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Moving to Hong Kong

Expats moving to Hong Kong will find deep tradition at the foundations of its towering skyscrapers and neon lights, in a place where East truly does meet West. However, these cultures haven’t combined so much as they’ve found a way to exist alongside each other. Some things may feel fairly familiar to Westerners who are new to Hong Kong, while others will be entirely foreign.

On the whole, many expats find it relatively easy to live in Hong Kong, with its efficient infrastructure and amenities. The territory has an advanced healthcare system, an elevated standard of schooling and an exemplary public transport system that all serve to significantly decrease the burden of transition. Once some of the wrinkles of relocation have been ironed out, expats will also find themselves able to appreciate the city's high levels of safety and practically unlimited entertainment

The bustle never stops in Hong Kong’s densely populated centre. The former British colony has one of the world's most successful capitalist economies and is known for being one of Asia's fiscal tigers, perched near the top of global economic rankings.

At the same time, however, only a fraction of the Fragrant Harbour is developed, which allows expats who yearn for nature amidst the asphalt to escape and enjoy their natural surroundings.

However, while ostentatious luxury and a devotion to quality are still part of its richly woven fabric, Hong Kong doesn't necessarily offer the same lucrative employment packages it used to. As the cost of living continues to climb, vast wealth is becoming less attainable for anyone other than the most senior employees. High living costs and limited prospects are also proving a deterrent for expats who don’t already have employment in the region secured.

Accommodation, in particular, is characterised by sky-high price tags for disproportionately small spaces. Expats are advised to negotiate a housing allowance or, at least, to carefully consider the cost of renting in Hong Kong before signing a contract.

Expats will also have to face other challenges in Hong Kong. Over 7 million people are packed into the archipelago, and the preciousness of elbow room becomes fully appreciated as members of the population frenetically whizz past. Air pollution has also unceremoniously drifted down from the factories of southern China and has come to settle over and around the city's upward-reaching skyline. As overwhelming and unattractive as this may be to some, however, fresh air and open spaces can always be found outside the expat-friendly Central area.

Hong Kong has many layers and expats will find that just as they’ve finished pulling back one layer, more swiftly take shape. Whether they feel safer in the insular yet comfortable expat scene, or prefer to explore the indigenous culture of this age-old port city, an exciting and invigorating experience is guaranteed.

Essential Info for Hong Kong

Population: Over 7 million

Capital city: Hong Kong

Neighbouring countries: The Chinese mainland encloses the region from the north and Macau is situated across the sea to the west. The east, south and west of Hong Kong is bordered by the South China Sea 

Geography: Hong Kong is hilly and mountainous, with the result that the majority of Hong Kong is undeveloped. There are, however, also some lowlands in the north. 

Political system: Special administrative region of China operating on a "one country, two systems" principle where Hong Kong manages its own affairs except for national defence and diplomatic relations.

Major religions: Chinese folk religion or Buddhism 

Main languages: Chinese and English

Money: The Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is divided into 100 cents. Expats can open a bank account using a Hong Kong Identity Card or passport and proof of residence. ATMs are widely available.

Tipping: A service charge of 10 percent is sometimes added to bills, but no additional tip necessary

Time: GMT+8

Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz. Three-pin rectangular blade plugs are most common.

Internet domain: .hk

International dialling code: +852

Emergency contacts: The all-purpose emergency number in Hong Kong is 999, and connects to police, ambulance and fire services. The Hong Kong Police Force has a good reputation, and most officers have some knowledge of English. Healthcare is of a high standard and hospitals are widely available.

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. There is a comprehensive public transport system, including the MTR subway, buses and taxis.

Weather in Hong Kong

The sub-tropical climate in Hong Kong means that expats living there will experience cold winters, hot, humid summers, and a rainy season that extends from spring through summer.

Spring in Hong Kong lasts from March to May, and is marked by rising temperatures and increased humidity as summer approaches. The weather tends to be mild and pleasant during this period, but expats should note that the weather in Hong Kong can change quickly, so it's best to expect the unexpected.

The Hong Kong summer runs from May to September, bringing hot and humid weather with occasional thunderstorms, showers and typhoons. Temperatures can peak as high as 33°C (91°F), and humidity levels tend to make the heat even more uncomfortable.

Autumn lasts from October to early December and is arguably the best time of year in Hong Kong. Temperatures tend to be comfortable, and days are often sunny with a pleasant breeze. Humidity is low, rainfall is manageable, skies are clear and blue, and temperatures are warm, but not stifling. 

Winter proceeds from December to February, with temperatures sometimes dropping below 10°C (50°F) in the city. Winter in Hong Kong tends to be cloudy and cold, but dry and free of snow and frost. 

Typhoons may occur from May onwards. Apart from gale force winds, the most notable consequences of typhoons are heavy rains that last for days at a time, causing flooding and potentially dangerous landslides. News and radio broadcasts will usually warn residents of approaching typhoons, which are ranked according to a scale.

Hong Kong Climate Chart

Embassy Contacts for Hong Kong


Hong Kong embassies

  • Chinese Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 495 2266

  • Chinese Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7299 4049

  • Chinese Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 3434

  • Chinese Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6228 3999 

  • Chinese Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 431 6500

  • Chinese Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 219 6651

  • Chinese Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 3514


Foreign embassies in Hong Kong

  • United States Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2523 9011

  • British Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2901 3000

  • Canadian Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 3719 4700

  • Australian Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2827 8881

  • South African Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 3926 4300

  • Irish Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2535 0700

  • New Zealand Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 3115 8944

Public Holidays in Hong Kong

 

2018

2019

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Chinese New Year

16-19 February

5-7 February

Ching Ming Festival

5 April

5 April

Good Friday

30 March

19 April

Holy Saturday

31 March

20 April

Easter Monday

2 April

22 April

Birthday of Buddha

22 May

12 May

May Day (Labour Day)

1 May

1 May

Dragon Boat Festival

18 June

7 June

Special Administrative Region Establishment Day

2 July

1 July

National Day

1 October

1 October

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday. If two holidays fall on the same day, the first day that isn't normally a holiday becomes a public holiday for that year.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Hong Kong

Relocation to any destination has its disadvantages and advantages, and expats will find that Hong Kong is no different. The better prepared a person is for the less appealing aspects of life abroad, the more successfully they’ll be able to adapt. The good news is that Hong Kong is one expat destination where the good seems to outweigh the bad. Here is a list of the best and worst of living in Hong Kong. 


Accommodation in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Lots of options

There’s always a new building being built in Hong Kong, and although that means being treated to the melodious sounds of drills when walking around the street, it also means it’s easy to find new apartments. It goes without saying then, that there are a lot of options for accommodation; so while there is a very high demand for property, there is also a very high supply. When searching for a flat, there won’t be a shortage of places to view. In fact, flat hunting in Hong Kong is very much a numbers game; it’s all about viewing as many flats as possible until finding something that fits one's requirements.

- CON: Lack of space and high rent

The rent is eye-wateringly high, and the space frustratingly small. Rent will seem exorbitant to most, however, since taxes are so low, expats should just tell themselves that the two balance each other out.

There is also a tendency when apartments are being built to cram in as many rooms as possible, especially in the newer buildings. Going for older buildings from the 80s and 90s means that tenants will get more space for their money, and the rooms will be larger, but the apartments might be quite tired and old. Additionally, there won’t be much in the way of facilities in the building, such as a gym or pool. Going for a new building means that house hunters will likely have a brand new apartment with great clubhouse facilities, but it will likely be small with lots of cramped rooms. For example, one might find a three-bedroom apartment space that would be more suited to a large one-bedroom, or small two-bedroom.

- CON: Estate agents

This is just a negative for new expats who aren’t used to dealing with the flat-hunting process. Estate agents will pretty much show everything they have, even if it doesn’t correspond to anything the expat wants. Since it’s a numbers game, potential tenants will have to be very firm and clear with their requirements, or they'll end up viewing apartment after apartment that they have no interest in. There is also a tendency to show all of the less appealing apartments first, in the hope that the viewer might agree to take one of them. It can be very disheartening at first, but it’s very much worth insisting and persevering, one will eventually see places of interest. 


Furnishing a house in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Custom-made furniture

Pretty much anything can be custom-made in Hong Kong. Any shop will customise their sofas, beds, dining tables etc., so buyers can have the exact style, colour, fabric, shape and size they want. Depending on the supplier, it can take somewhere between one and two months for specially made items to be delivered.

- CON: Very little middle ground

There are very few mid-range options in Hong Kong. Furnishings are either quite pricey but very nice, or cheap both in look and price. For example, either a fortune will be spent on bedding and towels to get something decent, or one can opt for something very cheap and poor quality. It follows that bedding and towels are things that are very much worth bringing.

The only real middle ground option is IKEA. The stores are in central locations that are easy to get to, they deliver on time, and they even assemble the furniture on arrival.


Lifestyle in Hong Kong

+ PRO: A friendly expat community

The expat community is incredibly friendly. Hong Kong is a very transient place, and it follows that most people know what it’s like to be new, and are happy to help and befriend newly arrived expats. Unlike most cities where people have established circles of friends, in Hong Kong, people come and go so often that there is a distinct lack of cliques, which is refreshing.

- CON: A transient place that people leave

Because it is a transient place, often some of the friends one makes leave to go back home, which can become frustrating after a while.

+ PRO: Varied nightlife

Hong Kong has a huge variety of restaurants and bars; there’s always something new to try. It also caters for all types of social preferences; expatriates can 'party like it’s 1999', enjoy a relaxed evening or indulge in a simple dinner party.

+ PRO: Outdoor pursuits

There is a lot to do in Hong Kong, especially when it comes to outdoor activities. There are many hikes to go on, lots of options when it comes to water sports, and all sorts of sports clubs and sports leagues that can be joined. And, although Hong Kong famous for being a concrete jungle, there are a lot of green spaces. For example, 60 percent of Hong Kong Island isn’t built-up, and the untouched hills make for stunning hikes with sweeping views.

- CON: Humid summers

When summer approaches, the pollution and humidity in Hong Kong make it uncomfortable and unpleasant to do much outdoors. For most of the year though, the weather is pleasant and allows a lot of time to be spent outdoors.

Summer is also the season for typhoons. This may sound frightening, but in fact, Hong Kong is incredibly well-equipped to deal with the extreme weather. Should a typhoon be approaching, signs will be everywhere indicating the level of the typhoon, so residents know if they can go on with their day or if they'll need to head home to wait for it to pass. 


Food in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Great selection

In Hong Kong, every cuisine under the sun can be found, and restaurants range from the cheap and cheerful to the Michelin-starred and extravagant.

- CON: Supermarkets

Supermarkets are overpriced and lacking in selection. The price for certain Western foods will make one's eyes water, and even foods with Australian brand names will be much more expensive than their Chinese counterparts.

For expats wondering if the price difference is justified, it’s worth keeping in mind that the food standards in China are not the same as they may be used to. Hormones, pesticides and MSG are still used very widely.

Supermarkets in Hong Kong also seem to have a distinct lack of selection and an inconsistency of stock (one week a certain product is sold, the next it is no longer there), which makes supermarket food shopping rather frustrating. Like everything else, it requires some adjustment, and the plethora of cheap eating options also means that eating out can just be the easier option. 


Travelling in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Fantastic public transport

Hong Kong’s public transport is modern, clean and, most importantly, reliable. The MTR runs at very regular intervals, and delays are a rarity. There is also a tram which runs along the northern part of the island, and while this isn’t quite as speedy as the MTR, it makes for a very pleasant journey and adds a touch of quaintness to an otherwise thoroughly modern city. But most of all, public transport in Hong Kong is incredibly cheap, especially considering how efficient it is.

+ PRO: Cheap and abundant taxis

There are taxis everywhere in Hong Kong. They are very cheap by Western standards although they are still much more expensive than public transport. Because Hong Kong is small, travelling by taxi is quick and it is very easy to find a taxi wherever one is – unless of course, it is raining, in which case all of them will seem to be full. 


Working in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Very easy to network

It is practically impossible not to network in Hong Kong. The expat community is small, and no matter one's industry, meeting someone who will know someone that can make introductions to the right people is fairly easy. A lot of people, when searching for work, get business cards made up with their name and contact details to hand out when they meet people of interest, which tends to be more often than not in social contexts.

- CON: Limitations for English-only speakers    

Expats tend to work in finance, property and law. As a result, these are the areas that are easiest to get into for those who don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese. It is, of course, possible to get into other lines of work in Hong Kong, but overall, there is a lack of opportunity for non-Mandarin or non-Cantonese speakers outside these three industries.

Safety in Hong Kong

Expats need not worry too much about the level of safety in Hong Kong. While petty theft does occur, serious crimes are far less frequent, and there is generally have a low crime rate.

For the most part, a large, highly trained police presence deters criminals, especially in the heavily patrolled city centre. In areas where the presence of police is less concentrated, some apartment complexes and houses employ private security companies. 


Crime in Hong Kong

Most people feel safe to walk at night as violent crime isn't a large concern. There are no areas of Hong Kong that particularly need to be avoided but, as is the case in many other urban centres, expats should be especially mindful of their belongings in congested areas.

Pickpockets are most common in marketplaces, on public transportation, and in the Central District. Aside from this, expats only have to take standard security precautions.

  • Lock doors and windows when leaving home

  • Keep valuable possessions out of plain view

  • Be aware of surrounds and keep note of personal belongings


Road safety in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a well-developed system of roads and an admirably efficient public transportation system. Orderly congestion is standard in the city, especially during rush hour. Road accident deaths in Hong Kong are also fairly low, but caution should be taken nonetheless. 


Health safety in Hong Kong

There are no specific health concerns associated with Hong Kong, and in the case of any kind of viral outbreak, the government is quick to respond to potential diseases. 


Emergency numbers in Hong Kong

For all emergencies in Hong Kong requiring police, the fire department or an ambulance, expats should dial 999.

Working in Hong Kong

Expats working in Hong Kong have long found themselves in one of the more attractive destinations for moving abroad, at least as far as employment is concerned. Multinational companies abound, and its capitalist economy, a legacy of British rule, still opens up opportunities for ambitious foreign nationals.

However, job openings in Hong Kong are not as plentiful as they once were, and expats keen on working in the Fragrant Harbour will have to face tough competition from locals and fellow expats alike.

Those who manage to land a job in Hong Kong are usually highly skilled workers in the fields of banking and finance. There may also be opportunities for teaching English and volunteer work. Degrees from American and British universities are still highly respected by the local population, and working in Hong Kong is generally thought to be a positive career move.

That said, immigration procedures can be fairly tedious. To get a work permit, expats will need to find an employer sponsor, meaning that they'll need a solid job offer beforehand. The Immigration Department also needs proof that the applicant will contribute to the Hong Kong economy in a way that a local could not.

Expats accepting a job in Hong Kong should do their research before negotiating a contract and be sure to secure a high enough salary to support themselves and their family. 


Job market in Hong Kong

While most expats still work in the financial sector, more are being employed in other developing areas of business such as management and IT.

Having some knowledge of Mandarin or Cantonese will help expat job applicants, but there are some industries that don’t require a Chinese language. This is especially true for international corporations. There are opportunities for expats with experience in IT, digital advertising, HR and the legal sphere, while investment banks, in particular, continue to entice many abroad, although lucrative expat packages are becoming increasingly rare aside from those employed in senior positions. 


Finding a job in Hong Kong

Many expats move to Hong Kong with a job contract already in place. The largest and most reputable companies tend to headhunt employees and lure them abroad with high salaries and the promise of luxury living.

That said, even for those who aren't one of the lucky international candidates to be recruited in advance, there is an assortment of avenues that can lead to a well-landed job. There are many recruitment companies, and online job portals are also in no short supply. The Standard, Hong Kong's largest English-language newspaper, also has a designated careers section. Finally, companies tend to advertise positions directly on their websites. By consulting a few targeted organisations regularly, opportunities for application can be found.


Work culture in Hong Kong

Westerners working in Hong Kong will probably experience some degree of culture shock. For starters, the working week is much longer than they may be used to – it isn't unusual for this to run around or even above 50 hours. The “work hard, play hard” ethos is a hallmark of Hong Kong.

It is also important to be aware of the finer intricacies of doing business in Hong Kong. For example, giving and receiving business cards with both hands is important and bosses should always foot the bill for their staff during social occasions.

Doing Business in Hong Kong

Expats doing business in Hong Kong find themselves exposed to a respected economy that is, by some measures, one of the most open and transparent in the world.

Hong Kong's status as a Chinese Special Administrative Region operating on the principle of "one country, two systems" means that Hong Kong is a world apart from mainland China. This is seen in the local government's respect for private property and personal freedom, and its emphasis on non-intervention in the private sphere.

It is hardly surprising that the region is a key financial hub in Asia, acting as a point where Eastern and Western business interests intersect. It continues to act as a key business destination and a magnet for global capital and multinational businesses. Although this Asian economic tiger may seem familiar in certain ways, expats should make themselves aware of the nuances of conducting business in Hong Kong if they want to be truly successful and respected in their new business environment.

The ease of doing business in Hong Kong is reflected in its positive rankings in international business surveys. Most notably, in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2017, Hong Kong achieved an impressive rank of fourth worldwide. Its best performing subcategories included ease of paying taxes, protecting minority investors and starting a business.


Fast facts

Business hours 

Official hours are usually Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, sometimes with a half-day on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. However, workers may often be expected to work beyond these hours, especially those in senior positions.

Business language

Cantonese, Mandarin and English. The larger the company one deals with, the more likely that English is spoken. 

Dress

Conservative dark suits are the usual business attire.

Gifts

Gifts are expected to be reciprocated and should be given and received with both hands. Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver.

Gender equality

Women play a significant role in business, but expats may still notice that male colleagues are deferred to in business meetings.


Business culture in Hong Kong

The business culture in Hong Kong tends to be conservative. Business people are expected to dress in formal suits and their conduct should be professional at all times. Punctuality, mutual respect and deference to seniority are all valued principles that are widely practised. 

Saving face

The Asian concept of “saving face” applies in Hong Kong, so expats should avoid embarrassing, confronting or contradicting business associates at all costs. Bad news should never be presented in company. Containing emotions is also very important as anyone who openly displays anger or irritation is likely to make a bad impression, causing the person losing their temper and those around them to lose face as well.

Greetings

Westerners aren't necessarily expected to bow when greeting local associates, although if no handshake is offered a bow is appropriate. It should be noted that handshakes in Hong Kong may not be as firm as expats might be used to. Associates may avert their eyes when greeting as a sign of respect and, while this won't necessarily be expected from an expat, it is a good idea not to hold another person's gaze too strongly. Similarly, a moderate amount of eye contact is suggested during conversations.

Communication

Expats should pay close attention to their choice of words and the way in which they are conveyed. Using confrontational or vulgar language, especially expletives, is a sure way to lose face. Poor choice of words, or even tone, can be enough to sever a relationship with a business. It may not be evident at the time, but the message will become clear as future efforts to meet or do business are continuously deflected. This, on the other hand, will be because Hong Kong Chinese will be intent on saving face for all parties involved and will very rarely directly give a negative answer.

On another note, while physical contact, especially between people of the same gender, is fairly common in a social setting, it should not extend beyond a handshake in the business setting – most people dislike being touched by strangers. Conversely, people in Hong Kong might hold conversations at a much closer distance than some expatriates will be used to.

Meetings

Expats in Hong Kong should expect small talk at the start of meetings before talk turns to business. Similarly, business negotiations will move at a slow pace, which should be respected.

That said, expats can expect to be invited to social occasions by their business associates. These should always be accepted as personal relationships are valued and these events, usually lunch or dinner, are a good way to build business connections.

Attitude towards foreigners

Hong Kong is one of the world’s most international cities and expats are integral to its economy. Foreigners are unlikely to experience prejudice or hostility, although observing cultural etiquette is vital in ensuring equitable treatment. 


Dos and don’ts of business in Hong Kong

  • Do make casual conversation, but not about personal, financial or political matters

  • Don't expect to get any business done over Chinese New Year

  • Do get a Chinese-language version of your business details printed on the reverse side of your card

  • Do have business documents printed in both English and Chinese

Visas for Hong Kong

Depending on their nationality and the purpose of their stay, expats may need a visa in order to enter, work, study or live in Hong Kong. Fortunately, visa requirements aren't as stringent as in many other countries and the application process is relatively straightforward. 


Visit visas for Hong Kong

Expats planning to visit Hong Kong should find out whether an entry visa needs to be obtained prior to departure.

Citizens from more than 150 countries around the world can enter Hong Kong without a visa for a limited amount of time. These countries include the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. However, different periods of stay are granted to different nationals, so expats should be aware of the amount of time specifically associated with their nationality.

Many African and Eastern European citizens do, however, need an entry visa. This documentation can be applied for at the nearest Chinese embassy. 


Work visas for Hong Kong

There are a number of options when it comes to work permits for Hong Kong, with the most common being the General Employment Policy (GEP) visa for skilled and qualified workers and the Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) visa, which allows nationals of certain countries to take up part-time employment while holidaying in Hong Kong. 


Dependant visas for Hong Kong

Expats in Hong Kong can apply to bring their dependants to Hong Kong. Dependants include unmarried children under the age of 18, parents over the age of 60, and spouses of the original visa holder.

Expats will have to provide proof of their relationship with their dependants, and must be able to show that they can financially support and accommodate these individuals while living in Hong Kong.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Hong Kong

Each year, large numbers of expats choose Hong Kong as a destination in which to pursue new career opportunities. 

Given its formidable international presence and its status as a former British colony, Hong Kong’s employment visa legislation is fairly liberal. There are a number of visa options for Hong Kong which allow the holder to take up employment, the most common being the General Employment Policy and Working Holiday Scheme visas.


General Employment Policy visas

Well-qualified and experienced expats wanting to work in Hong Kong will likely apply for a General Employment Policy (GEP) visa. No quota restrictions are in place for general employment permits, and they are not sector-specific.

Generally, these work permits are easy to come by if expats can prove they don't have a criminal record, that they have a high level of education or possess a highly specialised skill set that will be of value to society and isn't readily available locally. However, in most cases, expats will need to have a confirmed offer of employment and an employer sponsor before applying for this type of work permit.


Working Holiday Scheme visas

Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) visas allow expats from certain countries aged between 18 and 30 to come to Hong Kong and work for up to 12 months (six months for Austrian nationals). There are annual quotas of Working Holiday Scheme visas for each of the eligible countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. 

Participants of the Working Holiday Scheme are allowed to take up any kind of temporary employment and are permitted to study while in Hong Kong. Expats are required to show that they have sufficient funds in their bank accounts to support themselves while in Hong Kong and hold valid medical insurance.

There are no extensions or renewals granted for Working Holiday Scheme visas and dependents are not permitted to enter Hong Kong as part of this scheme.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Hong Kong

The cost of living in Hong Kong can be high for expats, with some reports putting the region's cost of living as the highest in the world.

In 2016, the Pearl of the Orient topped Mercer's Cost of Living for 2016 survey, thanks in part to the region's extremely overinflated property market, which makes finding accommodation an expensive endeavour. Add to that the fact that most produce and commodities are imported, and one tends to find that the necessities of life are generally more expensive in Hong Kong than in other cities.

Nevertheless, high expat salaries tend to offset these costs, and many find their quality of life is higher than it was back home.


Cost of accommodation in Hong Kong

Housing in Hong Kong is notoriously expensive and, depending on their needs, expats can expect a high percentage of their salary to be spent on a small but perfectly formed apartment. The tiny, older Chinese-style apartments will always be more reasonably priced, but may not afford the space that Western expats often prefer.


Cost of public transport in Hong Kong

Public transport is cheap, clean and reliable. By contrast, owning and maintaining a car in Hong Kong is very expensive. Most people find that they don’t need one if they live centrally and the cost – and risk of bumping into erratic taxi drivers – is not worth it. 


Cost of education in Hong Kong 

Education is free in Hong Kong for state-run schools but the majority of expats who arrive with kids prefer to send them to one of the region's private international schools that teach in English and follow a Western curriculum. These can be incredibly expensive and expats should make sure their salaries or package will cover school costs before signing a permanent contract. 


Cost of healthcare in Hong Kong

Healthcare is free for expats using the public system, which is very good but heavily oversubscribed. Most organise a private insurance plan through their employer. 


Cost of food in Hong Kong

Thanks to its proximity to China, there are many things that can be picked up cheaply in Hong Kong. Household supplies, clothes and other bits and pieces are made just across the border and transported freely into Hong Kong, and are thus very affordable. China also provides a lot of Hong Kong’s fresh food and grocery items, and if expats are happy to go local in terms of produce origin, the weekly shop can be easy on the wallet.

That said, most Westerners prefer not to buy local produce, especially with stories of questionable farming practices and food additive scandals hitting the papers regularly. Expats buying imported goods can expect to pay double for many food and produce items (especially meat), with the result that grocery shopping costs will quickly add up.

There is no shortage of Western items on international supermarket shelves: Tim Tams and Vegemite for the Australian market, graham crackers and ranch dressing for US expats and Tiptree jam and Marmite for the Brits. Not to mention the Japanese supermarkets, Thai food shops and Philippine speciality stores stocking their own culinary assets from home.


Income tax in Hong Kong

Income tax in Hong Kong is famously very low (between two and 17 percent, depending on personal circumstances), and residents have a fairly generous annual tax-free allowance before the government takes anything.

Tax is all done on a personal tax return basis, and not pay-as-you-earn. When starting work, it is advisable to start saving tax somewhere so it is ready and waiting when the tax return is filled in, and the bill from the Hong Kong Inland Revenue in its distinctive green envelope is received.   


Cost of living in Hong Kong chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for February 2017.

Accommodation

Furnished one-bedroom apartment in city centre

HKD 18,000

Furnished one-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

HKD 13,000

Furnished three-bedroom apartment in city centre

HKD 39,000

Furnished three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

HKD 23,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

HKD 30

Milk (1 litre)

HKD 23

Rice (1kg)

HKD 13

Loaf of white bread

HKD 15

Chicken breasts (1kg)

HKD 40

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

HKD 58

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

HKD 35

Coca-Cola (330ml)

HKD 8

Cappuccino

HKD 40

Bottle of local beer

HKD 40

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

HKD 350

Utilities

Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)

HKD 0.55

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

HKD 210

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

HKD 900

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

HKD 8

Bus/train fare in the city centre

HKD 10

Petrol/Gasoline (per litre)

HKD 15

Culture Shock in Hong Kong

Culture shock in Hong Kong may not be as traumatic as new expats would expect, especially if they’re from an English-speaking country. Hong Kong is a former colony of Britain and, as a result, the locals’ English proficiency is rather high. Moreover, the religious and cultural tolerance of those living here is quite broad.

Hong Kong has a population of more than 7 million people, so the crush of the populace can be daunting, especially for those who have relocated from a small or medium-sized city. Then there are certain things in Hong Kong that are just plain different, and even the most well-travelled expat will need some time to adjust. 


Language barrier in Hong Kong

Hong Kongers are usually Cantonese- and English-speaking, with some degree of fluency in Mandarin. However, this bilingual nature actually makes it rather difficult for expats to pick up any Cantonese; people will insist on speaking English just because somebody looks like a foreigner. 


Cultural differences in Hong Kong

There are many unspoken rules in Hong Kong, and it helps to recognise that new arrivals need to give themselves time to learn these things as they go. In particular, the way in which people manage the space around them is something that takes some getting used to. For example, Hong Kong locals may stand closer when in conversation than expats might expect. However, they are generally a reserved people and this is not an invitation for bodily contact. 


Socialising in Hong Kong

When interacting with locals, expats in Hong Kong should be aware of the concept of "face". Face is an intangible quality that represents a person's dignity and reputation. One can save face, give face, or lose face. Expats can give face by complimenting and showing respect to locals in a sincere manner. Furthermore, it's important to never embarrass, insult or contradict someone in public as this would cause them to lose face.

Tea is an important part of life in Hong Kong and expats will find that it is a constant at all kinds of social gatherings, big and small alike. An empty or partially empty teacup is sure to be refilled almost immediately, and when pouring their own tea, expats should fill up the cups of their fellow tea drinkers, too. 


Eating in Hong Kong

Food in Hong Kong is often served in a communal style, with several different dishes placed in the middle of the table. There is some ritual surrounding dining practices in Hong Kong, although expats will most likely encounter them only in very formal dining situations. However, some general courtesies include letting the host be the first to begin eating and always leaving something behind on plates and platters. It is considered rude to take the last piece of food and would imply that the host has underfed the guests.

All but the smallest of restaurants in Hong Kong should have knives and forks available as a substitute for chopsticks. However, learning to use chopsticks properly is still a good goal while living in Hong Kong. Some basic chopstick etiquette: expats should not fiddle with chopsticks and, if not currently using them, should lay them down evenly on the chopstick holders provided. It is also important to never stick chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, as in Chinese culture this has the connotation of inviting death to the table. It is also impolite to point or gesture with chopsticks. 


Weather in Hong Kong

Many people find Hong Kong’s humidity unbearable. Stories even cite that British soldiers who first settled in Hong Kong died mainly from the smog and the heat, and not from battle wounds.

Hong Kong’s “wet blanket” is most prominent in springtime, and is followed by the extreme heat of summer. Many expats have trouble adapting to the stifling outdoor temperatures, and those that can cope with the rising mercury may nonetheless have problems with the constant indoor flow of air conditioning. All the malls and office buildings will be blasting cool air at max volume, so it’s necessary to carry a cardigan everywhere, and those that wear glasses can be sure they will be wiping the fog off their lenses several times a day.

Accommodation in Hong Kong

Accommodation in Hong Kong is expensive. In fact, real estate prices in Hong Kong are regularly ranked amongst the highest in the world, so expats will need to budget carefully when it comes to finding their ideal home in the city. Although there are a variety of quality options, expats will also find that living spaces are a lot smaller than what they may be used to back home.


Types of property in Hong Kong

The majority of housing in Hong Kong is in the form of secure, modern apartments in large, high-rise buildings.

Larger housing is available but this can only really be found further away from the city centre, which is not an ideal location for most working people.


Finding property in Hong Kong

Due to the short-term nature of most expat assignments in Hong Kong, most new arrivals opt to rent rather than buy property.

For those who are not lucky enough to have their employer assist them in their search for a property in Hong Kong, the best option is to enlist the services of a reputable estate agent. These professionals have an intimate knowledge of the region’s property market and can help expats find something that meets all their requirements in terms of size, quality, price and location.

There are lots of online property portals and while these are an excellent source of information, the fact is that desirable property in Hong Kong moves quickly. So often by the time a prospective tenant enquires about a property listed on a portal it has already been snapped up through an agent. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to use online resources to research the types, prices and availability of apartments in Hong Kong for an idea of what to expect before relocating.


Renting property in Hong Kong

In order to rent property in Hong Kong expats will need to provide proof of ID and a letter from their employer or contract of employment which allows the landlord or agent to gauge whether prospective tenants are earning enough to afford the rent on the property.  

Most landlords use a standard government lease in Hong Kong. However, because they are allowed to add their own clauses, it is best to read through the contract carefully to ensure that there aren’t any hidden costs involved.

Rental contracts in Hong Kong are generally for a two-year period, with a break clause after a year. One month's rent is usually required as a holding deposit while a contract is signed and then another two or three months’ rent is required as a security deposit, which will only be returned once the tenant vacates the property. Expats should budget accordingly.

Areas and Suburbs in Hong Kong

There are a number of popular residential areas for expat accommodation in Hong Kong, each catering to distinct lifestyle preferences. Families with young children tend to favour the southern part of Hong Kong Island, while single expats and young couples prefer the Mid-Levels area. More affluent expats often rent an expensive apartment or a townhouse in the Peak.


Areas and suburbs in Hong Kong Island

Wan Chai

Wan Chai is a cross between a major commercial district and a trendy residential area. It boasts a great selection of hotels, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as a full range of accommodation types. Rental options in Wan Chai range from budget digs to luxurious serviced apartments. There are many cheap clothing stores to browse in Wan Chai, and tasty bargains to be found at the outdoor food market.

The Mid-Levels

Single expats and young couples in Hong Kong enjoy living in the Mid-Levels, an area just above Central and Wan Chai, and just below The Peak. This area is popular among young expats due to its close proximity to the city centre and the nightlife of Soho and Lan Kwai Fong. The Mid-Levels is also a good area for expat families as there are good private schools nearby, as well as outdoor attractions such as the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. The extraordinary Central-Mid-Levels Escalator, the world's longest outdoor escalator, runs from here to the city centre.

North Point

Expats looking for more reasonably priced accommodation and a sense of integration with the local population should consider renting in the residential area running from Tin Hau to North Point. Although this neighbourhood doesn’t have any large-scale shopping malls, it does have supermarkets, traditional wet markets and a few good restaurants for expats to enjoy. The well-priced apartments in this area are also generally in good condition.

Repulse Bay

Contrary to its name, Repulse Bay is certainly an attractive area, although some may be put off by the high rental prices. The neighbourhood is inhabited by a number of wealthy Hong Kong businessmen and their families. This is an idyllic location for expat families who are attracted to its pleasant, palm-fringed beach and the close proximity to international schools. Those who live in Repulse Bay will need a car, as there is no MTR stop.

Stanley

Situated just down the coastline from Repulse Bay, Stanley is a slightly more affordable, but no less popular, option for expats. The area has a charming village appeal, but can get busy during tourist season. Western-style restaurants and cafés are common, and a Western-style supermarket and church are also present. As in Repulse Bay, expats living here will need a car.

The Peak

Not only is the Peak the highest locale on Hong Kong Island, it is also the most affluent residential area. Height restrictions have ensured that the low-rise buildings don’t detract from the beautiful views, nor do they block any of the cool evening breezes that caress the neighbourhood. Many housing complexes on the Peak offer communal swimming pools, tennis courts and gymnasiums, and there are also lovely walks to be had in the area. In contrast to Mid-Levels, where high-rise apartment living is the norm, the Peak claims townhouses and single family homes.

Happy Valley

Happy Valley is an upmarket Hong Kong neighbourhood favoured by many expats, and is most renowned for the famous Happy Valley Racecourse, as well as its close proximity to the shopping and nightlife hub of Causeway Bay. Happy Valley offers a range of accommodation for expats, from classic low-rise complexes to tall, modern apartment buildings. There are also a number of short-term serviced apartments available for expats to rent in Happy Valley. Those who prefer a little quieter and green space, but who’d also like to be close to the energy of the city centre, would do well to find accommodation in this area.

Jardine's Lookout

Jardine’s Lookout is an exclusive residential area located on the mountain above Happy Valley. This area is home to an elite community living in large detached houses and luxurious apartment complexes. Jardine’s Lookout has plenty of useful amenities for expats to use, as well as a beautiful landscape of wooded hills and great views over Victoria Harbour. There are also international schools nearby for the children of expat families to attend.


Areas and suburbs in Kowloon

The Kowloon peninsula, on the tip of mainland China, is the area just north of Hong Kong Island and just south of the New Territories.

West Kowloon

Though expats previously regarded the Kowloon peninsula as an inconvenient and less developed place to live, perceptions have changed, and these days many expats are making one of the many high-rise apartments of West Kowloon home. Most of the newer complexes have superb facilities and fantastic communal amenities, but the older apartment blocks will not come so well serviced. Shopping centres abound, including Dragon Centre and Elements, which stocks imported food. The MTR connects to the area, and provides a quick commute into town.

Kowloon Tong

Many expat families have also begun to settle in Kowloon Tong, as it plays host to a handful of well-respected international schools. Furthermore, accommodation featuring a rarity in Hong Kong, space, is also more readily available amid its quiet neighbourhoods. Colonial-style houses, low-rise apartments and a smattering of gated communities make up this high-end residential area. Kowloon Tong is serviced by Festival Walk, a ritzy shopping centre, and is connected to the city centre by the MTR.


Areas and suburbs in The New Territories

The New Territories of Hong Kong includes the area from the north of Kowloon to the south of mainland China, as well as over 200 islands. Historically, the area was seen as the antidote to Hong Kong Island’s busy city life, though rapid development in the New Territories means that, in some areas, this is no longer the case.  

Sai Kung Town

Sai Kung, a small fishing village, is a popular place for expats and locals alike, and it’s easy to see why people love it. Seafood restaurants line the streets, and the area's many park benches allow viewers to gaze out over the ocean and admire the mountains while watching fishermen sell the day’s catch. On weekends, expats often hire boats to one of the many surrounding islands to enjoy the clean beaches, swimming and diving.

Much of the quaint town centre is closed to all but pedestrian traffic, and it can be a fantastic place to stroll with one's children. Included in Sai Kung is the Sai Kung East Country Park, which is a haven for backpackers, parasailers, hikers, cyclists and campers.

The primary drawback to living in Sai Kung is trying to commute to Hong Kong Island. Sai Kung is not on the MTR line, thus those expats making the daily mission for work will find themselves embroiled in a lengthy process.  

Apart from that fact though, many expats choose to live in Sai Kung for its close proximity to good schools. Additionally, expats often find that the hassle of travelling to work is offset by the cheaper accommodation and greener scenery.

Lantau Island

Lantau Island, an enormous chunk of land, is more than twice the size of Hong Kong Island and is home to Disneyland, the Hong Kong International Airport and the Lantau South Country Park, the largest country park in Hong Kong. There are also many residential spots on Lantau, including Discovery Bay, a popular place for expats to live.  

Lantau Island is significantly greener than Hong Kong Island, and strict ordinances help curb development and maintain the aesthetic appeal. Even though more commercial ventures and housing projects are present nowadays, the island is still relatively sparsely populated. Many expats find life in Discovery Bay to be quite pleasant, though others find it has a bit of a contrived feel to it, and prefer to live in a place that feels more “authentic.”

Most people living on Lantau Island have to travel off the island for work. Thankfully, it is well-connected to the mainland via the MTR line and by frequent ferry services.

Renting Property in Hong Kong

Most accommodation in Hong Kong is in the form of apartments and expats will find that the living space is often much smaller than what they are used to. Housing in Hong Kong is also expensive, but some companies provide employees with housing allowances, a perk that expats should certainly try and negotiate, if possible.

Expats living further out from the central business district will pay cheaper rent, but will have a longer commute to work. The good news is that the public transportation system in Hong Kong is comprehensive and connects residential areas with the city centre.

There is a variety of areas and suburbs in Hong Kong to choose from, but expats should consider their lifestyle needs before securing housing. 


Renting accommodation in Hong Kong

Rent for accommodation in Hong Kong is payable monthly, and it’s the responsibility of tenants to arrange the connection of utilities. Leases are usually valid for one to two years and require a month’s rent as deposit, but some landlords ask for up to three months' rent as a deposit.

Many companies will help manage accommodation outlay and will offer loans to cover initial start-up expenses. Arrangements can then be made to reimburse the company through the expat's salary on a monthly basis.

Most rental accommodation is leased in good condition and landlords hold the rental deposit until the end of the contract to ensure that any property damage is paid for. Deposits are repaid without interest. Most housing is leased unfurnished but appliances, such as washing machines and fridges, are often provided, as are air conditioning units (which are essential in Hong Kong). There are also shorter-term serviced apartments available, but these are more expensive to rent.

The housing market in Hong Kong moves quickly, and shortages in supply have continued to be relatively pronounced. In many cases, expats should be prepared to move in immediately. 


Finding property in Hong Kong

Most expats moving to Hong Kong will have their employer find appropriate housing for them. If going it alone, however, it’s always a good idea to conduct the housing search using a number of housing agents. Companies often put expats in touch with at least one agent, but it’s best to shop around. Agents tend to have relationships with landlords in specific areas or development complexes so, if someone doesn’t like what they’re being shown, it’s often necessary to look elsewhere as most agents don’t have a varied portfolio. 

Try to work with smaller agencies rather than the big, one-stop-shop companies. Usually, individual agents will have long-standing relationships with landlords and can negotiate more effectively on the tenant's behalf. Feel free to walk into any housing agent in Hong Kong and ask to see some of their properties. They will usually be able to help out there and then. Furthermore, if interested in the look of a particular building or development, there is likely to be an agency very close by with a number of apartments on its books.

Everything in Hong Kong is negotiable, so if a tenant isn't happy with something before they move in they should have their agent communicate with the landlord so that the appropriate changes are made. Typical examples of requests include asking that specific items of furniture be included, having the walls repainted, and having any signs of wear and tear fixed up before moving day.

While proactive expats can begin the property search online using various portals before moving to Hong Kong, rental agents will also have prior access to properties advertised online. Regardless, doing some research online is useful in allowing one to get an idea of average rental prices and the type of property available.


Factors to consider when house-hunting in Hong Kong

Space 

Space is a limited commodity in Hong Kong, and apartments in the city tend to be small. Unless an expat's budget is sizeable, they should be prepared to downsize. Tiny bedrooms are something many struggle with at first. Some spend ages looking at countless apartments trying to find housing with larger room sizes, but such a thing is rare in Hong Kong.

Furthermore, there is limited space for items such as wardrobes, bedside cabinets, television stands and vanity tables. It’s also worth noting that many apartments have a lack of storage space; built-in cupboards and wardrobes are something of an anomaly, especially in newer apartment blocks.

Another point of interest for any potential Hong Kong home search is the ubiquitous windowsill in every room in a high-rise apartment block. Typically oversized windowsills stick out about two to three feet into the room which eats up valuable space.

If looking at apartments, and specifically bedrooms that are smaller because of the sill, be imaginative about how space can be used. Many expats have custom-made furniture that extends over the sill to the window and often includes built-in storage underneath.

Old versus new apartments 

Accommodation in Hong Kong can vary tremendously, but the rental market can largely be divided into ‘old’ and ‘new’.

Older accommodation is often a bit rough around the edges but if tenants are willing to spend a bit of time making it feel like home this could be a good, affordable option for people whose priority is space and a central location.

There are plenty of high quality, modern apartments in the popular residential areas, but the luxurious lifestyle comes with a price tag. Those on a budget wanting to enjoy modern living should consider adding a few extra stops to their commute and looking at some of the newer residential areas that are developing outside the Hong Kong city centre.

Climate

When looking for housing in Hong Kong it should be kept in mind that the weather changes dramatically throughout the year. If using public transport to get to work, new arrivals should consider the distance to the local MTR station when selecting an apartment. A 20-minute walk that may be pleasant enough from October to March can leave one sweaty and saturated in summer months.

Though not the most important point to consider when choosing a Hong Kong apartment, it’s worth keeping in mind that one's home needs to be comfortable and convenient throughout all of the island’s seasons.

Utilities in Hong Kong

Unless expats choose to live in a fully serviced apartment building, they will most likely be responsible for setting up an account with water, gas, electricity and refuse service providers once they have found accommodation in Hong Kong. Utility bills are rarely included in the monthly rental fee, so expats will have to take these into account when planning a budget. Costs vary depending on usage and may differ from one service provider to the next.


Electricity

Two companies supply electricity in Hong Kong and each of these cover certain areas of the island, which makes getting connected a simple procedure for expats. Hongkong Electric supplies Hong Kong Island and Lamma Island, while China Light & Power (CLP) serves Kowloon, the New Territories and Outlying Islands. 

Expats can open an electricity account online or in person with their Hong Kong ID card or passport at the relevant company’s office. Setting up or transferring an electrical account takes only a few days, but requires a deposit of an estimated 60 days’ usage. Hongkong Electric bills are issued monthly, while CLP bills are issued bi-monthly. Expats can pay via direct debit, credit card, at ATMs, online or by cheque.

Expats leaving Hong Kong must give notice to their service provider at least two days before they want the electrical supply to be disconnected. Thereafter, they can request to have their deposit refunded.


Water

Water in Hong Kong is supplied by the Water Supplies Department (WSD). Expats can open an account in person at one of the customer centres by downloading the relevant form from the website and sending it in by post. They’ll need to provide a copy of their Hong Kong ID card or passport and pay a deposit. Applications usually take a week to process. Bills are sent out quarterly and can be paid online or at an ATM.


Gas

Gas in Hong Kong is supplied by Towngas and expats can set up their account online or in person at one of the service centres. They’ll need to provide a passport or Hong Kong ID card number, as well as a deposit. A technician will need to conduct an inspection of the property in question and meter readers will visit the premises every few months.

Towngas covers most of Hong Kong, but various suppliers will deliver LPG cylinders to those areas that aren’t.

Domestic Help in Hong Kong

Moving to Hong Kong allows expats the luxury of accessing low-cost, full-time domestic help. Expats frequently decide to hire a domestic worker to help with household chores such as cleaning, doing the laundry, cooking for the family, taking care of the kids and running errands. In some families, domestic helpers are also required to help with activities such as gardening, cleaning the car and taking care of the pets. However, hiring a helper also comes with rules and labour laws that must be followed.

There are over 300,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, and the vast majority of them are Filipino, Indonesian or Thai.

The first thing to mention is that a full-time foreign domestic helper is officially recognised as an overseas domestic worker and not a Hong Kong permanent resident. Their work visa is totally dependent on their current employment contract which means that, when hiring a helper, the employer has to sponsor their helper’s work visa. This comes with some paperwork but as Hong Kong is quite efficient when it comes to bureaucracy, the process is neither very painful nor expensive.


Labour laws in Hong Kong

There are several regulations that expats considering hiring a domestic helper in Hong Kong should be aware of.

  • The Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) for domestic helpers is set by the government

  • Foreign domestic helpers can only be employed on a full-time basis and are required to live at their employer’s place of residence. They must be provided with suitable accommodation with a reasonable level of privacy.

  • Employers are required to provide three meals a day to their helper, unless they prefer to provide a food allowance. The minimum food allowance is also set by the government.

  • Helpers have to be given at least one day off a week and are also entitled to all statutory holidays

  • Seven days of annual leave are due to the helper per year worked. Employers also have to provide their helper with a two-way ticket from Hong Kong to their country of origin on expiry or termination of the employment contract.

  • The employment contract must be signed for no less than two years

  • The employer is responsible for their helper’s health expenses. It is therefore recommended to subscribe to health insurance (several providers have special packages for domestic helpers).


Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong

As long as they are treated well by their employers, many foreign domestic helpers are happy to be living in Hong Kong; they are decently paid in a stable work environment, and the size of the Filipino, Indonesian and Thai communities in Hong Kong usually helps with homesickness. Most helpers have their day off on Sundays and spend the day meeting with their friends, going to church or doing personal shopping. Sometimes they also take English, dance or guitar classes.

There are a few organisations in Hong Kong that provide classes specifically for domestic helpers. Employers sometimes decide to send their helper for training classes when they want them to improve their cooking, or if they want them to receive a proper training on childcare or First Aid. 


The relationship between employer and helper

It is very important that employers take time to liaise with their domestic helper to ensure that the helper has a clear idea of what their duties are and when they are to be performed. Employers should encourage the helper to speak up about any problems they may encounter; this way they can be resolved quickly and efficiently.

Healthcare in Hong Kong

Healthcare in Hong Kong is world class. Both public and private hospitals are equipped with the latest medical technology operated by highly trained medical staff, many of whom can speak English.

However, the region also carries some of the world’s highest healthcare costs and expats should ensure that they have adequate insurance coverage. 


Public healthcare in Hong Kong

Anyone with a Hong Kong Identity Card is entitled to subsidised medical services, but foreigners without permanent residency must shoulder costs that are similar to fees incurred by private entities; services are charged at market rates.

Generally, the standard found in public hospitals is high, but service levels can be lacking and efficiency can suffer. Most expats therefore opt for private healthcare. 


Private healthcare in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has around a dozen private hospitals with international accreditation.

Private healthcare services are popular with expats because they don't cost much more than public services and come with the benefits of shorter waiting times and easier access to comforts such as privacy. 

Fees do tend to be slightly higher than in the public sector, and expats will have to organise some form of health insurance to cover costs. Health coverage is often included in employment contracts but expats who don't have such perks can choose from a wide variety of service providers.

Healthcare programmes vary widely, so finding out what is included in an employer-sponsored scheme is important and, for those securing a plan themselves, comparing quotes before settling on a service provider is a good idea. 


Private hospitals in Hong Kong

Below is a list of some of the more popular private hospitals in Hong Kong for expats:
 

Canossa Hospital

www.canossahospital.org.hk

Address: 1 Old Peak Road, Hong Kong

 

Matilda International Hospital

www.matilda.org

Address: 41 Mount Kellett Road, The Peak, Hong Kong

 

Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital

www.hksh.com

Address: 2 Village Road, Happy Valley, Hong Kong


Pharmacies in Hong Kong

There are plenty of well-stocked pharmacies in Hong Kong. Most are open seven days a week, with some operating 24/7.


Health hazards in Hong Kong

Air pollution in Hong Kong is arguably the region's biggest health concern. Despite the government's best efforts, pollution levels consistently fail the World Health Organization's safety standards.

As a result, expats with asthma and chronic respiratory diseases often have aggravated symptoms. Children, the elderly, and those with vulnerable immune systems are most commonly affected, while even healthy foreigners may suffer from nose, throat and chest irritation. That said, most healthy people exposed to air pollution for a short time experience no lasting negative effects. 


Emergency services in Hong Kong

Emergency services in Hong Kong are generally reliable, with more than 90 percent of ambulances reaching the scene of the emergency within the target time of 12 minutes. For ambulances, police and fire services, 999 can be dialled.

Education and Schools in Hong Kong

Schools in Hong Kong are well regarded academically. Although public schools uphold a high standard of learning, the curriculum is mostly taught in Cantonese and centred on learning by repetition and frequent examinations.

As a result, expat families usually enrol their children in private international schools. Fortunately, the diverse nature of Hong Kong ensures that there are many international teachers and school options for expat children.


Public schools in Hong Kong 

Public schools in Hong Kong are fully funded by the government and offer free education to all children. Some schools may offer some classes in English but overall support for English-speaking children within the public education system is low. Therefore, only children who can speak Cantonese fluently should be schooled publicly in Hong Kong.


International schools in Hong Kong

There is a large number of international schools in Hong Kong which teach the curriculum of their founding country or internationally recognised programmes like the International Baccalaureate. The American and British curricula are taught by many international schools but other countries are also represented, such as Canada, France and Germany.

Fees for international schools are typically sky-high, and families with an expat package that does not include a school subsidy may find the cost of international schools in Hong Kong to be prohibitively expensive.

The limited number of places at international schools in Hong Kong may also be a concern for expat families as this form of education has become so popular among well-to-do local families that places are often filled by non-expat children. For this reason, it's important to start the application process as early as possible.


Homeschooling in Hong Kong

The laws around homeschooling in Hong Kong are vague, but it is generally agreed that families intending to homeschool should inform the Hong Kong Education Bureau of their intention to do so. There are a number of local homeschooling organisations in Hong Kong that expats can seek guidance from.

International Schools in Hong Kong

With so many options, and the pressure of limited spaces, expat parents need all the help they can get with finding a school for their children.

Below is a list of some of Hong Kong's most respected international schools.

 

American International School of Hong Kong

www.ais.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: American

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Australian International School Hong Kong

www.aishk.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: Australian and International Baccalaureate

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Beacon Hill School

www.beaconhill.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Ages: 3 to 10

 

Bradbury Junior School

www.bradbury.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Ages: 3 to 10

 

Canadian International Schools of Hong Kong

www.cdnis.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: Canadian (Ontario) and International Baccalaureate

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Carmel School of Hong Kong

www.carmel.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Delia School of Canada

www.delia.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: Canadian (Ontario or Alberta)

Ages: 3 to 18

 

French International School

www.fis.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: French and IGCSE/International Baccalaureate

Ages: 4 to 18

 

German Swiss International School

www.gsis.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: German and British

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Hong Kong International School

www.hkis.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: American

Ages: 4 to 18

 

International Montessori School

www.montessori.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: Montessori

Ages: 2 to 12

 

Kellet School (British International School in Hong Kong)

www.kellettschool.com

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: British

Ages: 3 to 18

 

King George V School

www.kgv.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: IGCSE and International Baccalaureate

Ages: 11 to 18

 

Peak School

www.ps.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Ages: 5 to 11

 

Quarry Bay School

www.qbs.edu.hk

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Ages: 5 to 11

 

Yew Chung International School

www.ycis-hk.com

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: IGCSE and International Baccalaureate

Ages: 0.5 to 19

Lifestyle in Hong Kong

The expat lifestyle in Hong Kong really can be summed up in a phrase that's all too often used when speaking about the world’s biggest cities: “work hard, play hard”.

Nearly everybody does and, in a place that thrives on perpetuating and amplifying its bustling urban energy, there are always restaurants to dine in, bars to drink in, clubs to dance in and attractions to enjoy.

People working in Hong Kong often live their social lives with the same speed and efficiency expected of them in the business world. After long, demanding days at the office, locals and foreigners alike have a bewildering array of opportunities to enjoy ostentatious luxury or to absorb the city’s natural splendour and cultural allure.

With the Asian financial capital's reputation for attracting wealthy foreigners who enjoy the perks of lucrative salaries, country clubs and glamorous homes, there are many options for expats lucky enough to live a life of luxury. That said, with high-paying packages becoming less common, expats with more realistic payslips will still have access to a lifestyle that can leave them fit, entertained and culturally stimulated.

It isn't always necessary to pay top dollar. Although the nightlife and shopping options aimed at expats will be more expensive, there’s also an endless supply of reasonably priced equivalents. The sub-tropical city also offers a range of outdoor activities to people with a sense of adventure, from hiking trails to beaches and barbecue areas.

Shopping in Hong Kong

One of the world’s largest shopping capitals, Hong Kong boasts tax-free status on everything except alcohol and tobacco. With such a competitive market, shoppers are guaranteed to find high-quality goods at even better prices. Expats can cost-effectively stock up their homes with the latest in electronic gadgets, scour local markets for fresh produce and find bargains on antiques and fabrics.

The shopping in Hong Kong is legendary, and it’s easy for high-income earning expats to quickly become aisle-cruising addicts in an Asian hub with non-existent sales tax and an impressive inventory of designer boutiques. 


Markets in Hong Kong

Markets are popular with locals, expats and tourists alike. Ladies Market, Jardine’s Crescent, Temple Street Night Market and Stanley Market are among the most popular. Be aware that not all markets haggle in Hong Kong – observe other shoppers to see if this is the case before trying to wrangle a cheaper price.

For a taste of the real Hong Kong market life, visit a wet market, where produce, seafood and meat are still sold the old-fashioned way. While the chances of seeing fresh animal carcasses and stepping in blood might be a vegetarian’s nightmare, it’s a street photographer’s dream. 

Another authentic Hong Kong shopping experience is the dai pai dong. These little stalls with green tin roofs originally sold street food, but can now be found selling anything cheap, from zippers to magazines. 


Shopping malls in Hong Kong 

Flashy designer labels are extremely popular, especially with Hong Kong locals and mainland Chinese. In accommodating this, the city can sometimes feel like one endless chain of shopping centres.

The Landmark, the IFC, Harbour City, Pacific Place, Elements and Times Square are just a few of them. Big names like Prada, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are everywhere and high-street brands like Zara and American Eagle can be found as well. 


Counterfeit goods in Hong Kong

For those who can’t afford the real thing, fakes abound. Although officially discouraged, the manufacturing of counterfeit luxury goods is a large industry throughout much of Asia. Many expats head across the border to China to the Luohu Commercial City in Shenzhen, a fake designer mecca about an hour away on the MTR train. Be prepared to haggle prices and be aware that, although they are all fakes, items vary in quality. 


Boutiques in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a hip and creative streak, with original and quirky designer products available. These can mostly be found in boutiques in Soho, Sheung Wan and PMQ (previously the living quarters for married police).

Goods of Desire is a popular retail chain in several locations that sells various Hong Kong Kong-inspired knick-knacks and homeware. For a more Western-style shopping experience, LoveIt and Polka Dot Boutique are popular small businesses that keep up with Western trends.

Sport and Fitness in Hong Kong

Hong Kong offers a tremendous number of opportunities for those wanting to exercise and socialise. 

Many expats use the facilities of the membership clubs, which offer pools, gyms and tennis courts. Alternatively, one can sign up for a gym membership or other specialist clubs. From yoga classes to boxing lessons, there is something for everyone.

Below is a list of some of the sports and facilities available in Hong Kong.  


Gyms 

Hong Kong offers a wealth of options when it comes to gyms, from popular chain gyms with multiple locations to independent gyms catering to niche markets. Some gyms may offer a free trial period. When signing a contract for a gym membership, it is important to read the details carefully as consultants may not mention the limitations of membership in their eagerness to recruit. 


Running and hiking  

Despite its limited land space, hiking is popular in Hong Kong, and the contrast between the lush mountains and the towering glass and steel buildings is spectacular. The Hong Kong Trail is a 50km (31 mile) trail that meanders around the forests and ridges of the city. It starts at Victoria Peak, ends at Big Wave Bay on Hong Kong Island, and passes through five country parks along the way. Among the other walks is the Morning Trail, a well-trodden 2.8km (1.7 mile) route that takes one up Victoria Peak. 


Boating   

Junk trips are very popular with Hong Kong expats. One can book Chinese- or Western-style boats for full- or half-day trips and head to the beach, do some waterskiing or simply eat, drink and soak up the sun.

It is advisable to book one or two months in advance. All-inclusive packages are a little more expensive but include food and drinks.   


Watersports 

Windsurfing, waterskiing, wakeboarding and sailing are all popular in Hong Kong. Windsurfing can be done in Stanley Beach, Sai Kung and Cheung Chau, while waterskiing and wakeboarding lessons are on offer in Tai Tam and Sai Kung. There are also a number of government-run watersport centres in Hong Kong that rent equipment and offer training courses.  


Football, rugby and hockey  

The members-only Hong Kong Football Club has excellent facilities and has teams for football, rugby union, hockey, squash and lawn bowls. Hockey players should look up the Hong Kong Hockey Association. 


Tennis  

The Hong Kong Tennis Association has 3,000 members over 40 clubs and runs leagues and competitions for all standards. Many of Hong Kong's clubs and societies also offer tennis facilities and are a great place for expats to practice their backhand.

Clubs and Societies in Hong Kong

Hong Kong offers an array of social and sporting clubs and societies, which are extremely popular with expats. Many clubs are centuries old institutions dating back to colonial times. For many expats, the sporting clubs and societies become a home away from home with bars, restaurants and social events, along with gyms, swimming pools and other sporting facilities.


Club membership in Hong Kong

Waiting lists can be long, and membership is often dependent on being proposed and seconded by existing members. The monthly or annual membership fee can be high, and some operate a debenture system that can run into very high numbers. Membership can sometimes be passed on to friends or family. Some companies negotiate fast-track membership for their relocating staff, an advantage for those interested. However, there are many sporting clubs that offer a much more affordable package, along with a more relaxed membership policy. 

Here is a list of the popular clubs in Hong Kong.

 

Aberdeen Marina Club

www.aberdeenmarinaclub.com

Address: 8 Shum Wan Rd, Aberdeen

Tel: +852 2555 8321

An exclusive club that offers a selection of restaurants, leisure facilities and member activities.

 

American Club

www.americanclubhk.com

Address: 28 Tai Tam Road, Tai Tam

Tel: +852 2842 7400

Another prestigious club where members can meet other expats for social, business and recreational activities. 

 

Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club

www.cwbgolf.org

Address: 139 Tai Au Mun Road, Clearwater Bay

Tel: +852 2335 3700

A private club open to all nationalities, and providing a wide range of facilities. Expats who love sports will be spoilt for choice.

 

Foreign Correspondents’ Club

www.fcchk.org

Address: North Block, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central

Tel: +852 2521 1511

This club is popular with the diplomatic, media and business community. A good venue for meet-ups. 

 

Gold Coast Yacht & Country Club

www.goldcoastclub.com.hk

Address: 1 Castle Peak Road, Castle Peak Bay

Tel: +852 2404 2222

Home to an array of social programmes and dining facilities, the club boasts a unique combination of architecture and design. 

 

Hong Kong Club

www.thehongkongclub.hk

Address: 1 Jackson Road, Central

Tel: +852 2978 9500

With an elite clientele, the club has extensive facilities to suit all needs.

 

Hong Kong Cricket Club

www.hkcc.org

Address: 137 Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, Tai Tam

Tel: +852 3511 8668

Boasting a rich history, this club offers members numerous sporting facilities and activities. 

 

Hong Kong Country Club

www.hongkongcountryclub.com

Address: 188 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Deep Water Bay

Tel: +852 2870 6500

Located close to the city, the club offers a respite for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

 

Hong Kong Football Club

www.hkfc.com.hk

Address: 3 Sports Road, Happy Valley

Tel: +852 2830 9500

The club, offering more than just football, allows members to access superb facilities for competitive and recreational sports. 

 

Hong Kong Jockey Club

www.hkjc.com

Address: 48 Shan Kwong Road, Happy Valley

Tel: +852 2966 1333

The exclusive Jockey Club offers expats a wide range of activities from horse riding to tennis, squash and childrens' play areas.

 

Ladies' Recreation Club

www.lrc.com.hk

Address: 10 Old Peak Road, Mid-Levels

Tel: +852 3199 3500

A family-orientated club open to women and men, it offers sporting, recreational and dining facilities. 

 

 Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club

www.rhkyc.org.hk 

Address: Hung Hing Road, Kellett Island

Tel: +852 2832 2817

One of the oldest and most prestigious clubs in Hong Kong, this club offers facilities for rowing and sailing.

 

United Services Recreation Club

www.usrc.org.hk

Address: 1 Gascoigne Road, Yau Ma Tei

Tel: +852 2367 0672

With its understated decor and military legacy, the club offers numerous facilities for sport and recreation.

Nightlife in Hong Kong

For those who enjoy a big night out and a good party, there's plenty to find behind Hong Kong’s neon lights and larger-than-life signs. 

Expats can walk the cobbled streets of Lan Kwai Fong, moving between trendy restaurants and vibrant clubs between the glass and steel of the Central District. Or they can head to Wan Chai, an area once known as a port of call for raunchy sailors but nowadays home to a range of British-style bars and live music venues.

Wherever expats do end up, they can rest assured that Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world to let their hair down and cut loose.

Here are some of the best areas in Hong Kong for a vibrant nightlife. 


Best Hong Kong nightlife areas

Lan Kwai Fong

Most expat nightlife tends to be on Hong Kong Island and Lan Kwai Fong is the jewel in the party crown. It’s a small but lively area, jam-packed with bars, clubs and restaurants. A constant favourite – partially due to the novelty of legally drinking in the street – where the alcohol tastes as cheap as it costs.

Soho

For more sophistication, Soho is next to LKF. Here, revellers can choose from dozens of bars and restaurants along the route. Soho has something to suit any taste, from Peruvian cocktails to posh wine bars. The most popular streets are Staunton, Elgin and Hollywood Road, but be sure to check out some of the side-alley haunts too.

Wan Chai

Although Wan Chai has areas like Ship Street offering competition to the Soho dining set, it has been dubbed the red light district of Hong Kong, due to the hostess bars along Lockhart Road. Packed with women on the dancefloor looking for Western boyfriends, expat businessmen are drawn to the area like sailors to a siren song, but it’s not just about that.

It is always party time in Wan Chai and it’s one of the only areas to hear some live music, even if it’s just a Filipino band doing cheesy rock covers.

Kowloon

The best thing to do in Kowloon is to have a cocktail in a classy bar with a spectacular view of the city’s neon beauty, and there is plenty to choose from. Ozone at the Ritz Carlton in West Kowloon is the highest bar in Hong Kong, but be sure to go on a clear night.

Kids and Family in Hong Kong

Moving to Hong Kong with children can certainly seem like a daunting enterprise. The city brings to mind images of hurried businesspeople, crowded subways and tall buildings, and it may initially seem like a nightmare to bring little ones to such a hectic place.  

That said, Hong Kong can be an extremely friendly and safe place to raise a family. While expat life in Hong Kong can be frenzied, foreigners will be pleasantly surprised by how kindly their children are treated. Strangers always seem to have a minute to help a child tie a shoelace, find a misplaced umbrella, or reach a snack. 

Add this friendly attitude to the many opportunities the city offers, and it’s hard to deny that Hong Kong is very much a child-friendly city. 


Safety for expats with kids in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s notable safety record is one of its most attractive features for those with kids. Violent crime is rare, and parents can feel fairly relaxed about letting their children out to play. Older children who are able to navigate the public transport system independently can do so without excessive safety concerns on the part of parents.

Food is also generally safe to eat in Hong Kong. The tap water may be tainted by old pipes, so some families opt to buy bottled water, while others simply invest in a water filter.

Hong Kong is one of the healthiest places in the world in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality rates. Public and private hospitals enjoy low waiting times for emergencies, and patients can expect a level of care similar to that of Europe.

That said, air pollution, particularly that coming from mainland China, can affect visibility, mood and health. Skies can often be clouded for days or weeks at a time. Parents of children with asthma or other similar conditions will want to speak to their doctor about how to best manage their child’s illness while in Hong Kong. 


Family-friendly housing in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is very densely populated, and many families live in high-rise apartments that are significantly smaller than the houses they had back home. As a result, expats may find that cramped living quarters affect the quality of their daily lives; a rainy day and a little house is not the best combination.

On the island, it is fairly uncommon for families to have a garden as most living is done vertically, and personal space is sold at a premium.  

In the New Territories and outlying islands there is a bit more flexibility in terms of living space. Housing costs tend to be lower in these areas (though there are signs that this is changing), and there are options to buy or rent homes with large gardens and beautiful views of the sea. The New Territories is much more rural than Hong Kong Island, and some expats choose to settle in this area as an escape from the busy city life. 


Education in Hong Kong

There is no shortage of good schools in Hong Kong, although many reach enrolment capacity very early in the year. Expat parents should begin to research their education options as soon as they know where they’ll be living. 


Entertainment for kids in Hong Kong

From rural nature hikes to delicious street food, ferry rides, junk trips, trams up to the peak of Mount Victoria, museums and picnicking and camping in the New Territories, Hong Kong boasts countless fun and educational activities for kids, both on and off the island. Add to this Hong Kong’s ever-popular amusement parks like Disneyland and Ocean Park, and expat parents will be hard-pressed to run out of things to see and do with their children.

And once they've conquered all the most commercial attractions, there are still tons of options for expat kids in Hong Kong. Most parts of the city have youth sports leagues, public (swimming pools, playgrounds and mother’s groups.  

Should the children eventually tire of what Hong Kong has to offer, international travel is also relatively inexpensive and easy when Hong Kong is an expat's point of departure.

See and Do in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a vibrant and complicated city with energy like no other place in the world. It is constantly changing, and the growing influence of mainland China on this former British colony makes it a particularly fascinating place to live. New restaurants, bars and shops are almost constantly added to a long list of already established attractions. 

There are also plenty of things to see and do in Hong Kong, and it's easy for exploring expats to find English speakers who can help them on their way. 


Recommended attractions in Hong Kong

Victoria Peak

Expats should take a trip on the funicular to the summit of Victoria Peak where breathtaking views of the cityscape and Kowloon Bay unfold before their eyes. They can discover their new home and take in the chaotic beauty of it all. While up there, browse in some of the summit shops, or enjoy a bite to eat at one of the restaurants overlooking the city.

Aberdeen

Located on the southern shore of Hong Kong, Aberdeen was a haven for pirates a few centuries ago, but these days it’s a popular tourist attraction and upmarket expat neighbourhood. The suburb seduces expats and locals alike with its culture of traditional boat dwellers and the allure of fresh seafood just caught off its friendly shores.

Police Museum

Expats can spend a fascinating afternoon wandering this museum and enjoying exhibits of all sorts of artefacts relating to the Hong Kong Police Force, such as weapons and uniforms, as well as historical archives and photographs.

Wong Tai Sin Temple

This Taoist Temple is one of Hong Kong’s most frequented temples and is dedicated to Wong Tai Sin, a legendary hermit who supposedly possessed healing powers and was a soothsayer of some renown. This temple usually sees people making ornate offerings or coming to see the local fortune tellers who practise their trade from within.

Hong Kong Museum of History

The Hong Kong Museum of History showcases the city’s cultural, natural and archaeological history. Expats can enjoy viewing the exhibitions of photographs, artefacts, traditional costumes and objects that will teach them more about their new home.

What's On in Hong Kong

There is always something going on in Hong Kong and expats who move to the Fragrant Harbour will be able to watch and join in on a host of festivities throughout the year.

From traditional Chinese festivals to Western holidays such as Halloween, East and West even live side by side in Hong Kong. It is worth noting that most traditional cultural events take place according to the Chinese lunar calendar, but equivalent dates on the Gregorian calendar can be easily found online.

Hong Kong prides itself on blending cultures and bringing traditions into the future – there's no better way to see this in action than watching a magnificent display of fireworks explode and shower colour down on Hong Kong's glistening skyscrapers.

Chinese New Year (February)

Hong Kong knows how to usher in the Chinese New Year with a bang. Expats can join in the revelry by hanging decorations on their front doors, and enjoying the street parades and lavish parties. The glittering night parade and the fireworks display finale are not to be missed.

Hong Kong Sevens (March/April)

A must for any expat who comes from a rugby-playing nation, the Hong Kong Sevens takes place each year in March. Rugby fanatics should head to the festive South Stand party, where the music and beer keep the energy in the crowd alive.

Tin Hau's Birthday (April/May)

In a celebration of Hong Kong's rich maritime history, crowds of locals flock to temples across the islands to ask the Goddess of the Sea, Tin Hau, for plentiful catches, safety and good weather. The festival is perhaps best witnessed in the region's coastal villages, where celebratory locals take part in colourful boat processions, dragon dances, light fireworks and feasts.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival (May)

Named one of the quirkiest festivals in the world by Time magazine, the Cheung Chau Bun festival celebrates Pak Tai, a sea god who saved the world from the Demon King and keeps natural disasters at bay. After a plague broke out in 1777, Pak Tai was credited with driving away the evil spirits that caused it. The Taoist rituals from that year are still carried out as locals celebrate through music, parading papier-mâché effigies, dancing and taking part in a bun snatching competition, where young men scramble up bamboo-scaffolded towers made of steamed buns.

Dragon Boat Festival (May/June)

One of the most vibrant occasions in the cultural calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a national hero who drowned himself to protest against the region's corrupt rulers in 278 BC. To keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, villagers beat drums, used their paddles to splash the water and threw rice into the river. Today, his memory is celebrated by the famous dragon boat race, which symbolises the search for his body, and eating zongzi – sticky rice dumplings wrapped in either bamboo or reed leaves.

Mid-Autumn Festival (September/October)

A harvest festival celebrated across China and Vietnam, the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important celebrations of Chinese cultural heritage. Over the course of a week, people give delicious mooncakes as gifts to friends, watch the moon amidst thousands of glowing lanterns, and take part in extravagant dragon and lion dances.

Chung Yeung Festival (October)

Also known as the Double Ninth Festival because it falls on the ninth day of the ninth Chinese calendar month, families in Hong Kong go to clean their ancestral graves and give offerings of food to the spirits of their ancestors. This is often followed by family picnics in the outdoors, while many people hike to the highest points around the city for good luck.

Transport and Driving in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a very compact city with an excellent public transport system, so driving is more of a vanity than a necessity. Moreover, Hong Kong is densely populated, so parking is very expensive and the traffic jams can be frustrating.

Even expats who live off-island do not need to invest in a private vehicle. Kowloon is almost as compact as Hong Kong Island, and certainly very densely populated as well, making its terrific public transport network more convenient than a car.


Public transport in Hong Kong

The superbly efficient system of public transport in Hong Kong makes it easy to navigate. Commuters will be able to take advantage of a variety of options, including Mass Transit Railway (MTR), ferries, trams, buses and taxis.

Mass Transit Railway (MTR)

The most popular mode of transport in Hong Kong is the MTR, the city's subway system. It is extremely efficient and clean, and has added perks like air conditioning and consistent mobile phone reception underground. Commuters also have the advantage of avoiding the street-level congestion above.

The MTR system is over 200km (124 miles) long and with lines running throughout Hong Kong. All that's needed to use the MTR is an Octopus card, a charge card that can be used for the MTR as well as at selected retailers. 

When riding the MTR, expats should bear in mind that Hong Kongers are perpetually in a hurry, so they should make sure they shuffle along quickly to avoid getting trampled on or pushed over, especially at busy interchanging stations.

Ferries

The ferry is an essential mode of transit for expats living in Discovery Bay, Lamma Island, Park Island, or any of the other outlying islands favoured by foreigners.

The schedule is quite simple and easy to memorise. Expats can use their Octopus card to pay for the ferry, as well as other annual package deals.

Ferries are, of course, subject to Hong Kong’s occasionally extreme weather conditions, and service can grind to a halt in the event of a typhoon. In these cases, employees may be asked to leave work early, or find a friend to stay with until the storm has died down.

The Hong Kong Observatory can be consulted in advance for information on weather warnings. 

Trams

The tram is available on Hong Kong Island and travels from the eastern part of the island to the west side as well as up the Peak. Expats should note that this is a very slow means of transport and is therefore not ideal for a daily commute.

The Octopus card also works for the tram, which happens to be the cheapest means of travelling around the island, other than walking.

Buses

Buses are a popular mode of transport in Hong Kong, especially for people who don’t live near the MTR lines. They are usually less packed than the MTR, but are subject to the same slow-moving traffic as private vehicles.

The Octopus card is accepted on all buses, and if paying in cash the exact amount is required. 


Taxis in Hong Kong

Taking a taxi in Hong Kong is incredibly cheap in comparison to places like Tokyo or even some cities in Western Europe. Expats will soon realise that each driver's English proficiency and mapping skills can vary tremendously. Hong Kong taxis accept cash only and usually round up their fares to the next Hong Kong dollar. 


Driving in Hong Kong

Buying a car in Hong Kong is not necessary. The region is small, and the costs of buying and parking a car are high. That said, it is still a common mode of transport for expats, especially those that choose accommodation farther away from the city centre. Hong Kong has a good road safety record, but expats are advised to nevertheless take extra caution when driving. Traffic jams are frequent and parking spots are few and far between. 


Walking and cycling in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is relatively safe for pedestrians, and people generally stick to pedestrian crossings and the signals that accompany them. Hong Kong is not very bicycle friendly and for the most part, cyclists use the roads to get around. This can be dangerous, especially on highways and in the evenings. It's also important for expats planning on walking or cycling to keep an eye on air pollution levels and avoid long periods of rigorous exercise outdoors when pollution is high.

Keeping in Touch in Hong Kong

Keeping in touch with those back home isn't a challenge for expats living in Hong Kong. Famous for being a fast-paced business hub, options for communication in Hong Kong often seem endless. Internet, telephones, mobile phones and postal services are available and easily accessible.

Telecommunications in Hong Kong are some of the most sophisticated in the world and come with high-quality service standards and affordable prices. 


Internet in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is extremely well connected and Internet access is available almost everywhere via broadband, cable, DSL and even fibre. If expats are worried about dealing with frustratingly slow speeds, they'll be happy to learn that Internet speed in Hong Kong is amongst the fastest in the world.

While Internet cafés in Hong Kong are practically nonexistent, there are thousands of public WiFi hot spots throughout the region – Hong Kong International Airport, MTR stations and libraries offer WiFi. This is part of a government initiative known as GovWiFi which aims to keep everyone connected by providing free WiFi in Hong Kong. 

Setting up Internet at home is just as easy. Although most apartments do not come with Internet, the subscription process is rather simple. There are a number of reputable providers to choose from. All packages vary on what they offer, and some will charge based on usage rather than a flat monthly fee, so expats will need to shop around. When the time comes to actually set up the Internet, expat customers will need proof of residence as well as their passport or Hong Kong Identity Card.

Internet censorship in Hong Kong

Unlike in mainland China, programs like Skype or websites such as Facebook and Twitter are not banned in Hong Kong. There is very little Internet censorship, apart from the distribution of certain incriminating materials, including obscene or pirated materials. 


Mobile phones in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has one of the highest cellphone density rates in the world. Spend an afternoon out and one quickly notices that if someone is old enough to talk, then they’re old enough to have a mobile phone in Hong Kong. And not just any phone – Apple iPhones and Samsung smartphones dominate the market here. Most people rely heavily on smartphone apps such as WhatsApp or LINE and, as such, smartphones are so ubiquitous in Hong Kong that it is actually an inconvenience if somebody doesn't have one.

Similar to the West, phones are often given for free or at a reduced price when signing a new contract, and almost all plans in Hong Kong start on a two-year basis. Expats can easily sign a mobile contract, as long as they have proof of address and a HKID. Even without a HKID, most companies will still allow expatriates to sign a contract with only their passport, if they pay a deposit.

Most providers also offer special deals such as discounted rates between certain hours and free calls or texts to numbers within the same network. However, these deals are constantly changing, so it is a good idea for expats to compare packages from different companies to find the one that best fits their needs.

For those wanting a mobile phone while in Hong Kong but not wanting to be bound to a two-year plan, most companies also offer prepaid SIM card options, which can be bought from many convenience stores. Buying a SIM card locally will be the cheapest and easiest way to make calls. 


Landline telephones in Hong Kong

Hong Kong was the first city in the world with a fully digitised local phone network, so new residents can expect the service to be efficient and cheap.

Most telephone landlines in Hong Kong are managed by PCCW, which will need to activate the line in order to use it.

Landline telephones are not as common as mobile phones in Hong Kong. PCCW offers landline packages for reduced prices to customers who already have a home Internet plan with the company. Landline and Internet setup can all be done in one trip. The documents needed to open a landline are the same for getting Internet service (proof of residence and HKID or passport).


Postal services in Hong Kong

Postal services are very reliable in Hong Kong. If sending post within Hong Kong, it will generally be received within one working day, except during the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year when more people use the postal service. International shipping costs are reasonable and generally less expensive than in the US.

Since almost everyone lives in apartments in Hong Kong, most mailboxes are quite small. So, if someone expects to receive anything bigger than a letter, they'll have to pick it up from the local post office. 

It is still common to receive all bills and statements in hard copy, in addition to online copies. 


English media and news in Hong Kong

English media is readily available in Hong Kong. The Standard and The South China Morning Post are the most popular English-language newspapers, which circulate daily. There are a number of other English newspapers and magazines available in Hong Kong, and it also isn't difficult to find imported publications.

There is an abundance of cable television channels in Hong Kong. The majority of channels will provide an option for English dub or subtitles, and popular shows from the US and UK are aired in original English (with Chinese subtitles).

Cable television is cheap and leading companies offer the option to add on popular foreign channels such as The Discovery Channel, ESPN and even TLC, for a nominal monthly fee.

Shipping and Removals in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a major port destination, making shipping and removal services abundant and delivery efficient. No duty or tax is levied on imported personal household items, and there is no limit on when goods can be imported or how much can be imported.

The cost of shipping is directly related to volume, method of delivery and the distance the cargo travels.

People moving to Hong Kong on an expat employment package should try and negotiate a shipping allowance in their contract. Typical offers include an air freight and sea freight allowance, both for shipping to Hong Kong and then back to one's home country upon the contract's completion.

Air freight services are faster, but much more expensive than choosing to send items by sea freight. The best way to reduce the cost is to split the shipment, and to send the things that will be needed right away by air and to have the remainder sent by sea. Anything that's going to be needed soon after arrival should be included in the air shipment, or even in one's flight luggage.


Be sure about shipping

Those looking for cost-effective solutions should carefully consider what they need to take with them and what can be replaced when they arrive in Hong Kong. Furniture purchased for another city may not fit into a Hong Kong apartment (which will likely be small), and precious family heirlooms may be safer at a family member’s home or in a storage unit than on a long voyage across the sea.

Furthermore, there is an IKEA in Hong Kong where good quality furniture can be picked up, and it even offers a delivery and installation service if an expat's toolkit hasn’t made the journey with them. It’s also good to keep an eye out on expat websites for people leaving Hong Kong who are looking to get rid of their furniture. Some excellent quality items can be picked up for a small fee or sometimes just a delivery cost.


Hiring an international shipping and removals company

If an expat employee manages to secure a shipping allowance through their work contract, or even if they are just looking for the most hassle-free option to send their belongings to Hong Kong, it’s recommended that they hire an international removal company. These companies come to a person's home, survey everything they want to take with and make a quote based on the size of the shipment crate that will be required.

It's important to obtain a few different quotes – usually a free service – and then to make sure the company that's been selected has reliable ground services in Hong Kong. This door-to-door pick-up and delivery comes at a cost, so the best idea for those looking for money-saving options would be to shop around for the best deals with international shipping companies online.

Common services to look for in a shipping company 

  • Pick-up goods at the customer's location

  • Basic disassemble and reassemble of furniture

  • Border clearance and customs formalities at the destination

  • Professional wrapping of furniture

  • Preparing professional inventory list

  • Unloading all items to destination residence, and setting all items per the customer's request

  • Removing packing debris from destination residence

Expats should be aware that shippers often tack on additional expenses for certain packing materials, handling and hoisting of excessively large items and certain processing requirements.

Extra services a shipping company might charge for

  • Custom-built wooden crates

  • Documentation fee for vehicles and commercial cargo

  • Piano handling

  • Storage

  • Packing service for small and breakables items 

  • Fumigation charges and quarantine

  • Insurance (unless purchased separately ahead of time)

  • External hoisting or crane equipment

  • Additional collection or split delivery locations

  • It’s a good idea to buy insurance from a company other than the shipping company used, to ensure reliable coverage on broken cargo.

Once a service provider has been chosen, they will come on moving day, pack everything and deal with all insurance and customs formalities for the moving expat. Their quote should also include delivery and unpacking services at the Hong Kong end of things. Hong Kong apartments are usually high up and small, so professional help when moving in is certainly something new arrivals will be glad to have.


Shipping pets to Hong Kong

Many Hong Kongers have a dog or cat, and once they've arrived, expats will find that it’s common to see small dogs accompanying their “best friends” to Sunday brunch. There’s a thriving culture of “Fidos”, “Rexes” and “Bellas” in Hong Kong, and expat pets can certainly make some new friends, but it’s best to think long and hard about whether relocation really is the best thing for a pet.

Apartments in Hong Kong are small, and depending on where one lives, green space may be limited; furthermore, many city parks do not allow dogs. That said, there are definitely some ideal areas for animals.

Apart from the pet’s new home, expat owners will also need to investigate costs and legalities. A quarantine stay in Hong Kong and back in one's home country could be costly for the expat and stressful for the animal.

Pets from some countries don't need quarantine, and pets from certain other countries may be exempt from quarantine if they comply with permit terms. Expats should consult the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong to see if their country requires quarantine, and to see what other formalities are required.

There are a number of dedicated companies in Hong Kong who can help expats with importing pets. It is a complicated process, and it may require getting a permit for the animal prior to arrival, depending on which country it is being brought from.

Expat Blogs in Hong Kong

Few resources can build a better picture of life in Hong Kong than the expat blogs maintained by already established foreigners. Whether these writers are recounting great challenges, relaying roll-on-the-floor funny encounters, delivering crucial advice and important tips or reaching out to those around them, their insight affords others a unique and personal glimpse into their new community. Please contact us if you'd like your blog to be listed on this Hong Kong blog page.


Best expat blogs in Hong Kong

MaximumCityMadam in Hong Kong

British expat Lindsey Gordon first started blogging as a trailing spouse and mother in the city of Mumbai, India. She has since moved to Hong Kong and shares her incredibly entertaining insights into expat life in this bustling city.

Nationality: British

Besudesu Abroad

Beth Williams is an American woman who studied in Japan and loved Asia so much she went back to teach English in Hong Kong. Her blog is full of handy tips on travel, stories about the places she's been and reviews on the best places to eat.

Nationality: American 

Besudesu Abroad - an expat blog in Hong Kong

Teggs Relocation to Hong Kong

A light chronicle of, well, what the title says – one woman's relocation from the UK to the former UK colony of Hong Kong. Follow her as she negotiates life at the edge of the Orient, and gain some insight into her adventures to nearby destinations.

Nationality: American

Teggs Relocation to Hong Kong - a Hong Kong Blog

Frequently Asked Questions about Hong Kong

What language do people speak in Hong Kong?

The official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese and English. While Mandarin is becoming popular for business purposes,  the majority of people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese.

Is it worth learning Cantonese?

Learning a few key phrases might be helpful, but unless wanting to learn it on a more fluent level for personal reasons, expats can get by easily without it as English is widely spoken in Hong Kong. On the other hand, expats looking for a job in Hong Kong will find that speaking fluent Cantonese will put them above other applicants.

Can I find work in Hong Kong once I arrive?

Due to the visa system in Hong Kong, expats will need to secure a job before they arrive. Unless an applicant can speak Cantonese or Mandarin, jobs in Hong Kong are limited. Most expats are relocated from their position back home to middle or upper management positions in large, international companies. Otherwise, English-speaking expats will be limited to teaching or low-paying hospitality positions. 

Can I hire domestic help? 

Domestic services are very common in Hong Kong, and many households hire a live-in domestic helper. It is quite commonplace to hire a domestic helper from a foreign country, but there are numerous labour laws to abide by when doing so. 

Do I need a car in Hong Kong?

Although many people own cars in Hong Kong, it is considered a luxury due to the price of petrol, storage and upkeep. Hong Kong has a reliable public transportation system with trains, buses and ferries that can get residents anywhere they need to go quickly. Taxis are metered and surprisingly affordable.

What's the best way to buy property or rent in Hong Kong?

With the region being so small and dense, property in Hong Kong is a hot commodity. Most expats will go through an agent to find a place, but do be aware that there are steep agency fees.

Do expats need to pay taxes in Hong Kong?

Yes, but taxes will generally be much lower than in their home country.

How good are doctors in Hong Kong? Is healthcare affordable?

Public hospitals and clinics are very affordable for those who possess a valid Hong Kong ID card. Many of the region's local doctors have studied overseas. Treatment is of a high quality, but expats should check to see the languages spoken before they book an appointment. Expats may prefer to use the private sector, not because the treatment is of a higher quality, but for its reduced waiting times.

What is the weather like in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is subtropical and has hot, humid summers. Frequent rains during this season add to the humidity.  Winters are, however, cool and dry. March and April are arguably the best time of year in Hong Kong. For more in-depth information, see Weather in Hong Kong.

How can I stay connected in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong has one of the fastest Internet connections in the world, so keeping in touch with those back home is easy. There are also various English TV channels and daily English newspapers. 

Where can I meet other expats?

Hong Kong's allure as an international destination has cultivated a substantial expat population. Different communities, often organised by nationality, host all sorts of events, meetings and nights out. The best way to find these is through the consulate of one's home country, or on social media sites.

Relocation Companies in Hong Kong

Relocation businesses offer companies and individuals with a full suite of services including pre-departure orientation, neighbourhood orientation, home-finding services, lease negotiation and utilities hook-ups, as well as school selection, visits and registration assistance. Removals companies, on the other hand, offer a more limited range of services that tend to focus on the transportation of goods.

reloSMART

reloSMART was built with one aim, to offer SMART moving solutions. We believe that moving house is simple, not rocket science. It all comes down to having experienced advisors, well trained packers, a tried and trusted network of partners around the globe and most of all, cost effective moving solutions. Our Asian experience paired with European efficiency makes us the smartest choice in the region.
Website: www.relosmart.asia

Expert Mover

Expert Mover focuses on providing high-quality all-in-one services which include international and local Relocations, customs clearance and cleaning and maid services.

Website: www.expertmover.hk

Santa_Fe_Relocation.jpg

Santa Fe Relocation

Santa Fe Relocation offers a full spectrum of relocation services for both corporate relocations and personal move customers. They are a global firm that can manage your move to Hong Kong, and services include home search, school search, moving services and pet relocation. 

Website: www.santaferelo.com

Team Relocations

Team Relocations offers international transportation, relocation and warehousing company for corporate and private expatriates, with locations worldwide. Team counts many of the world’s leading corporations and government agencies as clients as well as assisting smaller companies with all they require during their employee relocation process.

Website: www.teamrelocations.com

► See more worldwide relocation companies.

Articles about Hong Kong

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for settling into expat life in a new country, but here are a few helpful articles and personal stories that may help make your move a little easier.


Meeting people in Hong Kong

One of the best ways to settle into a new city is by meeting people, and Hong Kong has plenty of opportunities that encourage expats to get out and socialise. Read more tips on making friends in Hong Kong


International schools in Hong Kong

Umm-ing and ahh-ing about whether to leave your children in boarding schools back home, or moving them into an international school in Hong Kong? Expat expert Ruth Benny shares some insights that may help you decide on schooling in Hong Kong.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Hong Kong

Given that Hong Kong is one of the world's most important financial centres, expats are unlikely to have trouble managing their finances in the wealth-driven Pearl of the Orient.

Basic banking in Hong Kong is safe, secure and straightforward. The slightly more complex private banking industry is the largest in Asia. The region is also very popular for its low taxes, making it easier for expats to save the dollars they work such long hours for.


Money in Hong Kong

The currency in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Dollar, abbreviated as HKD or HK$. Each HKD is divided into 100 cents.

The Hong Kong dollar is available in the following denominations:

  • Notes: 10 HKD, 20 HKD, 50 HKD, 500 HKD, and 1,000 HKD

  • Coins: 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 HKD, 2 HKD, 5 HKD, and 10 HKD


Banking in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is home to many major international banks, as well as local Chinese institutions. Whether it is better for an expat to bank with an international bank or a local bank depends largely on individual circumstances, since both options have their pros and cons.

Nearly all banks have Internet banking facilities and offer credit cards. Most bank branches have employees who can communicate in English, although language proficiency improves in areas with large expat populations.

Opening a bank account in Hong Kong

Opening a bank account in Hong Kong is easy. The minimum amount necessary to open an account varies depending on the service provider and type of account being opened.

Those who already have an account with an international bank, such as Citibank, HSBC or Standard Chartered, often find it convenient to open a local version of their account once they arrive in Hong Kong. Among other things, transferring money becomes less of a hassle and more economical.

Other expats, especially those who don't have a bank from their home country represented in Hong Kong, prefer to explore local options.

New arrivals looking to open an account should consult the institution of their choosing in order to determine what documentation will be needed to facilitate the process.

ATMs

There are plenty of ATMs throughout Hong Kong, most of which accept international cards. ATM fees at local banks tend to cost less than their international counterparts.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted across Hong Kong, although cash remains the more common means of payment for smaller purchases in local shops. 


Taxes in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is well known for having extremely low-income tax rates. It has completely done away with sales tax, capital gains tax and VAT. Families with children are entitled to special allowances, and even wealthy single foreigners will never pay more than 17 percent in taxes. This is an important point to figure in when evaluating one's remuneration package.

Taxes in Hong Kong work differently for expats than in most other countries. In general, citizenship or residency doesn't influence the amount of tax that has to be paid. An added advantage is that salary taxes are only focused on income derived from business within Hong Kong, whereas income and assets from overseas are not liable to be taxed.

Expats should also investigate if their home country has a double taxation agreement with Hong Kong. If so, they are not liable to pay tax in both Hong Kong and their home country.

If at all uncertain, it's best to confirm these details with an authorised tax advisor, preferably one that knows the ins and outs of expat tax issues.

Expat Experiences in Hong Kong

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Hong Kong and would like to share your story.


Edouard has been living in Hong Kong for almost 10 years and as a French citizen, is an experienced expat. Originally transferring to Hong Kong through a French company, Edouard met his wife here and is raising a child in the cosmopolitan international hub of Asia. Read on for his experience as an expat in Hong Kong.

Edouard Muller - French expat in Hong Kong

British expat Lindsey first started blogging as a trailing spouse and mother in the city of Mumbai, India. She has since moved to Hong Kong - and shares her incredibly entertaining insights into expat life in this bustling city through her blog, MaximumCityMadam in Hong Kong. Read about her expat experiences in Hong Kong.

Kate McDonnell is an Australian expat who has been living in Hong Kong with her husband since 2011. They are busy setting up an orientations company to help new expats find their way in the SAR. She talks to us about noisy streets, cheques and a cable car to Buddha. Read about her expat experience in Hong Kong.

Kate McDonnell is an Australian expat living in Hong Kong

Alison Massey is a UK expat living in Hong Kong. She moved with her husband and baby son to set up a new business, New Health International, which is now thriving. Having relocated around four years ago, she says the time has flown and that she can't imagine life anywhere else. Read about her expat experience in Hong Kong.

Alison is a UK expat in Hong Kong

Lisa Harvey is an American expat who has lived with her family in Hong Kong since 2011. Originally a trailing spouse who chose stepping on Lego over climbing the corporate ladder, she is an editor at TrifectaWritingChallenge.com and runs her own business. Read more about her expat experiences in Hong Kong.

Lisa Harvey is an American expat in Hong Kong

Beth Williams is an American expat living in Hong Kong. She moved there with her fiancé, who is originally from Hong Kong. Now working as an English teacher, Beth enjoys the quality of life in Hong Kong and all it has to offer, from the beaches and mountains, to the numerous events and festivals taking place every weekend. Read more about her expat experience in Hong Kong.

Beth Williams is an American expat in Hong Kong

Elmer W Cagape is from the Philippines but moved to Hong Kong nine years ago to pursue a career with a large telecoms company. Here he met and married his wife. Elmer loves the vibrant, safe and efficient lifestyle of Hong Kong. Read more about Elmer's expat experience in Hong Kong.

Leslie Nasr, an American expat formerly living in Hong Kong, is no stranger to relocation; in fact, she's making a living from it. She's moved 16 times; is fluent in Arabic, French, English and Portuguese; and is the author of the "Living In Series"™, a collection of destination guides aimed at alleviating the stress expats go through when uprooting and changing homes. Find out what insight Leslie has to share about life in Hong Kong.

Leslie - an American living in Hong Kong

Gillian Chu, a third culture kid raised in Canada, made the move to her homeland of Hong Kong five years ago, and is still enamoured with the cultural intricacies of the land. She's an admitted fashionista, and there's hardly an event on in Hong Kong that she doesn't know about or hasn't blogged about. Check out what she has to say in her interview about her experience in Hong Kong.

Gillian - a repat living in Hong Kong