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Blogs | Hong Kong City Guide

Culture and customs in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is situated east of the Pearl River and is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ where the east meets the west.

In its early days this vibrant city started out as a successful trading port and has since gone on to expand rapidly, through a growing population and commerce, making it one of the world’s major trade and financial centres that we know today. Its rich cultural heritage and lifestyle attracts nationalities from all around the world, making Hong Kong a popular expat destination1.

In this article, we look at the culture and customs of Hong Kong to help you and your family adjust to life in your new home country.

Hong Kong’s melting pot

Hong Kong has a population of over 7 million people2 that is made up of a range ethnic backgrounds, most are of Chinese origin, with the remaining population made up of Indonesian, Thai, Filipino, American, Canadian, British and Australian. This diverse mix of cultures makes Hong Kong one of the most exciting places to live and one of the most densely populated cities in the world3.

Cultural Life

With such a rich mix of cultures living in Hong Kong, many festivals and holidays are celebrated and observed throughout the year and these include the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas, the Western New Year, plus many others. As a city it also enjoys hundreds of annual cultural events ranging from traditional Cantonese to other Chinese regional operas and theatre productions as well as ballet and music performances4.

With around 680,000 expats5 living in Hong Kong, experiencing the culture has been made easier with many online expat forums and local magazines to help you make the most of the culture and lifestyle in Hong Kong. These publications provide sources of information on culture and events for you to take part in or, if you prefer, you can just be a spectator.


Useful online forums:

www.geoexpat.com

www.hongkong.asiaxpat.com

https://www.expatexchange.com/hong-kong/liveinhong-kong.html

https://www.facebook.com/expatlivingHK/

Useful Magazines:

https://expatliving.hk/shop/

https://hongkongliving.com/sai-kung-magazine/


Navigating Hong Kong

Getting around Hong Kong as an expat is relatively easy and that’s because English is an official language which means all official signs and announcements are both in English and Cantonese. In addition all government officials, including police officers and immigration officials are required to have a basic level of English which can make settling in a much easier process6 .

Cultural differences in Hong Kong

While living in Hong Kong it’s good to be aware of the unspoken rules around social etiquette. Respecting and honoring others is particularly important in social situations and expats need to be mindful of saving ‘face’. This concept of saving face represents a person’s dignity and reputation and therefore you need to be mindful when complimenting or giving feedback to someone so that you don’t cause them to lose face7.


Top tip

If you have been invited to someone house you shouldn’t go empty handed. A small gift of flowers or sweets are all suitable choices but be mindful not to present ‘four’ gifts as four means death in Cantonese. If possible, try and wrap your gift in lucky colours of red and gold and make sure you hand it over with two hands7.


Eating out and drinking tea in Hong Kong

Dining in Hong Kong can be a new and exciting experience for any expat. Eating is a very social event and is often served in a communal style with many different dishes placed in the middle of table. It’s important to note that if you have been invited as a guest it’s always good to let your host begin eating first and always make sure you leave something behind on your plate as it’s a sign that you have really enjoyed your meal8. Chopsticks are also a common feature in most restaurants so learning how to use them is considered a nice gesture, but if you do struggle to use them most restaurants will provide a knife and fork, you just need to request them.


Top tip

Basic chopstick etiquette: make sure you don’t fiddle with your chopsticks or use them to gesture with and to always lay them evenly on your chopstick holders9.


Feng Shui and Chinese medicines are also a key part of Hong Kong’s culture and can be very visible when walking the streets. Feng Shui10 literally means ‘wind and water’ and many local residents in Hong Kong believe that good ‘Feng Shui’ can ward off bad luck and attract prosperity. Many Hong Kong skyscrapers have applied Feng Shui principles, for example, HSBC’s notable main building in Central has angled the escalators in the atrium to ward off evil spirits; and by placing two large bronze lions to guard the entrance to symbolise wealth and prosperity11.

Chinese medicine on the other hand is more about ancient potions that encompass centuries of tradition that isn’t considered as an alternative form of medicine. Chinese medicine is an integral part of life for local residents in Hong Kong who value it for treating medical issues and maintaining health and well-being. In Hong Kong, more than a fifth of all medical consultations are made with practitioners of Chinese medicine12.

Life in Hong Kong can be fast-paced, noisy and exciting and expats who embrace the local culture and lifestyle can be rewarded with a life-changing experience.

Find out more with our series of guides here.



Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Hong Kong. Please be sure to check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

 

Blogs | Hong Kong City Guide

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Blogs | Health

The Healthcare system in Hong Kong

How does the healthcare system work for expats in Hong Kong?

Deciding to move to a new country is a big step. It’s exciting to think about what an expat lifestyle might offer you and your family, alongside practical considerations such as how you will adapt, and what could happen if you or your family become ill.

If you are considering a move to Hong Kong, the good news is that healthcare is among the best in the world.

For the seven million people living in Hong Kong, life expectancy is 87 years for women and 81 years for men – the highest life expectancy in the world1.

So, what can you expect from the healthcare system in Hong Kong, and what differences will expats find between the public and private services available?

The Hong Kong healthcare system

There are currently 164 public hospitals and clinics, plus 12 private hospitals in Hong Kong, overseen by the Hospital Authority of Hong Kong.2 There are also plenty of pharmacies, most of which are open seven days a week, with some operating 24hrs.

Hong Kong has a subsidised healthcare system which enables eligible citizens to pay less – an example of this can be seen if paying a visit to A&E, where eligible citizens pay around HK$180 per visit and non-eligible citizens can pay up to $HK1,230.

Eligibility is granted to those who hold a Hong Kong Identity Card, Hong Kong residents under 11 years of age, or those approved by the Chief Executive of the Hospital Authority. To find out more about eligibility and charges, visit the Hospital Authority website2.

 


Emergency numbers3

For emergency ambulances, police and fire services, 999 can be dialled

The police can also be reached on: 2527-7177

Emergency ambulance hotline: 2735-3355

Fire department hotline: 2723-0066


Why you might need private healthcare in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive countries in the world for private healthcare, because it is not regulated by the government.

Generally, the standard in public hospitals is high, but service levels can vary and long waiting lists are common in public hospitals.

Some employers may provide employment packages for expats that include healthcare cover. When they are available, the level of cover is largely determined by your grade or position. So, if your employer provides health care as part of your contract, make sure it covers the needs for you and your family. If you don’t receive health cover as part of your employment package, you may want to consider health cover as part of your preparations ahead of moving to Hong Kong.

 


Where to find Hong Kong’s4 private hospitals

  1. Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital – Happy Valley
  2. St. Teresa’s Hospital – Kowloon
  3. Hong Kong Baptist Hospital – Kowloon
  4. St. Paul’s Hospital – Causeway Bay
  5. Evangel Hospital – Kowloon
  6. Hong Kong Adventist Hospital – Stubbs Road
  7. Hong Kong Adventist Hospital – Tsuen Wan
  8. Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital – Wong Chuk Hang
  9. Canossa Hospital – Mid-Levels
  10. Precious Blood Hospital – West Kowloon
  11. Union Hospital – Tai Wai
  12. Matilda International Hospital – The Peak

Health risks to be aware of in Hong Kong

With a sub-tropical climate, Hong Kong has four very separate seasons – a warm and humid spring, a hot and rainy summer, a sunny autumn and a cool, dry winter. Temperatures can soar as high as 31 degrees Celsius in the summer, while typhoon season is generally from May through to November. Occasionally the Hong Kong Observatory will issue typhoon warnings advising you stay indoors.5

As with other parts of Asia, Hong Kong has high levels of pollution6. Combined with its densely-packed population, this can aggravate symptoms for expats with asthma and chronic respiratory diseases. Children, the elderly, and those with vulnerable immune systems, are generally most affected.

The Hong Kong Government is working hard to reduce air pollution, by advising residents to reduce energy consumption at home and save money at the same time. This can also help to reduce air pollution created by power stations.


People are advised to wear a face mask in public7 whenever:

They have a respiratory infection

They need to care for a person with respiratory infection

When they are visiting clinics or hospitals during a pandemic or peak season for influenza in order to reduce the risk of spreading the infection


The Hong Kong Government Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)8 monitor health risks caused by air pollution and regularly update their index scores accordingly.

When the index is at a low to moderate level (1-6), you can continue to enjoy your usual activities as normal. When the category reaches a high level of (7), it’s advised that children, the elderly and those with heart or respiratory illnesses should reduce outdoor activities. At a very high level (8-10+), the general public are warned to reduce their time outside.

Hong Kong residents are proactive about how they manage germ control, particularly with a large population in a confined space. Reporting and prevention procedures for germ control are particularly robust and ‘sanitation stations’ are common features in buildings throughout Hong Kong.

Planning ahead is key

If you are planning a move to Hong Kong or are currently a resident, make sure you understand how the healthcare system works and how you and your family can access it. Healthcare in Hong Kong is much more visible than most other places in the world, from wearing a mask to prevent the spread of flu to sanitation stations in buildings. This may be a new experience for expats and it highlights how the Hong Kong government prioritises health for all its residents. 

We have more articles in this guide that may be useful if you are planning a move to Hong Kong or you are currently a resident. Click here to find out more.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Hong Kong. Please be sure to check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

 

Blogs | Health

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Blogs | Hong Kong City Guide

Hong Kong schools and what expats parents need to know

When moving to a new country as an expat parent, you will need to consider what schooling options are available for your family.

Hong Kong boasts one of the most reputable education systems in the world, giving parents confidence in the standard of education. There are more than 50 international schools that are popular with Hong Kong expats, offering more than 10 international curriculums. These include US, UK, French, German, Australian, Canadian, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean and the International Baccalaureate.

This article explains how the school system works in Hong Kong, and hopes to demystify the application process.

How does the school system work in Hong Kong?

The Hong Kong education sector is made up of both local and international schools. With a high value placed on education culturally, schools can be vibrant and competitive.

Hong Kong’s education system can be divided into three groups1:

  1. Government – featuring schools which are government-funded and free for pupils.
  2. Subsidised – such as the English Schools Foundation (ESF), which offers partially-funded places for local and non-Chinese speaking children.
  3. International schools – offer private places, with costs met by parents. Employers may contribute to costs.

The local school system is taught in Cantonese, which is why many students from other countries attend a private international school. This has led to a real growth in the international schooling sector in Hong Kong, with more than 50 international schools that provide a range of English-based curriculums that you could expect from your home country.

One of the oldest schools in Hong Kong is the English Schools Foundation (ESF), which dates back to when the British occupied Hong Kong and British children attended British-styled schools. These schools and the communities created around them are largely unchanged today and many expats will live close to where their children attend school.2


Top Tip

“Although I had originally planned to move my boys from a local school to an international school at the secondary stage, they ended up making the switch earlier – simply because they were learning English as a secondary language. I did a lot of exploring across my network and found out what other parents had done. These days, there are a lot of Facebook groups around that can help.”

Anna Evans, Hong Kong expat


Hong Kong school application process

The registration process for international schools in Hong Kong can appear complicated, and the admission of expat children can be competitive. Ruth Benny, founder of Top Schools, a consultancy that helps parents find schools for their children, recommends that expat families apply as soon as they know they are relocating to Hong Kong. And be aware you may not get your first choice: “We recommend that people apply to four or five schools,” she says.

By applying to a number of schools you can increase your chance of your child being accepted into a school of your choice. Many schools often have long waiting lists, so make sure you apply as early as possible, as many schools will accept an application a year or two in advance. There are some international schools that will even accept applications as soon as your child is born, including Discovery Bay School, French International School, German International School, Kellet School and Kiang Su & Chekiang School.3

International schools operate their own admission procedures, with most requiring an assessment and interview process. Application priority is typically given according to the child’s nationality, siblings already at a school, and debenture holders, rather than the date of application.

Education fees explained

Many parents are unaware of the fees associated with enrolling a child into a school4, in addition to annual tuition fees. According to ITS Education Asia5, annual tuition fees can reach up to HK$250,000. For most international schools, the entry school requirement will require an application fee, an entrance test fee, an enrolment or denture fee, plus the annual tuition fees.

Starting costs – A separate application fee, assessment fee and deposit will be required by each school that you apply to, and the fees typically range from HK$1,000 up to HK$3,500. Deposits are only charged when you accept a placement and these can run as high as HK$10,000. The deposit and assessment fees are usually non-refundable.

Annual tuition – This can begin at around HK$100,000 for primary school and reach up to HK$250,000 for secondary school.

A debenture – A one-off advance payment of up to HK$500,000 per child6 that goes towards financing a school’s community and projects. Depending on the school, a debenture may be refundable when a child leaves, but some schools may hold onto 5% or 10% so be sure to ask about your debenture refund. The cost of a debenture can vary enormously and can come as a bit of a shock, particularly if you have a large family. If you have a relocation package, your company may help you with a loan to pay the debenture, or they may have already pre-paid debenture with an international school. If neither of these two options are available to you, it’s not uncommon to apply for bank loan to help pay for the debenture.

Additional costs – While the location of an international school may play a part in your choice of accommodation, children routinely travel by school bus. This can cost between HK$6,000 and HK$9,000 per year, with uniform fees typically ranging from HK$500 to HK$1,500. There will probably also be additional costs for school trips, meals, textbooks, examinations and extra-curricular activities to consider.


65 % of Hong Kong students are estimated to be undertaking additional tuition.


Some of the international schools7 in  Hong Kong for expats include:

British curriculum

Discovery Bay International School

Harrow International School

Kellett International school

International Baccalaureate

Australian International School

Canadian International School

Chinese International School

English Schools Foundation

French International School

German Swiss International School

US curriculum
American International School

Hong Kong International School

International Christian School 


Being prepared

Finding the right place for your children is key to a successful transition into the Hong Kong education system. Undertaking research on the schooling system and applications process before you leave will help you determine what you need to consider and apply for in advance. Once you arrive, follow up any applications with a call to the administration office to book an appointment to visit the schools with your family.

Expat children who attend school in Hong Kong grow up with a network of international friends from a diverse background of cultures and languages. With a wide variety of international schools and curriculum choices, Hong Kong is considered to be a great place for education.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Hong Kong. Please be sure to check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

Blogs | Hong Kong City Guide

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Blogs | Hong Kong City Guide

The future of Hong Kong

Hong Kong – what does the future hold? Hong Kong is a fast-growing metropolis that has ambitious plans for the future. It has long been seen as an appealing place to live, work and invest by expats, and is one of the world’s top financial centres.

In this article, we examine Hong Kong’s future prospects, ranging from its current global rankings to its plans for 2030 and beyond, and explore what that means for expats.

Hong Kong boasts a rich history. Its strategic location and deep coastal waters have helped it to grow from a humble fishing port into a global economic powerhouse. In 1841, the region’s first census recorded a population of just over 7,500.1 Today, Hong Kong has grown into a thriving metropolis of almost 7.4 million people.

No stranger to change, Hong Kong is known for its adaptability, enabling it to remain relevant and competitive in our fast-changing world. Between the 1950 and 1970s, Hong Kong fed the growing demand for low-cost manufacturing and exports, but by the end of the 20th century had successfully made a tough transition to a service-led economy – with services now accounting for more than 92% of GDP.2

Hong Kong is now perhaps best known for financial services – currently ranking third in the Global Financial Centres Index3 and first in Asia – while offering a wide range of attractive opportunities for expat workers, with Forbes naming it the sixth best place to do business.4

Hong Kong’s global rankings

Global Financial Centres Index – March 20185

  1. London
  2. New York City
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Singapore
  5. Tokyo

Investing in its future

Hong Kong has a long history of strategic planning, revisiting its development policies every decade. The latest review – ‘Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030’ (HK2030+)6 – sets out three distinct ways that it intends to respond to current and future trends:

  1. Plan for a liveable, high-density city
  2. Embrace new economic challenges and opportunities
  3. Create capacity for sustainable growth

Using these three building blocks, Hong Kong plans to transition once again, this time into a regional mega-city with greater capacity for growth and the ability to host its burgeoning population in a more sustainable way.

The strategy includes plans that will make living and working in Hong Kong even more appealing for both locals and expats.


Good news for Hong Kong visitors

Hong Kong is future-proofing its international airport as part of investment work taking place over the next few years – a move that is expected to benefit both travellers and businesses.7

  • £123bn will be invested to construct a three-runway system by 20248
  • Expansion of the airport will accommodate 102 million passengers, 8.9 million tonnes of cargo and 607,000 aircraft movements annually by 2030

An incubator for innovation

As surrounding economies continue to grow in both size and sophistication, Hong Kong faces stiff competition to retain its position as a leader on the Global Innovation Index. The HK2030+ proposals6 address this directly, with ambitious plans to “move Hong Kong up the value chain” and make it a leader in talent, research and development.

In addition to major investments in education9 and plans to develop a giant innovation and technology park,10 Carrie Lam, who is head of the Government of Hong Kong as the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, has confirmed her intention to introduce greater tax incentives11 for Hong Kong businesses undertaking research and development (R&D) work. These companies will receive a 300% tax deduction for the first HK$2m they spend on research and development for their Hong Kong business for the first year. The scheme is particularly aimed at helping small businesses to develop.

As the leading financial centre in Asia, the current FinTech revolution is something that Hong Kong is especially keen to benefit from. Hong Kong has quadrupled its investment in FinTech12 over the past two years and now hosts 48 of the top 100 FinTech companies in the world.13

Companies who continue to invest in the Fintech industry will receive support from the Hong Kong government, which will result in continued growth and increased opportunities for expats. Making this an exciting time for expats who work within the financial and tech sectors in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong FinTech investment

2017    US$545.7m

2016    US$215.5m

2015    US$107.5m

Accenture

Expanding infrastructure

Hong Kong is the fourth most densely populated place in the world,14 featuring a skyline full of iconic high-rise buildings. With finite space to work with, and high property prices15, Hong Kong is always looking for ways to accommodate its growing population and introduce greater capacity for growth.

It is currently scaling up its land reclamation efforts,16 in order to create new buildable land in the surrounding waters. Projects include creating space for hundreds of thousands of new homes.17

Hong Kong is also integral to China’s mammoth ‘Belt and Road’18 initiative – an ambitious US$900bn project intended to “reinvigorate the seamless flow of capital, goods and services between Asia and the rest of the world”. Included in the plans are major infrastructure and transport improvements in and around Hong Kong,19 which should shorten commutes for expat workers and make it easier to access and do business with the rest of the globe.


What is the Belt and Road initiative?

  • Creates new land and maritime links between China and surrounding regions
  • Intends to connect 65 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe
  • Will link more than half the world’s population
  • New and more efficient trade routes
  • Integrated multinational transport network
  • Estimated US$900bn allocated to current and future projects

Boosting health and wellbeing

Hong Kong recognises the impact 20 that a high-density population can have on wellbeing and the quality of life of residents, and has major plans to make its compact environment an even greener, healthier and happier place to live.

These include improving public transport, pedestrian and cycle networks; reinventing public spaces, such as parks, to enhance accessibility and enjoyment; and investing in a range of public facilities, including schools and public health services.

Top green spaces

  1. Hong Kong Parkcentral location, designed to provide a beautiful environment for both educational and leisure purposes.
  2. Kowloon Parkfull of amenities, including a maze, swimming pool, sports centre, Chinese garden and its renowned bird lake.
  3. Victoria Park largest park on Hong Kong island, hosts to major events including the Flower Market before Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival lantern carnivals.

Economic growth and resilience

With a healthy growth rate of 3.8%21 and major long-term investments planned across all key areas, including an HK$18bn investment in Hong Kong’s innovation and technology ecosystem,22 plus continued investment in education and infrastructure projects,9  Hong Kong’s economic future looks positive.

Coupled with ambitious health and wellbeing and environmental improvements and a buzzing metropolis, these are exciting times ahead for the burgeoning city and its residents. As it keeps pace with an expanding world, Hong Kong looks set to remain a top choice for expats hoping to work in the region for some time to come.

Read more about what Hong Kong has to offer expats here

<Disclaimer>

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide to what you might expect in Hong Kong and is correct at the date of publishing. Please check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to make sure the information is still valid.

Sources
  1. https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/statistical_literacy/educational_materials/statistics_and_you/index.jsp
  2. https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp250.jsp?tableID=036&ID=0&productType=8
  3. http://www.longfinance.net/programmes/financialcentrefutures/global-financial-centres-index.html
  4. https://www.forbes.com/best-countries-for-business/list/
  5. http://www.longfinance.net/Publications/GFCI23.pdf
  6. http://www.hk2030plus.hk/
  7. https://www.internationalairportreview.com/article/64497/hong-kong-design/
  8. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2097992/hong-kong-airport-get-hk7-billion-upgrade-ahead-third-runway
  9. http://www.news.gov.hk/en/record/html/2017/09/20170919_184409.shtml
  10. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2135127/hong-kongs-science-park-take-lead-driving-innovation-and
  11. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2114944/carrie-lam-says-tax-breaks-profits-and-rd-among-measures-keep
  12. http://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2135144/hong-kong-fintech-outlay-doubles-5-year-tally-well-ahead
  13. http://www.hongkong-fintech.hk/en/why/
  14. https://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?v=21000
  15. https://www.numbeo.com/property-investment/rankings.jsp
  16. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2118820/hong-kongs-future-depends-reclamation-committee-says-it-backs
  17. http://www.ejinsight.com/20170509-housing-shortage-why-land-reclamation-is-a-feasible-option/
  18. https://beltandroad.hktdc.com/en/belt-and-road-basics
  19. https://www.news.gov.hk/en/record/html/2017/04/20170407_114301.shtml
  20. http://www.hk2030plus.hk/building1.htm
  21. http://hong-kong-economy-research.hktdc.com/business-news/article/Market-Environment/Economic-and-Trade-Information-on-Hong-Kong/etihk/en/1/1X000000/1X09OVUL.htm
  22. https://www.opengovasia.com/articles/7317-hong-kong-government-plans-to-invest-18-billion-in-innovation-technology-ecosystem

 

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The ultimate Hong Kong sports diary

There’s a vibrant sports scene in Hong Kong for participant and spectator alike, from professional events enticing the world’s top athletes to those open to beginners and amateurs.

Hong Kong Marathon, 21 January 2018

For the amateur runner, a marathon is often the pinnacle of achievement and a fantastic way to see a city from a unique perspective. The Hong Kong Marathon follows a spectacular route, passing through Lai Chi Kok Park, Tsing Yi and finishing in Victoria Park. Great fun for spectators and participants alike. Find out more here.

Hong Kong Sevens, 6-8 April 2018

This world famous annual tournament – celebrating its 43rd year in 2018 – brings some of the top international rugby teams to the Hong Kong Stadium. With a carnival atmosphere to complement the frenetic on-pitch action, the tournament is great fun for both die-hard rugby fans and newcomers alike. Find out more here.

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, 18 June 2018

This takes place every year, combining a huge party with an impressive show of physical prowess. It’s also a quintessentially Asian sport, inspired by the folklore of Chinese national hero Qu Yuan. He drowned himself in the Miluo River over 2,000 years ago to protest against China veering from its socialist roots. Legend has it the townspeople beat drums to scare the evil spirits away and threw rice dumplings into the water so the fish wouldn’t eat his body, inspiring the current festival.

Dragon boat race

 

New World Harbour Race, 20 October 2018

For the past 70 years, hundreds of people, from elite swimmers to amateurs, have taken to the waters of Victoria Harbour to complete this iconic 1.8km swim. Even if you’re not a confident open water swimmer, you can join the thousands of spectators at one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated events. Find out more here.

Harbour race

 

The Hong Kong Open golf tournament, 22-25 November 2018

This is one of the longest running and most prestigious international sporting events in Hong Kong. With four days of excitement on the fairways and greens, featuring some of the world’s leading golfers, and entertainment for the whole family taking place off the course. Find out more here.

Golf

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, events throughout the year

The Hong Kong sporting calendar features more sailing events than we’ve room to feature here. One of the oldest sports clubs in the city, it has an active calendar of social and competitive sailing, and rowing events and courses, as well as a thriving social scene. Find out more here.

 

Horse racing, September-July

A trip to one of Hong Kong’s world-class racetracks is a must – Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island and Sha Tin in the New Territories. The key events in the calendar are the Hong Kong Derby and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, where you’ll rub shoulders with the elite and watch some of the finest horses and jockeys from around the globe. Find out more here.

 

Whether you’re a budding athlete, an enthusiastic spectator or simply looking for a good party, Hong Kong has plenty of sporting events to add to your calendar.

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Moving to Hong Kong: a checklist

A cultural melting pot with something new to discover around every corner, the exciting and exotic city of Hong Kong is a desirable destination for expats.

Hong Kong has a long history of welcoming overseas workers to share its rich cultural heritage, technical innovations and vibrant lifestyle. Hong Kong is seen as an important world market gateway for many multinational companies within IT, digital, advertising and HR industries.  Popular job opportunities for expats can be seen within the financial sector, where local expertise is limited. Additionally, teaching positions are just as popular, with the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET)1 Scheme continuing to present opportunities for the expat teaching professional.2  

In this article we take a look at some of the practical details expats should consider before making the move, including upfronts costs, the visa requirements to live and work in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong tax system and where to live.

What are the Hong Kong visa requirements?

Once you have confirmed an offer of employment, the next step is to apply for a visa. This can take up to six weeks, so early application3 is recommended. Both you and your employer need to complete application forms to obtain a visa. If you have any dependants you will also need to apply for your spouse4 and any children under 18. Only one work visa is needed per household, so, if you have a work visa, your partner will also be able to work in Hong Kong without needing to apply for a separate visa. Also, it’s worth noting that there are regulations on bringing over family pets, so make sure you visit Hong Kong’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation website to see what the requirements are.5

Within 30 days of receiving your visa, anyone over the age of 11 must register6 for a smart identity card. As well as carrying important immigration information that confirms your identity, the card can also be used for various non-immigration applications such as e-Certificates7, which can be used for online identity verification.

There is no fee to obtain an ID card, and you should carry it with you at all times. If your card is lost or damaged you must obtain a replacement within 14 days and pay a fee of HK$3708. You can register and obtain your ID card at any Registration of Persons Office in Hong Kong9.

Percentage iconAverage upfront costs

Visas: HK$190 per visa10

Accommodation: Expect to pay around HK$45,000 per month for a three-bed apartment in Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island, plus two to three months’ rent as deposit11 plus management fees and taxes

School fees: Expect to pay around HK$106,500 per annum (Primary Year 1-2) plus a HK$10,000 deposit12

Pet registration: expect to pay around HK$432, and HK$102 for every additional animal that is part of the same shipment13

Tax: expect to pay HK$76,500 per year (before allowances and deductions) based on salary of HK$450,000 with a progressive rate applied. 14

How do I pay tax in Hong Kong?

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2018 Worldwide Cost of Living survey15, Hong Kong is the fourth-most expensive place to live in the world, so planning your finances is essential. Luckily, Hong Kong operates a relatively low personal tax system, which means you could have more money in your pay packet to meet essential costs such as accommodation, school fees, and health cover.

Tax is applied on either a progressive rate starting at 2% and up to 17% for salaries over HK$135,00011 for tax year 2017/18, or at a standard rate of 15%, whichever is lower. Various allowances and deductions can be applied, and the Hong Kong tax authority operates a handy tax calculator16 to assess tax payable.

It is your responsibility, rather than your employer’s, to file a tax assessment, and the bill is payable in two lump-sum instalments every January and April. In your first tax year, you will also be asked to pay provisional tax for the following year, so anticipate paying a larger sum17 upfront. To help budget, it is possible to opt for regular Electronic Tax Reserve Certificates18 (TRCs), which allow you to build up funds for your tax payment.

Villa Apartment IconWhere to live

While Hong Kong’s favourable tax environment is a big plus for expats, its dense population means finding good accommodation at the right price can be a challenge.  Popular expat areas, such as Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island, or Discovery Bay, are in demand with expat families who have young children, because of their location close to expat schools and high-density expat communities. Here you can expect to pay HK$40,000-HK$50,000 per month15 for a three-bedroom apartment.

Prices can range quite significantly by area, e.g. in the exclusive Peak area, it’s not unusual to pay in excess of HK$100,000 per month15 for a three-bedroom apartment. For a more affordable monthly price tag15 of around HK$30,000, head for Kowloon or the New Territories.


Top tip: “To get a better feel for an area, take temporary accommodation before you commit to a long-term lease.”

Karen Lyons – expat of 15 years in Hong Kong 


Except for serviced apartments, most rental accommodation is unfurnished, but often includes appliances. Rentals are payable monthly in advance and, serviced apartments aside, are generally exclusive of management fees and government taxes, which could add a further 12-15%19 on top of rental costs. There will also be legal fees for signing tenancy agreements and often an agency introductory fee equivalent to 50%16 of one month’s rent to take into account. Additionally, it’s wise to factor-in an upfront deposit of two to three months’ rent.

Looking at an example of a three-bed apartment in Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island at around HK$45,000 per month, plus management fees of around HK$2,50020, could mean an initial payment of around HK$159,500 for the first month plus taxes and additional expenses. This could equate to roughly  £14,330 or US$20,322 in upfront costs.


Top expat tips

  • Ensure you have all essential documents and visas in place before departure
  • Early application for school places is advisable
  • Have up to three months’ rent available upfront to secure a rental property
  • Be aware that you have to submit and pay your own taxes bi-annually
  • Look at life insurance and health cover that reflect your location needs
  • Stay healthy, immerse yourself in the culture and take language lessons
  • Use online forums such as geobaby.com to talk to other expats about life in Hong Kong

Be prepared

While life in Hong Kong is an exciting prospect, the more preparation you do now, the more successful the move is likely to be. We hope this checklist arms you with the information and resources for your move.

Each week we will be creating new articles relating to Hong Kong so make sure you check in next week for our next article on the ‘Future of Hong Kong’.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide to what you might expect in Hong Kong and is correct at the date of publishing. Please check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to make sure the information is still valid.

 

 

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Managing a long-term condition

Having a chronic condition shouldn’t stand in your way of pursuing a life overseas. But what research should you do before you leave and what questions need to be asked?

With an estimated five million Britons now living or working abroad, it’s becoming increasingly likely that people will need to explore their options for long-term therapy at some point.

Used to describe a range of conditions that can be classified as ‘chronic’ –such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal failure, depression or back pain, long-term therapy represents any ongoing treatments that naturally fall outside your health insurance plan.

While comprehensive policies offer varying levels of cover that encompass a certain number of sessions, period of time or cost for specific conditions, insurance is essentially designed for curative treatment – offering immediate support in the event of an acute illness or accident.

Surgery

Can I still more overseas?

That doesn’t mean that having a chronic condition should preclude any ambition to live abroad – far from it. However, the awareness of any issue will call for some detailed research in advance to ensure that there is an adequate support structure ready and waiting.

Likewise, it doesn’t automatically follow that developing a chronic condition will necessitate an early return – with excellent local facilities, treatments and available medication often available at reasonable prices.

What questions should I ask?

In the first instance, any pre-existing conditions should be discussed in-depth with a GP. The next step is to understand exactly what’s available to you once you make the move.

If you are travelling with a pre-existing condition or would just like to build an accurate picture of health facilities in your chosen destination, key questions to ask include:

  • Is your chronic condition routinely catered for?
  • Does any one facility specialise in your condition?
  • If so, what are the facilities like?
  • How do the standards of care differ between facilities?
  • Is it possible to get good standards of care at a reasonable cost?
  • Is your prescribed medication available in this country?
  • If so, what will your annual costs be for treatment/medication?
  • How will these costs compare if you source your prescription via a hospital pharmacy or private doctor?
  • How do these payments work?
  • Are they part- or fully-funded by any state contributions you make – and if so, when would you become eligible?
  • How do waiting times vary if you pursue state-funded treatment?
  • Where do the locals/expats typically go for treatments? (for example, it’s common for Hong Kong residents to visit Thailand for therapies)
  • What advice/support is your employer willing to offer?
  • If required, what support structure would be available for your family?

 

Having a good grasp of cultural/religious differences is also vital to ensuring you get the care you want in your adopted country. For example, mental illness is rarely talked about in the Far East, so finding a clinic that specialises in depression could prove difficult.

Hospital

Seek local advice

Expats and locals are a rich source of information, offering newcomers crucial recommendations and reviews. Additional web searches will help you poll further opinions and focus on your own condition.

Be sure to ask:

  • For other expats’ experiences of local healthcare facilities and doctors
  • What pitfalls you need to be aware of – for example, the best way to cut down on waiting times/or access the best care

Expert view

Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer with William Russell

“Continuing advances in medicine mean that there’s a lot more doctors can do these days for people with chronic conditions. This effectively means that people heading abroad have far more options when it comes to where they choose to live. Expat hubs such as Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong all offer excellent facilities and expertise at reasonable cost, so for patients looking for long-term therapies, sourcing the right care will come down to researching your own needs and finding the best evidence-based treatment.”

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How does physical activity affect your health?

How important is it to stay active as we age and what kind of activity brings the most benefits?

For an expat with a busy schedule, finding the time to exercise can be challenging.

However, there is an infinite wealth of evidence to show that finding that time is vital, especially for the over 50s.

As we all know, exercise is good for the body and the mind. But, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and there are lots of factors that should influence a person’s approach.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

There is the obvious benefit of helping control weight, which becomes more difficult as you get older due to your metabolism slowing down.

A few hours of moderate-intensity physical exercise each week also lowers the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the risk of endometrial and lung cancer is lower in people who exercise regularly than in those who don’t.

This is backed up by the results of a long-term study by University of Minnesota researchers. They gave questionnaires to 36,929 cancer-free women from Iowa, and then followed them for 16 years. They found that the women with high exercise levels were less likely to develop lung cancer than those with low exercise levels.

The Australian study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that aerobic exercises, resistance training and less-strenuous forms of exercise such as T’ai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art, all had positive effects on different parts of the brain’s functions ranging from the ability to organise and plan, to reading and reasoning.

The authors of that study examined 36 wide-ranging studies and found that exercising moderately for around an hour on as many days as possible improved memory and thinking skills of those aged over 50.

Pilates

How long should I exercise for?

Britain’s National Health Service recommends different sorts of exercise for different ages. It says children under the age of five should be physically active for at least 3 hours a day; this includes walking, playing outside, chasing balls, playing in water or riding a bicycle.

However, healthy adults should do a minimum 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week as well as strength exercises that focus on the major muscles such as in the leg and back.

According to the CDC, those who do seven hours of exercise a week have 40% less chance of an early death than those who do just half an hour a week.

What are moderate and intensive forms of exercise?

Moderate aerobic activity includes things such as fast walking and mowing the lawn; so this kind of activity can easily be incorporated into a normal day.

Your heart rate needs to be raised to have an affect on your health so shopping and slow walking unfortunately won’t count. Vigorous or intensive activities are running, hiking, swimming or playing sports such as tennis.

Do some activities bring particular benefits to over 50s?

Low impact aerobic exercise and bone-strengthening activities can slow down the natural decline in bone density which occurs as a person ages.

This reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis, according to the CDC. The organisation says that doing just two hours of moderate exercise a week lowers the risk of hip fracture and improves the quality of life for people living with arthritis.

For the over 50s, these lower weight-bearing and impact options help to reduce the risk of bone injuries or breakages, which is often higher in the older generation.

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Antibiotics resistance: what you need to know

Many countries have strict rules governing the use of antibiotics. In the UK, Europe and US, they will only be prescribed if a doctor is confident the cause of an illness is bacterial and not caused by a virus or other pathogen. However, not all countries are so vigilant.

A 2016 study published by the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand revealed that antibiotics in Thailand are “widely available and inappropriately sold and given by grocery stores and retails shops”.

The inevitable affect, the researchers note, is that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are commonly and freely circulating through the population, meaning some illnesses are no longer treatable.

The situation is similar in the UAE, where prescription-required medicines are routinely sold without an accompanying prescription.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes this issue very seriously: “Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse.”

It warns that without urgent action, the world is heading for a “post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

The more antibiotics that are prescribed inappropriately, says Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer at William Russell, the more likely resistance is to develop.

What causes antibiotic resistance?

A common misconception is that it’s the individual who becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact, it’s the bacteria that adapts and develops resistance, rendering certain antibiotics entirely useless.

Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is the biggest cause of antibiotic resistance and the rise of the so-called superbug (illnesses that no longer respond to treatment and are now potentially deadly).

Superbugs emerge when bacteria have not been properly treated with antibiotics and have learnt to become resistant; certain strains of tuberculosis and pneumonia have already developed resistance so can’t be treated easily, if at all.

The WHO calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.”

Doctor and Child

What do antibiotics treat?

Antibiotics should only be used to treat illnesses caused by susceptible infections, for example bacterial tonsillitis, urinary tract infections, respiratory tract infections, whooping cough and skin infections. Different types of antibiotics target specific bacteria.

For example, Amoxicillin (a sort of Penicillin) is often prescribed to treat ear infections, while Trimethoprim is commonly given to treat urinary tract infections caused by E.coli.

Dr Clarke stresses there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to antibiotics. “Some bacterial infections can be self-limiting in fit, healthy people” he says, “for example Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning.” A doctor would therefore “establish sensitivity of the bacteria and allocate an appropriate antibiotic”.

Antibiotics are completely useless against viruses. A huge number of everyday illnesses are caused by viruses and therefore don’t need antibiotics. If you’re suffering with a cold at the change of season, chances are antibiotics won’t help.

 

pills

 

What to do if you think you need antibiotics

Even if you think your self-diagnosis is accurate, and as tempting as it might be to buy the tablets over the counter, you could do more harm than good. Antibiotics could interfere with other medicines you might be taking, or even damage your organs.

Dr Diab Maaruf Kurdi, head of pharmacy at Burjeel Hospital in the UAE, says: “It’s important that medication is not purchased without the doctor’s consultation, because the doctor will take into consideration your overall medical condition. Furthermore, the medication that you purchase may not be right for your condition and could cause further health complications.”

Dr Clarke also warns that a non-bacterial illness that goes undiagnosed, such as malaria, could get worse without formal identification and appropriate treatment from a doctor.

 

How to take antibiotics responsibly

Being prescribed a course of antibiotics by a medical professional is the first step, but there’s more that needs considering in order for the antibiotics to work effectively.

You must follow the instructions and finish the course even if you’re feeling better. It’s also important to note whether the medicine should be taken before or after food, or with water. Never share antibiotics and do not accept them if a pharmacist offers them without a prescription.

For all your global health insurance questions, go to the William Russell website, or call our dedicated team on +44 (0) 1276 486455.

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Can you have a healthy Chinese new year?

How do the Chinese celebrate the Lunar New Year, and is the event physically or mentally beneficial?

Often considered the most important day of the year in China, the Lunar New Year requires much preparation.

In terms of your health, the mental benefits are certainly more obvious than the physical, but here are some examples of how you can embrace the event in a way that helps both.

Chinese New Year

Start as you mean to go on

The holiday period is seen as the traditional time to settle any grievances with family. This could include any arguments, long-standing grudges, or even financial matters in an attempt to begin the New Year with a clean slate.

The same goes for your home; the days before the New Year is the time to sweep your home, and clear away your worries. However, using your broom in the first few days after the New Year is said to wipe out any good luck.

This is just one of a wide range of traditions that are seen as lucky over the holiday season. Homes are decorated with red and gold banners, while red envelopes filled with money are presented to children and the elderly, as well as to single adults.

As the colour red is considered to be lucky, wrapping money in red envelopes is expected to bestow more happiness and blessings on the receivers.

TIP: Given the significance of the red envelope, it is considered a faux-pas to open it in front of the person who gives it to you.

Colorful Chinese knot decorations
Chinese knot can be used in the occasions of Chinese New Year, Holiday wedding, Celebration to express good token for love, luck, happy, unite, friendship, reunion, and prosperities.

Can you stay healthy?

This year is the year of the rooster, and people born in this zodiac year are considered to have many positive traits, such as being honest, bright, communicative and ambitious.

It is also a year associated with being healthy, sporty and self-assured.

With food carrying such a vital role in Chinese New Year celebrations, you could enjoy a healthy feast. Fruit is considered to be one of the 7 ‘lucky’ foods, associated with fullness and wealth, while fish symbolises an increase in prosperity.

However, be careful how you eat the fish. The head should be placed in the direction of distinguished or older guests, as a mark of respect – and these guests should eat first.

Happy Chinese New Year!

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Living with asthma and COPD

Any sort of change in weather, be it a spike in temperature, a dust storm or a thunderstorm, could trigger an asthma attack for some of the world’s 235 million sufferers. It’s essential to know the triggers and some of the ways to minimise symptoms.

How air quality impacts COPD

Weather and air pollution are two of the most common triggers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma symptoms, but unfortunately are also the most difficult to control.

Research by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America shows that four in 10 asthmatics are more likely to have an acute episode on high pollution summer days than on other normal days. Asthma UK reports that two-thirds of asthmatics say poor air quality makes their condition worse.

 

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Unfortunately, the climates in Thailand, Hong Kong and Dubai, UAE, are not ideal for people with respiratory conditions, and all three have other causes of asthma, such as high pollution levels. “The weather conditions in the UAE can trigger and aggravate asthma because of the high level of humidity and extensive use of uncleaned central air-conditioning systems in houses or offices that haven’t been cleaned,” says Dr Trilok Chand, of Burjeel Hospital, UAE.

Humidity is thought to carry more pollutants and moulds into the air and also make it more difficult to breath because the air itself is heavier. Industrial growth is another factor; the government of Hong Kong says street-level pollution and regional smog are its biggest pollution challenges, and urges people to check its live air quality index before going outside. In urban parts of Thailand, factory and vehicle pollution create a layer of smog that irritates the airways and lungs.

Sandstorms are another issue, especially in desert environments like Dubai. Dr Chand says the number of asthma patients visiting hospitals spikes during and after a sandstorm, when the quality of air is at its worst.

 

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How to minimise and manage your symptoms

Make sure air-conditioning units are professionally cleaned and invest in an air purifier for the home or office.

Unfortunately, there’s little to be done about the quality of outdoor air and some experts say protective face masks do more harm than good for asthmatics because they make it more difficult to breath.

There are many websites providing live readings of a city’s air quality so check these before spending time outside.

When you do go out, try to limit moving from hot and humid outdoor areas to cool, air-conditioned indoor areas or cars as this irritates the airways. Reducing soft furnishings in your home will reduce the number of dust mites, a common asthma trigger.

Always carry your inhaler and asthma medications, and if you’re travelling somewhere new, take enough supplies to last the trip.

 

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How to help someone in trouble

An asthma attack can take days to build so it’s important to know the symptoms.

These include chest tightness, wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. If you’re with someone who’s having an attack it’s important to stay calm and keep the person sat upright with an open chest.

If there are any obvious triggers around such as pets or smokers, or you know of any other allergies they might have, remove the person from that situation. Asthma UK recommends taking one puff of a reliever inhaler every 30 to 60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs, and if things don’t improve, call an ambulance.

Where to find more information

Check local websites for up-to-date weather reports and air quality information. Thailand, Hong Kong and Dubai all have good public and private hospitals, so if you’re concerned about your asthma, see a doctor straight away.

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Culture and customs in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is situated east of the Pearl River and is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ where the east meets the west.

In its early days this vibrant city started out as a successful trading port and has since gone on to expand rapidly, through a growing population and commerce, making it one of the world’s major trade and financial centres that we know today. Its rich cultural heritage and lifestyle attracts nationalities from all around the world, making Hong Kong a popular expat destination1.

In this article, we look at the culture and customs of Hong Kong to help you and your family adjust to life in your new home country.

Hong Kong’s melting pot

Hong Kong has a population of over 7 million people2 that is made up of a range ethnic backgrounds, most are of Chinese origin, with the remaining population made up of Indonesian, Thai, Filipino, American, Canadian, British and Australian. This diverse mix of cultures makes Hong Kong one of the most exciting places to live and one of the most densely populated cities in the world3.

Cultural Life

With such a rich mix of cultures living in Hong Kong, many festivals and holidays are celebrated and observed throughout the year and these include the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas, the Western New Year, plus many others. As a city it also enjoys hundreds of annual cultural events ranging from traditional Cantonese to other Chinese regional operas and theatre productions as well as ballet and music performances4.

With around 680,000 expats5 living in Hong Kong, experiencing the culture has been made easier with many online expat forums and local magazines to help you make the most of the culture and lifestyle in Hong Kong. These publications provide sources of information on culture and events for you to take part in or, if you prefer, you can just be a spectator.


Useful online forums:

www.geoexpat.com

www.hongkong.asiaxpat.com

https://www.expatexchange.com/hong-kong/liveinhong-kong.html

https://www.facebook.com/expatlivingHK/

Useful Magazines:

https://expatliving.hk/shop/

https://hongkongliving.com/sai-kung-magazine/


Navigating Hong Kong

Getting around Hong Kong as an expat is relatively easy and that’s because English is an official language which means all official signs and announcements are both in English and Cantonese. In addition all government officials, including police officers and immigration officials are required to have a basic level of English which can make settling in a much easier process6 .

Cultural differences in Hong Kong

While living in Hong Kong it’s good to be aware of the unspoken rules around social etiquette. Respecting and honoring others is particularly important in social situations and expats need to be mindful of saving ‘face’. This concept of saving face represents a person’s dignity and reputation and therefore you need to be mindful when complimenting or giving feedback to someone so that you don’t cause them to lose face7.


Top tip

If you have been invited to someone house you shouldn’t go empty handed. A small gift of flowers or sweets are all suitable choices but be mindful not to present ‘four’ gifts as four means death in Cantonese. If possible, try and wrap your gift in lucky colours of red and gold and make sure you hand it over with two hands7.


Eating out and drinking tea in Hong Kong

Dining in Hong Kong can be a new and exciting experience for any expat. Eating is a very social event and is often served in a communal style with many different dishes placed in the middle of table. It’s important to note that if you have been invited as a guest it’s always good to let your host begin eating first and always make sure you leave something behind on your plate as it’s a sign that you have really enjoyed your meal8. Chopsticks are also a common feature in most restaurants so learning how to use them is considered a nice gesture, but if you do struggle to use them most restaurants will provide a knife and fork, you just need to request them.


Top tip

Basic chopstick etiquette: make sure you don’t fiddle with your chopsticks or use them to gesture with and to always lay them evenly on your chopstick holders9.


Feng Shui and Chinese medicines are also a key part of Hong Kong’s culture and can be very visible when walking the streets. Feng Shui10 literally means ‘wind and water’ and many local residents in Hong Kong believe that good ‘Feng Shui’ can ward off bad luck and attract prosperity. Many Hong Kong skyscrapers have applied Feng Shui principles, for example, HSBC’s notable main building in Central has angled the escalators in the atrium to ward off evil spirits; and by placing two large bronze lions to guard the entrance to symbolise wealth and prosperity11.

Chinese medicine on the other hand is more about ancient potions that encompass centuries of tradition that isn’t considered as an alternative form of medicine. Chinese medicine is an integral part of life for local residents in Hong Kong who value it for treating medical issues and maintaining health and well-being. In Hong Kong, more than a fifth of all medical consultations are made with practitioners of Chinese medicine12.

Life in Hong Kong can be fast-paced, noisy and exciting and expats who embrace the local culture and lifestyle can be rewarded with a life-changing experience.

Find out more with our series of guides here.



Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Hong Kong. Please be sure to check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

 

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The Healthcare system in Hong Kong

How does the healthcare system work for expats in Hong Kong?

Deciding to move to a new country is a big step. It’s exciting to think about what an expat lifestyle might offer you and your family, alongside practical considerations such as how you will adapt, and what could happen if you or your family become ill.

If you are considering a move to Hong Kong, the good news is that healthcare is among the best in the world.

For the seven million people living in Hong Kong, life expectancy is 87 years for women and 81 years for men – the highest life expectancy in the world1.

So, what can you expect from the healthcare system in Hong Kong, and what differences will expats find between the public and private services available?

The Hong Kong healthcare system

There are currently 164 public hospitals and clinics, plus 12 private hospitals in Hong Kong, overseen by the Hospital Authority of Hong Kong.2 There are also plenty of pharmacies, most of which are open seven days a week, with some operating 24hrs.

Hong Kong has a subsidised healthcare system which enables eligible citizens to pay less – an example of this can be seen if paying a visit to A&E, where eligible citizens pay around HK$180 per visit and non-eligible citizens can pay up to $HK1,230.

Eligibility is granted to those who hold a Hong Kong Identity Card, Hong Kong residents under 11 years of age, or those approved by the Chief Executive of the Hospital Authority. To find out more about eligibility and charges, visit the Hospital Authority website2.

 


Emergency numbers3

For emergency ambulances, police and fire services, 999 can be dialled

The police can also be reached on: 2527-7177

Emergency ambulance hotline: 2735-3355

Fire department hotline: 2723-0066


Why you might need private healthcare in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive countries in the world for private healthcare, because it is not regulated by the government.

Generally, the standard in public hospitals is high, but service levels can vary and long waiting lists are common in public hospitals.

Some employers may provide employment packages for expats that include healthcare cover. When they are available, the level of cover is largely determined by your grade or position. So, if your employer provides health care as part of your contract, make sure it covers the needs for you and your family. If you don’t receive health cover as part of your employment package, you may want to consider health cover as part of your preparations ahead of moving to Hong Kong.

 


Where to find Hong Kong’s4 private hospitals

  1. Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital – Happy Valley
  2. St. Teresa’s Hospital – Kowloon
  3. Hong Kong Baptist Hospital – Kowloon
  4. St. Paul’s Hospital – Causeway Bay
  5. Evangel Hospital – Kowloon
  6. Hong Kong Adventist Hospital – Stubbs Road
  7. Hong Kong Adventist Hospital – Tsuen Wan
  8. Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital – Wong Chuk Hang
  9. Canossa Hospital – Mid-Levels
  10. Precious Blood Hospital – West Kowloon
  11. Union Hospital – Tai Wai
  12. Matilda International Hospital – The Peak

Health risks to be aware of in Hong Kong

With a sub-tropical climate, Hong Kong has four very separate seasons – a warm and humid spring, a hot and rainy summer, a sunny autumn and a cool, dry winter. Temperatures can soar as high as 31 degrees Celsius in the summer, while typhoon season is generally from May through to November. Occasionally the Hong Kong Observatory will issue typhoon warnings advising you stay indoors.5

As with other parts of Asia, Hong Kong has high levels of pollution6. Combined with its densely-packed population, this can aggravate symptoms for expats with asthma and chronic respiratory diseases. Children, the elderly, and those with vulnerable immune systems, are generally most affected.

The Hong Kong Government is working hard to reduce air pollution, by advising residents to reduce energy consumption at home and save money at the same time. This can also help to reduce air pollution created by power stations.


People are advised to wear a face mask in public7 whenever:

They have a respiratory infection

They need to care for a person with respiratory infection

When they are visiting clinics or hospitals during a pandemic or peak season for influenza in order to reduce the risk of spreading the infection


The Hong Kong Government Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)8 monitor health risks caused by air pollution and regularly update their index scores accordingly.

When the index is at a low to moderate level (1-6), you can continue to enjoy your usual activities as normal. When the category reaches a high level of (7), it’s advised that children, the elderly and those with heart or respiratory illnesses should reduce outdoor activities. At a very high level (8-10+), the general public are warned to reduce their time outside.

Hong Kong residents are proactive about how they manage germ control, particularly with a large population in a confined space. Reporting and prevention procedures for germ control are particularly robust and ‘sanitation stations’ are common features in buildings throughout Hong Kong.

Planning ahead is key

If you are planning a move to Hong Kong or are currently a resident, make sure you understand how the healthcare system works and how you and your family can access it. Healthcare in Hong Kong is much more visible than most other places in the world, from wearing a mask to prevent the spread of flu to sanitation stations in buildings. This may be a new experience for expats and it highlights how the Hong Kong government prioritises health for all its residents. 

We have more articles in this guide that may be useful if you are planning a move to Hong Kong or you are currently a resident. Click here to find out more.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Hong Kong. Please be sure to check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

 

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Hong Kong schools and what expats parents need to know

When moving to a new country as an expat parent, you will need to consider what schooling options are available for your family.

Hong Kong boasts one of the most reputable education systems in the world, giving parents confidence in the standard of education. There are more than 50 international schools that are popular with Hong Kong expats, offering more than 10 international curriculums. These include US, UK, French, German, Australian, Canadian, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean and the International Baccalaureate.

This article explains how the school system works in Hong Kong, and hopes to demystify the application process.

How does the school system work in Hong Kong?

The Hong Kong education sector is made up of both local and international schools. With a high value placed on education culturally, schools can be vibrant and competitive.

Hong Kong’s education system can be divided into three groups1:

  1. Government – featuring schools which are government-funded and free for pupils.
  2. Subsidised – such as the English Schools Foundation (ESF), which offers partially-funded places for local and non-Chinese speaking children.
  3. International schools – offer private places, with costs met by parents. Employers may contribute to costs.

The local school system is taught in Cantonese, which is why many students from other countries attend a private international school. This has led to a real growth in the international schooling sector in Hong Kong, with more than 50 international schools that provide a range of English-based curriculums that you could expect from your home country.

One of the oldest schools in Hong Kong is the English Schools Foundation (ESF), which dates back to when the British occupied Hong Kong and British children attended British-styled schools. These schools and the communities created around them are largely unchanged today and many expats will live close to where their children attend school.2


Top Tip

“Although I had originally planned to move my boys from a local school to an international school at the secondary stage, they ended up making the switch earlier – simply because they were learning English as a secondary language. I did a lot of exploring across my network and found out what other parents had done. These days, there are a lot of Facebook groups around that can help.”

Anna Evans, Hong Kong expat


Hong Kong school application process

The registration process for international schools in Hong Kong can appear complicated, and the admission of expat children can be competitive. Ruth Benny, founder of Top Schools, a consultancy that helps parents find schools for their children, recommends that expat families apply as soon as they know they are relocating to Hong Kong. And be aware you may not get your first choice: “We recommend that people apply to four or five schools,” she says.

By applying to a number of schools you can increase your chance of your child being accepted into a school of your choice. Many schools often have long waiting lists, so make sure you apply as early as possible, as many schools will accept an application a year or two in advance. There are some international schools that will even accept applications as soon as your child is born, including Discovery Bay School, French International School, German International School, Kellet School and Kiang Su & Chekiang School.3

International schools operate their own admission procedures, with most requiring an assessment and interview process. Application priority is typically given according to the child’s nationality, siblings already at a school, and debenture holders, rather than the date of application.

Education fees explained

Many parents are unaware of the fees associated with enrolling a child into a school4, in addition to annual tuition fees. According to ITS Education Asia5, annual tuition fees can reach up to HK$250,000. For most international schools, the entry school requirement will require an application fee, an entrance test fee, an enrolment or denture fee, plus the annual tuition fees.

Starting costs – A separate application fee, assessment fee and deposit will be required by each school that you apply to, and the fees typically range from HK$1,000 up to HK$3,500. Deposits are only charged when you accept a placement and these can run as high as HK$10,000. The deposit and assessment fees are usually non-refundable.

Annual tuition – This can begin at around HK$100,000 for primary school and reach up to HK$250,000 for secondary school.

A debenture – A one-off advance payment of up to HK$500,000 per child6 that goes towards financing a school’s community and projects. Depending on the school, a debenture may be refundable when a child leaves, but some schools may hold onto 5% or 10% so be sure to ask about your debenture refund. The cost of a debenture can vary enormously and can come as a bit of a shock, particularly if you have a large family. If you have a relocation package, your company may help you with a loan to pay the debenture, or they may have already pre-paid debenture with an international school. If neither of these two options are available to you, it’s not uncommon to apply for bank loan to help pay for the debenture.

Additional costs – While the location of an international school may play a part in your choice of accommodation, children routinely travel by school bus. This can cost between HK$6,000 and HK$9,000 per year, with uniform fees typically ranging from HK$500 to HK$1,500. There will probably also be additional costs for school trips, meals, textbooks, examinations and extra-curricular activities to consider.


65 % of Hong Kong students are estimated to be undertaking additional tuition.


Some of the international schools7 in  Hong Kong for expats include:

British curriculum

Discovery Bay International School

Harrow International School

Kellett International school

International Baccalaureate

Australian International School

Canadian International School

Chinese International School

English Schools Foundation

French International School

German Swiss International School

US curriculum
American International School

Hong Kong International School

International Christian School 


Being prepared

Finding the right place for your children is key to a successful transition into the Hong Kong education system. Undertaking research on the schooling system and applications process before you leave will help you determine what you need to consider and apply for in advance. Once you arrive, follow up any applications with a call to the administration office to book an appointment to visit the schools with your family.

Expat children who attend school in Hong Kong grow up with a network of international friends from a diverse background of cultures and languages. With a wide variety of international schools and curriculum choices, Hong Kong is considered to be a great place for education.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Hong Kong. Please be sure to check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

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The future of Hong Kong

Hong Kong – what does the future hold? Hong Kong is a fast-growing metropolis that has ambitious plans for the future. It has long been seen as an appealing place to live, work and invest by expats, and is one of the world’s top financial centres.

In this article, we examine Hong Kong’s future prospects, ranging from its current global rankings to its plans for 2030 and beyond, and explore what that means for expats.

Hong Kong boasts a rich history. Its strategic location and deep coastal waters have helped it to grow from a humble fishing port into a global economic powerhouse. In 1841, the region’s first census recorded a population of just over 7,500.1 Today, Hong Kong has grown into a thriving metropolis of almost 7.4 million people.

No stranger to change, Hong Kong is known for its adaptability, enabling it to remain relevant and competitive in our fast-changing world. Between the 1950 and 1970s, Hong Kong fed the growing demand for low-cost manufacturing and exports, but by the end of the 20th century had successfully made a tough transition to a service-led economy – with services now accounting for more than 92% of GDP.2

Hong Kong is now perhaps best known for financial services – currently ranking third in the Global Financial Centres Index3 and first in Asia – while offering a wide range of attractive opportunities for expat workers, with Forbes naming it the sixth best place to do business.4

Hong Kong’s global rankings

Global Financial Centres Index – March 20185

  1. London
  2. New York City
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Singapore
  5. Tokyo

Investing in its future

Hong Kong has a long history of strategic planning, revisiting its development policies every decade. The latest review – ‘Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030’ (HK2030+)6 – sets out three distinct ways that it intends to respond to current and future trends:

  1. Plan for a liveable, high-density city
  2. Embrace new economic challenges and opportunities
  3. Create capacity for sustainable growth

Using these three building blocks, Hong Kong plans to transition once again, this time into a regional mega-city with greater capacity for growth and the ability to host its burgeoning population in a more sustainable way.

The strategy includes plans that will make living and working in Hong Kong even more appealing for both locals and expats.


Good news for Hong Kong visitors

Hong Kong is future-proofing its international airport as part of investment work taking place over the next few years – a move that is expected to benefit both travellers and businesses.7

  • £123bn will be invested to construct a three-runway system by 20248
  • Expansion of the airport will accommodate 102 million passengers, 8.9 million tonnes of cargo and 607,000 aircraft movements annually by 2030

An incubator for innovation

As surrounding economies continue to grow in both size and sophistication, Hong Kong faces stiff competition to retain its position as a leader on the Global Innovation Index. The HK2030+ proposals6 address this directly, with ambitious plans to “move Hong Kong up the value chain” and make it a leader in talent, research and development.

In addition to major investments in education9 and plans to develop a giant innovation and technology park,10 Carrie Lam, who is head of the Government of Hong Kong as the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, has confirmed her intention to introduce greater tax incentives11 for Hong Kong businesses undertaking research and development (R&D) work. These companies will receive a 300% tax deduction for the first HK$2m they spend on research and development for their Hong Kong business for the first year. The scheme is particularly aimed at helping small businesses to develop.

As the leading financial centre in Asia, the current FinTech revolution is something that Hong Kong is especially keen to benefit from. Hong Kong has quadrupled its investment in FinTech12 over the past two years and now hosts 48 of the top 100 FinTech companies in the world.13

Companies who continue to invest in the Fintech industry will receive support from the Hong Kong government, which will result in continued growth and increased opportunities for expats. Making this an exciting time for expats who work within the financial and tech sectors in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong FinTech investment

2017    US$545.7m

2016    US$215.5m

2015    US$107.5m

Accenture

Expanding infrastructure

Hong Kong is the fourth most densely populated place in the world,14 featuring a skyline full of iconic high-rise buildings. With finite space to work with, and high property prices15, Hong Kong is always looking for ways to accommodate its growing population and introduce greater capacity for growth.

It is currently scaling up its land reclamation efforts,16 in order to create new buildable land in the surrounding waters. Projects include creating space for hundreds of thousands of new homes.17

Hong Kong is also integral to China’s mammoth ‘Belt and Road’18 initiative – an ambitious US$900bn project intended to “reinvigorate the seamless flow of capital, goods and services between Asia and the rest of the world”. Included in the plans are major infrastructure and transport improvements in and around Hong Kong,19 which should shorten commutes for expat workers and make it easier to access and do business with the rest of the globe.


What is the Belt and Road initiative?

  • Creates new land and maritime links between China and surrounding regions
  • Intends to connect 65 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe
  • Will link more than half the world’s population
  • New and more efficient trade routes
  • Integrated multinational transport network
  • Estimated US$900bn allocated to current and future projects

Boosting health and wellbeing

Hong Kong recognises the impact 20 that a high-density population can have on wellbeing and the quality of life of residents, and has major plans to make its compact environment an even greener, healthier and happier place to live.

These include improving public transport, pedestrian and cycle networks; reinventing public spaces, such as parks, to enhance accessibility and enjoyment; and investing in a range of public facilities, including schools and public health services.

Top green spaces

  1. Hong Kong Parkcentral location, designed to provide a beautiful environment for both educational and leisure purposes.
  2. Kowloon Parkfull of amenities, including a maze, swimming pool, sports centre, Chinese garden and its renowned bird lake.
  3. Victoria Park largest park on Hong Kong island, hosts to major events including the Flower Market before Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival lantern carnivals.

Economic growth and resilience

With a healthy growth rate of 3.8%21 and major long-term investments planned across all key areas, including an HK$18bn investment in Hong Kong’s innovation and technology ecosystem,22 plus continued investment in education and infrastructure projects,9  Hong Kong’s economic future looks positive.

Coupled with ambitious health and wellbeing and environmental improvements and a buzzing metropolis, these are exciting times ahead for the burgeoning city and its residents. As it keeps pace with an expanding world, Hong Kong looks set to remain a top choice for expats hoping to work in the region for some time to come.

Read more about what Hong Kong has to offer expats here

<Disclaimer>

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide to what you might expect in Hong Kong and is correct at the date of publishing. Please check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to make sure the information is still valid.

Sources
  1. https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/statistical_literacy/educational_materials/statistics_and_you/index.jsp
  2. https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp250.jsp?tableID=036&ID=0&productType=8
  3. http://www.longfinance.net/programmes/financialcentrefutures/global-financial-centres-index.html
  4. https://www.forbes.com/best-countries-for-business/list/
  5. http://www.longfinance.net/Publications/GFCI23.pdf
  6. http://www.hk2030plus.hk/
  7. https://www.internationalairportreview.com/article/64497/hong-kong-design/
  8. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2097992/hong-kong-airport-get-hk7-billion-upgrade-ahead-third-runway
  9. http://www.news.gov.hk/en/record/html/2017/09/20170919_184409.shtml
  10. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2135127/hong-kongs-science-park-take-lead-driving-innovation-and
  11. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2114944/carrie-lam-says-tax-breaks-profits-and-rd-among-measures-keep
  12. http://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2135144/hong-kong-fintech-outlay-doubles-5-year-tally-well-ahead
  13. http://www.hongkong-fintech.hk/en/why/
  14. https://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?v=21000
  15. https://www.numbeo.com/property-investment/rankings.jsp
  16. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2118820/hong-kongs-future-depends-reclamation-committee-says-it-backs
  17. http://www.ejinsight.com/20170509-housing-shortage-why-land-reclamation-is-a-feasible-option/
  18. https://beltandroad.hktdc.com/en/belt-and-road-basics
  19. https://www.news.gov.hk/en/record/html/2017/04/20170407_114301.shtml
  20. http://www.hk2030plus.hk/building1.htm
  21. http://hong-kong-economy-research.hktdc.com/business-news/article/Market-Environment/Economic-and-Trade-Information-on-Hong-Kong/etihk/en/1/1X000000/1X09OVUL.htm
  22. https://www.opengovasia.com/articles/7317-hong-kong-government-plans-to-invest-18-billion-in-innovation-technology-ecosystem

 

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The ultimate Hong Kong sports diary

There’s a vibrant sports scene in Hong Kong for participant and spectator alike, from professional events enticing the world’s top athletes to those open to beginners and amateurs.

Hong Kong Marathon, 21 January 2018

For the amateur runner, a marathon is often the pinnacle of achievement and a fantastic way to see a city from a unique perspective. The Hong Kong Marathon follows a spectacular route, passing through Lai Chi Kok Park, Tsing Yi and finishing in Victoria Park. Great fun for spectators and participants alike. Find out more here.

Hong Kong Sevens, 6-8 April 2018

This world famous annual tournament – celebrating its 43rd year in 2018 – brings some of the top international rugby teams to the Hong Kong Stadium. With a carnival atmosphere to complement the frenetic on-pitch action, the tournament is great fun for both die-hard rugby fans and newcomers alike. Find out more here.

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, 18 June 2018

This takes place every year, combining a huge party with an impressive show of physical prowess. It’s also a quintessentially Asian sport, inspired by the folklore of Chinese national hero Qu Yuan. He drowned himself in the Miluo River over 2,000 years ago to protest against China veering from its socialist roots. Legend has it the townspeople beat drums to scare the evil spirits away and threw rice dumplings into the water so the fish wouldn’t eat his body, inspiring the current festival.

Dragon boat race

 

New World Harbour Race, 20 October 2018

For the past 70 years, hundreds of people, from elite swimmers to amateurs, have taken to the waters of Victoria Harbour to complete this iconic 1.8km swim. Even if you’re not a confident open water swimmer, you can join the thousands of spectators at one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated events. Find out more here.

Harbour race

 

The Hong Kong Open golf tournament, 22-25 November 2018

This is one of the longest running and most prestigious international sporting events in Hong Kong. With four days of excitement on the fairways and greens, featuring some of the world’s leading golfers, and entertainment for the whole family taking place off the course. Find out more here.

Golf

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, events throughout the year

The Hong Kong sporting calendar features more sailing events than we’ve room to feature here. One of the oldest sports clubs in the city, it has an active calendar of social and competitive sailing, and rowing events and courses, as well as a thriving social scene. Find out more here.

 

Horse racing, September-July

A trip to one of Hong Kong’s world-class racetracks is a must – Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island and Sha Tin in the New Territories. The key events in the calendar are the Hong Kong Derby and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, where you’ll rub shoulders with the elite and watch some of the finest horses and jockeys from around the globe. Find out more here.

 

Whether you’re a budding athlete, an enthusiastic spectator or simply looking for a good party, Hong Kong has plenty of sporting events to add to your calendar.

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Moving to Hong Kong: a checklist

A cultural melting pot with something new to discover around every corner, the exciting and exotic city of Hong Kong is a desirable destination for expats.

Hong Kong has a long history of welcoming overseas workers to share its rich cultural heritage, technical innovations and vibrant lifestyle. Hong Kong is seen as an important world market gateway for many multinational companies within IT, digital, advertising and HR industries.  Popular job opportunities for expats can be seen within the financial sector, where local expertise is limited. Additionally, teaching positions are just as popular, with the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET)1 Scheme continuing to present opportunities for the expat teaching professional.2  

In this article we take a look at some of the practical details expats should consider before making the move, including upfronts costs, the visa requirements to live and work in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong tax system and where to live.

What are the Hong Kong visa requirements?

Once you have confirmed an offer of employment, the next step is to apply for a visa. This can take up to six weeks, so early application3 is recommended. Both you and your employer need to complete application forms to obtain a visa. If you have any dependants you will also need to apply for your spouse4 and any children under 18. Only one work visa is needed per household, so, if you have a work visa, your partner will also be able to work in Hong Kong without needing to apply for a separate visa. Also, it’s worth noting that there are regulations on bringing over family pets, so make sure you visit Hong Kong’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation website to see what the requirements are.5

Within 30 days of receiving your visa, anyone over the age of 11 must register6 for a smart identity card. As well as carrying important immigration information that confirms your identity, the card can also be used for various non-immigration applications such as e-Certificates7, which can be used for online identity verification.

There is no fee to obtain an ID card, and you should carry it with you at all times. If your card is lost or damaged you must obtain a replacement within 14 days and pay a fee of HK$3708. You can register and obtain your ID card at any Registration of Persons Office in Hong Kong9.

Percentage iconAverage upfront costs

Visas: HK$190 per visa10

Accommodation: Expect to pay around HK$45,000 per month for a three-bed apartment in Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island, plus two to three months’ rent as deposit11 plus management fees and taxes

School fees: Expect to pay around HK$106,500 per annum (Primary Year 1-2) plus a HK$10,000 deposit12

Pet registration: expect to pay around HK$432, and HK$102 for every additional animal that is part of the same shipment13

Tax: expect to pay HK$76,500 per year (before allowances and deductions) based on salary of HK$450,000 with a progressive rate applied. 14

How do I pay tax in Hong Kong?

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2018 Worldwide Cost of Living survey15, Hong Kong is the fourth-most expensive place to live in the world, so planning your finances is essential. Luckily, Hong Kong operates a relatively low personal tax system, which means you could have more money in your pay packet to meet essential costs such as accommodation, school fees, and health cover.

Tax is applied on either a progressive rate starting at 2% and up to 17% for salaries over HK$135,00011 for tax year 2017/18, or at a standard rate of 15%, whichever is lower. Various allowances and deductions can be applied, and the Hong Kong tax authority operates a handy tax calculator16 to assess tax payable.

It is your responsibility, rather than your employer’s, to file a tax assessment, and the bill is payable in two lump-sum instalments every January and April. In your first tax year, you will also be asked to pay provisional tax for the following year, so anticipate paying a larger sum17 upfront. To help budget, it is possible to opt for regular Electronic Tax Reserve Certificates18 (TRCs), which allow you to build up funds for your tax payment.

Villa Apartment IconWhere to live

While Hong Kong’s favourable tax environment is a big plus for expats, its dense population means finding good accommodation at the right price can be a challenge.  Popular expat areas, such as Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island, or Discovery Bay, are in demand with expat families who have young children, because of their location close to expat schools and high-density expat communities. Here you can expect to pay HK$40,000-HK$50,000 per month15 for a three-bedroom apartment.

Prices can range quite significantly by area, e.g. in the exclusive Peak area, it’s not unusual to pay in excess of HK$100,000 per month15 for a three-bedroom apartment. For a more affordable monthly price tag15 of around HK$30,000, head for Kowloon or the New Territories.


Top tip: “To get a better feel for an area, take temporary accommodation before you commit to a long-term lease.”

Karen Lyons – expat of 15 years in Hong Kong 


Except for serviced apartments, most rental accommodation is unfurnished, but often includes appliances. Rentals are payable monthly in advance and, serviced apartments aside, are generally exclusive of management fees and government taxes, which could add a further 12-15%19 on top of rental costs. There will also be legal fees for signing tenancy agreements and often an agency introductory fee equivalent to 50%16 of one month’s rent to take into account. Additionally, it’s wise to factor-in an upfront deposit of two to three months’ rent.

Looking at an example of a three-bed apartment in Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island at around HK$45,000 per month, plus management fees of around HK$2,50020, could mean an initial payment of around HK$159,500 for the first month plus taxes and additional expenses. This could equate to roughly  £14,330 or US$20,322 in upfront costs.


Top expat tips

  • Ensure you have all essential documents and visas in place before departure
  • Early application for school places is advisable
  • Have up to three months’ rent available upfront to secure a rental property
  • Be aware that you have to submit and pay your own taxes bi-annually
  • Look at life insurance and health cover that reflect your location needs
  • Stay healthy, immerse yourself in the culture and take language lessons
  • Use online forums such as geobaby.com to talk to other expats about life in Hong Kong

Be prepared

While life in Hong Kong is an exciting prospect, the more preparation you do now, the more successful the move is likely to be. We hope this checklist arms you with the information and resources for your move.

Each week we will be creating new articles relating to Hong Kong so make sure you check in next week for our next article on the ‘Future of Hong Kong’.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide to what you might expect in Hong Kong and is correct at the date of publishing. Please check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to make sure the information is still valid.

 

 

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Managing a long-term condition

Having a chronic condition shouldn’t stand in your way of pursuing a life overseas. But what research should you do before you leave and what questions need to be asked?

With an estimated five million Britons now living or working abroad, it’s becoming increasingly likely that people will need to explore their options for long-term therapy at some point.

Used to describe a range of conditions that can be classified as ‘chronic’ –such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal failure, depression or back pain, long-term therapy represents any ongoing treatments that naturally fall outside your health insurance plan.

While comprehensive policies offer varying levels of cover that encompass a certain number of sessions, period of time or cost for specific conditions, insurance is essentially designed for curative treatment – offering immediate support in the event of an acute illness or accident.

Surgery

Can I still more overseas?

That doesn’t mean that having a chronic condition should preclude any ambition to live abroad – far from it. However, the awareness of any issue will call for some detailed research in advance to ensure that there is an adequate support structure ready and waiting.

Likewise, it doesn’t automatically follow that developing a chronic condition will necessitate an early return – with excellent local facilities, treatments and available medication often available at reasonable prices.

What questions should I ask?

In the first instance, any pre-existing conditions should be discussed in-depth with a GP. The next step is to understand exactly what’s available to you once you make the move.

If you are travelling with a pre-existing condition or would just like to build an accurate picture of health facilities in your chosen destination, key questions to ask include:

  • Is your chronic condition routinely catered for?
  • Does any one facility specialise in your condition?
  • If so, what are the facilities like?
  • How do the standards of care differ between facilities?
  • Is it possible to get good standards of care at a reasonable cost?
  • Is your prescribed medication available in this country?
  • If so, what will your annual costs be for treatment/medication?
  • How will these costs compare if you source your prescription via a hospital pharmacy or private doctor?
  • How do these payments work?
  • Are they part- or fully-funded by any state contributions you make – and if so, when would you become eligible?
  • How do waiting times vary if you pursue state-funded treatment?
  • Where do the locals/expats typically go for treatments? (for example, it’s common for Hong Kong residents to visit Thailand for therapies)
  • What advice/support is your employer willing to offer?
  • If required, what support structure would be available for your family?

 

Having a good grasp of cultural/religious differences is also vital to ensuring you get the care you want in your adopted country. For example, mental illness is rarely talked about in the Far East, so finding a clinic that specialises in depression could prove difficult.

Hospital

Seek local advice

Expats and locals are a rich source of information, offering newcomers crucial recommendations and reviews. Additional web searches will help you poll further opinions and focus on your own condition.

Be sure to ask:

  • For other expats’ experiences of local healthcare facilities and doctors
  • What pitfalls you need to be aware of – for example, the best way to cut down on waiting times/or access the best care

Expert view

Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer with William Russell

“Continuing advances in medicine mean that there’s a lot more doctors can do these days for people with chronic conditions. This effectively means that people heading abroad have far more options when it comes to where they choose to live. Expat hubs such as Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong all offer excellent facilities and expertise at reasonable cost, so for patients looking for long-term therapies, sourcing the right care will come down to researching your own needs and finding the best evidence-based treatment.”

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How does physical activity affect your health?

How important is it to stay active as we age and what kind of activity brings the most benefits?

For an expat with a busy schedule, finding the time to exercise can be challenging.

However, there is an infinite wealth of evidence to show that finding that time is vital, especially for the over 50s.

As we all know, exercise is good for the body and the mind. But, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and there are lots of factors that should influence a person’s approach.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

There is the obvious benefit of helping control weight, which becomes more difficult as you get older due to your metabolism slowing down.

A few hours of moderate-intensity physical exercise each week also lowers the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the risk of endometrial and lung cancer is lower in people who exercise regularly than in those who don’t.

This is backed up by the results of a long-term study by University of Minnesota researchers. They gave questionnaires to 36,929 cancer-free women from Iowa, and then followed them for 16 years. They found that the women with high exercise levels were less likely to develop lung cancer than those with low exercise levels.

The Australian study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that aerobic exercises, resistance training and less-strenuous forms of exercise such as T’ai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art, all had positive effects on different parts of the brain’s functions ranging from the ability to organise and plan, to reading and reasoning.

The authors of that study examined 36 wide-ranging studies and found that exercising moderately for around an hour on as many days as possible improved memory and thinking skills of those aged over 50.

Pilates

How long should I exercise for?

Britain’s National Health Service recommends different sorts of exercise for different ages. It says children under the age of five should be physically active for at least 3 hours a day; this includes walking, playing outside, chasing balls, playing in water or riding a bicycle.

However, healthy adults should do a minimum 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week as well as strength exercises that focus on the major muscles such as in the leg and back.

According to the CDC, those who do seven hours of exercise a week have 40% less chance of an early death than those who do just half an hour a week.

What are moderate and intensive forms of exercise?

Moderate aerobic activity includes things such as fast walking and mowing the lawn; so this kind of activity can easily be incorporated into a normal day.

Your heart rate needs to be raised to have an affect on your health so shopping and slow walking unfortunately won’t count. Vigorous or intensive activities are running, hiking, swimming or playing sports such as tennis.

Do some activities bring particular benefits to over 50s?

Low impact aerobic exercise and bone-strengthening activities can slow down the natural decline in bone density which occurs as a person ages.

This reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis, according to the CDC. The organisation says that doing just two hours of moderate exercise a week lowers the risk of hip fracture and improves the quality of life for people living with arthritis.

For the over 50s, these lower weight-bearing and impact options help to reduce the risk of bone injuries or breakages, which is often higher in the older generation.

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Antibiotics resistance: what you need to know

Many countries have strict rules governing the use of antibiotics. In the UK, Europe and US, they will only be prescribed if a doctor is confident the cause of an illness is bacterial and not caused by a virus or other pathogen. However, not all countries are so vigilant.

A 2016 study published by the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand revealed that antibiotics in Thailand are “widely available and inappropriately sold and given by grocery stores and retails shops”.

The inevitable affect, the researchers note, is that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are commonly and freely circulating through the population, meaning some illnesses are no longer treatable.

The situation is similar in the UAE, where prescription-required medicines are routinely sold without an accompanying prescription.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes this issue very seriously: “Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse.”

It warns that without urgent action, the world is heading for a “post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

The more antibiotics that are prescribed inappropriately, says Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer at William Russell, the more likely resistance is to develop.

What causes antibiotic resistance?

A common misconception is that it’s the individual who becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact, it’s the bacteria that adapts and develops resistance, rendering certain antibiotics entirely useless.

Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is the biggest cause of antibiotic resistance and the rise of the so-called superbug (illnesses that no longer respond to treatment and are now potentially deadly).

Superbugs emerge when bacteria have not been properly treated with antibiotics and have learnt to become resistant; certain strains of tuberculosis and pneumonia have already developed resistance so can’t be treated easily, if at all.

The WHO calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.”

Doctor and Child

What do antibiotics treat?

Antibiotics should only be used to treat illnesses caused by susceptible infections, for example bacterial tonsillitis, urinary tract infections, respiratory tract infections, whooping cough and skin infections. Different types of antibiotics target specific bacteria.

For example, Amoxicillin (a sort of Penicillin) is often prescribed to treat ear infections, while Trimethoprim is commonly given to treat urinary tract infections caused by E.coli.

Dr Clarke stresses there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to antibiotics. “Some bacterial infections can be self-limiting in fit, healthy people” he says, “for example Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning.” A doctor would therefore “establish sensitivity of the bacteria and allocate an appropriate antibiotic”.

Antibiotics are completely useless against viruses. A huge number of everyday illnesses are caused by viruses and therefore don’t need antibiotics. If you’re suffering with a cold at the change of season, chances are antibiotics won’t help.

 

pills

 

What to do if you think you need antibiotics

Even if you think your self-diagnosis is accurate, and as tempting as it might be to buy the tablets over the counter, you could do more harm than good. Antibiotics could interfere with other medicines you might be taking, or even damage your organs.

Dr Diab Maaruf Kurdi, head of pharmacy at Burjeel Hospital in the UAE, says: “It’s important that medication is not purchased without the doctor’s consultation, because the doctor will take into consideration your overall medical condition. Furthermore, the medication that you purchase may not be right for your condition and could cause further health complications.”

Dr Clarke also warns that a non-bacterial illness that goes undiagnosed, such as malaria, could get worse without formal identification and appropriate treatment from a doctor.

 

How to take antibiotics responsibly

Being prescribed a course of antibiotics by a medical professional is the first step, but there’s more that needs considering in order for the antibiotics to work effectively.

You must follow the instructions and finish the course even if you’re feeling better. It’s also important to note whether the medicine should be taken before or after food, or with water. Never share antibiotics and do not accept them if a pharmacist offers them without a prescription.

For all your global health insurance questions, go to the William Russell website, or call our dedicated team on +44 (0) 1276 486455.

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Can you have a healthy Chinese new year?

How do the Chinese celebrate the Lunar New Year, and is the event physically or mentally beneficial?

Often considered the most important day of the year in China, the Lunar New Year requires much preparation.

In terms of your health, the mental benefits are certainly more obvious than the physical, but here are some examples of how you can embrace the event in a way that helps both.

Chinese New Year

Start as you mean to go on

The holiday period is seen as the traditional time to settle any grievances with family. This could include any arguments, long-standing grudges, or even financial matters in an attempt to begin the New Year with a clean slate.

The same goes for your home; the days before the New Year is the time to sweep your home, and clear away your worries. However, using your broom in the first few days after the New Year is said to wipe out any good luck.

This is just one of a wide range of traditions that are seen as lucky over the holiday season. Homes are decorated with red and gold banners, while red envelopes filled with money are presented to children and the elderly, as well as to single adults.

As the colour red is considered to be lucky, wrapping money in red envelopes is expected to bestow more happiness and blessings on the receivers.

TIP: Given the significance of the red envelope, it is considered a faux-pas to open it in front of the person who gives it to you.

Colorful Chinese knot decorations
Chinese knot can be used in the occasions of Chinese New Year, Holiday wedding, Celebration to express good token for love, luck, happy, unite, friendship, reunion, and prosperities.

Can you stay healthy?

This year is the year of the rooster, and people born in this zodiac year are considered to have many positive traits, such as being honest, bright, communicative and ambitious.

It is also a year associated with being healthy, sporty and self-assured.

With food carrying such a vital role in Chinese New Year celebrations, you could enjoy a healthy feast. Fruit is considered to be one of the 7 ‘lucky’ foods, associated with fullness and wealth, while fish symbolises an increase in prosperity.

However, be careful how you eat the fish. The head should be placed in the direction of distinguished or older guests, as a mark of respect – and these guests should eat first.

Happy Chinese New Year!

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Living with asthma and COPD

Any sort of change in weather, be it a spike in temperature, a dust storm or a thunderstorm, could trigger an asthma attack for some of the world’s 235 million sufferers. It’s essential to know the triggers and some of the ways to minimise symptoms.

How air quality impacts COPD

Weather and air pollution are two of the most common triggers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma symptoms, but unfortunately are also the most difficult to control.

Research by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America shows that four in 10 asthmatics are more likely to have an acute episode on high pollution summer days than on other normal days. Asthma UK reports that two-thirds of asthmatics say poor air quality makes their condition worse.

 

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Unfortunately, the climates in Thailand, Hong Kong and Dubai, UAE, are not ideal for people with respiratory conditions, and all three have other causes of asthma, such as high pollution levels. “The weather conditions in the UAE can trigger and aggravate asthma because of the high level of humidity and extensive use of uncleaned central air-conditioning systems in houses or offices that haven’t been cleaned,” says Dr Trilok Chand, of Burjeel Hospital, UAE.

Humidity is thought to carry more pollutants and moulds into the air and also make it more difficult to breath because the air itself is heavier. Industrial growth is another factor; the government of Hong Kong says street-level pollution and regional smog are its biggest pollution challenges, and urges people to check its live air quality index before going outside. In urban parts of Thailand, factory and vehicle pollution create a layer of smog that irritates the airways and lungs.

Sandstorms are another issue, especially in desert environments like Dubai. Dr Chand says the number of asthma patients visiting hospitals spikes during and after a sandstorm, when the quality of air is at its worst.

 

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How to minimise and manage your symptoms

Make sure air-conditioning units are professionally cleaned and invest in an air purifier for the home or office.

Unfortunately, there’s little to be done about the quality of outdoor air and some experts say protective face masks do more harm than good for asthmatics because they make it more difficult to breath.

There are many websites providing live readings of a city’s air quality so check these before spending time outside.

When you do go out, try to limit moving from hot and humid outdoor areas to cool, air-conditioned indoor areas or cars as this irritates the airways. Reducing soft furnishings in your home will reduce the number of dust mites, a common asthma trigger.

Always carry your inhaler and asthma medications, and if you’re travelling somewhere new, take enough supplies to last the trip.

 

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How to help someone in trouble

An asthma attack can take days to build so it’s important to know the symptoms.

These include chest tightness, wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. If you’re with someone who’s having an attack it’s important to stay calm and keep the person sat upright with an open chest.

If there are any obvious triggers around such as pets or smokers, or you know of any other allergies they might have, remove the person from that situation. Asthma UK recommends taking one puff of a reliever inhaler every 30 to 60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs, and if things don’t improve, call an ambulance.

Where to find more information

Check local websites for up-to-date weather reports and air quality information. Thailand, Hong Kong and Dubai all have good public and private hospitals, so if you’re concerned about your asthma, see a doctor straight away.

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Culture and customs in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is situated east of the Pearl River and is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ where the east meets the west.

In its early days this vibrant city started out as a successful trading port and has since gone on to expand rapidly, through a growing population and commerce, making it one of the world’s major trade and financial centres that we know today. Its rich cultural heritage and lifestyle attracts nationalities from all around the world, making Hong Kong a popular expat destination1.

In this article, we look at the culture and customs of Hong Kong to help you and your family adjust to life in your new home country.

Hong Kong’s melting pot

Hong Kong has a population of over 7 million people2 that is made up of a range ethnic backgrounds, most are of Chinese origin, with the remaining population made up of Indonesian, Thai, Filipino, American, Canadian, British and Australian. This diverse mix of cultures makes Hong Kong one of the most exciting places to live and one of the most densely populated cities in the world3.

Cultural Life

With such a rich mix of cultures living in Hong Kong, many festivals and holidays are celebrated and observed throughout the year and these include the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas, the Western New Year, plus many others. As a city it also enjoys hundreds of annual cultural events ranging from traditional Cantonese to other Chinese regional operas and theatre productions as well as ballet and music performances4.

With around 680,000 expats5 living in Hong Kong, experiencing the culture has been made easier with many online expat forums and local magazines to help you make the most of the culture and lifestyle in Hong Kong. These publications provide sources of information on culture and events for you to take part in or, if you prefer, you can just be a spectator.


Useful online forums:

www.geoexpat.com

www.hongkong.asiaxpat.com

https://www.expatexchange.com/hong-kong/liveinhong-kong.html

https://www.facebook.com/expatlivingHK/

Useful Magazines:

https://expatliving.hk/shop/

https://hongkongliving.com/sai-kung-magazine/


Navigating Hong Kong

Getting around Hong Kong as an expat is relatively easy and that’s because English is an official language which means all official signs and announcements are both in English and Cantonese. In addition all government officials, including police officers and immigration officials are required to have a basic level of English which can make settling in a much easier process6 .

Cultural differences in Hong Kong

While living in Hong Kong it’s good to be aware of the unspoken rules around social etiquette. Respecting and honoring others is particularly important in social situations and expats need to be mindful of saving ‘face’. This concept of saving face represents a person’s dignity and reputation and therefore you need to be mindful when complimenting or giving feedback to someone so that you don’t cause them to lose face7.


Top tip

If you have been invited to someone house you shouldn’t go empty handed. A small gift of flowers or sweets are all suitable choices but be mindful not to present ‘four’ gifts as four means death in Cantonese. If possible, try and wrap your gift in lucky colours of red and gold and make sure you hand it over with two hands7.


Eating out and drinking tea in Hong Kong

Dining in Hong Kong can be a new and exciting experience for any expat. Eating is a very social event and is often served in a communal style with many different dishes placed in the middle of table. It’s important to note that if you have been invited as a guest it’s always good to let your host begin eating first and always make sure you leave something behind on your plate as it’s a sign that you have really enjoyed your meal8. Chopsticks are also a common feature in most restaurants so learning how to use them is considered a nice gesture, but if you do struggle to use them most restaurants will provide a knife and fork, you just need to request them.


Top tip

Basic chopstick etiquette: make sure you don’t fiddle with your chopsticks or use them to gesture with and to always lay them evenly on your chopstick holders9.


Feng Shui and Chinese medicines are also a key part of Hong Kong’s culture and can be very visible when walking the streets. Feng Shui10 literally means ‘wind and water’ and many local residents in Hong Kong believe that good ‘Feng Shui’ can ward off bad luck and attract prosperity. Many Hong Kong skyscrapers have applied Feng Shui principles, for example, HSBC’s notable main building in Central has angled the escalators in the atrium to ward off evil spirits; and by placing two large bronze lions to guard the entrance to symbolise wealth and prosperity11.

Chinese medicine on the other hand is more about ancient potions that encompass centuries of tradition that isn’t considered as an alternative form of medicine. Chinese medicine is an integral part of life for local residents in Hong Kong who value it for treating medical issues and maintaining health and well-being. In Hong Kong, more than a fifth of all medical consultations are made with practitioners of Chinese medicine12.

Life in Hong Kong can be fast-paced, noisy and exciting and expats who embrace the local culture and lifestyle can be rewarded with a life-changing experience.

Find out more with our series of guides here.



Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Hong Kong. Please be sure to check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

 

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The Healthcare system in Hong Kong

How does the healthcare system work for expats in Hong Kong?

Deciding to move to a new country is a big step. It’s exciting to think about what an expat lifestyle might offer you and your family, alongside practical considerations such as how you will adapt, and what could happen if you or your family become ill.

If you are considering a move to Hong Kong, the good news is that healthcare is among the best in the world.

For the seven million people living in Hong Kong, life expectancy is 87 years for women and 81 years for men – the highest life expectancy in the world1.

So, what can you expect from the healthcare system in Hong Kong, and what differences will expats find between the public and private services available?

The Hong Kong healthcare system

There are currently 164 public hospitals and clinics, plus 12 private hospitals in Hong Kong, overseen by the Hospital Authority of Hong Kong.2 There are also plenty of pharmacies, most of which are open seven days a week, with some operating 24hrs.

Hong Kong has a subsidised healthcare system which enables eligible citizens to pay less – an example of this can be seen if paying a visit to A&E, where eligible citizens pay around HK$180 per visit and non-eligible citizens can pay up to $HK1,230.

Eligibility is granted to those who hold a Hong Kong Identity Card, Hong Kong residents under 11 years of age, or those approved by the Chief Executive of the Hospital Authority. To find out more about eligibility and charges, visit the Hospital Authority website2.

 


Emergency numbers3

For emergency ambulances, police and fire services, 999 can be dialled

The police can also be reached on: 2527-7177

Emergency ambulance hotline: 2735-3355

Fire department hotline: 2723-0066


Why you might need private healthcare in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive countries in the world for private healthcare, because it is not regulated by the government.

Generally, the standard in public hospitals is high, but service levels can vary and long waiting lists are common in public hospitals.

Some employers may provide employment packages for expats that include healthcare cover. When they are available, the level of cover is largely determined by your grade or position. So, if your employer provides health care as part of your contract, make sure it covers the needs for you and your family. If you don’t receive health cover as part of your employment package, you may want to consider health cover as part of your preparations ahead of moving to Hong Kong.

 


Where to find Hong Kong’s4 private hospitals

  1. Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital – Happy Valley
  2. St. Teresa’s Hospital – Kowloon
  3. Hong Kong Baptist Hospital – Kowloon
  4. St. Paul’s Hospital – Causeway Bay
  5. Evangel Hospital – Kowloon
  6. Hong Kong Adventist Hospital – Stubbs Road
  7. Hong Kong Adventist Hospital – Tsuen Wan
  8. Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital – Wong Chuk Hang
  9. Canossa Hospital – Mid-Levels
  10. Precious Blood Hospital – West Kowloon
  11. Union Hospital – Tai Wai
  12. Matilda International Hospital – The Peak

Health risks to be aware of in Hong Kong

With a sub-tropical climate, Hong Kong has four very separate seasons – a warm and humid spring, a hot and rainy summer, a sunny autumn and a cool, dry winter. Temperatures can soar as high as 31 degrees Celsius in the summer, while typhoon season is generally from May through to November. Occasionally the Hong Kong Observatory will issue typhoon warnings advising you stay indoors.5

As with other parts of Asia, Hong Kong has high levels of pollution6. Combined with its densely-packed population, this can aggravate symptoms for expats with asthma and chronic respiratory diseases. Children, the elderly, and those with vulnerable immune systems, are generally most affected.

The Hong Kong Government is working hard to reduce air pollution, by advising residents to reduce energy consumption at home and save money at the same time. This can also help to reduce air pollution created by power stations.


People are advised to wear a face mask in public7 whenever:

They have a respiratory infection

They need to care for a person with respiratory infection

When they are visiting clinics or hospitals during a pandemic or peak season for influenza in order to reduce the risk of spreading the infection


The Hong Kong Government Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)8 monitor health risks caused by air pollution and regularly update their index scores accordingly.

When the index is at a low to moderate level (1-6), you can continue to enjoy your usual activities as normal. When the category reaches a high level of (7), it’s advised that children, the elderly and those with heart or respiratory illnesses should reduce outdoor activities. At a very high level (8-10+), the general public are warned to reduce their time outside.

Hong Kong residents are proactive about how they manage germ control, particularly with a large population in a confined space. Reporting and prevention procedures for germ control are particularly robust and ‘sanitation stations’ are common features in buildings throughout Hong Kong.

Planning ahead is key

If you are planning a move to Hong Kong or are currently a resident, make sure you understand how the healthcare system works and how you and your family can access it. Healthcare in Hong Kong is much more visible than most other places in the world, from wearing a mask to prevent the spread of flu to sanitation stations in buildings. This may be a new experience for expats and it highlights how the Hong Kong government prioritises health for all its residents. 

We have more articles in this guide that may be useful if you are planning a move to Hong Kong or you are currently a resident. Click here to find out more.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Hong Kong. Please be sure to check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

 

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Hong Kong schools and what expats parents need to know

When moving to a new country as an expat parent, you will need to consider what schooling options are available for your family.

Hong Kong boasts one of the most reputable education systems in the world, giving parents confidence in the standard of education. There are more than 50 international schools that are popular with Hong Kong expats, offering more than 10 international curriculums. These include US, UK, French, German, Australian, Canadian, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean and the International Baccalaureate.

This article explains how the school system works in Hong Kong, and hopes to demystify the application process.

How does the school system work in Hong Kong?

The Hong Kong education sector is made up of both local and international schools. With a high value placed on education culturally, schools can be vibrant and competitive.

Hong Kong’s education system can be divided into three groups1:

  1. Government – featuring schools which are government-funded and free for pupils.
  2. Subsidised – such as the English Schools Foundation (ESF), which offers partially-funded places for local and non-Chinese speaking children.
  3. International schools – offer private places, with costs met by parents. Employers may contribute to costs.

The local school system is taught in Cantonese, which is why many students from other countries attend a private international school. This has led to a real growth in the international schooling sector in Hong Kong, with more than 50 international schools that provide a range of English-based curriculums that you could expect from your home country.

One of the oldest schools in Hong Kong is the English Schools Foundation (ESF), which dates back to when the British occupied Hong Kong and British children attended British-styled schools. These schools and the communities created around them are largely unchanged today and many expats will live close to where their children attend school.2


Top Tip

“Although I had originally planned to move my boys from a local school to an international school at the secondary stage, they ended up making the switch earlier – simply because they were learning English as a secondary language. I did a lot of exploring across my network and found out what other parents had done. These days, there are a lot of Facebook groups around that can help.”

Anna Evans, Hong Kong expat


Hong Kong school application process

The registration process for international schools in Hong Kong can appear complicated, and the admission of expat children can be competitive. Ruth Benny, founder of Top Schools, a consultancy that helps parents find schools for their children, recommends that expat families apply as soon as they know they are relocating to Hong Kong. And be aware you may not get your first choice: “We recommend that people apply to four or five schools,” she says.

By applying to a number of schools you can increase your chance of your child being accepted into a school of your choice. Many schools often have long waiting lists, so make sure you apply as early as possible, as many schools will accept an application a year or two in advance. There are some international schools that will even accept applications as soon as your child is born, including Discovery Bay School, French International School, German International School, Kellet School and Kiang Su & Chekiang School.3

International schools operate their own admission procedures, with most requiring an assessment and interview process. Application priority is typically given according to the child’s nationality, siblings already at a school, and debenture holders, rather than the date of application.

Education fees explained

Many parents are unaware of the fees associated with enrolling a child into a school4, in addition to annual tuition fees. According to ITS Education Asia5, annual tuition fees can reach up to HK$250,000. For most international schools, the entry school requirement will require an application fee, an entrance test fee, an enrolment or denture fee, plus the annual tuition fees.

Starting costs – A separate application fee, assessment fee and deposit will be required by each school that you apply to, and the fees typically range from HK$1,000 up to HK$3,500. Deposits are only charged when you accept a placement and these can run as high as HK$10,000. The deposit and assessment fees are usually non-refundable.

Annual tuition – This can begin at around HK$100,000 for primary school and reach up to HK$250,000 for secondary school.

A debenture – A one-off advance payment of up to HK$500,000 per child6 that goes towards financing a school’s community and projects. Depending on the school, a debenture may be refundable when a child leaves, but some schools may hold onto 5% or 10% so be sure to ask about your debenture refund. The cost of a debenture can vary enormously and can come as a bit of a shock, particularly if you have a large family. If you have a relocation package, your company may help you with a loan to pay the debenture, or they may have already pre-paid debenture with an international school. If neither of these two options are available to you, it’s not uncommon to apply for bank loan to help pay for the debenture.

Additional costs – While the location of an international school may play a part in your choice of accommodation, children routinely travel by school bus. This can cost between HK$6,000 and HK$9,000 per year, with uniform fees typically ranging from HK$500 to HK$1,500. There will probably also be additional costs for school trips, meals, textbooks, examinations and extra-curricular activities to consider.


65 % of Hong Kong students are estimated to be undertaking additional tuition.


Some of the international schools7 in  Hong Kong for expats include:

British curriculum

Discovery Bay International School

Harrow International School

Kellett International school

International Baccalaureate

Australian International School

Canadian International School

Chinese International School

English Schools Foundation

French International School

German Swiss International School

US curriculum
American International School

Hong Kong International School

International Christian School 


Being prepared

Finding the right place for your children is key to a successful transition into the Hong Kong education system. Undertaking research on the schooling system and applications process before you leave will help you determine what you need to consider and apply for in advance. Once you arrive, follow up any applications with a call to the administration office to book an appointment to visit the schools with your family.

Expat children who attend school in Hong Kong grow up with a network of international friends from a diverse background of cultures and languages. With a wide variety of international schools and curriculum choices, Hong Kong is considered to be a great place for education.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Hong Kong. Please be sure to check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

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The future of Hong Kong

Hong Kong – what does the future hold? Hong Kong is a fast-growing metropolis that has ambitious plans for the future. It has long been seen as an appealing place to live, work and invest by expats, and is one of the world’s top financial centres.

In this article, we examine Hong Kong’s future prospects, ranging from its current global rankings to its plans for 2030 and beyond, and explore what that means for expats.

Hong Kong boasts a rich history. Its strategic location and deep coastal waters have helped it to grow from a humble fishing port into a global economic powerhouse. In 1841, the region’s first census recorded a population of just over 7,500.1 Today, Hong Kong has grown into a thriving metropolis of almost 7.4 million people.

No stranger to change, Hong Kong is known for its adaptability, enabling it to remain relevant and competitive in our fast-changing world. Between the 1950 and 1970s, Hong Kong fed the growing demand for low-cost manufacturing and exports, but by the end of the 20th century had successfully made a tough transition to a service-led economy – with services now accounting for more than 92% of GDP.2

Hong Kong is now perhaps best known for financial services – currently ranking third in the Global Financial Centres Index3 and first in Asia – while offering a wide range of attractive opportunities for expat workers, with Forbes naming it the sixth best place to do business.4

Hong Kong’s global rankings

Global Financial Centres Index – March 20185

  1. London
  2. New York City
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Singapore
  5. Tokyo

Investing in its future

Hong Kong has a long history of strategic planning, revisiting its development policies every decade. The latest review – ‘Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030’ (HK2030+)6 – sets out three distinct ways that it intends to respond to current and future trends:

  1. Plan for a liveable, high-density city
  2. Embrace new economic challenges and opportunities
  3. Create capacity for sustainable growth

Using these three building blocks, Hong Kong plans to transition once again, this time into a regional mega-city with greater capacity for growth and the ability to host its burgeoning population in a more sustainable way.

The strategy includes plans that will make living and working in Hong Kong even more appealing for both locals and expats.


Good news for Hong Kong visitors

Hong Kong is future-proofing its international airport as part of investment work taking place over the next few years – a move that is expected to benefit both travellers and businesses.7

  • £123bn will be invested to construct a three-runway system by 20248
  • Expansion of the airport will accommodate 102 million passengers, 8.9 million tonnes of cargo and 607,000 aircraft movements annually by 2030

An incubator for innovation

As surrounding economies continue to grow in both size and sophistication, Hong Kong faces stiff competition to retain its position as a leader on the Global Innovation Index. The HK2030+ proposals6 address this directly, with ambitious plans to “move Hong Kong up the value chain” and make it a leader in talent, research and development.

In addition to major investments in education9 and plans to develop a giant innovation and technology park,10 Carrie Lam, who is head of the Government of Hong Kong as the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, has confirmed her intention to introduce greater tax incentives11 for Hong Kong businesses undertaking research and development (R&D) work. These companies will receive a 300% tax deduction for the first HK$2m they spend on research and development for their Hong Kong business for the first year. The scheme is particularly aimed at helping small businesses to develop.

As the leading financial centre in Asia, the current FinTech revolution is something that Hong Kong is especially keen to benefit from. Hong Kong has quadrupled its investment in FinTech12 over the past two years and now hosts 48 of the top 100 FinTech companies in the world.13

Companies who continue to invest in the Fintech industry will receive support from the Hong Kong government, which will result in continued growth and increased opportunities for expats. Making this an exciting time for expats who work within the financial and tech sectors in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong FinTech investment

2017    US$545.7m

2016    US$215.5m

2015    US$107.5m

Accenture

Expanding infrastructure

Hong Kong is the fourth most densely populated place in the world,14 featuring a skyline full of iconic high-rise buildings. With finite space to work with, and high property prices15, Hong Kong is always looking for ways to accommodate its growing population and introduce greater capacity for growth.

It is currently scaling up its land reclamation efforts,16 in order to create new buildable land in the surrounding waters. Projects include creating space for hundreds of thousands of new homes.17

Hong Kong is also integral to China’s mammoth ‘Belt and Road’18 initiative – an ambitious US$900bn project intended to “reinvigorate the seamless flow of capital, goods and services between Asia and the rest of the world”. Included in the plans are major infrastructure and transport improvements in and around Hong Kong,19 which should shorten commutes for expat workers and make it easier to access and do business with the rest of the globe.


What is the Belt and Road initiative?

  • Creates new land and maritime links between China and surrounding regions
  • Intends to connect 65 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe
  • Will link more than half the world’s population
  • New and more efficient trade routes
  • Integrated multinational transport network
  • Estimated US$900bn allocated to current and future projects

Boosting health and wellbeing

Hong Kong recognises the impact 20 that a high-density population can have on wellbeing and the quality of life of residents, and has major plans to make its compact environment an even greener, healthier and happier place to live.

These include improving public transport, pedestrian and cycle networks; reinventing public spaces, such as parks, to enhance accessibility and enjoyment; and investing in a range of public facilities, including schools and public health services.

Top green spaces

  1. Hong Kong Parkcentral location, designed to provide a beautiful environment for both educational and leisure purposes.
  2. Kowloon Parkfull of amenities, including a maze, swimming pool, sports centre, Chinese garden and its renowned bird lake.
  3. Victoria Park largest park on Hong Kong island, hosts to major events including the Flower Market before Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival lantern carnivals.

Economic growth and resilience

With a healthy growth rate of 3.8%21 and major long-term investments planned across all key areas, including an HK$18bn investment in Hong Kong’s innovation and technology ecosystem,22 plus continued investment in education and infrastructure projects,9  Hong Kong’s economic future looks positive.

Coupled with ambitious health and wellbeing and environmental improvements and a buzzing metropolis, these are exciting times ahead for the burgeoning city and its residents. As it keeps pace with an expanding world, Hong Kong looks set to remain a top choice for expats hoping to work in the region for some time to come.

Read more about what Hong Kong has to offer expats here

<Disclaimer>

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide to what you might expect in Hong Kong and is correct at the date of publishing. Please check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to make sure the information is still valid.

Sources
  1. https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/statistical_literacy/educational_materials/statistics_and_you/index.jsp
  2. https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp250.jsp?tableID=036&ID=0&productType=8
  3. http://www.longfinance.net/programmes/financialcentrefutures/global-financial-centres-index.html
  4. https://www.forbes.com/best-countries-for-business/list/
  5. http://www.longfinance.net/Publications/GFCI23.pdf
  6. http://www.hk2030plus.hk/
  7. https://www.internationalairportreview.com/article/64497/hong-kong-design/
  8. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2097992/hong-kong-airport-get-hk7-billion-upgrade-ahead-third-runway
  9. http://www.news.gov.hk/en/record/html/2017/09/20170919_184409.shtml
  10. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2135127/hong-kongs-science-park-take-lead-driving-innovation-and
  11. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2114944/carrie-lam-says-tax-breaks-profits-and-rd-among-measures-keep
  12. http://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2135144/hong-kong-fintech-outlay-doubles-5-year-tally-well-ahead
  13. http://www.hongkong-fintech.hk/en/why/
  14. https://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?v=21000
  15. https://www.numbeo.com/property-investment/rankings.jsp
  16. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2118820/hong-kongs-future-depends-reclamation-committee-says-it-backs
  17. http://www.ejinsight.com/20170509-housing-shortage-why-land-reclamation-is-a-feasible-option/
  18. https://beltandroad.hktdc.com/en/belt-and-road-basics
  19. https://www.news.gov.hk/en/record/html/2017/04/20170407_114301.shtml
  20. http://www.hk2030plus.hk/building1.htm
  21. http://hong-kong-economy-research.hktdc.com/business-news/article/Market-Environment/Economic-and-Trade-Information-on-Hong-Kong/etihk/en/1/1X000000/1X09OVUL.htm
  22. https://www.opengovasia.com/articles/7317-hong-kong-government-plans-to-invest-18-billion-in-innovation-technology-ecosystem

 

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The ultimate Hong Kong sports diary

There’s a vibrant sports scene in Hong Kong for participant and spectator alike, from professional events enticing the world’s top athletes to those open to beginners and amateurs.

Hong Kong Marathon, 21 January 2018

For the amateur runner, a marathon is often the pinnacle of achievement and a fantastic way to see a city from a unique perspective. The Hong Kong Marathon follows a spectacular route, passing through Lai Chi Kok Park, Tsing Yi and finishing in Victoria Park. Great fun for spectators and participants alike. Find out more here.

Hong Kong Sevens, 6-8 April 2018

This world famous annual tournament – celebrating its 43rd year in 2018 – brings some of the top international rugby teams to the Hong Kong Stadium. With a carnival atmosphere to complement the frenetic on-pitch action, the tournament is great fun for both die-hard rugby fans and newcomers alike. Find out more here.

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, 18 June 2018

This takes place every year, combining a huge party with an impressive show of physical prowess. It’s also a quintessentially Asian sport, inspired by the folklore of Chinese national hero Qu Yuan. He drowned himself in the Miluo River over 2,000 years ago to protest against China veering from its socialist roots. Legend has it the townspeople beat drums to scare the evil spirits away and threw rice dumplings into the water so the fish wouldn’t eat his body, inspiring the current festival.

Dragon boat race

 

New World Harbour Race, 20 October 2018

For the past 70 years, hundreds of people, from elite swimmers to amateurs, have taken to the waters of Victoria Harbour to complete this iconic 1.8km swim. Even if you’re not a confident open water swimmer, you can join the thousands of spectators at one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated events. Find out more here.

Harbour race

 

The Hong Kong Open golf tournament, 22-25 November 2018

This is one of the longest running and most prestigious international sporting events in Hong Kong. With four days of excitement on the fairways and greens, featuring some of the world’s leading golfers, and entertainment for the whole family taking place off the course. Find out more here.

Golf

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, events throughout the year

The Hong Kong sporting calendar features more sailing events than we’ve room to feature here. One of the oldest sports clubs in the city, it has an active calendar of social and competitive sailing, and rowing events and courses, as well as a thriving social scene. Find out more here.

 

Horse racing, September-July

A trip to one of Hong Kong’s world-class racetracks is a must – Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island and Sha Tin in the New Territories. The key events in the calendar are the Hong Kong Derby and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, where you’ll rub shoulders with the elite and watch some of the finest horses and jockeys from around the globe. Find out more here.

 

Whether you’re a budding athlete, an enthusiastic spectator or simply looking for a good party, Hong Kong has plenty of sporting events to add to your calendar.

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Moving to Hong Kong: a checklist

A cultural melting pot with something new to discover around every corner, the exciting and exotic city of Hong Kong is a desirable destination for expats.

Hong Kong has a long history of welcoming overseas workers to share its rich cultural heritage, technical innovations and vibrant lifestyle. Hong Kong is seen as an important world market gateway for many multinational companies within IT, digital, advertising and HR industries.  Popular job opportunities for expats can be seen within the financial sector, where local expertise is limited. Additionally, teaching positions are just as popular, with the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET)1 Scheme continuing to present opportunities for the expat teaching professional.2  

In this article we take a look at some of the practical details expats should consider before making the move, including upfronts costs, the visa requirements to live and work in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong tax system and where to live.

What are the Hong Kong visa requirements?

Once you have confirmed an offer of employment, the next step is to apply for a visa. This can take up to six weeks, so early application3 is recommended. Both you and your employer need to complete application forms to obtain a visa. If you have any dependants you will also need to apply for your spouse4 and any children under 18. Only one work visa is needed per household, so, if you have a work visa, your partner will also be able to work in Hong Kong without needing to apply for a separate visa. Also, it’s worth noting that there are regulations on bringing over family pets, so make sure you visit Hong Kong’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation website to see what the requirements are.5

Within 30 days of receiving your visa, anyone over the age of 11 must register6 for a smart identity card. As well as carrying important immigration information that confirms your identity, the card can also be used for various non-immigration applications such as e-Certificates7, which can be used for online identity verification.

There is no fee to obtain an ID card, and you should carry it with you at all times. If your card is lost or damaged you must obtain a replacement within 14 days and pay a fee of HK$3708. You can register and obtain your ID card at any Registration of Persons Office in Hong Kong9.

Percentage iconAverage upfront costs

Visas: HK$190 per visa10

Accommodation: Expect to pay around HK$45,000 per month for a three-bed apartment in Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island, plus two to three months’ rent as deposit11 plus management fees and taxes

School fees: Expect to pay around HK$106,500 per annum (Primary Year 1-2) plus a HK$10,000 deposit12

Pet registration: expect to pay around HK$432, and HK$102 for every additional animal that is part of the same shipment13

Tax: expect to pay HK$76,500 per year (before allowances and deductions) based on salary of HK$450,000 with a progressive rate applied. 14

How do I pay tax in Hong Kong?

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2018 Worldwide Cost of Living survey15, Hong Kong is the fourth-most expensive place to live in the world, so planning your finances is essential. Luckily, Hong Kong operates a relatively low personal tax system, which means you could have more money in your pay packet to meet essential costs such as accommodation, school fees, and health cover.

Tax is applied on either a progressive rate starting at 2% and up to 17% for salaries over HK$135,00011 for tax year 2017/18, or at a standard rate of 15%, whichever is lower. Various allowances and deductions can be applied, and the Hong Kong tax authority operates a handy tax calculator16 to assess tax payable.

It is your responsibility, rather than your employer’s, to file a tax assessment, and the bill is payable in two lump-sum instalments every January and April. In your first tax year, you will also be asked to pay provisional tax for the following year, so anticipate paying a larger sum17 upfront. To help budget, it is possible to opt for regular Electronic Tax Reserve Certificates18 (TRCs), which allow you to build up funds for your tax payment.

Villa Apartment IconWhere to live

While Hong Kong’s favourable tax environment is a big plus for expats, its dense population means finding good accommodation at the right price can be a challenge.  Popular expat areas, such as Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island, or Discovery Bay, are in demand with expat families who have young children, because of their location close to expat schools and high-density expat communities. Here you can expect to pay HK$40,000-HK$50,000 per month15 for a three-bedroom apartment.

Prices can range quite significantly by area, e.g. in the exclusive Peak area, it’s not unusual to pay in excess of HK$100,000 per month15 for a three-bedroom apartment. For a more affordable monthly price tag15 of around HK$30,000, head for Kowloon or the New Territories.


Top tip: “To get a better feel for an area, take temporary accommodation before you commit to a long-term lease.”

Karen Lyons – expat of 15 years in Hong Kong 


Except for serviced apartments, most rental accommodation is unfurnished, but often includes appliances. Rentals are payable monthly in advance and, serviced apartments aside, are generally exclusive of management fees and government taxes, which could add a further 12-15%19 on top of rental costs. There will also be legal fees for signing tenancy agreements and often an agency introductory fee equivalent to 50%16 of one month’s rent to take into account. Additionally, it’s wise to factor-in an upfront deposit of two to three months’ rent.

Looking at an example of a three-bed apartment in Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island at around HK$45,000 per month, plus management fees of around HK$2,50020, could mean an initial payment of around HK$159,500 for the first month plus taxes and additional expenses. This could equate to roughly  £14,330 or US$20,322 in upfront costs.


Top expat tips

  • Ensure you have all essential documents and visas in place before departure
  • Early application for school places is advisable
  • Have up to three months’ rent available upfront to secure a rental property
  • Be aware that you have to submit and pay your own taxes bi-annually
  • Look at life insurance and health cover that reflect your location needs
  • Stay healthy, immerse yourself in the culture and take language lessons
  • Use online forums such as geobaby.com to talk to other expats about life in Hong Kong

Be prepared

While life in Hong Kong is an exciting prospect, the more preparation you do now, the more successful the move is likely to be. We hope this checklist arms you with the information and resources for your move.

Each week we will be creating new articles relating to Hong Kong so make sure you check in next week for our next article on the ‘Future of Hong Kong’.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide to what you might expect in Hong Kong and is correct at the date of publishing. Please check any information with local Hong Kong authorities to make sure the information is still valid.

 

 

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Managing a long-term condition

Having a chronic condition shouldn’t stand in your way of pursuing a life overseas. But what research should you do before you leave and what questions need to be asked?

With an estimated five million Britons now living or working abroad, it’s becoming increasingly likely that people will need to explore their options for long-term therapy at some point.

Used to describe a range of conditions that can be classified as ‘chronic’ –such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal failure, depression or back pain, long-term therapy represents any ongoing treatments that naturally fall outside your health insurance plan.

While comprehensive policies offer varying levels of cover that encompass a certain number of sessions, period of time or cost for specific conditions, insurance is essentially designed for curative treatment – offering immediate support in the event of an acute illness or accident.

Surgery

Can I still more overseas?

That doesn’t mean that having a chronic condition should preclude any ambition to live abroad – far from it. However, the awareness of any issue will call for some detailed research in advance to ensure that there is an adequate support structure ready and waiting.

Likewise, it doesn’t automatically follow that developing a chronic condition will necessitate an early return – with excellent local facilities, treatments and available medication often available at reasonable prices.

What questions should I ask?

In the first instance, any pre-existing conditions should be discussed in-depth with a GP. The next step is to understand exactly what’s available to you once you make the move.

If you are travelling with a pre-existing condition or would just like to build an accurate picture of health facilities in your chosen destination, key questions to ask include:

  • Is your chronic condition routinely catered for?
  • Does any one facility specialise in your condition?
  • If so, what are the facilities like?
  • How do the standards of care differ between facilities?
  • Is it possible to get good standards of care at a reasonable cost?
  • Is your prescribed medication available in this country?
  • If so, what will your annual costs be for treatment/medication?
  • How will these costs compare if you source your prescription via a hospital pharmacy or private doctor?
  • How do these payments work?
  • Are they part- or fully-funded by any state contributions you make – and if so, when would you become eligible?
  • How do waiting times vary if you pursue state-funded treatment?
  • Where do the locals/expats typically go for treatments? (for example, it’s common for Hong Kong residents to visit Thailand for therapies)
  • What advice/support is your employer willing to offer?
  • If required, what support structure would be available for your family?

 

Having a good grasp of cultural/religious differences is also vital to ensuring you get the care you want in your adopted country. For example, mental illness is rarely talked about in the Far East, so finding a clinic that specialises in depression could prove difficult.

Hospital

Seek local advice

Expats and locals are a rich source of information, offering newcomers crucial recommendations and reviews. Additional web searches will help you poll further opinions and focus on your own condition.

Be sure to ask:

  • For other expats’ experiences of local healthcare facilities and doctors
  • What pitfalls you need to be aware of – for example, the best way to cut down on waiting times/or access the best care

Expert view

Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer with William Russell

“Continuing advances in medicine mean that there’s a lot more doctors can do these days for people with chronic conditions. This effectively means that people heading abroad have far more options when it comes to where they choose to live. Expat hubs such as Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong all offer excellent facilities and expertise at reasonable cost, so for patients looking for long-term therapies, sourcing the right care will come down to researching your own needs and finding the best evidence-based treatment.”

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How does physical activity affect your health?

How important is it to stay active as we age and what kind of activity brings the most benefits?

For an expat with a busy schedule, finding the time to exercise can be challenging.

However, there is an infinite wealth of evidence to show that finding that time is vital, especially for the over 50s.

As we all know, exercise is good for the body and the mind. But, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and there are lots of factors that should influence a person’s approach.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

There is the obvious benefit of helping control weight, which becomes more difficult as you get older due to your metabolism slowing down.

A few hours of moderate-intensity physical exercise each week also lowers the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the risk of endometrial and lung cancer is lower in people who exercise regularly than in those who don’t.

This is backed up by the results of a long-term study by University of Minnesota researchers. They gave questionnaires to 36,929 cancer-free women from Iowa, and then followed them for 16 years. They found that the women with high exercise levels were less likely to develop lung cancer than those with low exercise levels.

The Australian study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that aerobic exercises, resistance training and less-strenuous forms of exercise such as T’ai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art, all had positive effects on different parts of the brain’s functions ranging from the ability to organise and plan, to reading and reasoning.

The authors of that study examined 36 wide-ranging studies and found that exercising moderately for around an hour on as many days as possible improved memory and thinking skills of those aged over 50.

Pilates

How long should I exercise for?

Britain’s National Health Service recommends different sorts of exercise for different ages. It says children under the age of five should be physically active for at least 3 hours a day; this includes walking, playing outside, chasing balls, playing in water or riding a bicycle.

However, healthy adults should do a minimum 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week as well as strength exercises that focus on the major muscles such as in the leg and back.

According to the CDC, those who do seven hours of exercise a week have 40% less chance of an early death than those who do just half an hour a week.

What are moderate and intensive forms of exercise?

Moderate aerobic activity includes things such as fast walking and mowing the lawn; so this kind of activity can easily be incorporated into a normal day.

Your heart rate needs to be raised to have an affect on your health so shopping and slow walking unfortunately won’t count. Vigorous or intensive activities are running, hiking, swimming or playing sports such as tennis.

Do some activities bring particular benefits to over 50s?

Low impact aerobic exercise and bone-strengthening activities can slow down the natural decline in bone density which occurs as a person ages.

This reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis, according to the CDC. The organisation says that doing just two hours of moderate exercise a week lowers the risk of hip fracture and improves the quality of life for people living with arthritis.

For the over 50s, these lower weight-bearing and impact options help to reduce the risk of bone injuries or breakages, which is often higher in the older generation.

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Antibiotics resistance: what you need to know

Many countries have strict rules governing the use of antibiotics. In the UK, Europe and US, they will only be prescribed if a doctor is confident the cause of an illness is bacterial and not caused by a virus or other pathogen. However, not all countries are so vigilant.

A 2016 study published by the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand revealed that antibiotics in Thailand are “widely available and inappropriately sold and given by grocery stores and retails shops”.

The inevitable affect, the researchers note, is that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are commonly and freely circulating through the population, meaning some illnesses are no longer treatable.

The situation is similar in the UAE, where prescription-required medicines are routinely sold without an accompanying prescription.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes this issue very seriously: “Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse.”

It warns that without urgent action, the world is heading for a “post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

The more antibiotics that are prescribed inappropriately, says Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer at William Russell, the more likely resistance is to develop.

What causes antibiotic resistance?

A common misconception is that it’s the individual who becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact, it’s the bacteria that adapts and develops resistance, rendering certain antibiotics entirely useless.

Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is the biggest cause of antibiotic resistance and the rise of the so-called superbug (illnesses that no longer respond to treatment and are now potentially deadly).

Superbugs emerge when bacteria have not been properly treated with antibiotics and have learnt to become resistant; certain strains of tuberculosis and pneumonia have already developed resistance so can’t be treated easily, if at all.

The WHO calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.”

Doctor and Child

What do antibiotics treat?

Antibiotics should only be used to treat illnesses caused by susceptible infections, for example bacterial tonsillitis, urinary tract infections, respiratory tract infections, whooping cough and skin infections. Different types of antibiotics target specific bacteria.

For example, Amoxicillin (a sort of Penicillin) is often prescribed to treat ear infections, while Trimethoprim is commonly given to treat urinary tract infections caused by E.coli.

Dr Clarke stresses there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to antibiotics. “Some bacterial infections can be self-limiting in fit, healthy people” he says, “for example Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning.” A doctor would therefore “establish sensitivity of the bacteria and allocate an appropriate antibiotic”.

Antibiotics are completely useless against viruses. A huge number of everyday illnesses are caused by viruses and therefore don’t need antibiotics. If you’re suffering with a cold at the change of season, chances are antibiotics won’t help.