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Frenetic yet fun, the world’s top business destinations are culturally distinct yet share a pace of life that’s not for the faint-hearted. Strap yourselves in – it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
The bright lights have lured generations of young professionals to the Big Apple, although now it’s not only the downtown financial district acting like a magnet but also the law offices of Midtown, the tech startups of TriBeCa and SoHo – and just across that famous bridge, seriously hip (yet also cheaper) Brooklyn is stating its own claim on the world’s ambitious creatives. Compact yet dense, the wider area is as easy to navigate as it is difficult to find a cab at 4pm, when drivers change shifts. Remember that the notorious traffic congestion makes the efficient subway system a blessing. The mantra for New York? Expect the unexpected. Wherever you are, one thing is for sure: there’s bound to be something exciting going on.
For professionals in search of adventure, Hong Kong is hard to beat. An East-meets-West hub where life moves at a dizzying pace, networking segues each evening from the office to the endless bars and restaurants. It’s the place where business possibilities are endless, from the smallest startup to the world’s biggest marquee names. The famous Mid-Levels escalator is an apt symbol of the central island, depositing hordes of business and finance professionals at their downtown offices each morning and doing the reverse at night. The vertiginous, skyscraper-dense island is a place where a million expats work hard (12-hour days are the norm) and play harder. On the latter note, the coolest restaurants and bars are in SoHo (that’s south of Hollywood Road) in hip Sheung Wan.
No longer dismissed as a mere stopover between Australia and the Northern Hemisphere, Singapore in the past decade has emerged as a global financial tiger with a thrilling cultural life that seamlessly blends elements of its harmonious Chinese, Malay and Indian population. For the young professional, Singapore’s sophisticated and outward-looking mindset, tech-savviness and international melting pot appeal are attractive propositions – not to mention its location, perched on the tip of the Malay Peninsula and within a short plane ride to South-East Asia’s most exciting destinations. Attractions such as Marina Bay (with its iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel featuring a rooftop swimming pool) and Gardens by the Bay are on the international hot-list, while the compact nature of the island – with its still-distinct neighbourhoods – makes it an easy destination to explore (although it’s best to grab a cab to beat the heat).
Huge and historied, London is holding its own in the new millennium, with young Australian professionals continuing to make the pilgrimage to work in “the City” – although the financial centre, contained in its famous square mile, is now being rivalled by the up-and-coming Canary Wharf, a short distance to the east. It’s a dignified town but London continues to reinvent itself, garnering a reputation as a culinary and artistic hotspot. With one-third of London’s population aged between 25 and 44, life certainly doesn’t just revolve around the office. The area around the Thames is fast being revitalised with bars and restaurants, and the hippest neighbourhood is Shoreditch in the former working-class inner east. Locals might grumble but the underground train system known as the Tube and the iconic red double-decker buses are an efficient way to get around – though the wisdom of London cabbies is beyond compare.
When it comes to the cost of living and of doing business, Chicago has plenty to trumpet over its North American rivals – and it does so, loudly. A diverse and thriving economy and proud cultural scene is based in the downtown business district known as Chicago Loop – also the home of the best hotels and tourist sights. The city is becoming known as a tech startup hotspot, too. Named the fourth best American city for millennials by Niche.com (which singled out the Wicker Park area), it boasts revitalised, artistically-leaning areas – Lincoln Park, Lake View and River North – that attract young cashed-up singles in droves, while DePaul University adds vibrancy. Based on an easy-to-navigate grid, Chicago’s traffic is what you’d expect of a city of 2.7 million people – one of the largest in the United States. It’s easier to grab one of the abundant taxis or jump on the train system known as the L. On weekends, Lake Michigan provides a great forum for on-water networking.
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