It’s been ten months since I first arrived in HK, and honestly, it’s gone so fast that it could’ve been ten weeks or ten minutes. Moving to a foreign country can be incredibly scary. It forces you out of your comfort zone and will make you grow in ways that you never anticipated. One day you might be stood on the top of Lion’s Rock screaming “I LOVE THIS PLACE!!” Then a few hours later, you’ll be trying to find a bank with no mobile data left and wanting to call your mum and cry (Ok, maybe the crying part is just me, but you see what I mean). But of course, there were plenty of things that I wish I had known before I landed. It would’ve saved a few awkward situations and helped on my course to ya know, adulting.
So, here’s what I wish somebody had told me, or things that you should know before you move to Hong Kong…
DISCLAIMER: This blog post should’ve been titled ‘Things You Should Know Before You Move To Hong Kong’. I was fully aware of the cultural differences between HK / Mainland China and was definitely not going around yelling at people in Mandarin. Take this blog post with a pinch of salt and don’t take life so seriously. Love <3
- Hong Kong and Mainland China are TWO. SEPARATE. THINGS. Do not be the person making that mistake when talking to a local.
- It’s always best to have Google translate on hand, or even better, learn some Cantonese!
- The language here is Cantonese and not Mandarin. So please don’t be that guy yelling “NII HAAOOOO”.
- The work ethic here is insane. It’s true, HK has the longest working week in the world! If you’re starting a corporate job out here, GOOD FLIPPIN’ LUCK.
- No, your apartment isn’t on fire. It’s someone burning offerings in the street.
- Wet markets are one to avoid if you’re squeamish or just don’t particularly enjoy seeing decapitated frogs/ fish etc.
- If you’re veggie, downloading HappyCow will save your life. But there’s more info on that here.
- Crowds can move pretty slowly and people are usually attached to their iPhones. Yep, you will want to personally punch the creator of Candy Crush in the face after spending 24 hours in HK.
- You may nearly get set staple gunned or blinded by sparks a few times by on-the-street workshops. There isn’t a lot of space, so fixing things on the pavement is pretty normal. You have been warned.
- The MTR system is so efficient that it makes most European underground systems look pretty pathetic. Just avoid Admiralty at peak times AT. ALL. COSTS.
- Do not wander down pet street if you are an animal lover. You will want to cry, and save all the dogs from the tiny cages, and just DON’T EVEN START ON THE FISHES.
- Also, people are incredibly considerate when it comes to cleaning up after their animals. They will catch poop with a newspaper and wash pee away with a bottle of water. I’m not really sure why this is essential knowledge, but it just… Is.
- Expect to wear a surgery mask when you’re sick!
- Don’t let the high-rise buildings and skyscrapers fool you. HK is actually over 40% green – start exploring it as soon as you get here!
- You will usually have to pay a 10% service charge for most things. Boooo.
- Unless you’re raking in the $$, your apartment probably won’t have a convential kitchen or bathroom. You’ll get used to it. One day. (Maybe).
- On that note, get ready to download the GoGoVan app and join all of the HK Expat FB groups. You’ll need them to furnish your (empty) apartment.
- Sassy Hong Kong will become your bible. Everything from where to eat to what’s happening at the weekend is covered. Thanks, Sassy Gals.
- Some days the pollution can be pretty intense. Sadly, this meme is pretty accurate…
- BTW – carry toilet paper and hand sanitiser with you at all times. You will thank me later.
- Also, at some point you probably will have to use a squatty potty. Try not to fall in.
- Drinking on the street is perfectly legal. That means people usually loiter outside of clubs with their 7/11 beers rather than actually going in them. You probably will become one of them.
- Also, you can also pretty much sort your entire life out in 7/11. You can top up your Octopus, phone, pay your bills, AND get a cheap beer. Pretty genius, really.
- Cancel your phone contract before you come if possible. China Mobile data is ridiculously cheap.
- The weather here is super weird. In the morning it might be 35 degrees and by the afternoon it will be a typhoon. Also, somehow 15c in HK feels freezing even though that’s essentially summer in the UK. You’ll get used to it.
- Once you’ve got your VISA sorted, you will feel incredibly cool when you swan through the HK Resident’s queue, scan your HK ID card and walk straight out of the airport. Why can’t every country do this?!
- Things like taxis and mobile data are much cheaper than they usually are in the West. You might pay $30 HKD for a 30 minute taxi ride but then $40 for a punnet of cherry tomatoes. Ya win some ya lose some.
- On that note, DIM SUM is freakin’ delicious. And usually cheap – the perfect food to grab quickly after work.
- Start your bucket list early, there is SO MUCH to do. Get involved, say yes to everything, and have an amazing time!
Hong Kong may feel overwhelming at first, but over time I have grown to love the quirks and the culture shocks and feel incredibly at home here. PS Already living in HK? Then you might want to read this.