Moving to Hong Kong

Living in 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 worldwide. Many financial institutions are located here and international businesses, industrial factories, large entertainment centers, and enormous tourist infrastructure.

Hong Kong was a major manufacturing center before WWII. Today, however, 90 percent of its GDP comes from its service sector, while manufacturing now accounts for a mere 9 percent. The country is one of the world’s largest financial hubs and is said to be one of the Four Asian Tigers in 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.

Moving to Hong Kong as an Expat or Global Nomad

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 worldwide. 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 the 9th most expensive city in the world in terms of the cost of living.

Expatriates will find that life in Hong Kong is more expensive than in 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 deciding to relocate to Hong Kong or negotiate 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 public transport is cheap and reliable. The cost of drinking out varies 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 speaks Cantonese as their first language (90%). However, 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. More and more companies are demanding that their staff have a working knowledge of this language.

Climate in Hong Kong

Hong Kong enjoys a warm, sub-tropical climate with distinct seasons. May to August is scorching and humid with occasional thunderstorms and even typhoons. September to January is generally accepted as the most pleasant months where the weather is hot and sunny, but the humidity low.

January and February are the year’s driest months and are generally enjoyed by those expats who prefer things a bit cooler. Daytimes are sunny, although night times can be freezing. March and April are enjoyable, 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 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. For those that do, the salaries they are offered may not live up to expectations.

Graduates from western countries with 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. The salaries on offer provide most expats with the chance to live very comfortably while also saving money.

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

Key facts every expat should know about living in 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 instead of every month. 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 don’t have one in 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. Before moving to Hong Kong you must know that the city has 17 public holidays per year, but it is not carried to Monday if the holiday falls on a Saturday.
  5. Most 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 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 into 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 gets 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 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.

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