I need to rant…

…so please indulge me for a moment, and then we’ll be back to normal programming folks.

Firstly – I love DIY. I have fantasised about doing up and renovating a place of my own for as long as I care to remember. I got to partially live out that fantasty when we partly renovated our house in Melbourne. I was here in Hong Kong for most of it though, so I missed out on most of the fun stuff – painting etc. So, I was hoping that painting our new flat would make up for what I missed out on when doing our place. We got the keys last weekend and spent 2 days tearing down wallpaper. This weekend we are cleaning up and preparing the walls so we can paint next weekend. Tonight after work we went out to B&Q (the first and only store in HK devoted to DIY) to get stuff. There are times I wish I lived in a country where I was communicating with people who speak the same language – and tonight was one of those times. I am not the most patient person at the best of times, but seriously, I knew more about paint than the guy working there. Not only that, but we were dealing with people called “Geronimo”, and another called “Wonka”. I am not kidding. (I have no idea why Chinese people choose stupid, and ridiculous English words as names – but that is a seperate rant alltogether). Going to a store like this is supposed to be fun. In Australia, going to the local Bunnings (I guess the US equivalent is Home Depot) is a Sunday afternoon ritual. Going to a DIY store where there is no sausage sizzle out front, and a tradesman inside to ask ” you ‘right luv?” is lacking in the experience department.

Secondly – why is it that people in Hong Kong think that painting is so difficult? I came across so many real estate agents when we were apartment hunting that would say that we could paint the place ourselves, but the landlord wasn’t prepared to do it – their reasoning? It was either a) too expensive, b) would take too long, or c) they didn’t know how to do it. I’m talking about apartments that with a simple coat of paint and a few small DIY jobs, could command an extra US$1000 a month (that’s how crazy the rental market is here). But they seem to think that painting is for experts. One agent said to me “Europeans, they know how to paint”. Lucky for me, I married an Italian.

OK. I’m taking deep breaths. I think I’m done now.

Have a great weekend everyone. I will be washing down our walls with warm water, and whatever cleaning liquid I can find, because HK’s great and wondorous DIY store doesn’t carry sugarsoap.

Comments ( 10 )

  • dani says:

    It’s the same here in Singapore, didn’t help that I was new to the country. I read in the Residents Guide to Singapore that Ikea had a paint department.. after wondering round and round in circles and making phone calls to the number listed in the book.. then following directions given over the phone – only to discover that in-fact Singapore has a TWO Ikeas and i was at the wrong one at the opposite end of the country which the book was not referring too.

    Then i tracked down another lead, got there and they only sold spray paint.. another place had roller trays but no paint. Then i found a wholesaler who had exactly what i needed.. but only took cash.. and could i find an ATM near by??? Nope!!

    It’s a really simple job but I found it so hard.

    On the name front.. a colleague back in the UK was working in China. A local girl wanted help picking a Western name. He recommended Fanny, which in the UK is different to the US if you know what i mean… thing is her last name was Pong, so the poor girl would visit the UK and introduce herself as Fanny Pong!!

  • Suzy says:

    Hey M21 – yes I guess I should be grateful they are letting us paint. And I just wiki’d sugar soap, and I think it is either similar or the same as tri-sodium phosphate.

    Ron – yes a lot of people here hire ‘professionals’. But I’ve learned that when an advert for an apartment with ‘new’ decoration – it usually means its all white, white tiles all over the floors (yuk!) and ghastly gold light fittings. Not my cup of tea!

    Columnist – I can imagine. The workers here need to be watched like a hawk too!

    Thanks Peak – if all goes well I might post photos eventually…

    Pigtown…sounds like you and M21 are having good luck with small hardware stores. I’m sure its the same here, but usually they don’t speak any English at all…so not very helpful for me.

    Thanks justimagaine! I’m hanging int here 😉

  • Suzy says:

    Aesthete – that is really tragic! I’ve meet some people with much stranger names, trust me. How’s Steak, Smart, Funny, Noisy, Creamy, Pear or Sexy? The latter was a school age girl who a friend of mine taught…can you imagine calling a student Sexy!?

  • j u s t i m a g i n e says:

    AWWWW you poor thing…….just think of the sastifaction you will feel when it’s all over ! Chin up my little friend.

  • Pigtown-Design says:

    I just found a little neighbourhood hardware store, with a wooden floor, no less. They could do the simple little repair I needed, while the big box DIY store wanted me to replace the item.

  • The Peak of Chic says:

    It sounds like a lot of people feel your pain! Who knew paint and painting could prove to be so difficult? Good luck on it!

  • columnist says:

    I sympathise…try Bangkok. It is however easier and cheaper to hire someone to do it, except you have to supervise like a hawk, to make sure they follow your wishes to the letter. (Fun being an interior designer here….!!!)

  • Ron/NL says:

    I can fully understand your frustration. I had no idea DIY-shops would not be available in HK ( except for that one). How does everybody living there, decorate their apartments? Always hiring a professional? It is correct that in Europe they know how to paint. Paint jobs in the States are basicly horrible to my standard. But Americans are better at other things!
    I am on the verge of having to paint a lot myself. Good luck to us both!!

  • maison21 says:

    ugh- sounds like a nightmare! i personally can’t stand going to home depot here in the states, because like your DIY store, it is staffed full of people who know NOTHING and don’t seem to understand a word i’m saying (even though we all speak the same language). i prefer smaller hardware stores where the staff can actually answer questions and give advice.

    but count yourself lucky on the painting issue- most landlords here won’t let you paint- even if you pay for it, or do it yourself.

    btw- is sugarsoap the same as tri-sodium phosphate? just curious…

    good luck with your prep and painting- it will be worth the frustration! for reals!

  • An Aesthete's Lament says:

    I had an American friend who went to live in China for a year, teaching English. And to my horror, re bad names, she christened her students with English names straight out of country-club America of the 1950s: Miffy, Biff, Buffy, Chip, Bitsy, et cetera … ghastly.

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