Welcome to our first interview on our CiHK blog – where we get up close and personal with movers and shakers in Hong Kong who are proud to call themselves Canadian. Virginia and I have been talking for the past few months after connecting on Instagram and I thought it would be a great feature to shed some light on the work she is doing and to find out more about how she built a local tour business as well as online presence.
2. How has the pandemic impacted your business and how did you navigate around it?
I tried pivoting to several things such as virtual tours and an online egg tart baking class to which I’ve probably conducted over 200 classes. I also subsidized my income by tutoring English. There were a lot of touch and go moments where I wanted to go back and get a corporate job but I just felt like we were so close to “making it” – especially when we got our big break in 2019 where I was featured as a tour guide for Netflix’s “Restaurants on the Edge”. I was also the fixer for that portion of the episode. So it was always my intention just to keep afloat just a little bit longer.
I didn’t realize the pandemic would last for as long as it has. Eventually what I found as a successful pivot was creating and teaching Mahjong – a Chinese game that involves tiles. I think it’s because teaching Mahjong is very similar to guiding a tour. Also, I absolutely love the game. Bonus factor: it’s always in an air-conditioned room (LOL).
3. Tell us about being featured on Netflix and how that came to be about.
Virginia: I was hired for my language skills. They were looking for someone who was bilingual and could help them source and cast restaurants for the episode. I cold called about 80 restaurants. In Hong Kong, Netflix was relatively unknown to the locals and because phone scams are rampant here, nobody wanted to talk to someone that spoke English with a long distance number.
My role was to explain the show’s concept as well as shortlist restaurants. Shortlisted restaurants would have to do a casting call, so if they were more comfortable in Cantonese, I conducted the casting call and translated the main points. This was all behind the scenes but it was what I was actually hired to do. After the casting of the restaurant, they asked me to speak with the story writer to give him the download of Hong Kong’s culture. It was through this call that the idea of a food tour onscreen came to fruition, and the rest is what you see on the screen.
4. What is your personal definition of the term being creative?
For me personally, I think being creative means doing things that have never been done before. I like to keep my projects cool and educational but I also recognize that the road less taken is usually one that bears more risk. For example, our signature food tour is in Whampoa – a neighborhood that isn’t on the tourist path at all. People love the “road off the beaten path” factor but it does horribly on the SEO front because no one googles the area. It took so long to get it off the ground because we had to collect enough user reviews to entice people.
Another example of creativity would be taking a familiar concept but aligning it to our own brand – i.e. our Chinese New Year countdown calendar which takes after elements of a Christmas advent calendar. A distinguishing feature is how you can learn about different days of Chinese New Year during the countdown (pssttt: they’re coming back this year, so follow our IG @ilikefishballs if you’re keen for one). Our newest project is a puzzle mystery which utilizes a normal jigsaw puzzle but combines elements of a mystery and scavenger hunt all-in-one. Definitely the first of its kind in Hong Kong.
5. What does being Canadian mean to you? On a scale of 1 to 10 – how Canadian do you feel after living in Hong Kong for 10 years?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that identity has a lot to do with associated values, culture and traditions. Whilst I feel Canadian, I feel way more Canadian-Chinese. For example, we all know that turkey is involved during Thanksgiving. Being Canadian-Chinese, Thanksgiving for us always involves a delicious turkey congee the day after! Our family blended the two together to create our own identity. I feel it’s very “Canadian” not to assimilate but to retain our own culture and to respect & celebrate other cultures that may be different to our own.
Given that I am plowing through a box of President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chunk Cookies as we speak, I think I would put myself as a 8.15 on your Canadian scale even after living in Hong Kong for over 10 years. I deducted a few points for my lack of enthusiasm towards hockey and the fact that living in Hong Kong has made me stop apologizing so much.
6. What is the future for “Humid with a Chance of Fishballs”? Any other exciting projects in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Yes, I’ve got so many things in the pipeline that it’s also making my head spin! Definitely not complaining as I much prefer Hong Kong be back to its vibrant atmosphere rather than being closed off to the rest of the world. Of course, we are still running tours, but only private tours meaning your group plus the tour guide.
HK Puzzle Mystery – The Dim Sum Steam Off (Nov 2022) After successfully getting over $48,000 HKD in pre-sales, HK Puzzle Mystery (a jigsaw + mystery + scavenger hunt) will be launching In Hong Kong mid-November. You’ll be able to purchase directly via WhatsApping Virginia https://wa.me/85239167664 or over at Kitty N. Wong’s online shop: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/1306915286/pre-order-hong-kong-puzzle-mystery-the
Chinese New Year Countdown Calendar – Year of the Rabbit 2023! (Dec 2022)
It’s back! It was sold out during presales last year, and this year, presales will start end of November. Each day, you’ll get a little chocolate and an insert with some cultural information or activity about CNY. You’ll be able to purchase directly via WhatsApping Virginia.
Scavenger Hunt! (Jan – Feb 2023)
We’ll be putting on some scavenger hunt events during the weekend in the month of January when the weather is cool enough for people to run around! Definitely a brilliant family activity.
Our website is still in the processing of being updated over to another platform, so best if you want to keep up to date with all the cool things we’ve got going on would be to follow us on our company on our social media channels.