Read the thoughts of Marc Sparrow, Executive Director for Technology, GolinHarris, on the most useful things to know before moving to Hong Kong.

Part I – Getting set up in Hong Kong 

By Marc Sparrow, Executive Director for Technology, GolinHarris in Hong Kong 

The Hong Kong skyline is rightly regarded as one of the great cityscapes of the world.  Anyone with a love of architecture and the built environment cannot fail to be captivated by the place.   Prior to moving here, I had visited three times and found myself enthralled each time. 

When a lucky combination of personal and professional circumstances opened up the way for a move here, I leapt at the chance. 

My one previous experience of moving abroad – to Germany some 16 years previously – had been an exercise in Kafka-esque bureaucracy.  Collecting stamps and forms as I went, I’d had to visit a long series of different buildings and offices, each with their own erratic opening hours. 

In comparison, the move to Hong Kong in February 2013 was extremely straightforward.  My agency, GolinHarris, had already secured a working visa for me, which made things easy when it came to obtaining what is effectively the key to life in Hong Kong – an ID card. 

The ID card (which you register for at the imposingly named Immigration Tower) provides access to every amenity and service a new arrival in a city might need: bank account, gas, electric, water, internet, mobile, etc.   I was able to secure my flat using my passport details but had to provide the details of a Hong Kong ID card before I moved in.  It took about two weeks to arrive after applying.  

I won’t regale you with a long list of dos and don’ts but here’s what for me seem to be the most useful things to know in advance of moving here:

• If you can afford it / your employers pay for it, moving in to a serviced apartment for a month when you get here is definitely the way to go. It gives you a base to operate from while you get your life up and running  

• You’ll need a sizeable deposit to find a flat.  Hong Kong accommodation is some of the most expensive in the world anyway (even pricier than London) and you then need to provide three months’ rent up front – one month’s rent in advance and two months’ rent as deposit.  Many of the flats are unfurnished too so unless you’re shipping furniture you’ll need to plan for this too 

• Finding accommodation is definitely simpler if you go with an agency. They come at a price – typically half your first month’s rent – but for that I had 14 flats lined up to view over the course of two days and the agency handled discussions and negotiations with the landlords for the three flats that were of interest. They also arranged for all my utilities to be set up. You could do this on your own but it would most certainly be much more stressful and time consuming  

• Throw away as many of your worldly possessions as you can bear as you’ll get a lot less space for your money in Hong Kong. I thought I’d been ruthless with discarding unwanted things before I came but had to dump another big batch once my few bits of shipping arrived 

• If you have an HSBC account in the UK, you can get one set up on the same day in Hong Kong. They’re supposed to be able to arrange this for free but HSBC (surprise, surprise) weren’t too helpful or responsive until I opted to pay for this to be set-up

In the next post, I’ll give you an overview of what I’ve learned since I moved here of the similarities and differences in working cultures compared to the UK.


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