Expat Interview: US to Hong Kong
1. When did you move to Hong Kong and how did the decision to move come about?
I moved with my husband in 2014. He got an offer from his company to go to Hong Kong.
2. How did you break the news about the move to your kids and how did they react?
Our last child was a rising senior in high school. We asked her if she wanted to go before we decided and we would not have gone if she had not been on board.
I was surprised that she wanted to move to Hong Kong, but she’s a travel nut and said yes immediately. Our other kids are scattered around and two lived overseas before we did, so moving to another country wasn’t all that remarkable to them. It just makes calling tricky because we have to keep track of so many time zones.
3. Did you get to visit Hong Kong prior to moving?
4. How long was the entire moving process from the decision to moving in?
5. What are some of the differences you adjusted to in Hong Kong ?
We grew up in Florida and lived in North Carolina so we were very smug when they told us how hot it is in Hong Kong. “Oh, no, we’re used to it,” we said.
That’s pretty funny when I think about it now because we were still totally unprepared for how hot it is. Hong Kong is fairly “Western” compared to other Asian cities, but there are a million little things that are different.
This sounds strange but I’m still not used to the way people walk with no pattern and don’t look where they’re going, usually staring at their phones.
In a crowded city like this, staying to the left or right would help make walking less chaotic. The terrain on Hong Kong island is pretty tough, too. It’s very hilly and we do a lot of walking.
6. How did you make Hong Kong feel like home when you first moved here?
I was with my husband and my daughter so wherever they are is home. The company had us ship furniture rather than buying it here and it is nice having familiar things around us.
I joined the American Women’s Association and have made some of the best friends of my life. I wasn’t going to join because I thought it would be an American bubble. I was very wrong. We have members from over 30 countries including Hong Kong and the women are incredible.
7. What is the most expensive part of living in Hong Kong?
Rent. Companies generally pay expats’ rent so we were fortunate there. We have a spectacular apartment that we could not afford on our own.
Everything here is expensive except taxis, public transportation and dim sum.
8. What are the three things you like most about living there?
Only three? It’s one of the most beautiful, fascinating cities in the world. The skyline is breathtaking. In about 15 minutes, I can be on a hiking trail and in 25 minutes I can be at a beach.
Old and new coexist peacefully. You’ll see a shrine outside a luxury goods store or a temple in the middle of skyscrapers. Around each corner is some interesting little place, like a tiny barber shop or a store that sells mahjong tiles.
Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world. There are no guns here. There is almost no violent crime. I can walk alone almost anywhere any time of day.
The friends I’ve made
They’re smart, funny, upbeat and resilient. They’ve been everywhere and are always up for an adventure.
Hong Kong is a great jumping off place for travel throughout Asia. Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia are two hour flights. Bali, India, Sri Lanka, Japan and many more places, are a few hours away.
9. What are your favourite neighbourhoods?
I love Stanley. If my husband didn’t work in Central, it would be nice to live on the South Side, because it’s beautiful and relaxing. We live in Midlevels which is nice because of the proximity to work and all the shops and restaurants in Soho. I can walk down quite easily.
If I were choosing today, I might pick Sai Ying Pun. It’s a funky little neighbourhood close to Central but just far enough away.
10. What was the process like for finding a doctor and how do you find the healthcare system?
Friends referred us to a practice. Access to medical care is very easy and the doctors are very well trained, usually in the UK or Australia.
For instance, I was able to get an appointment for a mammogram the next day. They read it on the spot and did an ultrasound at the same time.
This whole process takes weeks at home and just getting the appointment can take months. I make endocrinologist appointments a year in advance in the US. I can be seen in days here in Hong Kong.
11. What are some underrated things about Hong Kong?
I don’t think people realize how much natural area there is in Hong Kong. Hiking is a big pastime here and there is a lot of green space. I live right up the hill from a zoological garden and I love to “walk through the monkeys” on my way anywhere.
12. What are some common misconceptions about living in Hong Kong?
A lot of people lump Hong Kong in with China. It’s very different because of the British influence. It’s quite international and there is a lot of English spoken so it’s easy to get around.
13. What are some things that Hong Kong does better than home?
The MTR (subway) is fast, clean, modern and efficient. Buses are new, air-conditioned and plentiful. The airport is fantastic and you can check your bags in town before getting on the express train to the airport.
It’s super easy and all paid for with an Octopus card in one swipe. You can even use the Octopus at Starbucks.
In one square kilometer, you can find almost any cuisine you can think of. There are internationally renowned chefs and little hole in the wall noodle shops. There are even two dim sum restaurants with Michelin stars where you can get a meal for less than $5 USD.
There are no guns here so shootings are very rare. A shopkeeper was shot in a robbery last fall. It was the first incident of its kind in 12 years.
People get along
They’re not looking for something to get offended about. The attitude is very much, to each his own. Religions coexist peacefully. Political correctness is not a thing here. They just say what they mean and people don’t take it personally. It’s very refreshing.
14. What one piece of advice would you offer someone who is moving to Hong Kong?
Travel as much as you can and enjoy every minute you are here. Hong Kong is a fabulous place.
15. Would you consider moving back to home?
We will have to move home when my husband’s contract is up, which is coming up soon. I will miss Hong Kong terribly.
Looking for more? Take a look at this expat story about moving to Australia from South Africa.