Living in Hong Kong

Old Apr 8th, 2006, 11:12 AM
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Living in Hong Kong

I may have a chance to work in HK for a year. Any thoughts on what it's like for an expat?

For background, I lived in Bangkok for 2 years and loved every minute of it.

Shade
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Old Apr 8th, 2006, 11:43 AM
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I think Cicerone, a regular poster on this site lives in Hong Kong now. I hope she'll see your post and answer you.
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Old Apr 8th, 2006, 12:02 PM
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if your company will pay for or give a huge subsidy for your rent i think it would be fabulous, otherwise i would be leery....

i can't think of one other place i would rather be other than bkk and you have done that already....
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Old Apr 8th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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ok---london with a subsidy
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Old Apr 8th, 2006, 05:48 PM
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HK is a fabulos place to live. Housing is expensive but even that is variable and there are loads of choices. Compared to Bkk you will prob find apts small. HK is a very efficient city - one of the most in the world. Great public transport system (connects the whole island), supermarkets well stocked with stuff everywhere (much better than Bkk where Villa stores were the only option for some stuff), restaurants, etc. It is expensive but tax rates are low and generally people have a good life. Help is available tho comparede to Bkk it is expensive again.
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Old Apr 8th, 2006, 10:50 PM
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I lived in HK as an expat and it's great. Rent is expensive, but I am sure you are used to that having lived in Bangkok.

It's a great cosmopolitan city with great restaurants and many other foreigners - though, many are now moving north to Shanghai and Shenzhen.
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Old Apr 9th, 2006, 01:35 PM
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I also was an expat in HK for a few years. I agree with everything mentioned in previous posts: expensive rent that necessitate a rent subsidy, convenient/safe/modern city, gateway to everywhere in Asia and esp. China, huge expat crowd to have fun with... If you want to save some $$ on rent, then you can choose to live in a non-expat area.

I lived in Singapore before and liked it as well. Haven't lived in BKK. Yet, one thing I like about HKG over BKK or SIN is that HKG has seasons--it's not just hot/humid summer all year long in SIN or BKK.
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Old Apr 11th, 2006, 08:49 PM
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Shade, I do live in Hong Kong. I lived here 5 years, moved to Switzerland for just under 5 years and just moved back to Hong Kong this past July, after leaping at the chance to get back here. As you have lived in Asia before, I am assuming I don't need me to go through the litany of tax, insurance and other issues about being an expat, I will just share some experiences that I see having moved back here recently:

1. Rents are high, they are back to pre-SARS levels. I understand that during SARS (I was in Zurich), rents came way down and landlords were quite negotiable, that is no longer the case. One SARS thing that is still the case is that rents are often quoted inclusive of taxes and maintenance, which did not use to be the practice, but do confirm this when looking at prices. If you use an agent, the fee is one month's rent and is generally paid by the landlord, but again confirm this and if you are to split it with the landlord, IMO your half should be paid by your company. Deposits of 2-3 months' rent are required, generally no or very low interest is paid on the deposit. Also, as may be the case in Bangkok, leases are very much in favor of the landlord.

For only a year, you might want a furnished flat or serviced apartment, not sure what your arrangement is with your company. If you want an unfurnished flat, try http://www.habitat-property.com which is a great source for rental properties (mostly on Hong Kong Island) and is very user-friendly.

For furnished flats or serviced apartments, get a copy of The South China Morning Post, which is the main English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. Take a look at their classified ads for flats; this section is especially large on Saturdays and Sundays If you live in a major city, you should be able to buy a copy, or your library may have back issues or can borrow them from another library. You can also look at classified adds on line. Go to their website at scmp.com. On the main page, scroll to the very bottom and under "Specials" in the fine print you will see a link for "classifiedpost.com". Click this, and you will be brought to a new page. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this and in the black shaded area, click on "Property". You will go to a new page. In the window on the upper left where it says "Choose Property Type", scroll down to "Residential" and you can search by area, you should look at "Kowloon N.T. To Let". You can get an idea of prices.

If you aren't getting housing assistance, you should look at areas in Kowloon like Sai Kung where rents are much cheaper and with the MTR you can get into an office in Central in like 40 minutes. I would NOT live in Discovery Bay, where you life is timed to the ferry and which is primarily, IMO, for people with children. It's not that pretty either.

Unless you have kids, I would not live in the Repulse Bay or other areas of Southside on Hong Kong Island, as this is just too "far" a commute, its like 20-30 minutes to Central and if you need to travel a lot even further to the airport...the American schools are over there so if you have kids then this is a good choice. Otherwise, if your budget permits and your office is on Hong Kong Island, I would stick to Mid-levels, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, the Peak, Pokfulam, Jardine's Lookout or similar areas on the Central side of the island.

2. The cost of living is relatively inexpensive, outside of some restaurants and things like good wine, and for reasons I can't figure out, bedlinens and towels (at least good quality ones). I find it much cheaper than Zurich (but then almost anyplace is) and probably on a par with New York, but some things like household help, are much cheaper. Public transport is very good and very inexpensive, taxis are very cheap. You do not need a car here at all, esp for one year, although you can buy used cars quite cheaply so if you want to have one for a year you could easily do so. (Albeit there aren't a lot of places to drive, i.e. you can't drive into China, your insurance generally won't cover you and they drive on the "other"/US side of the road there. For a weekend, you would get on a plane and go someplace like Bali or further into the PRC.) You can get basically any consumer food or item you want or need here, so you don't need to schlep over suitcases full of diet Dr Pepper or anything (I used to bring bagels to Singapore when I lived there....Lenders are all over the place now!) I would bring over bed linens and towels as I do find that is the one thing that is hard to find in good quality at reasonable prices. (If you want Frette or Pratesi sheets at US$3,000 a set, you can find them here.) There is no sales tax. The personal income tax rate is about 17%, but if you are going to be tax equalized this may be irrelevant to you.

3. The air pollution is an issue, I would not say you would be affected if you have asthma, but there are many days when you can hardly see across the harbour. You may be used to this from Bangkok where I actually think the air pollution is worse, but you aren't trying to see across a harbour so it may not be so noticeable.

4. "Winter" is fantastic and lasts from October through mid-March. Sunny, dry and mid-70s F. Have people come visit then. The rest of the year is hot, humid and wet; but really you lived in Bangkok so not an issue. It can and does rain for days on end, I laugh when English people talk about the rainfall in the UK, we get 90 inches a year, they get 30 (Bangkok gets about 60.) Typhoons are kind of fun, albeit you feel bad for the tourists.

5. English is widely spoken, road signage is in English, labels on food and other items in stores is in English, so there are basically no language issues. People in government departments all speak English. After Switzerland, I realize what a blessing this is. Not sure what your experience was in Bangkok.

6. Health care is excellent and a bit less expensive than the US, although probably more expensive than Thailand. English speaking doctors are easy to find, there are several excellent hospitals. I find prescription drugs cost about the same, but don't have any trouble getting similar items here as in the US.

7. There is basically no traffic, which will be welcome after Bangkok. The subways get very crowded at rush hours, but otherwise, you can have a very pleasant lifestyle of work and play, esp if you live and work in the same place, i.e. Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island. On my first posting here I could walk to and from my office and my flat in Wan Chai, I now live on the Peak and even with that have a taxi ride of less than 5 minutes to my office.

8. As I imagine is the case with Thailand, you can get a maid quite inexpensively. I don't have a live in maid, as I have no kids or husband, and pay about US$25 a week for a maid to clean the whole flat and do all the ironing plus any large jobs like window cleaning, the refrigerator, etc. Pretty reasonable I think. Live ins cost more but you can certainly find them, primarily Filipinas but also from Sri Lanka.

9. There is a very large expat community of Americans, Brits, Europeans, South Americans and others, and it is a very friendly place. You would find it quite similar I think to living in Bangkok in terms of the social life and activities, although there are more opportunities for water sports and for walking/hiking esp in for the latter in the great winter months.

10. As in Thailand, you need to be sponsored by your employer for a work permit, I never had any issue getting one. Your company might want to start the process now, because theoretically you're not supposed to start work until you have it, although in reality everyone does start work before it is issued. If your company is here and can start the paperwork, they might as well.

11. My one piece of advice would be that for a one year stay, if you take a furnished flat, try to work out a deal with your company to pay for some moving expenses when you go back to the US. As with Bangkok, there are a huge number of furniture and rug bargains here and if you like Asian furniture, you could easily fill a container with stuff for your house in the US. If your company would not have to pay for shipping both ways, maybe that would be an incentive for them to pay to ship one way, or you could work out a ceiling that they would pay and you pay above that.


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Old Apr 16th, 2006, 11:40 PM
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Hi Shade,
Cicerone has given you an incredibly detailed and accurate response. Almost everything's been said. My only addition is to check out the following two expat websites:
www.asiaxpat.com www.geoexpat.com
Both will give you a feel for prices and also the opportunity to ask specific questions.

Also - admitting my bias up front - I highly recommend Sai Kung as a relatively inexpensive area to live and great environment. The only drawback is the "hike" into town (3/4 -1 hr or so - depending on what part you are in) but many people feel that it's worth it. If you like to party every night, however, this isn't the place to be <GRIN>.

Check out my website on the district at:
www.exploresaikung.com

I've lived here for 10 years and it's home - I have no desire to go back to Canada.

Cheers!
Judy
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Old Apr 19th, 2006, 06:53 AM
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Hi
hope you make the choice to move over to HK. Lived there for one and a half years and loved it (except the working hours!). Now I'm living in BKK and also love it but it's pretty different and there are a fair few things I miss about HK.
There is little to add to the amazingly detailed responses given so far. I just wanted to say that in finding an apartment, your company may give you help through an estate agent like Hamptons or Colliers which specialise in expat flats. We found their range limited. We walked into one of the chain local estate agents (Midland Realty for example) and asked them to show us flats in a certain area. They had many more on their books and were extremely helpful and we ended up going with them (ended up in Tai Hang Road - another area to consider: around North Point and Tin Hau ...)
In addition, you have to put down 2-3 months deposit as has been mentioned. But by asking nicely to the landlord, we ended up not paying our last few months rent. The landlord agreed to just use the deposit. He did say we were good tenants, but apparently this is common practice among Hong Kongers!
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Old Apr 19th, 2006, 09:53 PM
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What great information you've received!
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Old Apr 20th, 2006, 08:59 AM
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so interesting & relevant thread, as I myself ma about to relocate there from Europe (have also been posted in Dubai 1998-2004).
One more request, how is it for a European to get used to Asian culture? How could I be better prepared and how quickly could I hope to get adjusted (pls do not answer, never!)? Any advice to smoothen the cultural shock (I have 15+ years of expat experience).
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Old Apr 20th, 2006, 06:25 PM
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tgnych, I had to LOL when I read your post, because when I moved to Zurich from Hong Kong I had some trouble adjusting to and understanding the Swiss German culture which is, so to speak, my "own" culture, being an American of German descent and of course Switzerland is a "western" culture like the US as opposed to an "eastern" one so theoretically the adjustment should have been easy for me. So it isn't always a matter of your culture, but where you are coming from...

I often recommend the "Culture Shock! Hong Kong" book to people as it gives a fairly comprehensive, and in my view accurate, picture of culture and customs in Hong Kong. The books are part of the Culture Shock series of books published by Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company. You can buy them on line from Amazon or your local bookstore can order it for you. There are numerous other books on adjusting to life in Hong Kong and Asia, you might run a Google search, or go to a bookstore like Dymocks when you get here, there is a whole shelf of books there. Basic things like trying not to express anger, how to treat work colleagues and staff and what to expect and not to expect of them are usually described in these books, and it is helpful to have an understanding of the habits and mores of the culture in which you will be living.

As you have lived in Dubai and have a long history of expat living, you already understand the expat experience and the overall adjustment necessary to living as a foreigner so I think you know what to expect from that standpoint. Overall I think you will find life in Hong Kong quite easy and quite convenient in terms of every day living (and the weather is much better than Dubai!!) I think some of your adjustment will also depend on where are from in Europe; I can see that a Swiss German could be driven crazy here by the lack of adherence to rules, the relative rudeness of the people, etc; which might not bother someone from another country with a more go-with-the-flow cultural attitude (or even a Swiss French).
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Old Apr 20th, 2006, 10:03 PM
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Cicerone,
thks again for the inputs. To answer one of your questions I am a Belgian citizen son of a Polish father & Armenian mother, born in the Republic of Congo where I lived for the first 10 years of my life.
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