British expat Lindsey first started blogging as a trailing spouse and mother in the city of Mumbai, India. She has since moved to Hong Kong – and shares her incredibly entertaining insights into expat life in this bustling city through her blog, MaximumCityMadam in Hong Kong. Here, she answers some of her tips on settling into expat life in Hong Kong.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Kent, UK
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Hong Kong
Q: When did you move here?
A: October 2014
Q: Did you move here alone?
A: I moved with my husband.
Q: Why did you move?
A: He works for a global market research company.
Living in Hong Kong
Q: What do you enjoy most about Hong Kong? How would you rate the quality of life in Hong Kong compared to the UK?
A: It’s cosmopolitan, friendly and weird. Everything is accessible, culturally fantastic. You can go to the Rugby Sevens and see the Bolshoi Ballet on the same weekend. I’ve watched a performance of Korean drummers and seen Blur and OK Go in concert, all in one week. It’s all happening here!
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: Green fields and seasons. And my dog.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Hong Kong? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: Compared to moving to Mumbai, it’s been a cakewalk. Biggest adjustment? Everything is so damned expensive!
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home?
A: Most things are expensive here - food, accommodation, schooling - but if you don’t mind getting down and dirty, you can eat out at some local chow-down places for a few dollars.
Q: How would you rate the public transport? Do you need to own a car?
A: Public transport is fantastic! I love the buses – frequent, with aircon and free WiFi. Love the MTR. Who needs a car? Oh, and I love to ride the trams.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Hong Kong?
A: No first-hand experience yet but I hear healthcare is excellent here – if extremely expensive. Get insurance!
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Hong Kong? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: I have no fear walking the streets of Hong Kong, though it's probably not wise to go down any dark alleys at night!
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Hong Kong?
A: Very expensive. Mostly apartments but there are some houses in the new territories.
Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Anywhere on the island itself, Kowloon or Tsing-Yi. It’s all pretty spectacular. It feels like living in Gotham City but with a sea view!
Meeting people and making friends
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
A: The locals are tolerant of foreigners, and are polite but prefer not to mix. Not so with the younger generation. On the other hand, there are plenty of mixed marriages across all generations. I have not witnessed any discrimination. Hong Kongers aren’t so tolerant of shoppers from the Mainland and their big suitcases.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: I joined the American Women’s Association, Corona Club, Flex Gym. I also knew some folk from Mumbai who had relocated here.
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: I am friends with my tennis coach but then again, I pay him! And some people from Pilates but mostly seem to know other expats.
About working in Hong Kong
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit?
A: Work sorted it out.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Hong Kong?
A: Changes in China have resulted in fewer tourists coming over with suitcases full of money to spend in the glitzy stores, but overall business is good, if a little slower than last year.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: It’s highly pressurised!
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?
A: No problems adjusting whatsoever, but then I had a baptism of fire in Mumbai. Everything you need is right here except for grey skies and grumpy BR staff. You can get a warm pint of Bitter and watch The Goldbergs on telly. Specific challenges? Er, it’s a long way from home if you miss your family.
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: The kids are at boarding school in the UK but they love it here. It is safe for them to get around town and I rarely see them in the holidays as they are out with friends at Ocean Park.
Q: What are the schools like?
A: I hear they are a bit competitive.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Accept every invitation you get because open doors lead to more doors opening. Also, look up because all the best things are hidden away in tall buildings.
► Interviewed in August 2015