Moving to any place can be a stressful experience. If relocating within the neighborhood is already bound to have headaches, let alone moving to a place you’re unfamiliar with.
Many expatriates — diplomats, executives of multinational companies or adventurous business people — share the same feeling. Visa arrangements, financial and currency details, and anticipating culture shock are just among the top items in the checklist.
A stressful relocation to Hong Kong is almost always expected, but with countless expats sharing their experience, it’s definitely something that can be learned and newcomers can benefit from their predecessors.
The centerpiece of a Hong Kong relocation is finding and settling into an apartment. Also known as flat, these residential dwellings are somewhat tiny in comparison to those found in Europe and Americas. Given that Hong Kong is one of the most expensive places to live, it’s of little wonder why many people choose to live in such tiny apartments, along with neighbors who showcase their creativity in fitting furniture and decorations within limited spaces.
So what do we need to understand when moving to a new apartment in Hong Kong for the first time?
1. Hiring movers is money well spent. It’s almost no-brainer to consider hiring a mover to relocate your prized possessions from overseas into Hong Kong. These movers are fast, careful and efficient, saving you time, effort and possible damage to fixtures doing the same thing. There are a number of movers out there, and choosing the one with extensive international experience should offer a well-deserved peace of mind. Considerations may include
2. You do not have to bring everything. That 250 pound glass coffee table looks like a lovely addition to your new Hong Kong apartment, but it may be impractical and too costly to bring along with you. Hong Kong is home to plenty of furniture shops, from the ubiquitous IKEA to smaller shops that offer fine hardwood furniture and custom furniture retailers like us at Di-mension. Consider items you decide not to bring as donation or part of your farewell garage sale. Otherwise, you might be monumentally frustrated to realize your pieces of furniture from abroad do not fit well in your new home.
3. Coordinate with agent. Just like in many places elsewhere, moving to a new house is made much more convenient in the presence of a real estate agent. The agent arranges the lease contract, discusses with the landlord (especially those who are not comfortable talking in English), and has local knowledge to arrange various concerns like where to find a handyman, which schools to send children to, hire a household worker, and so on.
4. Check the dimension of your apartment. Even if expats are accorded with more spacious dwellings than the average resident, it pays to measure the floor space and estimate available storage in the house. Making measurements help estimate the size and dimension of your intended furniture to bring in better. In such case you’ll avoid embarrassing the delivery crew who’ll fail to fit oversized furniture in the tiny elevator or even the main door in the apartment.
5. Set moving day timelines. Create a countdown of things to prepare and things to expect as you move to Hong Kong. From completion of wrapping, segregating and labeling of boxes, insurance policy, turnover of the old home to a real estate agent or new tenant, to expected day of arrival and unboxing and decorating in the new home, designate a moving day timeline so as to associate other things to accomplish. This may include arranging for opening bank accounts, shopping for appliances and setting up utilities. In Hong Kong, things are accomplished in an efficient manner so this should ease the hassles and mental fatigue that may set in at this moment.
6. Understand school options. Hong Kong offers a wide variety of educational services, from free education to local children to expensive international private education which cater mostly to expats. International schools offer American, English, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, Australian, Korean, Singaporean, Norwegian or Canadian system are available in Hong Kong. Note that schools are often not so close to home so finding homes may depend on what school you wish to send your child to.
7. Be open minded. Hong Kong may be a modern metropolitan city, but be prepared to experience culture shock, no matter how often you read expat guides and hear advice from friends or even your friendly real estate agent. Learning the language, customs, practices and Chinese culture is the best way to learn lessons in living in Hong Kong. The busy streets, climate, the efficiency in handling transport and the way the government works, and even the cacophony of construction drills in the neighborhood helps us understand and appreciate the good, the bad and the ugly side of this place multinationals call home.