So you’re thinking of taking an expat position in Hong Kong? Well… it’s an incredible city with a unique culture and history, and a strange contrast of Western and Eastern cultures… not to mention one of the world’s busiest ports. Not only this, but the quality of life is extremely high- HK ranks highly for economic freedom and competitiveness and corruption prevention, not to mention it’s a safe place to live - and it has the longest life expectancy in the world.
Currency: Hong Kong Dollar, divided into 100 cents.
Where to Live
Each area in Hong Kong is very different, and has its own pros and cons. A lot of expats live in MidLevels, where the apartments are generally Westernised (e.g. with ovens; many local homes won’t have one). Other great places with active expat communities include Discovery Bay, Sai Kung and Hong Lok Yuen, or if you want a more local experience try Ma On Shan and other areas in the New Territories. You’ll find housing costs are often astronomical, but vary wildly between areas – although many companies will subsidise housing and education. It’s best to negotiate a package before you agree to take the job, and we’d advise you to go through an expat agency rather than a local one.
Public Transport in HK is second to none (literally – it’s got the highest public usage in the world, which means it doesn’t really matter where you live!), so many people choose to live without a car – especially as expenditures like parking can really mount up.
Hong Kong is crowded. If you haven’t been before, you’ll likely be surprised at how crowded it really is – almost like being at a music festival every day, everywhere – with 7 million people on the archipelago. It is still fairly easy to get out of the hustle and bustle, however- Fragrant Harbour offers a rare retreat from the city, and hikes in Sai Kung can reap rewards in the form of secluded beaches.
Most business people speak great English, and government signs are in Chinese (Cantonese) and English, but use of Mandarin is also growing rapidly. Language schools for people of any age are popular, where you can learn Cantonese or Mandarin.
If you’re taking children with you, you’ll obviously need to consider schooling. Schools are excellent, although public schools teach mostly in Cantonese so you’ll probably want to consider enrolling your kids in a private international school. These can be very expensive, so it’s worth negotiating a package with your employer. If you’re looking for adult education during your time in HK, you’ll find a wealth of competitive and flexible options.
Feng shui is taken very seriously in Hong Kong, like many Chinese concepts. Ba Gua mirrors are used to deflect evil spirits, and many buildings do not have a 4th floor. Little things are worth noting too, for example business cards are handed over with both hands. It’s worth knowing that if you’re a resident of Hong Kong, you will need to carry your ID card at all times (or face risk of prosecution!) and you’ll need a visa to travel to China.
Like anywhere, how you see the weather depends on where you lived before… but Hong Kong has a subtropical climate with very hot, humid summers and thunderstorms aplenty. Typhoons are fairly common throughout the summer, although with excellent warning systems in place. Winters are of course cooler, but not too cold (depending on where you’re from of course!) – the coolest ever recorded temperature was 0C.
The 13 private hospitals and over 50 public hospitals offer healthcare services amongst the most varied in the world. Despite a reputation for some of the world’s best hospitals, some smaller companies may not cover you and your family’s healthcare so it’s definitely best checking before you go.
Sports Clubs often act as the expat family’s main social circle in Hong Kong, and provide valuable status – but the waiting lists are long and the joining fees are high for the likes of the Golf, Cricket and “Ladies Recreation” Clubs.
Like many of Asia’s wealthier cities, domestic help is cheap and many living in Hong Kong choose to employ a maid, most of whom come from Indonesia and the Philippines. They tend to have Sundays off, and certain parts of the city can be very busy at the this time of the week!