The Truth About Living as a Solo Female Expat in Hong KongWednesday, May 04, 2016
I’ve lived in Hong Kong for one year now - and it all happened by accident. I didn’t even know what an expat was before I came to this city. Now I hear the word on average 10 times a day - every foreigner here is referred to as one.
Does belonging to a ‘community’ make living in an Asian city alone any less terrifying?
I would usually hate having a label attached to me, but it really does.
What is it like living in Hong Kong?
In one word. CRAZY. This city absolutely blows my mind every day, even a year in. It is so fast-paced, so well connected and offers so much in terms of things to do. I honestly feel like I have only just scratched the surface! A city where you can be on the rooftop of a skyscraper, on a white sand beach and in the mountains all in one day. A place that is home to every possible cuisine - at all hours of the night. Somewhere with hundreds of different languages, yet you learn how to communicate with everyone. A land of opportunities and huge career prospects.
I live in an apartment block 15 floors up that looks onto thousands, if not millions of windows, each with a person or family living their own story. Mine? I fell in love with the city within 24 hours of a 4-day trip here - I immediately knew it was a place I needed to give more of my time and energy. I feel like whatever you put into Hong Kong, it gives back. I came here alone, just one suitcase, no phone, and no friends.
It could possibly be the easiest place I have ever been to make friends. This is where the word ‘expat’ gives you a helping hand. Most foreigners are in the same situation; either they have been sent here for work, or they are giving it their all to make it in the city - which usually means they have left a lot behind and have come at it alone.
You will immediately bond with other expats and their hilarious Hong Kong-isms: funny things that only happen in Asia, what you find weird about the city and by asking where the hell you should be going. Expats are VERY friendly here. I made friends by simply talking to everyone I met. I also joined Meetup.com groups and attended networking events. I quickly made friends and a year on now have a solid group of friends who refer to each other as ‘ The Hong Kong Family’.
To put it frankly, it is expensive to live in Hong Kong. Rent is extremely over-priced for what you get, and the same goes for food. However, salaries are higher and taxes are low, and there is always a cheap option for everything. Eating at local Chinese restaurants and living outside of the popular expat areas will save you a fair few pennies! For a breakdown of how much it costs to live in Hong Kong take a look at my post here.
If you are under 30 you may be eligible for a 1-year working holiday visa to stay and work in Hong Kong for 12 months with no questions asked (just a small application form at the beginning ). However, the HK Immigration Department only has this agreement with some nationalities, so check out if this applies to you here.
The other option is to find an employer that will sponsor you to either move out here or employ you when you are here, and in both cases provide you with a working visa to live and work in Hong Kong. If you have a skill and a degree this can be pretty easy, although the process is getting tighter each year. Popular jobs in Hong Kong for expats are in teaching, finance, marketing and engineering.
Throughout my five years of solo travel I have definitely noticed I am ‘alone’ in some places more than others, and Hong Kong just isn’t one of those. I forget I came alone, as I now have so many strong relationships here that I feel like I’ve lived here a lifetime.
I will say one thing, though - it’s not the kind of city you are likely to find the love of your life.
It is so transient and people are moving to and from very quickly - it can be hard to sustain a romantic relationship. I haven’t given up completely though and the friendships definitely make up for it - plus girls, it’s a VERY fun city to be single in!