Expat's Manual

Moving to Hong Kong can be both a daunting and exciting experience. Hong Kong is a major international financial center and also an important trade and cultural hub. Until 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony with a Western-influenced lifestyle. Since joining China, it has become even more international and is a popular holiday destination with people from all over the world. There are many financial institutions located here as well as international businesses, industrial factories, large entertainment centres and an enormous tourist infrastructure.

Hong Kong was a major manufacturing center before WWII. Today however, 90 per cent of its GDP comes from its service sector, while manufacturing now accounts for a mere 9 per cent. The country is one of the world's largest financial hubs and is said to be one of the Four Asian Tigers in terms of its rapid industrialization and impressive growth rates. Today, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is ranked sixth in the world.

The Hong Kong dollar is linked to the US dollar which has ensured its strength and even in today’s economic crisis, it remains stronger than many other currencies.

Living in Hong Kong as an expat

Living in Hong Kong as an expat can be a truly life-changing experience. A former British colony, Hong Kong has always been popular with expats from Europe. In recent years low taxation and a high standard of living have attracted people from all over the world and its position as the finance capital of Asia means that it has a significant expat population of approximately 100,000 people.

Living cost comparison

Within a living cost comparison, Hong Kong consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live and in the 2012 Mercer survey Hong Kong was named as the 9th most expensive city in the world in terms of the cost of living. Expatriates will find that many things here are more expensive than their home country, especially if they look to replicate their lives back home. This is especially true of property prices, which are extremely high as a result of land shortages. Expatriates who wish to buy or rent here will face extremely high costs and it is worth checking these out before making a decision to relocate to Hong Kong or negotiating a salary. On the positive side, food can be cheap (especially if you are prepared to eat in local restaurants and shop at the local markets) and the public transport is both cheap and reliable. The cost of drinking out varys according to the areas you intend to frequent, but on the whole, the cost of the nightlife in Hong Kong is on a par with most other major cities.

Our expat relocation guide to living in Hong Kong contains a comprehensive living cost comparison together with a list of all the costs of living in this asian city, including groceries, eating and dining out, local and private transport, schools and education and a whole host of other living expenses.


The majority of Hong Kong's Chinese population speak Cantonese as their first language (90%) but English remains a common language here and it is still largely applied as the official language of business. That said, there is increasing importance being placed upon Mandarin, the official language of mainland China, and more and more companies are demanding that their staff have a working knowledge of this language.


Hong Kong enjoys a warm, sub-tropical climate with distinct seasons. May to August are extremely hot and humid with occasional thunderstorms and even typhoons. September to January are generally accepted as being the most pleasant months where the weather is hot and sunny but the humidity low. January and February are the driest months of the year and are generally enjoyed by those expats who prefer things a bit cooler. Daytimes are sunny although night times can be very cold. March and April are very pleasant, although humidity levels are often high.

Expat job and career prospects in Hong Kong

Historically there have been employment opportunities for expats in Hong Kong in the fields of finance, logistics and I.T. However, as with many countries, Hong Kong has suffered during the recession and these positions are now in much greater demand. Outside of the finance industry, securing work with Chinese language speaking ability is becoming increasingly difficult and for those that do, the salaries they are offered may not live up to expectations.

Graduates from western countries that have professional qualifications in law and accountancy are still relatively high in demand and have the greatest chances of securing work here.

Jobs in teaching English as a foreign language are readily available to those with appropriate qualifications and the salaries on offer provide most expats with the chance to live very comfortably whilst also saving some money.

For information pertaining to the visa requirements for working in Hong Kong please see our relocation guide.

Key facts every expat should know about moving to Hong Kong

Here are some of the things you should know before moving to Hong Kong:

  1. Hong Kong does not require withholding on employment income, so taxpayers pay tax in lump sums as opposed to on a monthly basis. In addition to this, the first installment of tax paid will include a provisional amount for the next tax year. This means you can expect your first tax bill to be very high.
  2. All Hong Kong residents are required to carry a Hong Kong ID card with them at all times. If you are stopped by the police and you don't have one on your possession you may be prosecuted.
  3. Even though Hong Kong is part of China, you need a separate visa to cross the border. Cars cannot be taken from Hong Kong to China (and vice versa) without an approved license plate.
  4. Hong Kong has 17 public holidays per year, but if the holiday falls on a Saturday it is not carried to the Monday.
  5. The majority of homes and apartments in Hong Kong do not have an oven as most Chinese cooking is done on a hob.

Hong Kong international relocation guide

Expat Info Desk currently has an international relocation guide available that covers everything you need to know about living in Hong Kong. This exhaustive relocation guide contains everything you need to know about relocating to this Chinese city and will assist you to:

  • relocate efficiently and effectively with minimum stress.
  • settle in to your new life quickly and easily and find the help and assistance you need, when you need it.
  • identify areas to live in that suit your lifestyle and budget.
  • find the right places to meet like-minded people.
  • find schools that are suitable for your children and their learning needs.
  • ensure that your family get the most of their experiences abroad.
  • prepare for the new culture in advance and avoid any cultural traps.
  • deal with any transition challenges.
  • cut through red tape and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.

Unlike a book, our relocation guide is regularly reviewed and updated in order to ensure that the information is accurate and reliable and because the guides are written by real expats who live and work in Hong Kong, you can be assured that you are accessing the information that you need as written by people who really are in the know.

Do you have a comment about this article, a further question or even a correction? If so please do let us know. We may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all comments will be published, please be nice!

Our Expat's Manual is updated regularly so comments about the article may have already been addressed.

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