Expat issues

There are certain problems only expats have, and the Batgung have likely had most of them. We tell you aaaallll about them here.

What is it like for expat women to date in Hong Kong?

I'm an American woman in my early 30s considering a move to HK. One of the thing that holds me back is the things I hear about the lack of dating life for expat women there. Is this true or can I have a normal dating life there? Thanks!

Expat qualities

After living in Hong Kong for so many years (15+ and counting), and continuing to enjoy life here very much, I started thinking about qualities or characteristics it takes to be a ‘successful’ expatriate. Read more »

Schools update

As the temperatures drop, and premature Christmas decorations go up in every land, it's a good time for the batgung to bring you up to date on a topic we both love and hate: choosing a school in Hong Kong.

The Autumn 2005 scenario: Daughter T has begun her formal Hong Kong education. She's in her second month as a K1 student at a local kindergarten. Mr and Mrs B are currently shopping around for kindergartens, as their little lovely will be starting K1 next year. Read more »

Rudeness in Hong Kong, part III

I can assure that you that I am tireless, dear readers, in my quest to answer the question 'Are lots of Hong Kong people really really rude, or does it just seem that way to me, because I'm an undereducated smalltown rube?'.

A recent incident has left me farther than ever from a definitive answer, which I've already sought in two previous articles.

The other day, I was taking Toddler Tall to see her pediatrician. We got on the MTR, about mid-morning on a weekday, and all seats were occupied, but only just. The car we entered had only a couple of people standing. No one got up to give us a seat. I'm not complaining about this, by the way -- although occasionally people in Hong Kong (blessings be upon them!) do give up their seats to people with small children, I certainly don't think doing so is necessary. In fact I have an aversion to -- and Mrs Tall is rendered apoplectic by -- people who scoop a five or six-year-old child into their arms and schlep it into an MTR carriage or bus in order to manipulate those already seated into 'doing the polite thing'. Read more »

Hong Kong kindergartens: interviewing

Over the past couple of months, my daughter has attended a series of nerve-wracking, make-or-break interviews to try to gain a place in an educational institution that will help her to explore and develop her intellectual and creative gifts, and to grow into the productive member of society she's surely destined to be.

She's two years old.

She's been interviewing for a place in a kindergarten (a term that in Hong Kong encompasses three years' worth of schooling, from about ages 3-5). After going through this application and interview process at my daughter's side, I think I'm well-equipped to provide you with a little tour through the lower reaches of the Hong Kong education system. Read more »

Homesick in Hong Kong

We're right in the middle of the Hong Kong holiday season, midway between Christmas and Chinese New Year, and I've been feeling a little homesick.

I've been an expatriate for over 14 years now. Homesickness is an aspect of expatriate life many of us don't talk about that much; it seems weak and unsophisticated to admit we worldly types sometimes long for the familiar. Nevertheless, it's a fact of expatriate life. If you move to a different country and don't feel homesick sometimes, you're not human. I expect even North Koreans who've escaped their hellish homeland feel homesick once in a while -- and maybe feel it just as often and as deeply as any other expats. Read more »

Is Hong Kong healthcare reliable?

Question: What about health care in Hong Kong? I understand the hospitals are of a high standard, but are the emergency service of a similar high standard if a person is involved in an accident or some other acute problem?

Mr B replies: For emergency services (police, hospital, doctor, etc), I think they are of a similar standard to a European city. They are run independently from the mainland.

A reader adds: Emergency services are fine I think, if by that you mean fire fighting, or ambulances coming to traffic accidents.

Mr Tall adds: Health care in Hong Kong is, at least in my opinion, quite good. There are both public and private systems. For day-to-day complaints, most expatriates go to private GPs, whose costs may be covered by your employer-provided health plan (it's important to check this carefully when being offered any job package in Hong Kong, as such health plans vary tremendously in amount of coverage, restrictions on doctors, etc.) For serious complaints, surgeries, childbirth, etc., some expats use the public hospitals, some don't. Again, this often depends on what's covered in your health plan, where the best specialists are available (many are in fact in the public teaching hospitals) and so on. Read more »

Are taxes in Hong Kong high?

Question: What about taxes? Will my income be severely affected by this in Hong Kong?

Mr Tall replies: No. Hong Kong's tax system can be summarized in one phrase: 16% flat salaries tax. Okay, I'll explain that just a bit -- Hong Kong's income/salaries tax system (the two terms are synonymous) is one of the world's simplest. No one is subject to more than a total rate of 16% tax on his income. There are personal exemptions (currently HKD100,000) and exemptions for children, other dependent relatives you're caring for, etc. The majority of people in Hong Kong pay no income tax at all. That said, many (perhaps most) expats here receive salaries that do incur much or all of the 16% top rate.  Read more »

Domestic helpers, part III

Allow me to preface this piece, which tries to describe some of the common difficulties that arise between employers and domestic helpers in Hong Kong, by saying that I don't just think that many DH's in HK are exploited and oppressed by their employers -- that many are is simply a fact. My church has hundreds (possibly thousands; it's hard to keep track) of members who are DHs, and I've gotten to know many of them, some quite well. I've heard many ugly stories, and have no reason to doubt their veracity. Read more »

Domestic helpers, part II

I've been motivated to revisit the issue of hiring and living with a domestic helper because Mrs Tall and I have recently had to hire a new helper ourselves.

I'm intending this article to be a follow-up to my previous one on this subject, which you can find here. If you're interested in this subject, you might want to go back and have a look at that article first.  Read more »

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