Beneath the carapace of a magnificent skyline bustles one of the world’s most industrious and densely populated cities: Hong Kong reputation as the world’s freest economy, coupled with a favorable tax regime has attracted thousands of multinational companies to establish in Hong Kong for expansion or as an operational base, making it one of the the largest community of international firms in Asia.
Life in this wealthy city, where fortunes are more often won than lost, comes with a hefty price tag. Space is at a premium, continoues hike in residential prices for executive housing has mde Hong Kong a very expensive city in which to live.
Fortunately the financial reward of working here offsets the cost of living – and living in this city is an experience to be relished. There is a real East-meets-West feel to Hong Kong; it is exciting and edgy, modern yet esoteric.
Hong Kong’s sultry heat, punctuated by frequent tropical storms during summer, lasts most of the year. This makes the pursuit of outdoor activities a popular pastime among residents, be it tramping the street markets, surfing at Big Wave Beach, running a marathon, or hiking the green hills. Those who prefer a more leisurely approach to life will find an abundance of fantastic shopping malls, galleries and swimming pools that provide welcome refuge from the heat.
Hong Kong’s dynamism attracts an eclectic mélange of individuals, from high-level executives and their families to energetic young entrepreneurs. Rewardingly rich business and social networks are easily woven, ensuring Hong Kong daily life is rarely tarnished with a dull moment.
Its entrenched expat community makes moving to the city a comfortable leap of faith - even if it does mean trading an expansive garden for a postage stamp-sized balcony. That is assuming you have opted to live on Hong Kong Island. For those who prefer to take a breather from Hong Kong’s high-paced "work hard, play hard" lifestyle, there are other options.
Discovery Bay on Lantau Island offers lush green, spacious, family- and pet-friendly living and is only a short ferry commute to Hong Kong Island. Clearwater Bay and Sai Kun are also popular among families, although the commute can be trickier. Hong Kong strives to meet every resident’s needs; efficient, polite, and incredibly safe, this city always aims to please.
What is special or unique about your city?
"Hong Kong" means "Fragrant Harbor" and is known as the “Pearl of the Orient" and "Asia's World City." Currently, over seven million people call it home comprised of many different nationalities from all around the world.
Hong Kong is composed of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, New Territories and various outlying islands. Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula are separated by the busy and vibrant Victoria Harbor. The central business districts and commercial areas are found mainly on the island and the peninsula, while the industrial area mainly lies in the New Territories.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Newcomers should be prepared to see a lot of high-rises and skyscrapers in the city. Some may also find apartments to be relatively small and expensive.
And there are people everywhere - lots of them! Also, you will notice that most people in Hong Kong always seem to be in a hurry and walk very fast.
Are these impressions likely to change?
There is continuing construction and more sleek, concrete-and-glass high-rises can be expected. As immigration regulations are relaxed allowing mainland Chinese to come to Hong Kong to work, there will continue to be crowds. And with the strong work ethic of the Chinese, the pace is not about to slow down.
Once settled in the city, the newcomer will discover that a large percentage of the territory is actually country parks, mountains and wide open spaces. Outdoor pursuits like hiking, camping, water sports and trail running are easily accessible.
What is the local language?
The official languages of Hong Kong are Cantonese, English and Mandarin. Cantonese is the most widely used dialect in daily life.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
Expats will not have problems living in Hong Kong without knowing the Cantonese dialect. Schools in Hong Kong teach in Cantonese, English and Mandarin so most people in Hong Kong , especially the younger generations will not have trouble communicating with foreigners.
Of course, it is always recommended to learn a few common phrases in the local language, including the ability to give directions (for taxis) and count (for bargaining).
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Visitors should bring candies or fruits with them when visiting a friend’s home. You may also bring flowers, but please remember not to bring white flowers as they symbolize bad luck.
Also, you should wait for the host or being offered to take the first piece of food from the dish. It is also not polite to take the last piece of meat or fish unless you are offered to do so. Do not be offended if a Hong Konger stands or walks very close to you. As Hong Kong is densely populated, personal space is not as "wide" as most westerners are used to. Similarly, Hong Kongers have a high tolerance for noise, so very loud (and public) mobile phone conversations, for example, are quite normal.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Hong Kong lies within the tropical region and has four seasons, with summer and winter stretching longer than the other two seasons. Although it is hot and humid during the summer, most offices and malls are equipped with air conditioning so this will not affect the daily activities of Hong Kong residents. In January and February, it may feel that the weather is much colder than it actually is. This is because of the humidity, which may cause people to feel more chilly. Apartments in Hong Kong are not normally equipped with central heating systems, so some people may need to wear warm clothes even at home or use portable heaters.
The typhoon season is normally from June to September. Typhoon warnings are issued by the Hong Kong Observatory and will be broadcast via the Internet, short messaging service (SMS) on mobile phones, radios, televisions and signs that are prominently displayed in office buildings and shopping malls. At the hoisting of signal No. 8 and No.10, most offices, shops and all schools are closed. It is advisable to go directly home, pick up your children from school and avoid staying in a dangerous area. Public transport comes to a standstill and getting a taxi during a typhoon can sometimes cost you three times more than the standard rate.
There are also three levels of rainstorm warnings issued by the Hong Kong Observatory: Amber, Red and Black. It is advisable to stay in a safe place while the Black rainstorm signal is in effect. If the signal is hoisted before office hours, employees are not required to go into the office until the signal is lowered.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Hong Kong is a city of contrasts, where the crowded, bustling city and commercial areas are offset by sleepy villages, deserted beaches and soaring peaks. Hong Kongers of all nationalities adopt the Chinese ethos of working very hard, and value politeness and manners in their dealings with others. They are justifiably proud of their wonderful city.