Guide to immigrating to Hong Kong Part One
Hi, and welcome to my guide to immigrating to Hong Kong or Asia more generally. I emigrated myself many years ago now from the United Kingdom to Hong Kong and decided to share my experiences both good and bad and craft them into a guide that is useful to anyone deciding to move to Hong Kong or anywhere in Asia permanently. Moving to a new continent is tremendously exciting, it is an experience that will broaden your horizons and positively influence your life and it can also be stressful and at times difficult. Preparation is absolutely key to making this a positive experience.
Before you accept or reject an opportunity decide whether it is for you
If an opportunity arises, (for example, you may be offered a promotion in the Hong Kong office within the company you currently work for) it is a good idea to write down the pros and cons of a move to a different continent. This will allow you to make an informed and objective decision as to whether a move is good for you at that time. I will list below a number of factors that can be used to determine if a move is right for you. It is most important to remember that what may be a con for me may be a pro for you and vice versa. Also remember that people close to you giving advice either to go or to stay may be biased one way or the other and may not be objective in their advice. People also often allow their preconceptions to cloud their advice (as an example, my wife’s father was convinced that Hong Kong and Asia overall is very dangerous and that lead him to conclude that our move would be disastrous).
Ultimately of course, the opportunity offered to you may be so brilliant as to render any cons obsolete, but it is a good exercise to go through if only so that you become aware of some of the potential pitfalls as well as some of the things you may miss one you have emigrated.
- Hong Kong has very bad air pollution
- The water in and around the harbor is very polluted
- A number of beaches are covered in rubbish (mostly from the sea)
- Hong Kong is a very noisy city
- Hong Kong particularly in places like Central, Wan Chai and Mong Kok can be very dirty and smelly
- Virtually everyone excluding the very wealthy lives in an apartment
- Due to the fact that everyone lives in apartments obviously gardens or outdoor space are uncommon
- Hong Kong has a warm tropical climate
- Climate not as dreary as for example the English climate
- Less difference in daylight hours between summer and winter
- Very hot and humid in the summer
- Winter typically warm and dry (considered the best season by many)
- Typhoons occur every year between May and September
- More career opportunities especially for those willing to travel
- The Asian economy in general is strong and expanding
- Less competition for roles (companies often report a shortage of skilled candidates who are fluent in English)
- Unmarried partners require work permits and may be unable to find work (this depends greatly on their previous work experience as some fields such as teaching are greatly sought after)
- Hong Kong income tax is very low (12 – 15%)
- No sales tax in Hong Kong (VAT, GST)
- Flights to Europe are very expensive due to EU taxes
- Travel and holidays with in Asia are very cheap, especially to Thailand and Vietnam
- Rent is expensive
- Other living costs are low
- Some Western foodstuffs can be expensive or hard to come by
- Eating out is cheap, especially if eating local food
- Private education is expensive and it can be difficult to get places for your children in good schools
Cultural and miscellaneous
- Will living in a country where English is not the most common language be an issue for you?
- There is a lack of museums, art galleries and concerts which are sparse when compared to Europe
- For those into shopping there are malls all over Hong Kong selling a wide variety of goods as well as markets selling all manner of goods.
- Hong Kong offers outstanding hiking although hiking in summer is not recommended unless you are experienced and fully prepared.
- Maids are affordable benefiting those with children or hectic life styles
- Hong Kong is very safe. Incidents of mugging and other similar crime are extremely low. Burglary is also very uncommon.
- Distance from family
It is worthwhile to speak to anyone you know who has or is going to immigrate, particularly to Asia to hear their experiences and to discuss any concerns you may have with them. There are also a number of websites with forums that can be become invaluable sources of information, http://hongkong.geoexpat.com/forum/ and http://hongkong.asiaxpat.com/forums/ being two well known ones.
Decision made, you are going for it
Once you have decided that you are going to go for it, there are a number of things that must be done before you leave, such as forwarding mail. Much of the important work must be done before you leave the country you are currently living in. This ground work is crucial to a smooth immigration process. Many things are not possible unless you are physically in the country, so preparation is again key.
Before you emigrate, there are a number of things to consider and also a number of things to be done.
- It is a very good idea to decide how long you plan to leave and specify what you wish to achieve during your time away, be it financial gains or career progression etc.
- Find out about work permits that you and / or your partner require.
- Go to the Post Office and get your mail redirected.
- Check with the Inland Revenue to ensure that your taxes are up to date.
- Decide if you are going to leave your bank accounts open or close them. If you bank with a bank that has branches in the country you are immigrating to ask them about transferring your account.
- Check that your bank is willing to send replacement cards etc to the country you are immigrating to (some banks will not send cards to Hong Kong or China).
- Go through your possessions and sort them into three “piles
- Keep and bring with you
- Throw out / recycle / sell
- Put into storage
If you are a homeowner, are you going are to sell or keep your home?
· If you are renting out your home and you live in the United Kingdom, visit the following website for advice on the non-resident landlord http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/international/nr-landlords.htm
· Find yourself a Management company to look after finding tenants, collecting rent etc (unless you have a friend or family member that can help you)
· Advise the council that you are moving out so that they do not continue to bill you for Council Tax (if you are a UK resident)
Thanks for reading Part One of my guide to immigrating to Hong Kong. In Part Two, I will examine finding a place to live in Hong Kong. Please click the following link for Part Two of my guide to immigrating to Hong Kong
Please feel free to leave comments in the comments section below.