Life of an expat in Hong Kong – what to expect?

The question most asked during our recent visit to family and friends is: how is it to be an expat in Hong Kong? Well here is the answer – it is amazing to live in one of the world’s economic centers, on the 38th floor with a stunning view, with kids playing in the pool, enjoying the beaches, drinking cocktails in the skybars, and working in one of the beautiful buildings of the skyline. Using the taxi, metro, boat or tram to move around. Making lots of memories with new friends and enjoying time together as a family.

Hong Kong consists of over 200 islands, but the three biggest islands: Hong Kong, Kowloon and Lantau, will most likely be where you spend your time. The harbour is the center of the city and the place which made Hong Kong one of the biggest economic hubs in the world. Because of the island structure, with beaches and mountains, there is not much space left for buildings and therefore both people and companies flight for the same space. Resulting in small appartments and offices, sky-high buildings and prices. It also means that there is not much space to produce or grow anything, so almost no factories and farms, but many products imported. Not only from mainland China, but from around the world. That is good news for expats, since almost all your favorite products can be found here.

The locals love food. Due to the fact that houses are so small, there is often no kitchen and people are forced to eat outside. Food from all over the world and restaurants in all prices ranges, make you want to try everyday something new. Most of the time they order dishes to be shared among them. Lunch is the most important meal, and they are fond of dim sum for breakfast. In the weekend they adore a good brunch. It’s remarkable to see the amount of pictures taken from food.

The main languages are Cantonese, Mandarin and English. Besides for some difficulties you might have with taxi drivers or handy men, English is widely spoken and you won’t feel lost. So don’t worry too much about that. International jobs can mainly be found in the financial, banking or consulting sector. Notice that in other sectors a good understanding of Mandarin is often a strict requirement. Most international jobs are relatively well paid and the income tax system is very favourable. However, this is offset by a in general higher cost of living, so make sure you do some calculations upfront. The working climate can be said to be quite tough. Long work hours (note a six day workweek sometimes apply) and not much holiday makes that one often says: work hard, party hard. The good part is that Hong Kong has much to offer to enjoy yourself in the weekend. Besides of course all the restaurants, clubs, bars which come with a big city, beaches and mountains are on your doorstep. Many islands where you can completely unwind. Any sport you might fancy can be found here (from yoga to golf). The Chinese like rugby and horse racing, for which they organize huge public events, which you should definitely attend one day.

There is a big expat community. Most western expats come from  France, UK, Australia. Making new friends should not be too difficult, however the Chinese tend to be a bit on their own. Most likely you’ll meet easier other expats, through sport, in the building you live or via your kids/school.

Read more about the drawbacks of living in Hong Kong and other blogs you might find useful on the ExpatWise blog.

If you are interested in learning more about moving to Hong Kong or have any specific questions, please visit www.expatwisehongkong.com or contact me directly.

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