Relocating to any destination has its advantages and disadvantages, and expats will find that Hong Kong is no different. The more prepared prospective expats are for the less appealing aspects of life abroad, the more successfully they can adapt. The good news is that Hong Kong is one expat destination where the good generally outweighs the bad.

Here is our list of the pros and cons of moving to Hong Kong. 

Accommodation in Hong Kong

Housing in Hong Kong Annie Spratt

+ PRO: Lots of options

There’s always something new being built in Hong Kong. Although that means being treated to the melodious sounds of drills and jackhammers when walking down the street, it also means it’s easy to find new apartments. So, while there is a ceaseless demand for accommodation, there is also a high supply.

There won’t be a shortage of places to view when searching for accommodation. In fact, apartment hunting in Hong Kong is very much a numbers game; it’s all about viewing as many places as possible until finding something that's the best fit for an expat's requirements.

- CON: Small apartments

There is a tendency to cram in as many rooms as possible when apartments are being built, especially in the newer buildings. Buildings from the 80s and 90s afford tenants more space for their money, and the rooms are larger, but the apartments might be quite tired and old. 

Additionally, the building won’t have many facilities, such as a gym or pool. Opting for a newer building means that house hunters will likely have a brand-new apartment with great clubhouse facilities, but it will probably be quite small with many cramped rooms.

+ PRO: Custom-made furniture

Pretty much anything can be custom-made in Hong Kong. Most shops will customise their sofas, beds, dining tables and so on, so buyers can have the exact style, colour, fabric, shape, and size they want. Depending on the supplier, it can take somewhere between one and two months for specially-made items to be completed.

- CON: Very little middle ground

There are few mid-range options in Hong Kong. Furnishings are either stylish but pricey, or cheap both in look and price. For instance, a fortune will be spent on bedding and towels to get something decent, or one can opt for something dirt cheap and of poor quality. Things such as bedding and towels are therefore worth bringing.

The only real middle-ground option is IKEA. The stores are in central locations that are easy to get to, they deliver on time, and they even assemble the furniture on arrival.

Cost of living in Hong Kong

- CON: High rental fees

Hong Kong is frequently ranked as the most expensive expat city in the world, and this is reflected in the city-state's steep rental prices. To add to this frustration, apartment spaces are often frustratingly small. However, since taxes are so low, expats should placate themselves by the fact that the two balance each other out.

- CON: Grocery shopping is pricey

Supermarkets are overpriced and lack in variety. The price of certain Western foods can come as a shock, and even foods with Australian brand names will be much pricier than their Chinese counterparts. For expats wondering if the price difference is justified, it’s worth remembering that food standards in China are not the same as they may be used to. Hormones, pesticides, and MSG are still widely used

Education and schools in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Wide variety of high-quality international schools

Parents looking to send their child to one of the many international schools in Hong Kong will be spoilt for choice. Expat families in Hong Kong are frequently able to find a school that offers a familiar curriculum, or at least an internationally recognised one. 

Various national curricula are available, including those from the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, France, and Germany. Another common curriculum is the globally renowned International Baccalaureate.

Lifestyle in Hong Kong

+ PRO: A friendly expat community

The expat community in Hong Kong is incredibly friendly. Home to hundreds of thousands of expats, Hong Kong is exceptionally welcoming, as most people know what it’s like to be new and are happy to help and befriend newly arrived expats. Unlike most cities where people have established circles of friends, in Hong Kong, people come and go so often that there is a distinct lack of cliques, which is refreshing.

- CON: A transient place that people leave

On the flip side, the friends you make often leave to go back home, which can become frustrating after a while.

+ PRO: Varied nightlife

The lifestyle in Hong Kong is enviable. With a huge variety of restaurants and bars, there’s always something new to try. It also caters for all types of social preferences; expats can go for a night out on the town, enjoy a relaxed evening or indulge in a simple dinner party.

+ PRO: Outdoor pursuits

There is a lot to do in Hong Kong, especially when it comes to outdoor activities. Lovely hiking trails abound, and many expats decide to take up a sport and join a club and league, including various watersports.

The weather in Hong Kong

- CON: Humid summers

When summer approaches, the pollution and humidity in Hong Kong make it uncomfortable to do much outdoors. For most of the year, though, the weather is pleasant and allows much time to be spent outside.

Summer is also the season for typhoons. This may sound frightening, but Hong Kong is incredibly well-equipped to deal with the extreme weather. Should a typhoon approach, cautionary signs will be displayed everywhere indicating the severity of the typhoon so residents know whether they should batten the hatches at home or continue their day normally.

Eating out and groceries in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Great selection of restaurants

In Hong Kong, you can find every cuisine under the sun, and restaurants range from the cheap and cheerful to the Michelin-starred and extravagant.

- CON: Supermarkets

Supermarkets in Hong Kong also seem to lack selection and stock consistency (one week, a certain product is sold, the next, it is no longer there), which makes supermarket food shopping rather frustrating. Like everything else, it requires some adjustment, and the plethora of cheap eating options also means that eating out can be the easier option. 

Transport and driving in Hong Kong

Public transport in Hong Kong by Arron Choi

+ PRO: Fantastic public transport

Hong Kong’s public transport is modern, clean, and, most importantly, reliable. The MTR runs at regular intervals, and delays are a rarity. Best of all, public transport in Hong Kong is incredibly cheap, especially considering its effectiveness.

+ PRO: Cheap and abundant taxis

There are taxis everywhere in Hong Kong. They are cheap by Western standards but still steeper than public transport. Because Hong Kong is small, travelling by taxi is quick, and it's easy to find one – unless, of course, it is raining, in which case all of them will suddenly seem occupied.

Working in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Easy to network

Networking in Hong Kong is exceedingly easy. The expat community is small, and no matter one's industry, meeting someone who will know someone who can make introductions to the right people is fairly easy. When searching for work, a lot of people get business cards made up with their name and contact details to hand out when they meet people of interest, which tends to be more often than not in social contexts.

- CON: Limitations for English-only speakers    

Expats tend to work in finance, property, technology, and law. As a result, these are the areas that are easiest to get into for those who don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese. It is, of course, possible to get into other lines of work in Hong Kong, but, overall, there is a lack of opportunity for non-Mandarin or non-Cantonese speakers outside these industries.

Healthcare in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Healthcare is world-class

Expats moving to Hong Kong will be pleased to find that the city-state is home to exceptional healthcare facilities that are staffed by highly qualified doctors and nurses. Many of Hong Kong's private schools have international accreditations, but expats needn't worry if they find themselves in a public hospital, as these are also known for providing excellent care. 

+ PRO: Most employers will sponsor healthcare for expats

Although the standards of healthcare in Hong Kong are fantastic, the cost of accessing this care can be steep. Fortunately, most expats moving to the city-state on an employment contract will have their health insurance sponsored by their employers. 

Expat Health Insurance

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Moving your family abroad can be intimidating, but learning about medical options such as family health insurance early on can help you settle successfully.

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