Hong Kong expat guide - Is Hong Kong still a place to move to?

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

Moving to Hong Kong until a bit more than a year ago would have been an immediate 'yes' from most people.

Hong Kong had a great reputation among expats: a place where salary are high, taxes are low and there is a safe family environment with a bustling night life.

In May 2019 the protests started and some expats started to leave over the summer. Protests made the news all around the world showing Hong Kong almost like a war zone.

The situation wasn't at all as bad as it was reported and people kept having a normal life; we only had to monitor the situation to make sure not to be in the middle of the protests if we didn’t want to.

Protests were announced and WhatsApp groups have been of great help to find out where things were happening to avoid passing by with children or alone.

Schools starting from October 2019 started having disruptions, outings were postponed and then canceled and then a few weeks schools were closed.

Public transport started to close early, allowing people coming back home from work but closing in the evening. People still went out at night but came back by taxi or on foot.

Then in January people in Hong Kong starting hearing about a virus in mainland China.

Learning from the previous SARS experience people started immediately to wear masks and many stopped going out.

Shops and restaurants closed earlier but opened as usual, although it was harder to find everything in the supermarkets and masks became a scarse or expensive commodity.

Borders started to close and quarantine was introduced.

People avoided shopping malls and spent months hiking and outdoor, keeping away from people as much as possible.

School closed from the end of January and only opened mid-May. Primary schools only opened in June when there weren’t any local cases.

Schools at first didn’t give any online lessons but when they understood that it wasn’t going to be a short thing they started Zoom classes.

Fees for international schools in Hong Kong are expensive but they didn’t offer any refunds; after all teachers had to be paid but parents had to assist their children during the learning process and juggle work and homeschooling.

Many parents decided to withdrew children from international schools, especially kindergarten kids which are those that can benefit the least from online lessons.

But after three weeks of peace, when people started to have a normal life again we had suddenly a high number of cases. Schools closed again without finishing the school year and canceling graduations.

Government has imposed varying restrictions on the number of people gathering together. First four, then eight, then 50. And then back to two when the new wave of Covid-19 hit Hong Kong.

Now the new school year is approaching, many schools were supposed already to start around the 10th of August but the start has already be postponed until at least the 18th of August. But this year ‘s experience taught parents that it’s very likely that school will start online.

Many parents are concerned about paying again international school fees without any social interactions and in person lessons.

The number of expats that have relocated in 2020 is the highest in years but the coronavirus has affected the whole world, not just Hong Kong so the hope that things will get better as soon as the virus will go away still remain.

In the meantime many locals and expats have been negotiating the high rents to make them a bit more affordable.

So this could be actually a good moment to move to Hong Kong, if you can find a job, as rents are low and you can negotiate a 2 or 3 years fix contract to keep rent low even when the situation improves.

Hong Hong is still a beautiful place to live in, with a lot of greenery and a lot of things to do, once we can put the virus behind.

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About the author:

Violetta Polese is a journalist who has written a number of guidebooks, including City Trail Guides to Hong Kong, The Netherlands and Sudan. She has also written for National Geographic and other well-known Italian publishing houses. She is now completing a new book “Hong Kong with kids” to inspire and encourage parents to discover all there is to do with children in Hong Kong. She is a licensed tour guide in Hong Kong who loves sharing her passion for and knowledge about Hong Kong. She is passionate about travelling, languages, nature, cooking and different cultures. Asia is where she finds herself most at home.

Follow her on Instagram #violettapolese

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