Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. With an area smaller than Rome and a population of seven million, it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. People are everywhere, and the streets are always crowded. Crowds are the norm. If there is no crowd, there is probably a problem. Still, new foreigners come here every day. Living in Hong Kong is a dream for many. Chinese (Cantonese) and English are the official languages.
People are generally very impatient. They can not wait and they can not go slowly. Life moves at a frantic pace, in a daily race that does not allow stopping. Many people do not know what the word “wait” means. Although things are very busy everywhere, they are done very quickly and efficiently. Because of the impatience and stress that Hong Kong people face, they often become rude as well.
People tend to disrespect each other. Individualism and competition are taken to extremes. Classist and racist attitudes are the norm, for example immigrants from South Asia are considered second-class citizens. The expat community, on the other hand, is incredibly friendly and peolple are happy to help and befriend newly arrived expats.There is a lot to do, especially when it comes to outdoor activities. Hong Kong may be famous for its concrete jungle, but there are also plenty of green spaces.
Hong Kong is small and crowded, so rental prices have skyrocketed. Prices for apartments in Hong Kong are insanely high. Often two or three generations of a family share a single apartment. Many apartments have no heating. Although temperatures rarely drop below 12°C, it is best to bring an electric heater to combat the damp winter cold.
In general, the cost of living in Hong Kong is extremely high, and salaries are not particularly high unless you work in finance or IT. Many people can barely afford to live. Consider that to live you should spend about $2,500 per month because you have to pay for everything, while locals have access to a variety of social benefits such as health care, schools, unemployment benefits, etc.
Public transportation in Hong Kong is excellent. It is clean, modern and reliable, always on time unless disaster strikes. It is one of the best in the world, convenient, ubiquitous, efficient and economical. Also, there are cabs everywhere. They are very cheap by Western standards. The school system is competitive. Tests upon tests, lots of homework, which overwhelms both students and teachers, which unfortunately often leads to suicides. Hong Kong is a safe city. You can move everywhere without any problems.
The city is very polluted. Not as bad as Beijing, but enough to cause breathing problems. The number of days when you can see a beautiful blue sky is not more than 90 per year.
When it comes to working in Hong Kong, expats tend to work in these sectors:
- Finance (it is one of the largest financial center in the world)
- Real Estate
These are the areas where it is easier for those who speak only English to find employment. Of course, it is possible to find other types of jobs, but competition is fierce, and this means that outside of these sectors there are no real opportunities for those who do not speak Mandarin.
To work, you need a work visa. To obtain the work visa, you must find a company that will sponsor you. The issuance of the work visa is not automatic. Even if you can show a signed contract from your sponsor, your visa application may be rejected. Hong Kong is quite similar to Singapore in terms of work culture and job availability. There are many multinational companies, especially in sectors such as banking and information technology, that hire thousands of applicants each year, but the market is highly competitive.
Language proficiency is a crucial factor. Depending on how well you can write, read and understand the Chinese language, your chances increase. If you can, try to learn a little Cantonese, it will help you.
In addition, there are also recruiters that offer services for expats looking for jobs that match your skills. Be sure to keep your Linkedin profile up to date.
Workdays are long, hierarchy is pervasive, and the environment is one of fierce competition. The culture of overtime is pervasive. Most people leave work at 7 p.m. or even later. Expect culture shock if you aren’t familiar with Chinese work culture.
Living and working in Hong Kong – pros and cons
Living in Hong Kong, pros
- Excellent public transportation
- Low taxes on wages
- Simple laws and little bureaucracy
Living in Hong Kong, cons
- High pollution
- Hot, humid climate
- High cost of living
- Lack of freedom
- Unhealthy lifestyle
Living and working in Hong Kong, conclusion
Hong Kong is currently undergoing a profound transformation, and the city we knew is about to disappear. Hong Kong will retain its identity for a short time. China is in the process of gradually transforming it into a full-fledged Chinese province.