Depending on where in the world you hail from, life in Hong Kong can either seem pretty similar to back at home, or it can feel like you’re living on another planet!
This is especially true for those who come from the west – as living in the east presents all kinds of (lovely) differences to get used to.
Of course, that’s half the fun of living in a country other than your own. The different languages, the different traditions, the different food… The list goes on and on.
So with that in mind, let’s try and explain some of the things you can expect if you’re due to make the jump to living in the exciting metropolis that is Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has a sub tropical climate. This means that there are four entirely distinguishable seasons: spring is warm and humid, summer is hot and rainy, autumn is sunny and pleasant, and winter is dry and cool.
It also is very influenced by the monsoon season and can suffer from tropical storms and typhoons.
But don’t worry too much about this. The city is well prepared for dealing with Mother Nature, and there’s a superb typhoon warning system in place.
In addition, most buildings that all expats and tourists are likely to be in are built specifically to withstand the fury of such an event.
Cost of Living
According to the South China Morning Post, as of December 2015, Hong Kong is now the third most expensive city in the whole of Asia (behind Shanghai and Beijing). It also ranks as number 9 in the entire world.
The largest expense of most people who live in the city is that spent on accommodation.
Hong Kong is small, and more and more people keep pouring in to live there. Because of this, real estate simply becomes more expensive. It’s also the reason there are so many skyscraper buildings here: when you run out of land to build on, the only place to go is up!
What Languages are Spoken?
Hong Kong has two official languages – Cantonese Chinese and English. However, Mandarin Chinese is also widely spoken. All signs are in both Chinese and English, and within the working world at least, pretty much everyone speaks English to at least some extent.
Hong Kong has an excellent public transport system known as the MTR. This consists of the trains, metro, buses and trams.
To make it even easier to use, you can purchase a pre-paid card called an Octopus Card. This can be used on all forms of public transport, in taxis, and can even be used to make purchases in certain shops.
Hong Kong has a long, exciting and vibrant history. This has led to many traditions and cultural differences to those you might be more familiar with if you’re from the west.
For instance, feng shui is taken very seriously – it’s still believed that this is very much a factor in whether a business is successful. You might find that buildings omit to have a fourth floor. This is because in the Cantonese language, the spoken word for “fourth” sounds very much like “die.”
Festivals (for example) Chinese New Year, are times of great celebration. The whole city shuts down, and it becomes time to party and to spend time with those closest to you.
Other notable festivals include the Birthday of Tin Hay, the Spring Lantern Festival and The Hungry Ghost Festival.
Hong Kong has an excellent public education system. Expat children are welcome to be educated within the system. However, due to the fact that there are no formal guidelines as to how much of this schooling is carried out in English, many parents prefer to enroll their kids into one of the many International schools.
These tend to follow the International Baccalaureate education system, and although these private schools are expensive, they offer a very high standard of education.
The healthcare offered in Hong Kong is excellent. There is public healthcare (open to everyone in possession of a valid ID card), or you can take advantage of the excellent private hospitals.
In the past, many employment contracts included private healthcare as one of the perks. But today, following the hand back of Hong Kong to the Chinese and the increased competition from local workers, this only tends to be offered to expats working at the very highest level.
However, this doesn’t stop many expats from taking out their own private health insurance policies so they can take full advantage of English speaking healthcare should they need it.
It’s very common to have domestic help when living in Hong Kong. It’s relatively inexpensive to hire a maid – most come from countries such as Indonesia or the Philippines.
Because of this, the Immigration Department has intervened and anyone employing such a person must use a standard contract of employment to ensure that they are working under fair conditions and for a fair day’s pay.
In general, life in Hong Kong is fast paced, exciting, sometimes a little frustrating, but a great experience for all involved.
It’s a truly safe city, with very little violent crime.
It’s also a great place to bring up children – you can be assured that the kids can go about their daily lives in safety, and they can enjoy a wonderful outdoor lifestyle.
Even though Hong Kong is frenetic and crowded, it might surprise you that it only takes minutes to leave the frenzy and escape to some wonderful national parks close by – and you don’t even need a car to do so.
The views from the mountains over the surrounding ocean are stunning – something you’ll never tire of seeing. For those of you who enjoy the beach life, there’s some amazing expanses of sand to play on and ocean to enjoy water sports.
Hong Kong is many things to many people. If you get the chance to experience the lifestyle for yourself, it’ll stay with you forever.
Embrace, immerse and enjoy – for living in Hong Kong is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives if the opportunity presents itself.