Moving to Hong Kong

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Living in Singapore vs. Hong Kong with young children

Jan 2011

We have an opportunity to live either in Singapore or Hong Kong for 2-3 years starting summer 2011. We are a family of four with two children. One would be entering 1st grade when we arrive for Fall 2011, the other will be 3 yrs and in preschool. Any recommendations or advice on either location ? Please respond directly if you post to group. Thank you!

Visiting is different from living there, but of the two, I found Hong Kong/Kowloon far more interesting and vibrant than Singapore. Singapore is like Switzerland, very modern and ordered. Hong Kong has all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies to explore, plus it is easy to take a train to China. I have friends who spent a year's sabatical in Hong Kong many years ago and had their kids go to the local public school to learn Chinese. It was a very memorable experience, in a positive way. There are also international schools in both places. cocosar

I lived in SE Asia for 5 years (before i had kids). I'd rec Singapore if you have kids. It's safe, clean and easy to navigate since English is the official language. That being said, you'll also get a healthy dose of culture as well. Good luck. Singapore was fun

Moving family to Hong Kong

April 2009

My husband just got a wonderful job offer in Hong Kong and I was blown away.

First off, I've never been there so I guess I have to at least check it out -- though my instinct is to just say no and forget about it all. We've lived in Oakland for the last 10 years and have two boys ages 4 & 8, the older one attends an Oakland public school. My husband and I have also lived in Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas. The boys were born here. The Bay Area is by far our favorite place to live so far. I'm a stay at home mom and would not be working there either.

My questions are many but I'll start with a few:

1) What's it like to live IN Hong Kong -- I understand it's predominantly apartment living -- compared to living in an old home in Oakland?
2) How are the schools for American children?
3) Is it easy to meet other English-speaking people and form a community to be part of? (Or join existing ones?)
4) How do you handle being so far from family (assuming they live in the US, as ours do.)
5) How do kids transition on such a drastic move? (I moved twice as a kid and it was pretty traumatic but things also worked out and I don't think I was permanently scarred.)

Thanks BPNers. I look forward to hearing your thoughts as I ponder this very difficult decision. Anon.

Congratulations to you. I think this is a fabulous opportunity for your husband, you and your children. Do it! I lived in Hong Kong (I'm Caucasian and grew up in Iowa just for context) and I loved it. Here are some answers to your questions:

1) What's it like to live IN Hong Kong. It is apartment living. But there are nice outdoor spaces, and some apartments have rooftop or patio play spaces. I should emphasize that for a city of its size is VERY safe and well-run.

2) How are the schools for American children? I taught at the Hong Kong International School from 1996-97. It was and still is, I believe, an excellent school. I taught 8th grade and 12 years later, I'm still in touch with some of my former students (now graduated from college!) They went to lots of fine schools, including Princeton, Lewis & Clark, Brown, London School of Economics, etc. The school is run by the Lutheran church but was tolerant of diversity of belief. There is also, I believe, a Jewish school on the island, although I had Jewish and Catholic and Hindi, etc students. The facilities are very nice. The teachers are mostly American-trained, although some come from New Zealand, Australia or other places. Check it out: Both neighborhoods where the schools are located are plesant and expat-oriented. Chinese International school also had an excellent academic reputation when I lived there.

3) Is it easy to meet other English-speaking people and form a community to be part of? (Or join existing ones?) Join the American Club in Repulse Bay. Ask your husband's employer to pay. They have a pool, social events, etc. If your kid are at HKIS, you'll meet most of the American families very quickly.

4) How do you handle being so far from family (assuming they live in the US, as ours do.) Skype, email, visits. From the West Coast, the flight is about the same as to London. Would you feel so isolate if you were moving there?

5) How do kids transition on such a drastic move? (I moved twice as a kid and it was pretty traumatic but things also worked out and I don't think I was permanently scarred.) I think kids cue up to moves from their parents. If you embrace this move, your kids will too. If you transition successfully, they will too.

I've moved 10 times and it isn't easy but I love Hong Kong and wish you the best of luck on this decision/opportunity. Katie

I have not lived in Hong Kong but I lived in Taiwan for a year and have also lived in Bangkok, France and Spain. I don't have any Hong Kong specific advice for you but I can tell you about what it's like to move to another country and what your general experience will be. You'll all go through a honeymoon period of about 3 months while you're figuring out the restaurants, grocery stores, transportation systems, etc. Then you'll start to find all sorts of things that are inconvenient, messy, smelly, a hassle or sub-standard. You'll be grumpy and unhappy. This phase will last for about 6-10 months. Then you'll start to calm down, get used to things, ease up on the stupid stuff and begin to appreciate the great things.

And yes, you'll meet lots of ex-pats quickly. The community there is very large and diverse and you'll be able to integrate yourselves very quickly as those types of communities are very open to new people coming in as they all tend to be on the move all the time.

Hong Kong is an intense city and nothing like the Bay Area or any other of the places you've mentioned. It's louder, hotter, colder, sweatier, smellier, wetter and more frenetic. It's also incredibly exciting, dynamic, fascinating, and could possibly be the best experience you ever give to your kids. It's also an amazing jumble of ancient and ultra-modern, Asian and Western, capitalist and communist.

Plus it's a perfect jumping off point to the rest of Asia for vacations and travels. Chinese New Year in Bali! Christmas in Bangkok! Weekend trips to the Philippines!

I'd do it in a heartbeat. Former & Wannabe Expat

It was so funny to see your post.... I am writing to you from Hong Kong. My husband and I and our 2 daughters (6 and 9) moved here 2 months ago. We had lived in Berkeley for 15 years (we both are originally from the East Coast). My husband was offered a job transfer here in October and we moved in February. (it was a hard decision to make because we were very happy living in Berkeley. My daughters attended Berkeley public school that I loved and we loved our house and neighborhood. We rented our house because we know we want to move back at some point) We live on an island called Lantau Island, in a community called Discovery Bay, which is a 25 minute ferry ride from Hong Kong (where my husband works). We chose to live out here because HK was too urban, dense and polluted. My kids are used to running around and there are just not many green spaces in HK. This is a community with 3 schools, shops, restaurants and different types of housing and NO cars.

A few things about living here:
- it's expensive (mostly i notice it with food and housing)
- the pollution is bad
- i really miss the availability of good local produce.
- there are a good number of International schools (on HK and there are 2 here on Discovery Bay) but many have waiting lists.
- there are many people living in Hong Kong and Discovery Bay from other countries... mostly from Britain, Australia, Canada, Europe and USA.

I am glad that we are here. I do miss family and friends, but i feel we are having an experience that is great for my girls. They are learning so much here. And the move was OK for them. I would be happy to tell you much more about life here. You can email me . Good luck with your decision.... Andrea

Considering a move to Hong Kong

Dec 2007

My husband's SF structural engineering firm is opening an office in Hong Kong and we are considering a move there. We have two children, 5 and 7. I am wondering about places to live and schools. We have also heard that the pollution can be a problem. And what about the work ethic there? Do most people work more than the 40 hour work week? Thanks! Andrea

My brother responds...

I loved my time in Hong Kong. I was there for almost six years. The city has changed a lot in the last 5 or 6 years, but I go back on a regular basis and still find Hong Kong to be one of the most fascinating cities in the world. If I had a family, I would not hesitate to move children there. They will find American style and more likely, British style schools. There is public education, but your friend should consider private schools. You can expect a more structured education, with languages taught even for 5 and 7 year olds. School hours may be longer than in the USA.

Housing can be expensive, so it is important that the Company provide housing. If I had kids and I did not want to live in an apartment style home, I would look at Stanley or Shek O. Both are on the south side of Hong Kong Island, and Stanley is an expat enclave, as is Clearwater Bay. All of these areas are on the back side of the island. Also consider Discovery Bay, which is an expat area on Lantau (near Hong Kong Disneyland).

While quite expensive, the Peak is also filled with beautiful homes. If looking for apartments (like I had in Hong Kong), I would suggest Mid-Levels off the escalator. This is a centrally located area, walking distance to Lan Kwai Fong, and the Central District.

I agree that pollution is a problem. While it is something that is talked about, it has not driven any of my friends from living in Hong Kong. The pollution comes from the Guangzhou region north of Hong Kong and is most often a problem in the winter.

Work ethic: depends on the company. A Chinese based company will require or expect 6 day work week, but all western companies work only 5-days a week. Typically, a US based company adopts the Hong Kong holidays (there are about 12-15 holidays each year) and expats use their own vacation schedule. Because of the western influence of the British for so long, Christmas and Easter are considered holidays, Thanksgiving is not.

Overall, I enjoyed the work I did in Hong Kong and the opportunity to live overseas. I also believe growing up overseas provides a distinct advantage to kids, who will develop a greater cultural understanding, and may learn another language.

Good luck! Carolyn