Moving to Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the most popular expat destinations in Asia, particularly among people in business, banking and finance with several large multinational companies having their headquarters in the city.
It’s been something of a rocky road for Hong Kong since Britain handed sovereignty over the city back to China in 1997. The Asian financial crisis, avian flu and SARS all hit the Special Administrative Region within a period of six years causing major disruption and huge financial losses.
But Hong Kong’s long history as a prized territorial asset on the coast of the South China Sea has made it nothing if not resilient. Continuing to grow in influence as a global financial centre and as a conduit of trade between east and west, Hong Kong’s powerful economy is a major attraction for expatriates the world over.
They don’t just come for the economic opportunity though. The East meets West culture sees the integration of ancient Chinese traditions and modern European customs, an expansive skyline showcases the best of modern architecture and the surrounding countryside offers lush nature reserves, rugged coastline and dozens of beaches.
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As long as you can cope with the density of population, a low crime rate, high standard of living, excellent infrastructure and low costs all cement Hong Kong’s reputation as one of the world’s most hospitable cities for foreign workers.
Moving to Hong Kong from the UK
As a former colony of the British Empire Hong Kong poses few obstacles to an economic migrant from the UK. English, along with Cantonese Chinese, is an official language. Many signs and official documents are printed in both languages. Learning Chinese is also very accessible with many courses offering tuition from beginner level to advanced.
The legal system is based on the Common Law System of England so proceedings should seem familiar.
Hong Kong has highly developed public transport system - one of the most utilised of any city in the world - and, since the territory is barely 50km end to end, owning a car isn’t really necessary.
The city lies in a subtropical zone so expect year round hot temperatures and high humidity. The monsoon season between May and September sees frequent downpours which sometimes result in floods or landslides.
Choosing a place to live in Hong Kong takes some consideration. You probably wouldn’t be moving there unless you already had a job lined up so your employer might have also offered temporary corporate accommodation. If not, try to arrange a short term let in order to get your bearings before jumping into the lettings or purchase market.
Comparing Hong Kong vs London
Those moving from London to Hong Kong will find a city similarly dominated by high finance and the service economy. They’ll find high house prices and expensive rents. They’ll also see the odd statue of Queen Victoria, British post boxes (painted green, not red) and the odd rugby match. That’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Weather-wise, Hong Kong experiences only mild seasonality - daily average temperatures stay within a range of 16 °C to 29 °C with hot humid summers and only slightly colder winters. Unlike in London, temperatures dropping below freezing is unheard of.
Hong Kong is a more densely populated city than London but the startling variety of landscapes - from steep hills to rocky coastlines and beaches - does allow you to occasionally forget that you’re in a metropolis of over 7 million inhabitants.
Culturally, Hong Kong mixes European and Chinese entertainments, sports, art and music in almost equal measure. While it’s possible to spend an evening at the Cantonese Opera or an afternoon in a Mahjong parlour you could just as easily spend the time watching Rugby or having a flutter at the Happy Valley racecourse.
Consumerism is equally rampant in both cities - Hong Kong is famed as a shoppers paradise with no sales tax and low duties on imported goods.
Property in Hong Kong
Large financial centres are often surrounded by highly priced properties and Hong Kong is no exception. In addition, the limited space in the city keeps demand high and, despite recent jitters in the HK property market, prices are on the rise again as of the end of 2012.
The average property price at that time was HK$155,540 (£1,400) per square meter.
Purchase prices for a 3 bedroom property range from HK$700,000,000 (£63m) for a house on the slopes of Jardine’s Lookout, overlooking Victoria Park, to HK$2,000,000 (£180,000) for a high-rise apartment in Fanling, 30km from Kowloon City and the CBD.
Stamp duty is payable to the Hong Kong government upon purchasing a property and ranges from 1.5% and 8.5% depending on the purchase value.
Property investors pay taxes of 15% on 80% of the rental income.
The average price to rent a three bedroom unfurnished apartment in Hong Kong is about HK$11,550 (£1,040) per month.
- Family Friendly: The large expat community in Discovery Bay, on the East Shores of Lantau Island away from the hustle and bustle, enjoy gorgeous panoramas, beaches and quality schools.
- Hip and Trendy: Soho in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island, is full of chic restaurants, cafes, shops and art galleries.
- Upmarket: Happy Valley, also on Hong Kong Island, is nestled between the hills of the Tai Tam and Aberdeen country parks. The Hong Kong Cricket Club and the Hong Kong Golf Club are nearby.
- Up and Coming: Yuen Long in the New Territories has excellent facilities and a young population.
Schools and Education in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong public education system delivers all tuition in Cantonese, with written English and Chinese so for most expats a private, international school is the favoured option.
Luckily there are plenty to choose from offering second language options from Mandarin to Hebrew.
There are 39 international primary schools with fees ranging from HK$61,000 (£5,490) at the 10 or so English Schools Foundation run schools like Kennedy School in Pokfulam, to HK$202,000 (£18,180) at the Hong Kong International School in Tai Tam.
There are 33 international secondary schools in Hong Kong, most of which offer the International Baccalaureate, charging fees from HK$93,000 (£8,370) at the ESF schools to HK$206,000 (£18,540) at the Li Po Chun United World College in Ma On Shan.
The University of Hong Kong is the oldest and most prestigious of Hong Kong’s nine public universities and a leading research institute. There are also a number of private higher education institutions on offer.