An expats guide to Hong Kong: the pros and cons of life there

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I grew up in Hong Kong from the age of 4-14. I had the most amazing childhood there and it really is an amazing city. I went back last year to work, which was a thoroughly exciting experience, however, life there didn’t completely pan out as I had expected. Hong Kong has changed a lot since the handover and I began to see the place differently than I had before. For any expats thinking of moving to Hong Kong – here are what I believed to be the pros and cons of life there.

Pros:

  •  Feeling a sense of acceptance and belonging. Hong Kong is a place where differences are the norm. There isn’t really a “mainstream” way of life there, as there is in say New Zealand or Australia. It’s an international city and therefore one major melting pot. Everyone you meet is completely different; different backgrounds, different upbringings, different life experiences, different cultures, different accents, different beliefs, you name it! For that reason, Hong Kong is a place where anyone is accepted. You can completely be yourself there without feeling judged. Personally, my experience last year in Hong Kong was the first time I had ever really accepted myself as a person, flaws and all and realised that I was happy with the person I had become. So its a great place to really find yourself.
  • Hong Kong is a very happening place. You will never get bored. There is always something to do or something to see. There’s a surprise around every corner. You can explore the city, the outer islands, go down to Stanely which is a bit more westernised, go to Ocean Park, Disneyland, hikes and trails, the street markets, the food. I could go on and on with a list of things to do in Hong Kong. It is a really exciting place. Many people say they find that life in Hong Kong is like being on a permanent vacation.
  • Travel. One major advantage of living in Hong Kong is that exploring other parts of Asia is very easy and accessible. Many people use their holidays to explore places like Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore or the Philippines as they are so close. One thing I wish I had done whilst I was there, was explore more parts of Asia. I fell in love with Singapore and ended up spending two of my holidays over there. But in hindsight I now wish I had tried out a few other places.

Cons:

  • Housing. As a child I was quite lucky, we lived in a house with a garden and two pools within a gated community. However, going back as an adult was different. I had a job at an International school where I earned a decent income, but it was still not enough to afford decent accommodation. Housing there is incredibly expensive. I began flatting near Central in a place called Fortress Hill. The flat was in a very old and run down building. My room looked like a prison cell and there was just no space. Two weeks there and I’d had enough. I decided to move an hour away from Central to a place called Lohas Park. The commute to and from Central was a pain but the housing was much better. New buildings, with clean flats and a bit more space. However, one problem living in the New Territories is that there aren’t many expats there. So expect to be stared at a lot. It also means it can be quite a difficult place to make friends as there aren’t many other English speakers around. I enjoyed living there, but found it quite isolating. Basically, I think you can live somewhere central where everything is happening, however, you will probably be living somewhere not particularly nice and quite claustrophobic, or you can live further out and somewhere a bit nicer. It all depends on what sort of lifestyle you want and what your priorities are.
  • The dating life. As a single western man, you will have the time of your life. You will be spoilt for choice in terms of dating. I would definitely describe Hong Kong as being a bachelor city. However, as a single western female, our options are, well….. limited. I will be honest in saying that the majority of expat men there seem to prefer the local women. So it doesn’t really leave much option for expat women. Also, Hong Kong is definitely a place for partying. So if you’re looking to settle down, I’m not sure it’s a place I would recommend.
  • The pollution. Someday’s the pollution can get so bad, its best just to stay home. I wouldn’t recommend taking a dip in the ocean either. Hong Kong definitely isn’t the healthiest place to live and you can really start to feel that after a few months of living there.

Overall, I would 100% recommend doing a short stint in Hong Kong just for the experience. It is an amazingly exciting city and can really open up your eyes in so many different ways. Hong Kong will always be home and I will always love the place, however, returning as an adult, I found the place to be a little too crazy and intense, so decided to leave after a year of being there. Despite that, it is a city, definitely worth visiting.

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