Relocating to Hong Kong? Prepare yourself.

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Published: 08th November 2012
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I assumed that settling down in Hong Kong would be straightforward - big mistake!

I was excited when I landed in Hong Kong, as I was looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life. Little did I realize that excitement would be put on pause, and only return months later, after truly settling into one of the greatest cities on earth. After several frustrating encounters where I thought common sense would prevail and multiple trips to the same store, I learned that getting things done wasn’t always as easy as I was used to. In hindsight, I would have easily hired a company to take care of all the details and errands that would have made settling into Hong Kong much, much easier.

With a relocation service, I would have sought advice in these areas:

Obtaining a Hong Kong ID – Knowing what forms to fill out and where to go wasn’t difficult, but could have been much easier if I was told where the building was located, what floor to go to, and how the entire process works. Also, ensuring I had all the right paperwork filled out would have been reassuring as well.

Finding a real-estate agent - I ended up staying in serviced apartments for my first 7 months as I didn’t have time to find an agent, nor look at apartments that met my needs. Eventually when I saw some apartments, I saw many that weren’t close to what I would have wanted, slimming down the list to eligible places would have saved me hours.

Coordinating with the moving company – I didn’t have much time during the day, so even answering the phone to coordinate with the moving company became a difficult task.

Connecting with the community – Finding the right social groups and interests that fit my needs. Hong Kong is an easy place to meet people, but finding friends who I will connect with on a long-term basis is a little more difficult. Once I found the right social group, it was amazing how many we connected immediately. I would have never known dodgeball was a big sport/social circle here. Knowing what social circles are out there can be extremely helpful.

Furniture shopping – I was unaware of Ap Lei Chau, or the Wan-Chai furniture district existed, in which I could pick up or ship many of the items I needed. As a last resort, I found IKEA, but went with the assumption I could handle my ordering online or by phone. I was completely wrong, and ended up making several unnecessary trips simply to add an item or change the delivery date.

Finding the right clothing stores – Banana republic doesn’t exist here, what? I was amazed on how hard it was to buy clothes here. I just assumed it was as easy as buying goods online in the States… not the case. Knowing what malls were available that fit my criteria and budget took some time to find as well.

Finding the right tailor – Finding the right tailor isn’t an easy task. I went through 3 tailors and many fittings before I found the one I really happy with. Only, after some considerable research and recommendations did I find the tailor that fit my needs.

Opening the basic accounts – Opening a bank account was a huge ordeal that really opened my eyes on how things (don’t) get done in Hong Kong. Similarly, but not as bad, starting mobile and cable service had its own set of hurdles.

Utilities for a new apartment – I wanted to settle into my apartment as fast as possible. It took a bit longer as I needed to sign up for various utilities ( water, gas, and electric ) and scheduling appointments when I was available, which wasn’t often.

Finding the right helper – Hong Kong has many laws and restrictions on hiring helpers part-time or full-time. I was hesitant at first and only after finding a helper through a referral did I feel comfortable committing.

China Visa - Knowing what hours to queue up and when the offices are closed would have helped. I was unaware that government offices shut during lunch hours. So the next time I visited, I came 30 minutes before the office opened and my documents were processed much faster. Another big time saver was that I actually downloaded the forms and filled them out before making my way to the office.

Misc – In addition to all these, there were also some of the minor tasks that I was particular about – including getting a haircut or finding the right grocery store. Over time, I found the places that suited my needs.

With enough time and research, all these tasks can be figured out. But if I had someone in Hong Kong who was well connected, and already knew the inefficient short falls and the right places to go, it would have been saved me close to thirty hours of hard-aches and Google searches. In hindsight, I would have easily paid for a type of service like iAssist, simply to have peace-of-mind and allow me to focus on my job, the reason why I relocated in the first place.

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