Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to extend your house in a creative way

During the last week I discovered a new phenomenon going on in my neighborhood.

I'm not sure if it has been going around for longer, but at least I discovered it myself during last week.

Every evening when I come from home I exit the MTR (Metro) and walk for about 10 minutes to get to my apartment building. The road that I take to get home leads me across several highrises which are similar to my own building. In the morning and during the day there are hardly any cars parked there, but when I come home late, the whole road is full of cars.

Normal, would you think, right? Yes, quite normal, as people come home from work. However, I discovered that one out of 5 parked cars have people sitting in them. Normal do you think again? Yes, if you are waiting for someone, you stay in your car, that's obvious, and I never thought something behind that.

However, last week it happened that I had to walk that road for several times in the evening. The first time was when I got home from work. I passed the street, and everything seemed as usual. The first car had a mother and 2 children inside, the second car was empty, the 3rd car again a mother, father and a child. Some cars later I saw again a car with a whole family inside.

The mother was watching a movie on their iPad while the children were playing in the back of the car on their portable game computers. In another car I noticed a father sleeping deeply with the seat in the maximum position, while the children were watching a cartoon in the back. I guessed that they probably had to wait a while before they could pick up the person they were waiting for.

I went home, cooked, and after an hour or two I decided to take a walk outside. After taking the elevator, I entered the (same) street. Walking a bit, I noticed that the street was still full of cars. Nothing special I thought. But when walking further, I discovered that the cars with the waiting people were also still there.

The mother was still using her iPad while the children were in the back, and car whole family was also there, and also the sleeping father with his children. "What is going on here?" I thought.

They can't be homeless I thought, as the cars were pretty empty and clean. So what is it?

I decided to do some more investigation that week to see if this was just incidental or a structural phenomenon. And so I went walking out every evening of that tweek to conduct my investigation, and indeed, it seemed that it was not just an incident. I noticed that some of the same cars were occupied on other evenings as well. Sometimes I saw the same cars with the same families, and sometimes I saw new cars with other people doing the same thing. Even on sunday, I noticed some people, mostly men, sitting in their cars with a drink and a laptop.

And then I figured it out in my mind: These people were just looking for some personal space. You know, the the average apartment in Hong Kong is around 60 square meters and even though that is not much, the biggest problem is that most families share this with themselves, their children, and their parents.

And with just 60 square meters shared by 5 or 6 persons, I understand you are craving for some personal space. Therefore, I understand that those people are being creative; they use their car as an extention to their apartment. The inside of a car is about equal to a Hong Kong bedroom, so it is a useful space if you want to leave your grumpy grandparents, you need to study or just want to spend some time by yourself and your iPhone.

I'm wondering whether this is something that has been going on for years, or that this is a rising trend due to the ever increasing price per square meter, forcing people to live with more people in smaller apartments.

At least it is a creative idea to overcome the typical Hong Kong problem of having no personal space!


  1. Interesting thing you noticed. It seems like a creative way to get some space, but doesn't seem like a comfortable one.. The whole family spending a nice evening in a car! How much should they be pissed by other people they live with??

    1. Haha , mmm I agree, doesn't seem very comfortable? But I guess, if you got a grumpy grandma at home, you'll take anything to get out of there :-)