Moving to Hong Kong FAQs

Just been transferred to your company's Hong Kong office? Wondering how to get started changing your whole life? The Batgung and their intelligent and well-informed readers have answers to many of your questions here.

Will I be able to drive in Hong Kong?

Question: Don't people in Hong Kong drive on the left? I'm coming from the USA/continental Europe/etc., and I'm used to driving on the right. Will I be able to adapt?

A reader replies: We drive on the left in right hand drive cars. This is a British thing. In fact our traffic lights, road signs, markings, etc. are exactly as they are in the UK. China drives on the right like the US, which makes things interesting for cross border traffic.

Is the pollution in Hong Kong really bad?

Question: I've heard that Hong Kong is really, really crowded and polluted. Will I be able to stand it?

Mr T replies: You may find the pollution distressing at times, but there are also many parts of HK that are amazingly unaffected. Read more »

Is Hong Kong safe?

Question: What about safety? I've heard that Hong Kong has a low crime rate. Is it really that safe?  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 »

What about food in Hong Kong?

Question: What about food in Hong Kong? Will I be able to find any decent western food when I get homesick? Is food really expensive?  Read more »

Should I hire a domestic helper?

Question: I've heard that lots of people in Hong Kong hire domestic helpers. What does that involve? Are all domestic helpers from abroad and live-in? Is it possible to employ a local staff on a permanent basis who works a 40-hour week and who live by themselves when they are not at work?

Mr T replies: What you've heard is certainly true. There are more than a couple hundred thousand domestic helpers working in Hong Kong, and many families (including the Talls) employ one. They are overwhelmingly from abroad. In the recent past, the vast majority were from the Philippines. Filipinos still predominate, but the numbers of Indonesian helpers is rising very fast, and there are also helpers recruited from Thailand, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries. I've written three articles on what it's like to employ a domestic helper if you'd like to read more; links are here, here, and here. According to current regulations, your domestic helper must live in your home if she is from overseas. This requirement doesn't apply, of course, to helpers/housecleaners/babysitters, etc. (almost universally part-time) who are from Hong Kong. Read more »

Where in Hong Kong should I live?

Question: What part of Hong Kong should I live in? How do I find information about places to live in Hong Kong?

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 »

What's the cost of living in Hong Kong like?

Question: How about some basic info on things like rent prices, typical wages, cost of living, etc?

Mr B replies: For wages, a rough translation is that an HKD monthly salary is about the same value as an equivalent GBP annual salary (e.g. getting HKD30K a month is like getting GBP30K a year). Accommodation may be more expensive (though it's dropped a lot in the last six years), but you'll pay a lot less tax. I felt better off here on the same salary.  Read more »

How do I get a work visa in Hong Kong?

Question: I'm not a Hong Kong permanent resident. If I plan to come there to work, do I need a work visa? How do I get one?

Mr Tall replies: The simple answer is yes, you certainly do need a work visa if you're not a Hong Kong permanent resident. And no, you can't apply for one on your own. You must be sponsored by a company that is willing to employ you, and to go through the trouble of seeing your visa application through the approval process at the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

The Immigration Department makes the decision on the following grounds:  Read more »

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