Expat Guide: tips for your move to Hong Kong
We know that moving to a new country can feel like one of the biggest challenges, when it should be an exciting adventure. Here’s our top tips to make your move to Hong Kong easy and enjoyable.
Sorting the paperwork
First things first, the most important part of an international move is sorting all your paperwork. And this starts with getting your visa sorted. Depending on why you are moving (for work, with a spouse who is starting a new job, or just to enjoy a new life in a new country) your visa requirements will be different. Where you are moving from will also impact what kind of visa you require.
Hong Kong’s part of the People Republic of China, but it’s status as a Special Administrative Region means that is has its own unique entry requirements. We suggest starting with looking at the resources available from the Hong Kong Government’s website. The resources here can give you more detailed information about the requirements that apply to your personal situation.
But even more importantly, engage with a specialist who can help you with the application process: this should make the process easier, quicker, and a professional will make sure that you apply for the right visa and get all your documents together correctly.
Agree your salary package
Most expats moving to Hong Kong do so for work. With an international move with work, it’s important to know that your new salary will enable you to maintain a standard of living that’s comfortable to you.
Hong Kong rental prices are very high, so you’ll need to factor this into your new life. Fortunately, many employers offer subsidies towards your rental costs as part of your employment package. Equally schooling costs are high: but again, many employers will provide subsidies to help with this. Whatever your moving situation (solo, couple, family relocation) it’s important to have this package agreed before you move so you know the kind of housing and schooling you can commit to.
As part of your salary negotiation process, spend some time understanding tax rules in Hong Kong. Tax is generally lower and employees will have tax deducted by the employer, but it’s still important to understand what implication tax will have on your monthly pay packet.
Find the area of Hong Kong that you want to call home
Finding the area of Hong Kong that you’ll come to call home is essential to making your new life a smoother transition. With so many great areas to choose from, we suggest a visit to Hong Kong before your move to scope out the options. There are a number of very popular residential areas that attract large expat communities such as Discovery Bay, Hong Lok Yuen, and Sai Kung. And areas like Kowloon (great for shopping and restaurants) and Repulse Bay (excellent international schools) attract expats looking for great amenities close by.
Wherever you choose, make sure that you are choosing a location that offers the amenities and lifestyle that you are looking for. It’s important to keep in mind that the public transport is excellent in Hong Kong, so you don’t need everything to be right next door. Chose an area that suits your personality and interests and being amongst other expats can make the moving experience easier as you’ll have people around you who’ve also experienced the big change too.
Find your new home
Now that you know the area you are looking to live in, it’s time to find your new home. The majority of homes in Hong Kong are apartments, and all property comes at a premium. Be prepared to live in a smaller space than you are used to and expect to live in an apartment for the duration of your time in the country. This is important to keep in mind when you are looking for your new apartment, and when packing: you may want to leave things in storage, and electrical goods will probably need an adapter so are probably best left behind.
Rental costs here are negotiable, but to get the best deal and ensure you find a home that meets your needs we advise engaging an expat real estate agent/agency. With a wealth of experience in dealing with the expectations and needs of expats, a specialist will be best placed to find you something that makes Hong Kong feel like home.
Rental prices are high here, so be sure to make use of any subsidies offered by your employer. There are also a lot of fully furnished rental options available, which can make a move much easier (especially if this isn’t a permanent move) and enables you to leave furniture in storage at your departure destination.
Choose a school for your children
Thanks to the large number of expats in Hong Kong, there are a large number of International Schools to choose from, as well as a great number of government schools.
International Schools will be fee-paying, so expect sizable school fees. However, if your employer offers education subsidies this could be an excellent choice – and they are very popular with the expat community. There are also schools run by the English Schools Foundation specifically for English speaking expats.
Government schools are free, with lessons in both Cantonese and English. It’s important to spend time looking at the division of Cantonese and English as it differs greatly, as well as research into the curriculum.
Whichever school you choose, make sure you begin the application process as early as possible, as places fill up quickly. You can make the process even easier by engaging a school search specialist who can find your dream school and walk you through the application process too.
Plan your move
It’s time to engage your moving company and book your travel arrangements. Flights and travel arrangements should made as early as possible, to give your move structure and to hopefully save money on your flight costs.
Once you have your dates set, engage an international moving company who can take care of the logistics. From packing and preparing your belongings for an international move, to arranging storage for those things you want to keep but won’t be making the move with you, a specialist company will be able to make the process smooth and easy.
If you’re planning on moving with a pet, it’s important to note the rules and procedures involved. Dogs coming to Hong Kong will need to be adaptable to a hot and humid climate. And you’ll need to apply for a permit, register your dog and obtain a dog licence. Your international moving company should be able to help you with this process.
Now that all the logistics are complete, you can begin the exciting process of learning more about your new home, the culture and the language. We advise all relocators to spend some time getting accustomed to cultural rules and customs, as well as committing at least a few hours a week to learning Cantonese.
Private language and cultural lessons (for you, or your whole family) make a world of difference in how mentally and emotional prepared you’ll be for the change in culture when moving to Hong Kong.
For more help with your move to Hong Kong, get in touch with our move specialists. We have over 120 years of international move experience. At Santa Fe Relocation we make moving home easy for you.