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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Hong Kong Poses Financial & Safety Concerns

Expats struggle with their finances, political stability, and environmental issues.

The Travel & Transit Subcategory (26th) is a highlight for Hong Kong. Expats even vote the destination first worldwide for the availability of public transportation — not a single respondent is unhappy with this factor (vs. 17% globally). They are also extremely happy with the affordability of public transportation: 93% rate this factor positively — 23 percentage points more than the global average (70%). “There are excellent public transportation options here,” says a US American expat. Furthermore, most expats (82%) feel that it is easy and safe to get around on foot or by bicycle (vs. 77% globally). However, while there are many ways to get around in Hong Kong, expats vote it last for travel opportunities (52nd): only 42% are happy with this factor (vs. 82% globally).

Safety & Health Concerns

While expats are also very happy with the culinary variety and dining options in Hong Kong (3rd), there are not a lot of other positive things they have to say in the Quality of Life Index (40th). Hong Kong poses some major challenges for expats when it comes to Safety & Security, ranking last in this subcategory (52nd). More than half (56%) feel that they cannot openly express themselves and their opinions, compared to only 18% globally. Hong Kong also ranks last for political stability (52nd), as nearly two in three expats (65%) are unhappy with this factor, over four times the global average (15%).

Not a Green Destination

Environment & Climate (47th) is another subcategory that expats do not view positively. They rank both the air quality (48th) and the availability of green goods and services (46th) among the bottom 10. Fewer than one in three expats (29%) believe that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 61% globally), and 33% of expats are unhappy with the urban environment — such as green spaces, noise levels, and eco-friendly architecture — in Hong Kong (vs. 17% globally).

Mixed Results for Social Life

When it comes to the Ease of Settling In Index (33rd), over two in three expats (68%) have a personal support network (i.e., people they can ask for practical/emotional support), compared to 59% globally. Furthermore, 60% are happy with their social life in Hong Kong (vs. 56% globally). An expat from Taiwan says that her “social life and connections” are what she enjoys most about life in Hong Kong.

However, this support might not come from the local residents, as 28% of expats describe them as generally unfriendly (vs. 17% globally). Another 22% feel that they are not friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 18% globally). In fact, 41% of expats are mainly friends with other expats (vs. 33% globally).

Financial Hurdles

Hong Kong ends up in the bottom 10 of the Personal Finance Index (44th). In fact, over two in three expats (68%) are unhappy with the general cost of living in Hong Kong (vs. 35% globally). “The cost of living is too high,” says a German expat, “especially housing”. The majority of expats seems to agree, and 89% rate the affordability of housing negatively (vs. 43% globally), which lands Hong Kong in last place (52nd) for this factor. On the bright side, 66% at least say that housing is easy to find (vs. 54% globally).

Easy Communication & Administration

The Housing Subcategory (46th) is Hong Kong’s weakest area in the Expat Essentials Index (35th). Results in the Language Subcategory look somewhat better: while 60% of expats in Hong Kong think that learning the local language is difficult (vs. 38% globally), it does not seem to be a necessity. Over four in five (86%) say that it is easy to live there without speaking the local language, compared to only 51% globally. “Most people speak English here,” an expat from Ireland reports. In general, it seems to be easy to handle administrative topics as an expat in Hong Kong: they find it easy to open a local bank account (66% vs. 64% globally), to deal with the local bureaucracy (47% vs. 40% globally) and to get a visa to move there in first place (66% vs. 56% globally).

Working & Economic Issues

Expats in Hong Kong work more than the average expat, clocking in an average of 44.4 hours per week, compared to 40.2 hours globally. No surprise that Hong Kong ranks among the bottom 3 worldwide for working hours (50th). Expats most commonly work in the field of education (25% vs. 11% globally), and 70% find that moving to Hong Kong has improved their career prospects (vs. 60% globally). However, close to half (46%) feel that the local business culture does not encourage creativity or thinking outside of the box, compared to only 26% globally, and 38% are unhappy with the state of the local economy (vs. 17% globally).

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