Feeling the squeeze - Monocolumn | Monocle


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1 December 2014

It is December and the beginning of that time of year when many people seem keen to embrace the festive spirit by opening up their homes. From full-on meals with all the trimmings to more relaxed parties, where a pot of mulled wine is kept warm on the stove, it is often the kitchen that becomes the focus of these house parties.

Last week, the Madison Group, which distributes high-end kitchen equipment such as Bulthaup and Sub-Zero & Wolf in Hong Kong, held a number of events at its space in Wan Chai. Marking the start of the festive period, these events all took place in their showroom that has been designed to feel more like a three-floor luxury apartment than a simple showroom. Food and drinks were served in fully functioning, domestically scaled kitchens and guests roamed around different areas as if they were in a private home. The result was a party where guests mingled more comfortably and confidently, reassured by the domestic setting they were in. It made me think that more companies could benefit from hosting clients and employees in more comforting surroundings rather than the often sterile function rooms that are rented out at this time of year.

But that kind of space is a rare luxury. Here in Hong Kong, the option to entertain at home is one that many people do not have. Recently, the city’s smallest apartment was released onto the property market. At just over 15 sq m, it allows a resident to have a single bed alongside a bathroom and kitchen that are jammed into what can only be seen as a closet space. Of course, this is an extreme but many Hong Kongers share small living quarters with multiple generations of their family. Young children share bedrooms with their parents and grandparents, leading to all sort of social issues far more important than the inability to entertain guests at home.

For over two months, major streets outside Hong Kong’s government offices in Admiralty have been occupied by protestors. With protestors building tents, shower areas, food and medical supply stations and even desks for study, the area has become something of a mini city – laid out to enable the flow of pedestrians while stopping car traffic. This morning may have seen the first clashes there between police and protestors in a while but for weeks the site has not only hosted protestors but also office workers eating their lunch, families taking weekend walks and artists building new works.

While the political demand of full enfranchisement is at the core of the protest, so too is a dissatisfaction felt by Hong Kong students with the opportunities that lie ahead for them. Among these is the difficulty they will have in leaving cramped family flats and finding a place of their own due to the high prices of property here. Sadly for some, the tent city that they’ve built in the streets may offer more space and sense of community than they can find at home.

Aisha Speirs is Monocle's Hong Kong bureau chief.


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