Expat Hong Kong

For those looking for excitement, a busy metropolis and capitalism at its best, one of the top destinations in the world for expats is Hong Kong. Before you pack your bags, there are a few things you should know. While Hong Kong is full of neon lights, crowded streets and markets, it can be very expensive and for most expats, living in Hong Kong for a long period of time will require some careful planning.

Hong Kong has many things to offer any expat and one of them is definite culture shock. While many expats might first see the western style culture at first, there is a deep Chinese culture that is layered underneath. This can cause some slight problems at first, but can usually be smoothed over in the long run.

Many expats come here for business and for the most part, this is one of the great places in the world to open up shop, however it costs money to make money and in Hong Kong, this is very true. Since this city is extremely expensive, most expats that stay for the long term either own a business or are generously paid for their services via the corporation that they work for.


Hong Kong has a seasonal climate. Expect a difference throughout the year. While it is extremely hot and humid in the summer months of June to September, it can get quite chilly during the winter months of December to February. Humidity during the summer can be a problem; however most offices and many restaurants are air conditioned.

To be comfortable, make sure to pack clothes for the summer that are lightweight and dry quickly such as cotton. During the spring and autumn seasons, a light jacket or heavy sweater should do the trick and during the winter time, a light to medium jacket is all that is necessary.


During the last century, Hong Kong was under the control of the British, however in 1997, the People’s Republic of China took control of this island territory. For the most part, Hong Kong has not changed since the handing over of Hong Kong from Britain to China. Hong Kong according to the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Hong Kong stipulate that Hong Kong will operate with virtual autonomy for at least the next 50 years. The Chinese have a policy of “one country, two systems” which is how it has controlled Hong Kong since 1997. While the Chinese government does protect the island and has influence in foreign affairs, Hong Kong has its own local government along with other major institutions such as police force, immigration, monetary policy and legal system.

Following are some important links for government and expat services:

Tax System

Hong Kong usually ranks at the top of list of economically free countries. This means that entrepreneurs can usually flourish under the stable rules and economy of Hong Kong. There are many benefits of setting up a business in Hong Kong, whether it is an enterprise or purchasing real estate. Tax rates are among the lowest in the world and inflation is very stable.

There is a dual tax structure. You can either choose to be taxed at an adjustable rate on deductions and allowances from 2% to 19% or opt for a flat tax rate of 16% on gross income. Another plus, is that as of 2006, the inheritance tax has been abolished.

You can find important information on preparing taxes as an expat for the United States at IRS: International Taxpayer. In addition, you can always consult the Hong Kong Hospital Authority Web Site.

For non emergency medical care, there are many clinics and dentists that cater to foreigners or who accept foreign patients. Prices vary, but health care is available anywhere on the island.

Real Estate

Real Estate can be very expensive in Hong Kong and apartment rentals can cost much more than even expensive cities such as New York and San Francisco. Apartments and on average are much smaller than what Americans are accustomed to and cheaper apartments may not have the services or up to the standards that many Americans are used to.

Purchasing real estate to either live or as an investment is very stable. Contracts are protected by law. The government does control many land leases which it sell at public auctions. The leases for the land usually last to 2047 at which time China will take over full control of Hong Kong. However, for most people, this is not very worrisome.


Shopping in Hong Kong will remind many Americans of shopping in the major cities of the United States, such as New York City. No matter where you go, there is an abundance of capitalism on the streets of Hong Kong. Whether you are bargain hunting or looking for couture fashion, you can easily find it in Hong Kong. For Americans wondering if they can buy products that they are used to in the states, the answer is yes. However, the only thing that is difficult to get is certain types of food. Since all food must be shipped in, it can be sometimes difficult to find the foods that are available back home.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Hong Kong can be very expensive. If you are planning on visiting for the short term it is one thing, however if you plan on living here for the long term, you must have a plan. Housing, food and almost every other service can be more expensive than the states. While many entrepreneurs flourish here, those that don’t are quickly packing their bags so that they can get some relief from the sometimes ridiculously high prices found here.

Web Sites for Expats in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Country Guide

Country guide to Hong Kong from ExpatForum.com.

Extradition from Hong Kong

Hong Kong signed an extradition treaty with the United States on December 20, 1996 and went into effect in 1997.

Map of Hong Kong