Survival Guide to Hong Kong as an Expat

Living in Hong Kong I had to make many adjustments learning about the culture to how thing are done very differently. Here are some tips for you Westerners coming to Hong Kong for the first time. These are the things I have learned through my time here.

Personal Space


Or lack thereof, so when you are in Hong Kong it can get quite overwhelming with the masses of people that live in such a condensed area. Don't get offended if you are getting run down by little old ladies that is just how it is.


For clothing, you will go through these things a lot faster since you are walking everywhere. I have gone through so many pairs of shoes just in the time I have been here. When it comes to looking for things to wear you are very limited. Think of it this way most of the population is smaller so it will be harder to find clothes that fit us and our western sizes unless you go to western flagship shops like Forever 21, H&M, Cotton On,  and Pull and Bear. But, I still wear the largest sizes in these stores. 



I'm a Texas girl used to flat land all around when coming to Hong Kong I was in awe by all the skyscrapers. Every now and again I forget to look up and enjoy the beauty of this concrete jungle.




There are so many choices of food, Hong Kong is known for its versatile flavors. You can find Michelin star restaurants to just simple dim sum shops to street food whatever tickles your fancy. But the thing is there is no customizing food it comes the way it comes, so if you are picky about your food find a compromise. There is always cooking at home you can either go the grocery which is a bit pricey or to the market where the fresh food is way cheaper. There are also specialty grocery stores like Gateway American Grocery Store or A&M they can be very expensive because of the import tax but if you just need a taste of home you can find it here.


Always have tissue in your pocket whether you go to a restaurant or to the toilet. I know it seems odd to have this on the list but sometimes you will come across an area where there are still the Chinese style squat toilets. I try to avoid them at all costs by using the handicap stall. You should bring tissue with you because sometimes it isn't provided. Heed my warnings.


Transit in Hong Kong is amazing, it doesn't take long for you to get to point A to point B. Hong Kong has MTR, Ding Ding, taxi, bus, minibus, and ferry. Hong Kong has a rail system called the MTR, you can use this to get about anywhere, I don't know what I would do without it. The Ding Ding (tram) runs all along Hong Kong island if you aren't in a rush take this it is more of a tourist attraction but is very cheap. The taxis are quite fast if money is no object. If you are up for trying to figure out how to take the busses that is okay too, they get you to more precise locations than the MTR. If you are a bit adventurous take the minibus (AKA Death Bus) the drivers drive quite fast up and down mountains and can be quite scary. Last but not least, the ferry you can take this across the harbor or to any of the small islands surrounding Hong Kong, you get a great view of the skyline doing this so take a camera.

Language Barrier

So this is a big one that I have had to overcome a bit with a few tricks. The language barrier can be quite difficult at times so make sure you have google translate download to your phone I have used it in numerous occasions to ask for things I'm looking to buy and can find because of Chinese labels. Also, a good way is to google a picture to show what you need. You will feel somewhat limited when it comes to going to go eat out in a local restaurant, most places will have pictures of the food so pointing to the pictures works too. Try not to mime it out you will have no luck.



Living here I have become an expert in the passive haggling. There are certain areas where there are tourist traps, like Ladies Market, Temple Street Night Market, or the Jade Market. In these areas, there is a lot of haggling. Here's a tip when looking to buy items in those areas go up and act like your interested and ask how much then walk away, I guarantee that you will get a lower price from the seller because they don't want to lose a sale. You should not feel bad about haggling they get their items for unbelievable less than you can imagine, and they overprice because they expect you to haggle. So be safe and have fun.


If you have any questions or comments don't be afraid to let me know below.

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