Hong Kong

Moving to Hong Kong?

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Moving to Hong Kong

You’ll be moving to Hong Kong? Congratulations! This step offers you the chance to explore a buzzing metropolis with a diverse population and an excellent expat infrastructure. The InterNations City Guide introduces you to Hong Kong, its economy, job market, foreign community, and visa regulations.
Former British colony Hong Kong became a Chinese special administrative region in 1997.
  • Although Hong Kong is officially on Chinese territory, it doesn’t struggle with the same issues with human rights, thanks to its constitution.
  • Hong Kong provides all the luxuries an expat could wish for, but it is regularly listed as one of the most expensive expat destinations in the world.
  • Getting an employment visa in Hong Kong is tough and you generally need an employment offer before applying.

People from all over the world have followed Hong Kong’s call for a long time. The former British colony located on China’s southern coast has traditionally served as a bridge between East and West. It has been combining ancient Chinese customs with the traditions of coming to Hong Kong from abroad. Here, expats get the best out of both worlds: a progressive, liberal economy, as well as the traditional Chinese way of life.

During the last decades, the city has experienced tremendous economic growth. Today, Hong Kong is one of the world’s most modern megacities — it is not surprising that there are thousands of foreign nationals who move to Hong Kong every year, and many more who dream of it.

One Country, Two Systems

Moving to Hong Kong, you are probably aware of the profound change which took place in Hong Kong’s status in 1997. In that year, Britain handed over its former colony to the People’s Republic of China. After relocating to Hong Kong, however, you’ll notice pretty quickly that daily life is very different from that in Mainland China.

“One country, two systems” is a catchphrase which you will hear quite often following your move to Hong Kong. When entering Hong Kong, you are officially on Chinese territory. Still, as a so-called Special Administrative Region, this city gets to retain its own capitalist economy and its (more liberal) political system.

While in Mainland China the human rights situation remains problematic, the situation in Hong Kong is quite different. The constitution protects citizens’ basic rights and freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Although there have been concerns about possible interference by Mainland China after the handover, Hong Kong has largely been able to retain its independence. However, just like China, it lacks universal suffrage. The Chinese government has said it will allow the next leader of Hong Kong, in 2017, to be elected through universal suffrage. However, the issue which has instigated the large scale protest movement in Hong Kong is that of how this universal suffrage should be introduced. Each group, on both sides of the protest line, have their own ideas, which range from a nomination committee, elected through universal suffrage to the Executive being elected directly by the people. A growing fear, and rising expectation, is that Beijing will play a large role in who can even stand for nomination.

At the time of writing, June 2016, there is no foreseeable conclusion as protests are on-going. Even the climate of public opinion is intangible, as although there was once a large support base for the protestors, their presence has had a large and negative impact on local business, drawing a strong degree of criticism.

While the protest movement in and of itself is one of non-violence, there have been incidences of violence in the past, largely on the part of the police and ‘anti-Occupy protestors’ using pepper-spray and batons to disperse the crowds. Thus, although no rioting activity has taken place and expats are in no immediate danger, it is advisable to avoid centers of protest. 

A Strong Economy?

Many expats moving to Hong Kong are attracted by the country’s legendary economic growth. Between 1961 and 1997 alone, the city’s per-capita GDP increased 87 times over. Here, you’ll experience what Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once described as “the world’s greatest experiment in laissez-faire capitalism”. As of 2016, Hong Kong is the 8th largest trading entity in the world despite its small size. Thanks to an economy focused on exports and a high level of international trade, Hong Kong’s economic growth rate has averaged 0.99% quarter-on-quarter since 2000. However, the first quarter of 2016 did see Hong Kong’s economic growth rate begin to slow down.

Even after the handover to China, Hong Kong remained the world’s freest economy. Many multinational companies establish their regional headquarters in Hong Kong. The city combines Chinese cultural traditions with an enterprise-friendly economic system which guarantees rule of law and transparency. Thus, moving to Hong Kong is the ideal stepping stone for both companies and expats that decide to set foot on the Asian market.

Although, you may be in for a decent culture shock, don’t let this put you off. Many expats discover that the hospitality of the people and the experience of moving to Hong Kong more than compensates for their initial difficulties.

A Move Worth the Culture Shock 

For those considering moving to Hong Kong, it is important to first get an overview of the way of life which awaits expats moving to Hong Kong. Expat life in Hong Kong has been very popular for decades, especially among British citizens. The country’s status as a British colony and member of the Commonwealth until 1997 have made it a major expat destination before the concept of expatriation reached its current level of popularity.

Nowadays, surveys continue to rank Hong Kong in the top 50% of countries to move to. Expat numbers have been declining in recent years, due to increasingly high prices and global economic recession. Still, Hong Kong remains the home of a significant expat population, with the majority of them coming from the UK, the United States, and Australia.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Ruben Barbosa

"I found all my company's expat employees on this site, and they gave me great tips about life abroad in Hong Kong."

Barbara Richter

"The InterNations Events are the perfect place to meet and get to know like-minded people for a Hong Kong expat such as myself."

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