Top Hong Kong survival tips for new expat finance professionals

Published:  15 Jun at 6 PM
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For expat professionals in the world of finance, Hong Kong is one of the planet’s most exciting, challenging, rewarding and hard to manage assignments.

Relocation to Hong Kong is one of the most sought-after goals for adventurous finance professionals desperate to make a name for themselves in a fiercely competitive environment. For even the most confident new arrivals, getting the first few months right is key to success in the dream job and all it offers.

No-one ever found relocating to China easy, especially if family came too. Chaotic Hong Kong is perhaps the most confusingly Chinese of any Asian cities, and almost everyone who might make your and your family’s life easier speaks the Cantonese version of the world’s most difficult language. Multi-national staff invariably speak English, but the rest of the city’s inhabitants are incomprehensible. A helpful Cantonese-speaking friend’s speed-dial link is an essential tool for both you and your family.

At first, your work-life balance won’t even exist, as the city seems to work 24/7 including weekends. Conference calls interrupt your scraps of leisure time, and family takes the back burner. Joining a social club might help, but smartphones are everywhere nowadays. Lunchtime, however, is sacred, meaning that however tough your daily workload, eating at your desk is a definite no-no as you can’t network on your own.

Managing your monthly expenses can be an unwelcome drain on your energy levels, with keeping enough cash for unexpected expenses such as six months’ upfront condo rental charges the best idea. Your expensive apartment is likely to be matchbox-sized, making throwing out most of your worldly good before you arrive the most sensible option.

Don’t let anyone encourage you to walk or cycle. Exercise may be good for your health but Hong Kong’s hilly, confusing layout and winding alleys isn’t good for your stress levels and mental well-being when you’re on a tight schedule. You’ll need your brain in gear to deal with the irritatingly compulsory SFC exams you’ve to take before you can begin work.

Once you’re on the job, you’ll find networking is even more important than in other financial centres, providing you’re using exaggerated confidence and directness whilst avoiding aggression. That’s the only way to gain respect in Hong Kong’s complicated cultural environment and the switch in style takes practice. Again, advice from an old hand might help.

As regards dressing to impress, remember that Hong Kong is all about what’s hot and what’s not as regards bling. Brands are it, and you’re judged by your taste – or, according to some Brits, the lack of it! Get advice from long-stayers if you’re confused or new to this game and don’t understand its rules.
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