Expats in HK continue to enjoy the good life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 January, 2011, 12:00am

Hong Kong may have its problems but, as far as expatriates are concerned, the city has a tremendous amount going for it. The results of a recent HSBC survey found that Hong Kong remains one of the most favoured destinations for expats who have relocated, scoring highly in categories that range from the quality of local transport to the ease of making friends.

Canvassing more than 4,100 respondents in 100-plus countries, the annual survey primarily sought feedback on lifestyle and experiences. It focused on quality-of-life factors, such as food, entertainment, health care and socialising, and the practicalities of setting up finances and arranging utilities. More subjective questions asked for impressions of issues such as the ease of integration and enjoyment of the local culture.

Among the most interesting findings for Hong Kong-based respondents were that 50 per cent said it was easy to find accommodation, 67 per cent reported their commute to work became easier and 60 per cent said they had found it easy to make friends. A cautionary note, though, was that making 'local' friends seemed relatively tough, with 44 per cent of replies citing this as a specific difficulty.

Unsurprisingly, a clear subtext was that expat moves were often made with an eye to financial gain or better career prospects. The positive thing for Hong Kong, though, was that - in marked contrast to Russia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar - economic opportunity and quality of life were perceived to go hand in hand.

While not questioned for the survey, Robert, who only gave his first name and is a corporate affairs executive in his mid-20s, nevertheless bears out many of the findings. Malaysian by nationality, he lived in London for about 20 years before joining the local office of an international public relations firm this year, via a three-month stay in Beijing to improve his Putonghua.

Several factors prompted his decision to relocate. They included a desire for a change of scene, the prospect of interesting work, and the chance to be somewhere that seemed a hive of new business activity.

To date, the big pluses for him are that Hong Kong is 'incredibly convenient', safe at night and has an excellent public transport system. His move was made easier by already having friends here, but he has had no trouble extending his circle. It has simply been a matter of getting out and getting involved. 'People want to make the most of their time here, so it is easy to socialise,' he says. 'It's your decision whether to hang out with the expats or with people who do more cultural things.'