BY: JESSICA BEUKER
Hong Kong is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. In a city where pedestrians are crammed like sardines, utilization of space is crucial. When apartments are cubicles stacked one on top of the other and rooms are less than 10 square metres in size, it is not desirable to call this place ‘home’. The word home conjures up feelings of comfort and safety. Instead, millions of families are forced into boxes, resembling animals in cages crying for relief.
The Mong Kok neighbourhood of Hong Kong is home to 22 men living in a 450-square-foot apartment. The rooms are no larger than a single bed and are stacked along two narrow hallways. Each person pays around $185 per month.
While the physical reality of these cubicle apartments means crammed spaces and difficult living conditions, for many of the residents it is a case of mind over matter.
According to one user on Quora, the small space is not a problem if you are hardly ever there. The user explains that his friend, who is a wealthy lawyer, chooses to live in the apartments because they are cheap, close to everything and there is enough room for everything he owns. “He doesn’t eat there. The only food I’ve seen in there are jars of whey protein,” writes the Quora user. “He sleeps (on average 4-6 hours a night only) there but also naps at the office. He probably showers there less often than he showers at his gym. I’m not even sure how often he has sex there.” While this lifestyle may work for some people, others don’t have the luxury of choosing to be away from home all the time.
But still, many of the residents find ways to stay positive. Another user writes: “When I first came to Hong Kong I lived in a 230 sq. ft. place. My wife was pregnant with my first child and we had no elevator, so I had to carry her every day six floors three times up and down. When the child was born the apartment became our first home and I have lots of sweet memories there. So my conclusion is that it is not important how big your place is, it depends on what person you are and how you look at space and functionality.”
Living in Hong Kong’s cubicle apartments puts a focus on item quality rather than quantity. There is no room to fill up spaces with trendy furniture from Urban Outfitters and an endless supply of expensive knick-knacks. Material items do not make a home. The reality of these spaces is not always pretty, but the residents don’t let four small walls define their lives. “It took me a while before wrapping my head around the fact that this is how it is and it will be. So I might as well choose the best out of the worse,” writes one Hong Kong resident. “Once this thought gets into your head, life becomes easy. Your apartment is just a place where you sleep. Nothing else.”