To make your new life in Hong Kong a success, you’ll need some insider knowledge. These friendly EL readers have been there, done that, and share their experiences and advice. Here, we asked them for three top tips for newcomers moving to Hong Kong.
#1 Housing is likely to be your first priority and while there is always a huge desire to get it sorted as swiftly as possible, I’d strongly advise to test the water first. What may be right for a colleague, friend or relocation agent may not be right for you. Find a short-term let and do your own research when you get here.
#2 Be patient. It takes time to adjust to a new life and new home, and make new friends. Accept that it won’t happen overnight, communicate well with your other half, look after each other and enjoy the journey!
#3 Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses… There’s always a temptation to compare your situation with others wherever you are, but especially when arriving in an unfamiliar place. Salaries and housing allowances (if you’re lucky enough to have one) vary wildly in this part of the world, and comparisons are likely to end in disappointment. Focus on the important things and live within your means.
#1 Don’t stay in an expat bubble.
#2 Learn some Cantonese and get lost in Mong Kok or Yuen Long to experience the real Hong Kong.
#3 And, of course, get some good school advice!
#1 Be open to lots of new experiences and meeting people from every culture! The best parts of living in this city include being able to tap into a network of such vastly different and interesting people and opportunities that you won’t find easily anywhere else.
#2 Be aware of the crazy rental prices (or crazy prices in general!) and don’t be shocked by how small the spaces are.
#3 Say yes to everything (within reason) and don’t get stuck in the “expat bubble” of Hong Kong Island – there’s so much more to HK than just Central! Venture out into Kowloon, Sai Kung, Lantau, Macau… even China for the adventurous!
#1 Join all the groups: your building WhatsApp group; the expat Facebook groups; the GeoBaby mothers’ groups. Find the ones relevant to you and connect with that community. They’ll open doors and be the support you need when settling in and beyond.
#2 You can find almost everything you need in Hong Kong, or shop online and have it shipped here. But for anything you can’t get here, buy from your home country and use a freight forwarder like Buyandship! It’s so cheap and has been a lifesaver for things like my favourite makeup and skincare items that I just can’t get in HK.
#3 If you have kids and can afford it, get a helper; it’s worth it and not a decision you’ll regret. Coming from Australia where live-in help is not a thing, I was on the fence about getting a helper, felt uncomfortable about having someone live with us and questioned the dynamics of it all. However, with no family support and no traditional childcare options, our helper has been a godsend!
#1 Make sure you leave the island! I know people who have lived here for years and haven’t been to places like Sai Kung and explored the amazing beaches and hiking trails. It’s very easy to get caught up in the convenience of living on the island. Hong Kong has so much to offer; make an effort to see it all!
#2 Learn the lingo. Even if it’s just a few sentences or phrases. It gives you the opportunity to explore an amazing side of Hong Kong many expats stay on the fringes of.
#3 Go local! It’s very easy to fall into the convenience of the expat bubble and just go to the same places to wine, dine and shop. Explore outside a little and you’ll find the same if not better at a better price.
This article first appeared in the City Guide 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.