24 November 2016

Kate Farr - Expat in Hong Kong

Kate Farr - Expat in Hong Kong

We’ve had the chance to talk to Kate Farr, late 30s, a British expat who has moved to Hong Kong with her family. Mrs. Farr who has been living there for over four years, now works as a writer and editor. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: The UK.


Q: What made you move out of UK?

A: Like many people, I followed my husband to Hong Kong as a trailing spouse.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Hong Kong. My husband was offered a job here in 2009, and, having previously visited as backpackers after our wedding, we were excited about the prospect of returning.


Q: How long have you been living in Hong Kong?

A: This is actually our second time around in Hong Kong – we lived here between 2009 and 2011 when we moved to Shanghai for around 18 months. We returned to Hong Kong in 2012 and have been here since.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my husband and two young children. My eldest son was born in Shanghai and my youngest in Hong Kong, so neither has known any other life. Hong Kong is definitely home for all of us!


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: We are fortunate in that our families visit us in Hong Kong regularly, so we actually don’t get back to the UK that often. This year was our first visit in four years!


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Can’t really answer this question – as with anywhere else, Hong Kong is a diverse place, so it’s impossible to generalise about the entire population of a city!


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

A: It’s very easy to meet people and to socialise in Hong Kong. It has a bit of a “work hard, play hard” reputation, and, as a transient sort of place, it’s easy to find like-minded expats. As we’ve been here for such a long time now, we have a very mixed group of friends, both local and expat.


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

A: Hong Kong’s income tax rate is very low, however, rent, groceries and, if you opt for it, international schooling are all very expensive compared to the UK.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Around HK$30-$45.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Anything from HK$50 and up.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: The sky’s the limit! HK is a foodie city and so you can easily max out the budget with an HK$4,000 meal if you really want to.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Around HK$100 and up. There’s no tax on wine in HK so it’s not as expensive as cities like Singapore. No idea about cigarettes.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Hong Kong?

A: Avoid HSBC like the plague! They are infamous for their terrible service in HK. Shop around and be prepared for the fact that, at least if you’re relocating from the UK, the terms are nowhere near as favourable and service such as online banking look pretty archaic in comparison.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Immigration and other government departments are actually incredibly efficient and the staff tends to be happy to advise and assist wherever possible. A welcome change from the UK!


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Hong Kong is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: The HK public healthcare system is amongst the best in the world. You pay a flat fee of HK$100 per visit to an accident and emergency department or as an inpatient. It’s like an improved version of the NHS. That said, as with the NHS, waiting times can be long, so most expats will opt for private health insurance.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the UK or Hong Kong? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Our health insurance coverage is provided by my husband’s company. If you’re planning on having a baby privately, ensure you are covered as childbirth costs are sky-high. That said, I had my youngest son in a Hong Kong public hospital and paid just HK$400 for the privilege! I had a much happier experience there than with the fancy Shanghai private hospital where I delivered my eldest son.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Hong Kong? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: N/A


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: I’m quite a long way down the line now as I’ve been overseas for over seven years, but initially it was forging my own career and identity as a trailing spouse. Now I own my own business, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.


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

A: So many positives! Hong Kong is such a small and accessible city that you can be in the heart of the city, then up a mountain or on a beach in under an hour. My children have the most fantastic outdoor lifestyle here, it’s easy to own your own business and we’re incredibly lucky to have affordable domestic help than enables me to have a career. On the downside, apartments are small and rent is expensive.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Hiking is one of the best ways to see Hong Kong’s beauty. Get out into nature and explore. There are also over 200 outlying islands, countless beaches, endangered pink dolphins, fishing villages, national parks, urban farms… the list goes on! That’s before you start on the vibrant culture, buzzing city, rooftop bars, fine dining…


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

A: Never say never, but we consider ourselves to be here for good. We’re immigrants, not expats, our kids attend local schools, are learning Cantonese and will be raised as Hong Kongers.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Appreciate it! Yes, there are negatives, but as with anywhere, you’ll get out what you put in. Leave the expat bubble from time to time and just explore. Too many people get fixated on the fact that they can’t find their favourite brand of shampoo from “back home” in the shops, or the small apartment sizes and forget to appreciate all the amazing things that this city has to offer.


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

A: Other than my own (!), accidentaltaitai.com, I’d recommend jetlagandmayhem.com for family travel, mintmochamusings.com for China life, rachttlg.com for beauty and dining and e-tingfood.com for lots of fascinating information about Hong Kong food and its provenance.