1 August 2016

Charlene Choo - Expat in Victoria, Hong Kong

Charlene Choo - Expat in Victoria, Hong Kong

We’ve had the pleasure of talking to Ms. Charlene, a 32-year-old Singaporean head-hunter living as an expat in Hong Kong. Since Hong Kong and Singapore have many cultural similarities, Ms. Charlene did not struggle too much in her time as an expat in Hong Kong. As a Chinese-Singaporean, Ms. Charlene also did not have some of the most common expat struggles such as language and homesickness. Being 3-4 hours away from Singapore means that she can travel back and forth from her host country to her home country if she ever gets homesick.

According to Ms. Charlene, the hardest experience she’s ever had as an expat is just her first few months as an expat in Hong Kong. Even though she did not have any friends, family or any acquaintance in the city, she said that it was pretty easy to find new friends and contacts in her work industry. Joining the right clubs and associations that can help your career as well as your social life is a good way to start your expat life. When you have the right information and attitude about the expat lifestyle, you would be able to adjust faster and better than other expats.

Read more about Ms. Charlene’s life as an expat in Hong Kong below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Singapore

Q: What made you move out of your home country?

A: I started my recruitment career in Singapore 10 years ago. It was a secondment at that time that brought me to Hong Kong to manage a branch office in 2007.

Q: How long have you been living in Hong Kong

A: I have been in Hong Kong since 2007.

Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in Hong Kong?

A: I moved to Hong Kong alone with no friends or anyone I knew in this country. In addition, I was running the office alone with no support. Luckily I was able to speak Cantonese and wasn’t too difficult to manage through and around.

Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in your host country? What was your experience with these?

A: I came to Hong Kong without the work visa as I was travelling on a monthly basis back to Singapore due to work needs. Working in the recruitment industry always has a demand for non – local talents hence obtaining a work visa with a new employer was not difficult. My work visa was sponsored by the employer.

Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: Not living alone but I’m also not with my family.

Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialize with other expats in Hong Kong? How did you manage to find a social circle in Hong Kong?

A: It wasn’t difficult to know new people or friends as meeting new people in the recruitment industry was easy. There is a big local Singaporean community in Hong Kong yet, I don’t mix much with them.

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend for future expats?

A: I live in the new territories where there is a lot more space, better air and away from the crowd. In NT area, basically what we get would be bigger pasture of green and parks.

Q: How does the cost of living in Hong Kong compared to your home?

A: There isn’t such a big price difference betweed HK and SG. Coffee in HK average close to HK$30 while in SG is close to HK$28. A meal in NT area close to HK$40 while in SG is close to HK$20 and a meal in HK close to HK1000 while in SG close to HK$700.

Q: How do you find the local culture and people in your Hong Kong?

A: Singaporeans tend to be a lot more conservative partly due to the lack of speech freedom in the country. Singaporeans also tend to be a lot more rigid and narrow minded.  

Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Hong Kong?

A: In recent years and lately, HKG people have too much dissatisfaction judging with the frequent protests against anything they can find issue with. With the huge influence of china, hongkong does seem to be going through a transition or transformation away from its own culture I reckon.

7 years ago when I came, hkg seems to be a lot more vibrant, positive vibes and atmosphere yet recently, these seem to be diminishing hugely.

Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Not homesick as communicate frequently with family members in Singapore.

Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Perhaps in future, there are plans to move to either Australia or Europe.

Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: Coping with taxes here with no benefits to offset!

Q: What tips can you give other expats living in Hong Kong?

A: Hong kong is probably not going to be a country that can allow us to stay for long. So, always lookout for better opportunities elsewhere!

Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Hong Kong?

A: www.sassyhongkong.com