Whether you’re at the beginning of your research about the possibility of living in Hong Kong, or the move is imminent, it always pays to find out as much as you can about your upcoming move.
Depending on where you hail from, the move to Hong Kong can either seem only a little different from home, or it can be a massive culture shock that sees you massively out of your comfort zone.
Where East Meets West
You’ll find that many people describe Hong Kong in this manner. It hails from the amount of time the city spent under British rule (it fell under this in 1842) and it’s Chinese influence. In 1997, the UK handed Hong Kong back to China, although being an SAR, it continues to have its own currency (the Hong Kong dollar) and it’s own government and laws.
A World Financial Hub
The importance of Hong Kong as a financial centre should never be underestimated. The local currency, the Hong Kong Dollar, is one of the ten most traded in the world, and some of the best known banking names in the world have hubs here (think such banking giants as Citibank and HSBC).
Of course, the fact that the city boasts free trade and steady, low taxation means it’s a honeypot for trade. Add in the fact that export is easy from here thanks to it’s great location, and you begin to understand why it boasts the highest per capita income on the planet.
That all sounds great, but what quality of life can I expect if I were to live there?
The above all make Hong Kong a sought after location in which to live. There’s economic freedom, excellent law enforcement, corruption prevention, good quality living accommodation, excellent public transport, and, according to both the World Health Organisation and the United Nations, the longest life expectancy of anywhere in the world.
Ah – you’ve mentioned accommodation. I’ve heard it’s really expensive to rent or purchase property here.
This is true, and most expats say that renting accommodation in Hong Kong is what they spend the greatest proportion of their money on. With an average net income of $HK 22,334 and the average price to rent a 3-bedroom apartment being $HK 2,006 outside of the city centre, you can see that this is so (figures accurate as of February 2016 and taken from Numbeo).
However, where you slot into the salary scale will depend on your profession and level – many expats earn far higher than the national average salary.
What about getting around? Isn’t the traffic meant to be horrendous?
No one is going to try and say that Hong Kong’s roads aren’t somewhat busy, but the great thing is that you don’t need to drive here. A massive 80 percent of the population relies on the public transport system – the MTR.
With virtually the whole city covered, there’s literally no reason to even own a car whilst living here.
OK – so that sounds good. What else are going to be my biggest outgoings?
Well, that depends on your personal situation. State schools in Hong Kong are free, and the education is excellent. There are lessons in English, however there’s no guarantee quite how much of this will be that way. Because of this, many expats choose to school their kids at many of the good international schools. These provide a great education, but you have to pay for them.
Another outgoing will be if you want to eat a lot of imported food. For those of you who can’t do without your Heinz Baked Beans (UK) or Twinkies (US), amongst other things, then you have to expect to pay over the odds for items that have to be shipped in.
But if you can eat in the way of the locals, then you’ll probably find that your weekly grocery bill is far cheaper than you’re used to.
What about the language? Am I going to have to learn Chinese?
With the amount of English speaking people living and working in Hong Kong, this certainly isn’t necessary. The two most widely spoken languages in Hong Kong are Cantonese and English, and all of the signage is in English as well.
What’s the weather like?
Hong Kong’s climate is subtropical. This basically means it’s hot!
There are four seasons – summer is hot and humid, winter is a little cooler, drier, and pleasant. Spring and autumn can be quite unpredictable. It does suffer from typhoons during the summer months. When there’s a typhoon forecast you’ll know – there are plenty of warnings so the population is aware.
Excellent – be it private or state. There are over 50 public hospitals (free to use once you have your ID card), and over a dozen private ones.
Large companies tend to provide their expat employees with private health cover – often through a company such as Bupa Hong Kong or International.
Anything else I should know?
For those working in Hong Kong, you’ll find that the business world is somewhat formal, especially compared to that in the UK, Australia, or the US. Concepts such as feng shui also play their part – often taken extremely seriously when considering the internal aspects of a building.
You’ll also find that many buildings lack a 4th floor, as the number sounds like the world “die” when said in Cantonese. However, once you learn the little nuances of the culture here, you’ll adapt – it’ll even become normal.
It’s also very common for expats to have domestic help. There are many such workers from the Philippines and Indonesia in Hong Kong. Be aware that the immigration department has created a standard contract for those working here (Sunday is always their day off) to ensure they are fairly paid and work standard hours.