Bupa Global

Your wellbeing guide to living as an expat in Hong Kong

Working in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s reputation is well known as a world leading international financial centre. With low taxation, a well established international financial market, and almost free port trade, the country’s economy is service industry dominated. Positive non-interventionism is a major pull factor for the international trade and foreign investment upon which the country’s economy thrives.

Hong Kong’s official languages are English and Cantonese. 4.6% of the country’s non-resident population is comprised of foreign workers. Most work in trade and finance related professions including banking, law and accountancy. Architecture, urban planning, healthcare, lifesciences, ICT and e-commerce are also common professions.

No visa or entry permit is required for any purpose if you hold a British National (Overseas) Passport. Otherwise, to find out if you require a Hong Kong working visa, visit www.gov.hk.

Lifestyle

In terms of lifestyle, Hong Kong offers a bustling mix of Western shopping malls, high end designer stores such as Channel and Burberry, myriad outlying islands (offering hiking trails and beaches) and heritage areas such as Lamma Island and Silvermine Bay.

Temperatures range from 10C at cooler times of year such as December – February to 28-33C between May to mid-September, when it is very hot and humid, but also rainy (80% of the country’s rain falls between these months) with the constant possibility of thunderstorms and typhoons. The pleasantest months are between the end of April (warm and dry) until mid December (cool and dry).

Hong Kong’s Cost of living index (excluding rent) is 81.48 (compared to an NYC comparison of 100% and a London comparison of 94.82%). In 2015, crime dropped to a 36 year low, with the most common forms of crime being non-violent.

The city offers a wide variety of activities. Popular attractions include The Peak which offers magnificent views, Stanley Market, where you can find typically Chinese souvenirs featuring Chinese horoscopes such as chops (Carved red seals) and the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island which houses the Tian Tan Buddha statue. For night life, many expatriates head to Lan Kwai Fong.

Hong Kong offers over 12,000 restaurants to compete with local street food fare such as dim sum (including shao mai, pork buns and cheung feng). Chinese barbecue restaurants are popular and serve flexible menus featuring roast meats (siu mei) with rice or noodles. Meanwhile, innovative fine dining options include fusion cuisine in restaurants with breathtaking harbor views and many hotels offer highly reputed restaurants with impressive bars.

If you want to socialise with other expats, the Hong Kong Tourist Board (ww.discoverhongkong.com) offers Explore Hong Kong Tours where you may meet visitors with similar interests including food and markets, traditional handicrafts, cycling and martial arts such as ‘Wing Chun’. Angloinfo.com also offers a number of Hong Kong associations where you may find like-minded members. International groups such as Meet Up and Internations may also be helpful.

Business/Working Life

Hong Kong observes standard business hours of 9am – 6pm, with a half working day on Saturday morning. There is a typical 44 hour working week.

Hong Kong employees are entitled to 17 public holidays. Annual leave varies between companies, with a legal minimum of 7 days and 15 days or less more common.

In business etiquette, most people should be addressed by their title and family name. With Chinese names, the family name is followed by a generational name, then a given name (or the initials of these names) although many Chinese people adopt an English first name or nickname to make it easier for Westerners.

When making a business acquaintance it is customary to shake hands and immediately swap business cards. Business cards are swapped frequently so it’s important to keep a supply readily to hand or risk lowering your own status or appearing to be uninterested in making an acquaintance or business deal.

Business cards should be offered and received with both hands and offered with the writing easily readable by the recipient, preferably in Chinese or English, as appropriate.

Formal business wear is necessary unless advised otherwise, and jackets and ties are common in restaurants and clubs. A pinstripe or dark blue suit is advisable for men, and for women, a dark suit in winter and formal summer wear.

Accommodation/Where to live/Housing

Hong Kong’s main expat residential areas are the Mid-Levels, Wan Chai, The Peak, Repulse Bay, Jardine’s Lookout, North Point, Happy Valley and Clearwater Bay.

If you’re looking for value for money, Wan Chai offers a full range of accommodation and Mid-Levels East has apartments in the low to mid price ranges around Kennedy Road.

Getting Around

Hong Kong offers a range of exciting transport options. Most are accessible using a stored-value Octopus Card, which also allows you to make purchases.

The Airport Express is fast and efficient, taking approximately 24 minutes to reach Hong Kong Island. A free shuttle bus from Kowloon and Hong Kong stations services major hotels.

The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) covers all major districts, including the border with Mainland China and the New Territories. An Adult Tourist Day Pass will allow travel on all lines for $65.

Taxis can be hailed but a taxi stand or hotel may be the best place to attract one as certain areas have restricted access for taxis. Red taxis operate throughout Hong Kong (apart from certain areas of Lantau Island). Green taxis only access the New Territories and blue taxis only operate on Lantau Island.

Star Ferries operating from the Central ferry piers on Hong Kong Island access the main outlying islands of Lantau Island (including Discovery Bay), Lamma Island, Peng, Chau and Cheung Chau.

Trams are also common around Hong Kong and provide an inexpensive way to access the north corridor of Hong Kong Island. Prepare for a culture shock as it’s common for passengers to push their way on and to stand packed like sardines in carriages. The Peak Tram is an experience not to miss.

Customs/laws to be aware of

Hong Kong has many Western style malls and shopping outlets, but it’s advisable to be aware of dishonest sales practices in respect of counterfeit or overpriced goods.

Healthcare


Hong Kong offers a government-operated hospital system managed by its Health Authority. There are 164 public hospitals and clinics and around 12 private hospitals.

Public hospitals have a varying fee level for eligible and non-eligible persons. Eligible persons include Hong Kong Identity Card holders, Hong Kong resident children under 11 and persons approved by the Chief Executive of the Hospital Authority.

It’s advisable to fully understand your employer’s health plan or take out private medical insurance to cover your stay.

In an emergency, call 999 for the local police, ambulance and fire departments. If you lose your passport, you’ll need to file a ‘lost report’ at the nearest police station (call the Police Hotline on 2527 7177 for locations). Then contact your consulate to replace your passport.

Visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website for the latest advice for British people living in Hong Kong.

 

Banking

Hong Kong’s official currency is the Hong Kong dollar. You don’t need to be a Hong Kong resident to open an account but you’ll probably need your Hong Kong Identification Card or international passport. You’ll also need proof of a Hong Kong or home country residential address. HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank) is one of the easiest banks to open an account in. Staff speak English and require only a passport, employment contract and initial deposit of HK $1,000.

Credit cards including MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and JCB are widely accepted in Hong Kong. Some shops will charge for credit card use to encourage cash purchases. To apply for a credit card account you’ll need to show proof of your salary, Hong Kong address and Hong Kong ID.

Savings accounts can be opened in US dollars, RMB or Hong Kong dollars and can be linked to your current account, as can your credit and debit cards. Most banks are open Monday to Friday: 9am to 4pm and Saturday 9am to 11am.

 

Taxation

Hong Kong has a progressive tax system with a top rate of income tax of 17%. Sales tax, capital gains tax and VAT are (mostly) unheard of.

Rental income and self-employment profits are also subject to tax but a number of allowances and deductions are applicable.

Expatriates with a long-term Hong Kong visa are required to pay Hong Kong income tax. Double taxation relief is available if income tax also has to be paid in the home country.

All wages, salaries and directors fees are subject to salaries tax. Company benefits including commission, rebates, leave pay, shares and options that form part of a remuneration package, accommodation provided by an employer and end-of-contract gratuities are also taxable. Hong Kong income tax is not charged on interest, dividends or royalties.

Schools

Hong Kong has a similar school system to the UK. Primary schools are for 6-12 year olds, junior secondary school for 13 to 16 year olds and senior secondary school is for 17 to 18 year olds.

Most expats opt for private schools. These comprise English Schools Foundation (ESF), Hong Kong International (HKIS) and other international schools. Enrolment is competitive as there is limited space. Parents may find that their children’s school location determines their eventual home location in Hong Kong.

Some parents may choose to send their children to schools with a local curriculum, offering Cantonese immersion programs.
[All reported figures were accessed in May 2016 and will be validated in May 2017. We make no claims as to their accuracy as they rely on third party sources.]