What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?
My favourite thing about Hong Kong has to be the feeling of safety. I feel comfortable to walk the streets at any time. The police to population ratio is very high and the crime rate consequently low. It also helps that alcohol is not a big problem here, although sadly, it is increasing. What is your least favorite? - my least favourite thing is the lack of community. I have lived in the same block of flats for 5 years and still do not know my neighbours. We exchange greetings but that is all. This lack of community is exacerbated by the middle class habit of employing alive-in maid. I am just about the only person I know who does her own cleaning. This isolates me and makes me appear a bit of a freak.
What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?
I live in an apartment, which is typical for Hong Kong, but not for so many expats. Sadly, there are a number of what I can only call "expat ghettos", where well-healed expats choose to live, somewhat separated from the local culture. I find that a shame, but each to his own and all that. I am fortunate to live in a very large apartment. Compared with some of my Chinese friends I am very lucky - many families live in apartments of less than 1000 sq ft., and those in the public housing states are generally less than 500 sq ft. I have a friend in public housing who shares one room with her husband and daughter - they eat, sleep and ply there. There is no kitchen to mention, and the "bathroom" is a cubicle with a toilet, hand basin and shower."
How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?
Choosing where to live is very personal. I used to live on a university campus where there was a great sense of community without the feeling of being in some sort of expat clique. I now live in a well-managed housing estate with excellent security and friendly staff but no sense of community. If you are an expat and want community, you may well have to accept being more separated from the local culture. It is a fact of life here that local people do not mix in the same way as back home. Do not be offended by this - it is a cultural norm, and not aimed at expats. My in-laws were truly shocked (not to mention my first next-door-neighbour, 16 years ago) when I went to the flat next door to introduce myself and invite the neighbours round for coffee. I still surprise them with my weird expat ways, but it doesn't matter - I decided long ago to be myself and to accept my neighbours as they were. It seems to work nicely all round.
Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?
Housing costs are much higher here. For the price of this flat, I could just about get a mansion in England. Our flat (3000 sq ft) here is not in one of the better locations, but it still cost 6,000,000 Hong Kong dollars in 1989. I am told I could get about 10 million for it now.