The Pros and Cons of Expat Life in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an exciting, lively city which has proved extremely popular with expats. It’s one of the largest business hubs in Southeast Asia, and over half the expat community have moved there for their work and career.

As an international city, it can offer many benefits to expats but, like any relocation destination, there are also some drawbacks. If you’re moving to Hong Kong, these are pros and cons of expat life in Hong Kong you should consider.

Pros of Living as an Expat in Hong Kong

Below are just some of the advantages of living in Hong Kong.


Chinese and English are both official languages of Hong Kong, with Cantonese being the most common spoken form of Chinese. Signs are displayed in both Chinese and English, which can be a huge help to expats who move with no prior knowledge of Chinese.

However, whilst most expats can get by fine just without speaking Cantonese or Mandarin, some locals speak very little English. Attempts to learn the language will also be hugely appreciated by the locals. Speaking Chinese can also bring extra benefits to expats, helping them to network better.

Good Transportation

Hong Kong has great public transport. The metro system, buses, and trams are clean, cheap and efficient. There are regular and frequent services across Hong Kong, although buses and trams can sometimes be slow. There are also plenty of cheap taxis and Uber is available, if preferred.

Octopus cards offer a convenient way to pay for public transport in Hong Kong, scanning it as you hop on and off trams, buses and trains. It can be topped up at machines throughout the city and can even be used to pay for groceries.

Great International Schools

Hong Kong has a high standard of education opportunities, with students in the international schools achieving excellent results. The schools offer a varied curriculum and many also have extensive extra-curricular activities. Local children often also attend the international schools, so there will be a diverse student body.

Large Expat Community

People travel from all over the world to live and work in Hong Kong, from the nearby Asian countries to Western nations. As such, there is a large and friendly expat community, so new residents will always be able to find people to give them support and advice.


For a large city, Hong Kong is quite safe, with low crime rates. Whilst the odd theft or pickpocketing incident may occur in crowded areas, overall levels of crime are quite low and decreasing with crime prevention operations. Expats should still make their own theft prevention efforts, by always keeping belongings safe and secure.

Excellent Healthcare

Most expats in Hong Kong have international medical insurance. Whilst residents with a Hong Kong Identity card have subsidised access to the public healthcare system, others can face high fees similar to the private system. There are many good hospitals around Hong Kong, with excellent A&E departments, maternity wards, and other health services.

Many of the hospitals are seen as world-class, with the best and most up-to-date technology available. The healthcare professionals are trained to a high standard, and many speak good English.

Cons of Living as an Expat in Hong Kong

There are, inevitably, a few disadvantages to relocating to Hong Kong, some of which are detailed below.

High Rent and Lack of Space

Renting in Hong Kong is extremely expensive, costing about 14% more than central London. Expats might find they get less space for their money too, as apartments can be quite small.

However, new accommodation is being built all the time, so whilst expats might have to pay above the norm for rent, there will be plenty of choice. If it’s worth sacrificing the convenience of a central apartment, expats could find cheaper rent and more space further out of the centre.

High Levels of Pollution

Air pollution levels can be quite high in Hong Kong, especially when combined with the humid weather. Hong Kong has an Air Quality Health Index in place, which frequently records levels as “Serious”, the highest category. You can often see the fog which shrouds the city and the bay, and people report that sometimes it can be difficult to breathe or see clearly.

People sensitive to pollutants are advised to wear a face mask when walking around outside, and some people avoid the streets altogether if the air is particularly bad and the weather is humid.

Noise pollution is also a problem in Hong Kong, with building works, traffic and people going all hours of the day, and sometimes the night too. Earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones are advised for expats who are looking for some peace and quiet.

Long Working Hours

The idea of a 9-5 job isn’t standard in Hong Kong and many people work long hours. The working culture can be quite hierarchal, and people tend to be hard-working and career orientated. As such, they often won’t leave the workplace until their superiors do.

Whilst Hong Kong can offer great career prospects and generous salaries for expats, it’s important to monitor how many hours are worked to ensure a healthy work/life balance is being kept.

A Transient City

Living in a city with a large expat population brings many benefits for people wanting to relocate. However, this means that the community is constantly changing, with people moving on to new places or to go back home. This can be frustrating if you’ve built up a close community. But on the other hand, this also means that new people are arriving all the time, so you’ll always be able to meet new friends.

If you’re moving to Hong Kong, Expatriate Group can make sure you’re covered with the best expat insurance. You can get a free quote today, or contact us to talk about your health insurance requirements.

Related News