OK - so you are thinking of taking a position in Asia as an Expat? Or are married to someone who is? Or thinking of marrying someone who is? Etc.
OK - deep breath. This is doable. You WILL have a blast. You WILL met friends. You WILL have experiences that will change your life for the better and see things that most westerners only dream about.
WHERE TO LIVE:
Well - here's where you start. First of all - you need to decide where to live. Hong Kong sits partially on the mainland (the Kowloon side) on a peninsula and on a series of large and small islands; the largest being Hong Kong Island, but there are some others such as Lantau Island or Lama Island where, I assure you, there are no llamas - I checked. There are very high mountains (think San Francisco, but higher - or Medellin, if you have ever been there, but with oceans).
You could live deep in the City, in Central, or above it in the Mid Levels. There are neighborhoods that are trendy, such as Tin Hau. There are small towns in the East in the New Territories where you can try "village" life or you could even try "island life" at Mui Wo or Discovery Bay on Lantau Island (or some of the other Islands - if you are OK with being a slave to ferries). There's the extreme Western side of HK (Kennedy Town). There is the extreme South side of the Island (Aberdeen or South Horizons), or Kowloon. There are almost as many choices as there are preferences. TGGL's advice? Spend some time living in different neighborhoods/towns or islands. Airbnb is great for this - it will give you a sense of the area and a sense of your commute. Most of HK is reachable form Central in about an hour or under (in some cases 1/2 hour or well under ) - However, as you get out into the edges of the commuter rail (the MTR) the commute does get longer and more difficult. So, again, try out a few neighborhoods via Airbnb for at least 3 or 4 days. See how it goes. But have an idea first of what type of environment you like to live in, because HK has them all.
HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND THE CITY:
That's easy. Use the MTR or the trams or, if you need to cross the hanrour - ferries (there will be more on a blog post on ferries - so stay tuned!). Taxis are very good too. Buses, especially the short buses, can be iffy. However, if you choose to live higher up on a hillside, you may HAVE to take one. As long as it's for a short distance, you should be OK.
Restaurants abound. Many different varieties of Asian food with an emphasis on Cantonese obviously. TGGL offers some of his faves in the Eat section of the site - check em out!
Cantonese and English are the two languages, although there are a growing number of Mandarin speakers. If you speak English you can get by. (In Macau there is also Portuguese, but not Hong Kong) . However, if you speak any other language? You had better learn either English or Cantonese!
A WORD ABOUT CHINA:
Well, maybe several words.
China, Physically and Historically
China is big. No, really. It’s very big.
It’s a gigantic, geographically diverse
country that takes up an immense amount
of a single, large continent (sound familiar?).
And, It’s very old. No . . . I mean it.
Yeah – I know you think the United States
(300 years) and Europe (almost 2000 years)
are pretty old. Well, I am telling you,
China is even older. Almost 1500 years older
than jolly olde Europe! In fact, here was an
organized empire (the Shang Dynasty)
as early as 1600 BC. So, when you are
thinking back on Julius Caesar and the
Roman Empire, which was, admittedly,
pretty badass, and you are thinking –
“wow that’s ancient and such a long time ago!”
Think about this: There was a Shung Emperor and
a gigantic Chinese Empire, almost twice the size of
Rome at its height, 1500 years before Caesar.
Stick that in your opium pipe and smoke it!
While Europeans were still wandering around, half naked, living in huts, painting themselves blue, dying of diseases, and praying to trees with barely a written language, the Chinese were a cultured, organized and technologically developed society.
Of course, somewhere it went off the rails and China retrogressed a bit. But it remains a global power. Those who underestimate it as some sort of backwater do so at their own peril
CLEANLINESS AND MODERN CULTURE:
Well – let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? China is not what one would consider a model of civic cleanliness. Not that its completely dirty – but TGG has always been amazed that such an advanced culture would care so little about public sanitation. The buildings are dingy and have not been power washed since, well, since the Tang Dynasty. The solution? Get over it. Not much you can do. However, certain neighborhoods are much better than others - and out in the countryside there are very unspoiled places one can hike to. All in all, a very lovely country from a natural setting standpoint. But the cities can be crowded and a bit noisy and dirty. But then again,I have had people complain about New York City . . . so everything is relative I guess.
Do you need a professional license? If so check with local rules. If you have to take a test (many US licenses do not transfer)