living in hong kong

Moving to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Score
Shithole Paradise

Today we’ll talk about moving to Hong Kong. Is this an option for those who want to escape the West? Let’s find out.

What is Hong Kong?

expats in hong kong

Hong Kong is a bustling metropolis in Southeast Asia, on the southern end of China

The city of Hong Kong, formally known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR) is a very interesting place to move to.

Like Macau, it’s kind of a Chinese city, but kind of not.

It is located on the eastern Pearl River Delta in South China, but there are separate governing and economic systems from mainland China, which is known as the “One country, two systems” policy.

In practice, however, it’s clear that China has massive influence, and if Hong Kong is not completely under its thumb within a few years, it most certainly will be within a few decades.

That’s a shame, because Hong Kong is a rather special place.

It’s a mix of Western and Eastern cultures, and is currently one of the three great global financial centers, one of the most developed cities in the world, and also one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

It’s a true metropolis, with the largest number of skyscrapers in the world and a highly developed transportation network, one of the best in the world.

Hong Kong is a former British colony and didn’t achieve independence until 1997.

This global powerhouse has risen to such as a status because of multiple factors, such as low taxation, free trade, universal public healthcare system and minimal government market intervention.

It currently is the home of the third highest number of billionaires in the world.

Around 7.5 million people reside in Hong Kong, and in general these enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

That said, there is still severe income inequality.

Living in Hong Kong can be done on a budget, but realistically if you want to live a decent life with Western luxuries, it will be pretty expensive.

Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate, which means hot and humid summers, typhoons, and all the other fun stuff.

Cantonese is the official language, with English coming in second, tied with Mandarin.

moving to hong kong map
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Requirements for moving to Hong Kong

Unlike most countries I’ve talked about so far, moving to Hong Kong as a way of escaping the West isn’t easy for many people.

To begin with, the visa situation isn’t the greatest. You can enjoy a visa free period of up to 90 days, which could be renewed in certain cases.

After that, it can either be very easy or very hard for you to stay here permanently.

If you want to start your own business in, and relocate to, Hong Kong, you could go for an Investment Visa.

There is no minimum investment amount, but you do need to possess a “good educational background or good technical qualifications, relevant professional abilities, achievement and experience”.

In other words, you’ll have to prove that you are worthy, that your business will contribute to Hong Kong’s economy.

This visa is valid for one year, and can be renewed.

Getting (permanent) residence is possible, this is called a “Right of Abode”.

However, this is only for Chinese citizens or those who’ve been staying in Hong Kong legally for the past 7 years.

So if you do not invest in Hong Kong, you’re pretty much out of luck, and staying there for a prolonged period of time will be difficult.

In addition, citizenship is not even an option.

The level of English proficiency is only Moderate according to official statistics, but usually you should not have many issues communicating in this language.

Lastly, there’s the issue of money. Hong Kong is one of the most expensive options to move to in the area, similar to Singapore.

What is the cost of living in Hong Kong?

The cost of living in Hong Kong per month is very elevated compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.

While the average minimum annual wage is pretty low (around $800 per month), if you want to live a decent life in Hong Kong, you can expect your expenses (rent included) to be around $3,000.

This is around triple the amount you’d pay in most other close-by countries.

You do not have to pay taxes on your international income though, so there’s that.

Benefits of living in Hong Kong

  • Modern metropolis

    Hong Kong is very modern, with amazing public transportation and great infrastructure. It has the highest number of skyscrapers in the world and is one of the most developed cities in the world

  • Global economic powerhouse

    Hong Kong is not only a bustling economic powerhouse in the region, it’s one of the major financial cities in the world. While it’s true that most of its growth has already occurred, it is still growing on a yearly basis and will likely continue to do so. If you want to be away from the West, but still be in a relevant financial hub, this is the place for you

  • Safe

    Hong Kong is a pretty safe city, and most crime rate numbers are low. There is however the issue of international safety, with Big Brother China forever looming over its head

  • Great visa system - if you start a business

    Attaining permanent residence in Hong Kong is easy if you are starting a business there

  • No taxes on international income

    The only requirement for moving to Hong Kong is a (relatively high) international income, and you’ll be pleased to know that you do not have to pay taxes on this

moving to hong kong

Downsides of living in Hong Kong

  • Humid

    Hong Kong has relatively high humidty

  • Higher cost of living

    While $3,000 per month isn’t that much money in general, it’s still significantly more than you’d have to pay if you were to live even an hour away in another country

  • Iffy visa system - if you don't start a business

    If you do not start a business in Hong Kong, attaining permanent residence becomes difficult

  • China

    Hong Kong’s closely tied to China, and even though its status as a “Special Administrative Region” supposedly vouches for its independence, the last few years have seen an increase in China’s influence and you can be certain this will only increase in the future. At some point, Hong Kong will be fully absorbed back into China numbawan, just like Taiwan will. I doubt this is a good evolution, and if you are planning to live in Hong Kong, it’s certainly something to take into account

Living in Hong Kong - by the numbers

Hong Kong Score
Shithole Paradise

Climate: 7/10

Hours of sunshine (5/10) Temperature (10/10) Rainy days (8/10) Humidity (5/10)
23 C – 73 F

Hong Kong’s climate is average at best, with great average temperatures and not too many rainy days, but an unpleasantly high humidity and not a great amount of hours of sunshine

Level of English: 7/10

Moderate Proficiency

Hong Kong citizens score on average a Moderate Proficiency in English, but I would say this is a bit off because Hong Kong has a very large expat community, so overall it’s probably closer to High Proficiency.

Cost of Living: 3/10

Minimum Annual Wage Average monthly cost single person

Taxes on international income: 10/10


You do not have to pay taxes on your international income though, so there’s that. This is a major advantage, and cannot be underestimated.

Economic growth: 8/10

Average GDP growth over the last 10 years: 5%

Safety: 10/10

Global Terrorism Index (10/10) Intentional homicide rate (10/10) Rape rate (10/10)

Hong Kong is one of the safest places in the world, with low crime rates across the board, very similar to Dubai in fact.

The only main issue here is of course the looming threat of China.

Visa: 4.3/10

  • Visa (8/10)

    There is a Visa free period of up to 90 days, renewal might be possible in certain cases. If you are starting a business here, you can get Investment visas for one year at a time, renewable. If you aren't doing that, it's not really viable to stay here long term, barring other circumstances

  • Permanent Residence (5/10)

    Permanent residence is possible if you have been living there for 7 consecutive years, which means you’d need to have started a business

  • Citizenship (0/10)

    Citizenship does not exist for non-Chinese

living in hong kong

How is living in Hong Kong as a foreigner?

Living in Hong Kong as a foreigner can be a wild and very enjoyable ride.

If you make a strong location independent income and have set up a business here, you will be able to stay here on a permanent basis, and enjoy the many benefits this metropolis has to offer.

0% taxes on your income? One of the highest life expectancies in the world, highly developed transportation networks and all the modern conveniences?

Yes please, sign me up.

Hong Kong’s not rising as fast as it has in the past, but it’s still by no means obsolete and will likely stay a major financial powerhouse in the decades to come.

That said, its disadvantages aren’t numerous but they are significant.

The climate’s not all that, and if you hate humidity, Hong Kong’s not for you.

There’s also the higher cost of living which logically accompanies such a higher standard of living.

Compared to nearby countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, expect to pay about 3 times as much per month in Hong Kong.

Making a decent international income is thus a sine qua non for living in Hong Kong.

But the biggest disadvantage by far is the fact that it’s technically a part of China, with the mainland’s influence growing year by year.

Hong Kong has attained the status it currently enjoys because of low government intervention in the market, free trade and low taxes, but if China is back in full control, do you think those factors will remain present?

I’m very doubtful, and if it weren’t for China’s growing influence, Hong Kong would be one of the best places to escape the West from.

As it stands … I would still recommend Hong Kong as a flag, probably to start a business in and get permanent residence that way, or to set up a bank account.

Living there permanently long term however, isn’t something I can fully endorse.

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3 thoughts on “Moving to Hong Kong

  1. Nathaniel Morrison
    Nathaniel Morrison says:

    Hi there! Hong Kong is a great country. And it is known as the freest country in the world and as the global financial hub. This is why many businessmen are attracted to make and do business here in HK. You can Open Bank Account Online easily and Company Formation in the country is rampant.

    1. Jay

      It’s a special administrative region, not a country.

  2. Adam Smith

    Great post. Hong Kong is also a great place for me. Beside that they have a beautiful travel spots, they also has a rich economy, and a best place to start a business. They have a strategic position, a two-tier tax system with no withholding taxes, capital gains taxes, business levies, or import taxes in the region, a simple bank account opening process, and, most importantly, a rapid company creation process. Thus, to incorporate and to register company HK is very easy.

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