7Oct

Setting Up Your Utilities in Hong Kong

When you’ve settled in nicely in your new apartment in Hong Kong, the next step is to set up your utilities! In Hong Kong, it’s the tenant who takes it upon himself to sign up for water, electricity, and gas. We’re here to make it easy for you by listing down some supplier names so you can get started on your new life in the Pearl of the Orient.

ELECTRICITY

Hong Kong Electric started way back in 1890 and is now one of the most trusted utility companies in the world. Their service is reliable and affordable as well. They also have a reputation of being environmentally responsible which is a plus for some people. You can apply for Hong Kong Electric by downloading their form and emailing it to customerservices@hkelectric.com or dropping it at their customer service center along with your Hong Kong ID or passport and a deposit equivalent to around 60 days of consumption. Bills are due monthly and you can register for e-bills payment for a more convenient and environment-friendly payment. For more information, you may call them at 2887 3411 from 9AM-6PM, Mondays-Sundays. Once you’re a customer, you can download their Low Carbon App which provides information on energy safety and efficiency while helping with electric consumption estimation and tips on how to save energy. The app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

WATER

Water Supplies Department provides clean and safe water to around 7 million people in Hong Kong. To sign up, you may download theirform WW01 along with a copy of your Hong Kong ID. Applications take about a week to process and bills are sent every four months. They also have a free downloadable app on the App Store and Google Play that provides information about your bill and notifies you in case of suspension. You can also click the Payment icon to access a QR code in order to pay your bills with cash at any 7-Eleven, Circle K, or VanGO convenience stores. For more information, call them at 2824 5000 and press 3 for English.

Make sure to also get home insurance in case of accidental fire from bad wiring and plumbing. We help expats in Hong Kong find cheap insurance for their apartments.

15Sep

Is Localization of Expat Salaries in Hong Kong A Positive Change?

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‘Expat’ has been a word synonymous with wealth and luxury. Being an expat meant living on a generous salary plus benefits and allowances from the company one works for. It meant living in classy locations in swank apartments, sending one’s kids to the best schools, eating in expensive restaurants, and travelling to the most beautiful countries.

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Not all expats enjoy the comforts associated with living in Hong Kong because of work. Research has shown that since 2004, most expats in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai have been given the localised compensation, in which companies give their employees pay that is comparable to those being offered to locals.
With localisation, the base salary is lower than those of regular expats and no longer includes benefits such as:
  • Allowances
  • Social security
  • Retirement
Obviously, fancy dinners, extravagant vacations, and prestigious schools are also no longer in the picture.
Still, expats don’t always see this as a loss on their part and similarly, companies don’t practice localising to reap the benefits. Localisation for expats can be seen as an opportunity to take charge of their own life someday. Because along with the generous salary and benefits of the old compensation came the reality of being tied to the company for an indefinite amount of time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but some prefer the freedom of being able to pick up and leave and move on to another job whenever they want or relocate to a whole new place. Deciding their own future is a big plus.

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This is also why localising isn’t a win-win deal for companies either. Despite the practice saving them money in the face of difficult economic conditions, they also no longer have a financial bind on their employees and thus risk the possibility of losing their talents.
This is why some companies offer a “local-plus” package to aid their employees in managing their finances and adjusting their spending habits over a period of two years. This package also includes benefits such as transportation, housing, and education for their dependents.
Companies also know who to localise versus those they know won’t stay unless given the full compensation and benefits package. The former is usually the younger employees who are grateful for any opportunity while the latter is the more senior employees who have been loyal to the company and therefore deserve such benefits.
While localisation may mean keeping a closer look on the household budget and saving up for the children’s college education, it also means a certain freedom career-wise that isn’t possible with the generous package. And it’s also a desirable strategy in the long run for companies; it helps them maximise the talent they have in their employment and saving themselves money in the future. So it looks like localisation in the expat world is here to stay.
Village Insurance Direct provides expat assistance in finding insurance to cover personal and business needs while in Hong Kong.Contact us or LiveChat with us for more information.
16Aug

Easing the Process of Moving to Another Area in Hong Kong

For a lot of people, just the thought of moving can be quite stressful. Where do you even begin? Where can you find time to do all that packing? What if some of your things get lost or damaged? But no matter how stressful it can be, the promise of a better location, better house, or a better life is exciting. And the stress can be managed if you acquire the help of a moving company which Hong Kong has a lot of. Once you get in touch with one, they’ll guide you through what to do at the beginning up to the very end.

Here is a step-by-step guide to moving houses or offices:

1. Talk to your mover

This is pretty obvious. But what specifically should you let your mover know? Your packing and moving dates for one thing, that’s a no-brainer. There’s also things like whether you want to move your belongings by air or sea, if you want your things delivered straight to your new door or at the nearest port, if there are customs or quarantine regulations you need to know about, and if you need extra services once you’ve gotten all your things together. You’re not just hiring them to move your moving boxes from Point A to Point B, their professional opinion is also a great addition.

2. Get your quote and insurance

Once you know exactly how you want your home contents moved down to the last detail, the movers will give you a quote. Then you’ll need to take care and submit the necessary paperwork. And most importantly, you need to get moving insurance. No matter how careful your movers are and how well things are planned, accidents can always happen. It’s best to be prepared, get a coverage plan and a valuation for your valuables. Here is a more detailed guide on what you need to consider.

3. Packing time

Actually this is the movers’ job so what you need to plan is being out of the house on the day that they’re arriving so you won’t get in their way. No need to worry about boxes and how to pack what sort of item (whether it should be bubble-wrapped or padded with styrofoam), it’s part of their job to provide and know all those things.

4. Shipping them out

Once your belongings are ready to be shipped off, it’s important to get all the details. The tracking number of your shipment, the vessel or flight details, departure and arrival dates of the shipment, and contact details of the agent who will handle your belongings once they arrive. That last one is important. You need to get in touch with the person responsible for taking care of things like customs, storage, and delivery.

5. New home sweet home

When your belongings arrive, leave it to the movers to do all the unpacking while you peruse a list to make sure everything is accounted for. They’ll even set up your furniture they way you like it and even take care of getting rid of the empty boxes. Then, once everything is squared away, just relax and enjoy your new place!

And remember it’s always best to get Home Contents Insurance or Office Insurance to make sure you’re adequately covered and reduce the stress when things don’t go as smoothly as you would have liked. If you’re renting, we also recommend getting Renter’s Insurance. We can help arrange this for you at Village Insurance Direct.

12Jul

Expat Guide: Transportation in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s transport system is very fast, accessible and efficient. It does not pose much of a issue for expats because of the array of options to get around the city. Their public transport network includes ferries, trams and even outdoor escalators. What’s very notable is Hong Kong’s MTR system that’s recognized as one of the best globally. Taxi fares are also relatively cheap. This is the reason why citizens have not much need for a private car.

BUSES IN HONG KONG

There is no shortage of bus networks in the city. Rush hour can be quite an experience with the outpour of workers flocking to get to their offices so expect crowding early in the morning and after 6PM. There are also over 4000 minibus services across the city which can service up to 16 passengers. Green minibuses have specific stops and the red ones will stop anywhere along their route.

The bus will stop accommodating new passengers once its full. We recommend getting an Octupus card for easier payment. The signal for “Stop the bus” (if a bell is absent) is “yauh lohk”.

“DING DINGS” or TRAMS

This is a good option if you want a relaxing, chill ride because they are slower than the other forms of commute. The top deck is popular among tourists or locals who just want to slow down and appreciate the city. Trams operate between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan from about 5.30am to 12mn and you pay before exiting.

TAXIS IN HONG KONG

Some taxi drivers do not understand western accents so we recommend having Google Maps and a translator app on hand when getting on a taxi for the 1st few weeks. This form of transport is cheaper when compared to other global cities and they are quite efficient except when getting caught in traffic. Blue taxis are only permitted to travel within Lantau Island similar to green taxis that only operate within the New Territories. Red taxis are for Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, but one important tip is that if red taxi drops someone off on Hong Kong Island, they can only pick up passengers heading back to their designated area and this applies to all networks of taxis

FERRIES

Star Ferry is the most popular line in Hong Kong. Take it if you’re planning to go around Central and Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui’s Clock Tower. Other vessels offer regular services for residents of the outlying islands. Lamma, Cheung Chau, Discovery Bay, Ma Wan’s Park Island, Mui Wo and Peng Chau have dedicated daily services leaving from the Central Ferry Piers. Other ferries shunt from Aberdeen, Wan Chai, Hung Hom and North Point.

OUTDOOR ESCALATORS

Yes, escalators. The Mid-level neighborhood is known for its long and extensive outdoor escalators that take you from one block to the next or even farther. Most parts of the Mid-levels are steep streets and these escalators prove to be very convenient for this type of urban terrain. No need to pay when using them.

21Apr

Expat Guide: Flying Your Pets to Hong Kong

Having the option of taking our pets with us when we move overseas reduces the anxiety of living in an unfamiliar place. It is now much simpler for expats in Hong Kong to bring their animal companions to the country. Here’s some information you might find useful.pet permit
Expat pet owners need to apply for a Special Permit with a specified fee before arriving in Hong Kong. Cost varies on the type of animal you’ll be bringing.. The permit is valid for 6 months.

For dogs over the age of 5 months, you will also need to acquire a license from the Agriculture & Fisheries Department (AFCD). An appointment is not needed and it only takes half an hour to have your dog vaccinated and microchipped.  This microchip holds your dog’s identification code which is required for all pets in Hong Kong.expat guide to pets
Group 1 countries which include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Japan no longer need to have their pets vaccinated in Hong Kong. Group 2 and 3 countries must still comply.

All dogs must be vaccinated against:
·      canine distemper
·      infectious canine hepatitis
·      canine parvovirus.

All cats must be vaccinated against :
·      feline panleucopaenia (infectious enteritis)
·      feline respiratory disease complex.flight
Pets must enter as air cargo at the international airport in Hong Kong. Make sure that you book flight that’s as direct as possible and not transit through a high-rabies country. If your pet is changing aircraft in Hong Kong or will be in transit for more than 6 hours, it will need a transit permit. Import permits are required for pets transiting Hong Kong from mainland China.

Important: Inform the Duty Officer of the Import & Export Section at least 24 hours ahead of arrival.

It is also important to prepare your pets before your travel because it can be a stressful situation for them. Read on how you can reduce stress for pets during travel.

Upon arrival, dogs, cats and ferrets will be examined at the port of entry. If your pet is deemed to not be in good health, further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required at your expense. If all requirements are met, your pet will be released to you after examination.know your vets
It is also important to have a list of licensed veterinarians in Hong Kong so you know where to take your pets when they get sick.

You can see the list here: http://www.vsbhk.org.hk/eng/vsro.asppet insurance
An overnight stay at the vet can cost you HK$1000. That does not include medication and other tests. Vet clinics can also set their fees at their own discretion because there isn’t a proper regulatory board to control this in Hong Kong. This is one of the current issues faced by pet making Pet Insurance a crucial protection to have.

We help expats with Pet Insurance and other insurance covers.

13Apr

Expat Guide: Common Concerns in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the safest cities for expats. There is also a large expat community providing an easier transition for people who move to the country as singles or with their families.

The biggest adjustment is often the language barrier but on top of that, there are other common concerns felt by expat. InterNations conducted a survey on November 2017 and these were identified as the most common concerns:

SOCIAL CIRCLES

Missing one’s friends is normal. But there is an expansive network of expats whom one can treat as their close support group. There are also numerous interest groups and organizations to join. In addition, social networks and instant messaging has made it easy to stay in touch with people back home. Setting schedules to chat or video call helps make the distance seem smaller.

Business culture with coworkers also falls under this category as Hong Kongers are known to be very serious workers. The most important thing to remember is to remain open and flexible with the local culture because it’s you who needs to adjust. You’ll find that the experience is more pleasant than what you may have initially assumed. One way to initiate social interactions with coworkers is adding them as a professional connection through LinkedIn. This establishes a professional yet approachable means of reaching out to people you work with.

GIVING BIRTH IN HONG KONG

Hong Kong has one of the top medical facilities in the Asia. Having a child is not so much the issue but rather making the choice of giving birth in a public hospital or subscribing to private health care.

Having health insurance that can cover $100,000 or more for prenatal and postnatal care implies checking into a private hospital so you can choose your own obstetrician, have a private room, and get regular check-ups with the same doctor. This is not to say that public healthcare is bad in Hong Kong. In fact, public medical facilities are quite advanced, however, one gains greater control over what happens to you with insurance and private care.

Village Insurance Direct is one of the few companies that help expats find comprehensive health insurance in Hong Kong.

GETTING A NANNY OR DOMESTIC HELPER

Expat parents don’t have to necessarily get a domestic helper or nanny but it is one of the normal practices for dual earning households. Having a nanny to take care of the kids instead of leaving them in a day care is preferred by more expats.

We’ve written a blog which provides useful information on the process and expectations when getting a domestic helper. You can read it here: Expat Guide: Hiring a Domestic Helper in Hong Kong

Note that employers are required to get insurance for domestic helpers. We also provide help in finding cheap insurance for expats.

IS IT WORTH LEARNING MANDARIN/CHINESE?

Taking on the challenge of learning a new language to better communicate with coworkers and new friends is worth the time and effort. Not only will it make life easier but you’ll find that you’ll be more open to exploring other activities outside of your comfort zone.

There are tutors that are available on an hourly basis. One can easily get an online tutor and conduct the lessons online to save the time of going to class. But learning is different for everyone so we recommend trying both to see which works for you.

3Sep

Expat Guide: Finding a Place to Live in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is home to one of the world’s biggest international trading posts, a powerful manufacturing base and a booming financial centre. It attracts expats from all over the world and the city has become a melting pot of cultures and landscapes.

We’ve listed a few hacks for expats who plan to move to Hong Kong or have only started finding their way through city. These tips should guide you through the process of finding a temporary home while you’re here.

RECOMMENDED DISTRICTS & NEIGHBORHOODS

Mid levels HK

Mid-Levels comes highly recommended for newcomers as it is ideal for singles and families. It is located halfway up Victoria Peak, directly above Central. There’s a large expat community with a mix of affluent locals. Its features are its close proximity to nature (Hong Kong Park and Wan Chai Nature Trail) and a comparatively better air quality than many parts of Hong Kong Island. The University of Hong Kong is also within the area along with primary and secondary International Schools. The Central–Mid-Levels escalator runs through the Mid-Levels from Central to Conduit Road. It allows people to travel quickly between these two places, compared with travelling by the winding roads up the mountain.

Average Monthly Rent for 2 bed, 1 bath apartment (870 sq. ft): HK$ 38,000 – HK$43,000

Wan Chai

Expats looking for more reasonably priced housing and a sense of integration with the local community should consider renting in the residential area running from Tin Hau to North Point.  Although this neighborhood doesn’t have any large-scale shopping malls it does have supermarkets, traditional wet markets and good restaurants for expats to enjoy. The well-priced apartments in this area are also generally in good condition.

Average Monthly Rent for 2 bed, 1 bath apartment (850 sq. ft): HK$ 31,000 – HK$41,200

Kowloon Tong HK

Wan Chai is also a good district to explore because it’s a commercial district with a trendy residential area if you prefer an active social scene. There is also a wide range of housing types—from budget-friendly dwellings to serviced apartments and complexes. There are also nearby parks, culture & arts centers as well as office buildings for medium and small scale businesses.

Average Monthly Rent for 2 bed, 1 bath apartment (470 sq. ft): HK$26,000 – HK$34,000

Blog - image 5 Lantau Island

Expat families have also begun looking at Kowloon Tong because of nearby quality international schools. It is a quiet neighborhood with relatively more spacious apartments for rent. Colonial-style houses, low-rise apartments and a smattering of gated communities make up this high-end residential area. Kowloon Tong is serviced by Festival Walk, an upscale shopping centre, and is connected to the city centre by the MTR that is about a 20-minute commute to town.

Average Monthly Rent for 2 bed, 1 bath apartment (600 sq. ft): HK$ 21,300 – HK$28,100

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RENT CAN BE VERY EXPENSIVE

Apartments in Hong Kong are very compact but it does not equate to cheaper rent. The cost will generally depend on your location. If you’re single other expats would recommend a shared apartment to save money.  Moving to Hong Kong with your family would require different arrangements and priorities.

A real estate agent with expats as their clientele can help in finding properties that might be more tailored to western tastes.  However we suggest you ask a local friend to help you find an estate agent.  Prices tend to go up for western clients and the best deals are kept for Hong Kong locals!

MAKING A CHOICE

What is your priority in terms of dwelling? Is it comfort or practicality? Do you prefer living in the city center or somewhere less fast-paced? How much is your monthly budget? This will help you decide as you choose a place to call your temporary home.

When renting or buying your home, make sure you also get an All Risks Home Insurance policy to protect you from any liability and expenses during your stay. Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities to live in so find an insurance policy that will cover all your needs from mortgage payment liability to loss of properties inside the house.

Sources:

http://www.expatarrivals.com/hong-kong/areas-and-suburbs-in-hong-kong

http://www.expatexchange.com/ctryguide/4105/7/Hong-Kong/Expat-Hong-Kong-10-Tips-for-Living-in-Hong-Kong

http://www.expatinfodesk.com/destinations/hong-kong/