Expat Interview: Living in Hong Kong
Posted by Dannielle Noonan
Considering moving to Hong Kong? Here, blogger Jasmine from Nomad Girl Co tells Medibroker what inspired her move and shares her tips to finding a job in Hong Kong. She covers culture shock and reassures other potential Hong Kong expats that language barriers and hygiene won't be a problem.
Where are you from originally and where have you lived?
I spent much of my childhood growing up in rural New South Wales, Australia, although moved to Ballarat (just outside of Melbourne) for University. After completing University I moved to Thailand, where I lived in both Bangkok and Pattaya. Thailand was the first place I had ever travelled to overseas, and I fell in love with everything about the country and the people. As soon as I finished university I was on the plane to Bangkok, even missing my graduation ceremony! I now currently live in Hong Kong and have been living here for almost one year.
What was your reason for moving to Hong Kong?
After living in Thailand, I moved back home to Australia, to what I thought would be a standard 9-5 lifestyle in the city I had lived for so long. But I realized I missed Asia so much. I missed the people. The food. The culture. The busy cities. The weather. I researched extensively about jobs and companies that I could work for that somehow related to my degree (Arts - Social Welfare/Psychology/Education). Being a new graduate I was open to moving to pretty much anywhere in East Asia (as I had already travelled extensively through central and Southeast Asia and wanted to experience somewhere new).
After looking through many of the job sites for each individual city (including Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Guangzhou and Taipei) I found an Australian company based in Hong Kong that worked with charity hospitals and education organisations and applied.
Some very popular job websites in Hong Kong include:
12 days later I was on a flight to Hong Kong. In my application I had to provide scans of all my documents - including passport, degree, university transcripts, a letter of recommendation, two references from a related field, and a recent photo. I then had two Skype interviews with my employer and was sent a contract to sign and send back, as well as an application form for my work visa. The form was relatively simple to complete and also needed a passport photo attached. My employer then paid for the visa (as almost all employers do in Hong Kong).
While planning your move, what was the biggest obstacle?
For this move I did not really have much time to do any planning - as once I had accepted a contract in Hong Kong I left just two weeks after. Having lived abroad before I did not have many obstacles this time around. My health insurance was provided by my employer, who also assisted me in finding an apartment relatively near to my workplace (if you employer does not offer to assist you in finding or suggesting an apartment in a new country, then they usually offer you hotel accommodation for a week or more in order to give you time to find a suitable apartment for yourself).
My move abroad previous to this (Bangkok) was a lot more complicated. As my employer did not assist or sponsor my work visa for Thailand, and did not offer much assistance with the visa paperwork. This employer also did not offer insurance of any kind. Trying to navigate all the information online on what steps I needed to take, as a fresh graduate who had never lived abroad before, was a little confusing and stressful. I had zero knowledge of what insurance to purchase, or for how long, or whether it was ok or not to post my passport to the Thai embassy in Melbourne. Every step was a guessing game.
What have you learned from your experience of living abroad?
I think the biggest thing I have learnt living abroad is to be adaptable, prepared for changes in a schedule and accept that things happen on a daily basis that you should be told about but won't be. You will turn up to meetings that have been cancelled, although no one told you. You see aspects of everyday life unfold in front of you in which you have no context to understand. And you will also find yourself asking a lot of questions.
What has been the biggest culture shock for you?
I don't eat meat, and found Thailand to be the perfect place to live with a huge variety of vegetarian food available (due to the country being predominately Buddhist). In Hong Kong it is a different story. The biggest shock has been walking around my local fresh fruit markets and having to walk past whole pigs’ feet hanging up by hooks or the bucket of chicken heads for sale. Or visiting an inner city fresh produce market and right next to the clothing stalls there were three whole animal heads hanging on hooks out at a meat stall. My assistant at work also offered me chicken feet soup.
How do you handle language barriers?
In a city such as Hong Kong there is no real language barrier that I have experienced. Everyone in my workplace speaks English, all the stall vendors at the fresh produce markets speak English (well enough to be able to ask them about their products and prices), and all the locals in my area speak English too. Staff at all retail stores I have visited have spoken English. There seem to be a high number of foreign doctors, hairdressers, trainers and other specialist services with businesses in Hong Kong to make things even easier for expats here.
What has been your most memorable experience since moving?
My most memorable experience since moving to Hong Kong would have to be my arrival. When flying into Hong Kong Airport the plane was flying just above the water, passing so many boats and islands and mountains. I was blown away at how beautiful Hong Kong was. Also, driving around the city on the first day (I was met at the airport by my employer) seeing just how much beautiful nature, bays, mountains and beaches there are in Hong Kong made me really happy I had chosen to move to Hong Kong.
What advice would you give to anyone else thinking of moving to your current location?
Out of any country I have visited in Asia, Hong Kong has been, by far, the most clean, organised and liveable city. The public transport system is inexpensive and extensive. There are mini buses connecting all corners of Hong Kong to a MRT (subway) station. The city is surrounded by beautiful walking and cycling tracks. And Hong Kong is also not as expensive as people hype it up to be - sure there are certain imported items that are more expensive to buy, but fresh produce is plentiful and a lot less expensive than purchasing it in Australia. So my advice to those thinking of moving to Hong Kong - just do it. It’s an amazing place.
Tell us about your blog!
I started my blog - about travel destinations, working and volunteering abroad when traveling after leaving Thailand. I firstly wanted somewhere I could share what I had experienced and learnt with my family (who do not like travel). I wanted to show them my photos and descriptions of places and aspects of different cultures that they will not ever experience for themselves. Then I found myself a member of the travel blogging world. Step by step I have moved my content to focus on assisting people who are looking to travel - providing helpful information, tips and advice for each destination I visit as well as itineraries and information about working and volunteering abroad. I have also started creating videos to enhance my blog and give readers a greater understanding of each destination. I love blogging, and the combination of writing, digital editing, website designing, photography and videography really fulfills my creative side.
Are you an expat living in Hong Kong or perhaps you are planning a move? Healthcare in Hong Kong can be expensive, and expats will want to make sure they have access to the very best private medical facilities. Medibroker can guide you to the best plan for yourself, your whole family or even for your workforce. Contact our expert team today.