Once the decision to relocate to Hong Kong has been made, you face the challenge of leaving your known everyday life behind and reestablish yourself and your family in a new, exiting, but different place. Hong Kong is a truly international city so the vast majority of Norwegians in Hong Kong find the transition easy and, thanks to the international community, find great value in being able to choose exactly how exotic you want your everyday life to be.
Having someone experienced in helping Scandinavian families and companies to relocate to Hong Kong will give you the easiest transfer and avoid the potential pitfalls in the process. Please contact the following of our members to see what assistance they can provide during your relocation:
- OKAY.com (real estate leasing and sales) / Asia Pacific Properties Ltd. (relocation support services)
In addition, below is useful information from Norwegian members that have already walked this path and transitioned their businesses and families to Hong Kong.
What you should know about moving to Hong Kong
Please note that the following advice are collected and given with good intentions and that the Norwegian Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong will not accept any liability from anyone that follows the advice without confirming facts and requirements with the appropriate authorities.
Norwegians do not require a visa to enter Hong Kong for a duration of up to 3 months, but employment and study are prohibited. In order to take up employment in Hong Kong, an employment visa or an investment visa is required. Visa applications may be submitted at the Chinese Embassy in Oslo, by mail directly to the Hong Kong Immigration Department or through a sponsor in Hong Kong. The processing time takes about 4-6 weeks. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 may accompany the visa holder and they are free to take up employment or education in Hong Kong. You are normally not allowed to obtain an employment visa while staying in Hong Kong as a visitor. So, make sure your employment visa as well as your family’s dependent visa’s applied for and granted before you arrive in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong ID card
The resident Hong Kong ID card, or HKID, is a credit-card sized ID card you will be issued 4-6 weeks after your work visa is approved. This is the ID you will need for all public offices, banks and other services. This ID card can also be used at Hong Kong ports of entry instead of your Norwegian passport when entering and leaving Hong Kong to save time at immigration checkpoints (though you may still use your Norwegian passport instead).
Hong Kong's economy is based on a constant flow of international professionals and commerce - this is reflected in the ease with which fundamental services can be set up by people and businesses new to the city. Most institutions such as public offices, banks, real estate agents, telecom and internet providers and hospitals will accept your Norwegian passport (with an approved Hong Kong work visa), enabling you get all necessary services and contracts in place without the wait for a local HKID number.
This is maybe the most important item you need to have sorted BEFORE you arrive in Hong Kong, but it is often overlooked by Norwegians as this is a non-issue in Norway.
Securing a school placement for your children is unfortunately not a straightforward task in Hong Kong and is often considered to be the hardest challenge when relocating. Most expatriates will need to send their kids to a private international school as local public schools require knowledge of Cantonese before they accept a pupil. Bear in mind that many international schools require prior knowledge of English before accepting students. Primary school placements for children aged 6-10 years old are especially tight, so finding a school can be a challenge if you leave it too late.
The choice of school also have further implications. First off, fees for private schools can be substantial and an expense not in your current family budget. Knowing this monthly expense is important to include when planning your finances for living in Hong Kong, or when discussing the relocation with your employer. Furthermore, some schools only accept applications from families that live within their assigned school district (or "catchment areas") - an area around the school's location that can vary significantly in size. Only with a proof of address within the school district are you eligible to apply. So the school you choose also have a bearing on where you need to look for an apartment.
This process may take some time, but once enrolled, your children will enjoy a rich education on very high international level. This high level of education, together with the rich exposure to children from globally diverse backgrounds, is one of the reasons why many expatriates choose Hong Kong over other Asian cities.
Hong Kong is a city of sky scrapers and it is quite possible your new home will be in a high-rise tower. Coming from Norway, you should expect this as a change in living environment and part of the overall Hong Kong experience.
Normal tenancy agreements in Hong Kong run with a fixed rent over 2 years, usually with an initial period of 14 months during which you will loose the 2-3 months deposit if you terminate the contract early. After the 14 months "break-lease" period, either party can terminate the contract, typically with 2-months' notice.
The cost of housing, especially in Hong Kong’s prime districts, is expensive and finding the right flat and committing to a 2-year contract may seem a daunting task on top of the many other arrangements needed. Hong Kong has an extensive offering of serviced apartments that are fully furnished and designed for temporary living (typically 1-2 months) until a more permanent apartment is secured. This is a solution many expatriates choose and enables them to get to know the city and the different areas before they decide where to live.
Getting an bank account when arriving in Hong Kong is very simple. Most banks will open an account for you using your Norwegian passport (with approved Hong Kong work visa) as identification until you get you local Hong Kong ID. Most will give you an account with internet banking, check book (which is still widely used in Hong Kong) and a debit card even without having your salary credited to the same account.
If you want a local credit card you must usually have regular salary deposits to the account, or pay in and maintain an minimum balance in the account of 2 times the credit limit of the credit card.
As a holder of a Norwegian driving license you are automatically eligible for a Hong Kong driving license. Get an approved translation of your Norwegian drivers license before you leave Norway and remember to bring the original license and you can get a Hong Kong driving license issued by the Transport Department as soon as you get your HKID.
Hong Kong has the benefit of excellent public and private hospitals. The level of healthcare in Hong Kong is on par with the best in the world - the facilities, level of care and low costs (for public hospitals) are spoken very highly of (including by Norwegians!). Hospitals in Hong Kong will commonly charge the fee for the treatment as you leave, unless it is a planned procedure. If it is a private hospital this may be a significant sum, but all hospitals in Hong Kong are recognized by Norwegian health insurers and refunds for medical costs are usually a straightforward task.
Internet and telecom services are very similar to what you will find in Norway. The biggest providers are:
- Cable TV & Internet: PCCW, Icable, SmarTone
- Cell phone: Vodaphone, 3, CSL, SmarTone
Health Facilities and Gyms
A wide selection of gyms are available all over Hong Kong. In newer and larger apartment complexes you will also often find healthclub facilities and swimming pools available for use by the tenants.
The biggest gyms in Hong Kong are: Fitness First and Pure Fitness. In addition to these there are a wide range of small and large yoga centers and specialised offerings in sports and fitness. This of course in addition to team sports such as Football, Rugby, Cricket, Volleyball.
There are also numerous private recreational clubs offering sports facilities, restaurants and other social venues. The Hong Kong Cricket Club and Hong Kong Football Club are two of the more popular private clubs, though there are many more. All clubs, regardless of their name, tend to have multiple different sports facilities for their members to enjoy.
Hiking: Despite the general impression, Hong Kong actually has very large areas of country parks and mountains, with ~60% of Hong Kong's land dedicated to country parks. It has an extensive network of hiking trails that are easily accessible and well marked. Hiking is by no means a hobby you will need to give up when moving to Hong Kong.
Beaches: Hong Kong offers a wide range of white beaches, many of them within 30 minutes from the city center.
Water activities: With over 200 islands, Hong Kong offers many choices of water activities throughout the year. Windsurfing, diving, wake boarding, rowing, sailing and leisurely cruise on a junk (leisure craft) are all easily available and you can find a club for almost all water sports.