solopreneur for a while. It was necessary for me to dedicate specific days of the week to prioritize key areas of my business. There are days when my primary focus is on finances, business strategy, business development, and marketing, and I even have a day for connecting since it’s a huge part of who I am.
Here’s a sneak peek into my life on a typical Friday in Hong Kong:
On a sunny Friday morning, I will begin with a run or walk at the park – or at the waterfront – while listening to a podcast or an audiobook. When the weather isn’t that great there would be Afrobeats on blast while I follow along to a fitness app in my home.
I would check in with my assistant and my staff in Mainland China to delegate tasks and provide the clothing production list for the day. My courier runs usually happen in the morning so I can collect customer orders which were sent by my production team. This is followed by managing order shipments.
Sometimes a visit to my Hong Kong sample room is necessary should I receive any urgent customization requests or should sample fittings be necessary.
After lunch, I may explore new places for my photo shoots and tend to partake in some impromptu test shooting. This is followed by me reviewing and approving brand images. Finally, I would respond to my emails and submit customer orders to my pattern maker before signing off at 5 p.m. Like many early-stage start-up founders, I work late into the evening on many nights but Friday is never one of those nights.
I truly love what I do and get to wake up every day and connect with women who face challenges accessing clothing in their size and length. Being able to solve their pain points while diverting clothing waste from African landfills brings me so much joy. Various aspects of my business feel like play but I do believe that balancing the things that I love is important in maintaining my happiness.
This is why I am meticulous about ending my day early on Fridays to socialize. Rooftops are also my happy place so some Friday evenings I meet friends for drinks while gazing at the sunset and Hong Kong skyline.
Moving to Hong Kong on a whim without ever having visited an Asian country has changed the trajectory of my life. I have come a long way from Brooklyn, New York where I’ve spent most of my formidable years, and an even further way from Barrouallie – the tiny fishing town in St. Vincent where I was raised.
My journey has not always been smooth as I have stumbled along the way. For example, 2020 was one of the most challenging years of my life when I experienced a severe loss shortly after the pandemic began in Asia. I learned that all of my fabric was stolen which forced me to pause my business operation. I have lost 500 meters of fabric and all income sources but never once considered leaving Hong Kong. When you have found your purpose, giving up is never an option.
Having supportive friends around me enabled me to start over. Hong Kong will always hold a special place in my heart so I plan to make this my hub until I am ready to split my time between Hong Kong and a few of my favorite places, while continuously exploring the world.
I am a permanent Hong Kong resident so this means I can reside here indefinitely without requiring a visa. This only changes if I were to relocate and fail to visit every three years. I hope to inspire you all to consider a move abroad, and do what you love with L.O.V.E. (Leverage your network, Overcome your fear, Validate your idea, and Expand through partnerships.) Let’s all lead with kindness & spread love the Brooklyn way!
Keep up with Audra’s expat chronicles on Instagram.