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Interview with Alison – a British expat living in Hong Kong

Updated 11 Dec 2013

Alison is a British expat in Hong KongAlison Massey is a UK expat living in Hong Kong. She moved with her husband and baby son to set up a new business, New Health International, which is now thriving. Having relocated around four years ago, she says the time has flown and that she can't imagine life anywhere else.

About Alison

Q: Where are you originally from? 

A:  The UK

Q: Where do you live now? 

A:  Hong Kong

Q: When did you move to Hong Kong? 

A:  2010

Q: Did you move to Hong Kong alone or with family? 

A:  I moved with my husband and son, who was 11 months old

Q: Why did you move? What do you do? 

A:  We moved for my job – to set up an international health insurance business

Living in Hong Kong

Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city? How would you rate the quality of life in Hong Kong compared to the UK? 

A:  The outdoor life and good weather is a real improvement. It is a big improvement on the UK.

Q: Any negatives about Hong Kong? What do you miss most about home? 

A:  Apart from family and friends, we miss good supermarkets!

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life? Did you experience any culture shock?

A:  It was relatively easy to settle in and make friends. Dealing with a different currency was tricky to start with.

Q: What’s the cost of living in Hong Kong compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular? 

A:  It is much more expensive in Hong Kong, especially the rent which is up to four times more expensive.

Q: How would you rate the public transport in Hong Kong? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?

A:  Public transport is Hong Kong is cheap and excellent. You can choose from the MTR, buses, minibuses, trams or taxis.  We own a car too but it’s not really necessary.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Hong Kong? Have you had any experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? 

A:  The quality of healthcare in Hong Kong is one of the best in the world. We have experienced out-patient, surgery and emergency care – all of which have been first class.

Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Hong Kong? Are there any areas expats should avoid?

A:  Hong Kong is one of the safest places in the world with very low levels of violent crime. In some of the very touristy areas, you should watch out for pick-pockets but that’s the same for any country.

Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Hong Kong? What different options are available for expats?

A:  Housing quality varies widely – two different apartments in the same block can be completely different so it’s important never to make an assumption. Most expats live in apartments if they want to live on Hong Kong Island or Kowloon. It is possible to live in a house in areas further out of the city however but commuting times will be much longer.

Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?

A:  Expats generally live all over Hong Kong. Areas like Happy Valley, Stanley, Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay and Discovery Bay are all popular.

Meeting people and making friends in Hong Kong

Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular groups of people?

A:  Hong Kongers are generally very friendly people. It is a very multi-cultural society so there is no obvious discrimination.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Hong Kong? 

A:  It’s very easy to make friends. Expats are all in the same boat so people make an extra effort to build circles of friends through social and sporting groups.

Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends? 

A:  We generally mix with expats and locals who have grown up in Western environments. To meet people, join a social club or a sporting team – or if you have kids, through the local school.

Working in Hong Kong

Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job in Hong Kong? 

A:  Hong Kong is a thriving economy and there are opportunities everywhere. Jobs DB and LinkedIn are good resources.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Hong Kong?

A:  The work culture is different – people work much longer hours and it is important to pay the proper respect to your colleagues.

Family and children

Q: Did your spouse have problems adjusting? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?

A:  There were no real issues. Talking about everything helps a lot.

Q: Did your children settle in easily? What were the biggest challenges for your children during the move?

A:  My son was only a baby and doesn’t remember living in the UK so it was easy.

Q: What are the schools in Hong Kong like, any particular suggestions? 

A:  Getting a school place in Hong Kong is very tricky so any new arrival needs to get applications in as soon as possible, even if the children are not of school age yet.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?

A:  Arrange your bank account and credit cards before you arrive if possible. It will speed up getting all your other utilities arranged if you already have your banking set up. 

►Interviewed in November 2013

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