A view of a narrow street bristling with signs in Hong Kong.

In the streets of Hong Kong. Photo © MojoBaron, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

Picture an exotic setting, an international cast, and bags full of money. Few destinations bristle with as much promise and potential as Hong Kong. Synonymous with ambition, success, and adventure, the city has proved irresistible to swashbuckling entrepreneurs and curious globetrotters for generations.

In many ways Hong Kong is the easy expat choice, requiring the fewest lifestyle sacrifices from those who move here.Hong Kong is a city with an incredible fixation on and incredible talent for making money, and at the international firms and multinationals where many expats work, the rewards are handsome. But moving here doesn’t need to be about the big bucks While it was a fantastic bonus, it wasn’t money that brought me to Hong Kong. It was opportunity Moving abroad usually entails compromises on your lifestyle and restrictions on your job options. . . but not in Hong Kong. The city’s English-speaking workplace means the job classifieds are plentiful and varied, with opportunities for almost every professional. My partner and I arrived with no jobs and a friend’s spare room in which to sling our bags. Within a month we had found work, moved into an apartment, and bought a bag of rice bigger than our bathroom. I can’t think of many destinations that can offer a foreigner so much opportunity so quickly.

Hong Kong excited me in a way London, Dublin, and New York did not — or, more likely, could not. It was different and unfamiliar, and it felt like an adventure. No longer a colony but not quite a country, governed by Beijing but not part of China. Hong Kong has dual Chinese and Western identities. For the incoming expat it’s hard to know what to expect. No matter what your expectations, though, Hong Kong will almost certainly confound them. Hong Kong is the contrast of frantic street markets in the shadow of sparkling malls, of sipping on a designer caffé latte frothed by a barista while waiting for your herbal Chinese medicine to be ladled from a steaming cauldron, of the ancestral hall in the afternoon and the cocktail party in the evening. The contradictions are completely maddening and endlessly fascinating. Ultimately, Hong Kong will be as foreign or as familiar as you choose, but the range of experiences on offer is endless. There is no single Hong Kong; it defies simple definition and nobody comes away from the city with the same story.

In many ways Hong Kong is the easy expat choice, requiring the fewest lifestyle sacrifices from those who move here. But it’s important that you’re motivated by excitement about the differences rather than the similarities, otherwise you’re likely to be disappointed. Willingness to adapt is essential. Hong Kong is smelly, noisy, and there is no space; the high-rise apartments are cramped and the streets are uncomfortably crowded.

But if there are reasons to be apprehensive, they are far outweighed by the city’s accolades. You’ll walk into a well-established international community and its well-oiled social scene. This is a city for living. Endlessly restless, life here moves at an explosive pace that shakes every second from the clock with an energy and enthusiasm that’s infectious. Most expats who live here fall head over heels, hopelessly in love.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Living Abroad in Hong Kong.