The first time I encountered torrential rain in Hong Kong, I took one look at the leaden skies and unrelenting wall of water and dressed in knee high leather boots and a mini mac. Perfect, I thought. How wrong could I be.
Two minutes outside and I was sweltering. Coming from the UK, it takes some getting used to that grey doesn’t equal cold. And neither does rain. But it was too late to turn back and when I reached my meeting I found my lunch date at The Pawn in Wan Chai was wearing flip flops and spaghetti straps which made me feel even more inappropriate in my Jimmy Choos and Burberry.
I quickly came to realise that the Hong Kong girl’s uniform in the rainy season is a tiny dress and a huge umbrella. It makes sense, the more flesh on show the easier it is to dry off. The sort of rain that has floored Manchester United will not deter a Hong Kong girl from leaving the house. It’s just a great excuse to wear Hunter wellingtons with the shortest of hot pants.
But my days of dressing like Kate Moss at Glastonbury circa 2011 are alas over, so what the hell do I wear? “Footwear is a nightmare,” confides a fellow expat, and she’s right even if you’re just getting in and out of a taxi (though good luck with finding one in the rain). I’ve never got on with flip flops (it’s a chaffing thing) and my own Hunters stand redundant in the hallway as I can only wear them with skinny jeans – unthinkable in this humidity. The tiny fold up umbrella I always kept in my bag in London is useless in this weather. Only a gargantuan golfing number that takes other pedestrians’ eyes out on the pavement will do.
Worse, the downpour always seems to start minutes before I need to leave for a work reception. When I finally get there, damp and flustered with frizzy hair, I console myself that everyone else will be in the same boat or they may not have even made it. But no, they all arrive cool, calm and collected on time. Not a hair out of place and no evidence of the monsoon raging outside.
There are exceptions. It seems that some Tai Tais, as I’ve been tempted, will not even leave the house in anything more than a Force 3. I turned up at my hairdressers one time to be greeted by a shocked looking (and Hunter wellie wearing) receptionist. “We didn’t think you’d come, everyone else has cancelled!” she said.
I’m not sure I’ll ever solve the dressing-for-the-rainy-season problem (bar an 18 year old’s physique, Asian hair or a 24 hour chauffeur) but at least being a Tai Tai there’s a get out clause.
*With apologies to Somerset Maugham
*with apologies to Somerset Maugham