Nikki’s Inbox: Summer Internship 101 in Hot, Humid Hong Kong

Hi Nikki! I’m studying architecture in a co-op program at university. Every four months, I’d switch between school and work. I’ve worked at some smaller architecture firms with some pretty relaxed dress codes. This time I have the opportunity to intern in Hong Kong for the summer, but I don’t know how to dress for the hot, humid climate compared to Canada’s milder summers. I don’t want to end up a sweaty mess when I get to work.

I’m a pretty slim Asian at 173cm, with a 42cm shoulder width and a 70cm waist. I would usually wear a dress shirt tucked into slim-fit pants, along with a belt and some lace-up dress shoes. If the weather calls for it, I may layer with a blazer. I can’t really experiment with the things I have to see what would work because I can only bring so much in a suitcase. I also don’t want to end up wearing the same things I wear at work on the weekends either. What things should I look for when packing my suitcase? Thanks!

Tak, 20/Canada

Hello, Tak! I can tell you for sure that Hong Kong summers are certainly different from what you have in Canada. One thing you have to remember is that summer here also coincides with the rainy season. So not only is the weather hot, sunny and humid, it may also be rainy. So if you have any non-waterproof gear you’re planning to bring, like suede shoes, I encourage you to reconsider.

One thing you neglected to mention is if you’ll have a dress code. That’s the number one factor you have to consider before you up and fly to Hong Kong. Knowing whether the firm has a dress code or not helps you determine what clothing is appropriate for work, play and possibly both.

Work basics in climate-friendly fabrics
For your work wardrobe, Tak, you have to find the balance between dressing for the humidity and following any dress code your workplace might have. For your shirts, blazers and trousers, look out for those made primarily of cotton. The higher the ratio of cotton to polyester or other synthetic fibers, the better. Cotton will wrinkle easily, yes (but hurray for no-iron shirts!), but your skin will thank you. Linen is also a good choice for shirts and blazers but they have a tendency to wrinkle faster than cotton so I’d suggest you save these for casual Fridays and the weekends. There are blazers and jackets in linen blends (linen mixed with synthetic fibers) that fare better. Add in a navy blue or dark gray one to your rotation for more versatility.

Think color-coding
Color is something you also have to keep in mind. Dark colors absorb heat so resist the urge to wear all black, or you might get heatstroke. Dark grays, blues and browns are better than wearing all black. Wear lighter-colored shirts with patterns for contrast and don’t forget to wear a cotton undershirt (a tank or tee) to help absorb sweat and save your clothes from unsightly sweat stains. Cardigans are also common here and wearing one is certainly lighter and more comfortable than a heavy blazer or a vest. It will also come in handy as the A/C levels can reach Arctic levels. Go for one or two in the colors mentioned above, or feel free to play around with two-tone combinations.

If it’s okay to wear jeans during your internship, then good! Do bring dark-rinse jeans — anything from black to dark gray and deep indigo will work — as these are versatile enough for a smart casual dress code and for weekends.

What about the weekends?
Aside from work clothes, what else should you pack in your luggage? Leather shoes, for one, in a loafer style for versatility, and your favorite pair of sneakers. A few of your favorite tees and shorts, a casual jacket, and your underwear and grooming essentials should be enough to tide you over for the first two or three weeks here (please do laundry, though).

For the rest of your stay, you can buy additions or replacements while you’re here. Hong Kong is a shopping mecca (in case you haven’t heard) so there’s should be much of a problem when it comes to sizing or colors. Plus, you’re guaranteed that what’s in the store is appropriate for the season.

Good luck on your internship and I hope you enjoy Hong Kong, Tak!


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