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American family considering Hong Kong

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2015
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    8

    American family considering Hong Kong

    Business circumstances are causing us to consider relocating ourselves to Hong Kong. We'll leave the issue of a visa for a different thread. In this thread, I just want to cover some of the basic concerns I have about how, where, and if we'll fit in, and whether this is even a tenable thing. I've been researching this all week.

    We're a large family, 4 kids and 2 adults (my wife and myself). My wife is pregnant with our 5th. We have a home of about 3000 sq ft in the US. I'm an obese man (5'11"/275 lbs), but my family is otherwise fairly normally sized physically. I work from home as a software engineer and sysadmin for a US-based company.

    My first concern is family size. I would speculate that more than 1-2 kids is not common in Hong Kong. If we even could make a move out there work financially, how would we be received by the culture? Would people hold us in hostility? Would people just think it was weird, but not really mind? Will my wife get derisive comments if she takes the kids out while I work? If we don't want to pay tuition at private international schools, what will the schooling experience for the kids be like? Should we expect them to have a hard time? Should Americans even consider public schooling in HK?

    Next, I'm concerned about physical space. We have ~3000 sq ft now for ~$1650 USD, which is obviously many times cheaper than we'd be able to find in HK. We've accepted if we move there we'll have to settle for around 1300-1500 sq ft. In the US homes that size are usually 2 bedrooms. We have 5 in our current house. With space at such a premium, I don't know if or how working from home will really work for me. We'd have difficulty spending more than $20k HKD/mo for housing. Is there a specific place to look at that price range for a family like ours? From reading it sounds like Discovery Bay would be the best fit for us, very Americanized, but I don't know if we'd be able to afford it. We don't want to live in the heart of the city, so something on Lantau Island or in the New Territories is probably where we'd settle. We wouldn't want to live in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island.

    With my large physical size, I'm worried that I'll be seen as sucking up all of the oxygen in the area and that I won't fit on public transport. I don't think I'm grotesquely obese, but I know in tightly-packed cities like HK things are always cozier, and that Asians are small to begin with. Will I be unable to function in Hong Kong as a substantially overweight white man?

    My wife and kids are not very interested in learning a new language, especially one as hard as Cantonese. I think it's because they're mostly worried about how hard it will be. Any Americans with recommendations for overcoming this in reluctant family?

    Thanks in advance.


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    1,752

    sorry to ask but how wide are u? - actually being big might be handy cos people will see u and move the hell out your way!!!

    I dont think any one will say anything to your wife and 4 or 5 kids - not common but I have seen one western woman on a regular basis in sai kung country parks - i guess if anythign they would be admiring....

    the further out you go the better.. but I think U will struggle finding space for that

    ( search gohome.com.hk for some ideas on rentals..

    DB sucks and no way can u afford it - try villiages out near tung chung ( Lau Shek Po? )


  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    13,154

    Yikes, where to start...

    Quote Originally Posted by wacpol:
    My first concern is family size. I would speculate that more than 1-2 kids is not common in Hong Kong. If we even could make a move out there work financially, how would we be received by the culture?
    Non issue. We are a family of 3 kids. We live close to a family of 4 kids. Its never been an issue anywhere. Where you will have an issue is practical stuff like taxis only take 4 or 5 ppl. Uber only goes up to 6ppl.
    If we don't want to pay tuition at private international schools, what will the schooling experience for the kids be like? Should we expect them to have a hard time? Should Americans even consider public schooling in HK?
    yes, consider public but if they are not young enough, they will have a hard uphill battle. Its doable but hard.

    We'd have difficulty spending more than $20k HKD/mo for housing. Is there a specific place to look at that price range for a family like ours? From reading it sounds like Discovery Bay would be the best fit for us, very Americanized, but I don't know if we'd be able to afford it.
    If you want to live cheaply (and 20K is cheap for a family of 7), then you cannot expect to live with the expats. For 20K you are going to get 2 or 3 bedrooms and lots of bunk beds.
    With my large physical size, I'm worried that I'll be seen as sucking up all of the oxygen in the area and that I won't fit on public transport.
    I'm 6ft5 and tip the scales at 300+ Yes, you are wider but I'm a lot taller You'll get some odd looks now and then but its not a huge deal (pun intended) .
    My wife and kids are not very interested in learning a new language, especially one as hard as Cantonese. ..
    While there are a few english public schools here, the vast majority of them are Cantonese. If they refuse, you're going to have a serious issue in your hands and may be a deal breaker.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    6,249

    How old are your kids? Cantonese is not a "hard language" -- it's a language. Children under 6 should be able to pick it up natively.

    But I think from your post, it's quite confusing of why a move to Hong Kong would be advantageous for your family in the first place... you don't want to learn the language, you work from home, and have a much bigger and cheaper place in the states.

    Last edited by Elegiaque; 03-11-2015 at 03:06 PM.
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  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Posts
    3,929
    Quote Originally Posted by wacpol:
    Business circumstances are causing us to consider relocating ourselves to Hong Kong. We'll leave the issue of a visa for a different thread. In this thread, I just want to cover some of the basic concerns I have about how, where, and if we'll fit in, and whether this is even a tenable thing. I've been researching this all week.

    We're a large family, 4 kids and 2 adults (my wife and myself). My wife is pregnant with our 5th. We have a home of about 3000 sq ft in the US. I'm an obese man (5'11"/275 lbs), but my family is otherwise fairly normally sized physically. I work from home as a software engineer and sysadmin for a US-based company.

    My first concern is family size. I would speculate that more than 1-2 kids is not common in Hong Kong. If we even could make a move out there work financially, how would we be received by the culture? Would people hold us in hostility? Would people just think it was weird, but not really mind? Will my wife get derisive comments if she takes the kids out while I work? If we don't want to pay tuition at private international schools, what will the schooling experience for the kids be like? Should we expect them to have a hard time? Should Americans even consider public schooling in HK?

    Next, I'm concerned about physical space. We have ~3000 sq ft now for ~$1650 USD, which is obviously many times cheaper than we'd be able to find in HK. We've accepted if we move there we'll have to settle for around 1300-1500 sq ft. In the US homes that size are usually 2 bedrooms. We have 5 in our current house. With space at such a premium, I don't know if or how working from home will really work for me. We'd have difficulty spending more than $20k HKD/mo for housing. Is there a specific place to look at that price range for a family like ours? From reading it sounds like Discovery Bay would be the best fit for us, very Americanized, but I don't know if we'd be able to afford it. We don't want to live in the heart of the city, so something on Lantau Island or in the New Territories is probably where we'd settle. We wouldn't want to live in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island.

    With my large physical size, I'm worried that I'll be seen as sucking up all of the oxygen in the area and that I won't fit on public transport. I don't think I'm grotesquely obese, but I know in tightly-packed cities like HK things are always cozier, and that Asians are small to begin with. Will I be unable to function in Hong Kong as a substantially overweight white man?

    My wife and kids are not very interested in learning a new language, especially one as hard as Cantonese. I think it's because they're mostly worried about how hard it will be. Any Americans with recommendations for overcoming this in reluctant family?

    Thanks in advance.
    You can get by in HK without understanding Cantonese. English is an official language in Hong Kong. However, the command of English by locals varies a lot, ranging from complete fluency to only being able to utter a word or two.

    There are exceptions, but generally the more educated a local is, the better he can speak English.

    However, it is useful to learn a few cantonese phrases all the same. You don't need to learn the whole language, but knowing a few words here and there can certainly help.

    P.S-I would not go around and generalize Asians as small. Northern Chinese can be pretty tall.
    Last edited by Cho-man; 03-11-2015 at 03:09 PM.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Pampanga, Philippines
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    27,124

    You will get more than two bedrooms for 1300-1500 sq ft. We had 950 sq ft and that was 3 bedrooms (4 if you included the "maid's room". There were 6 of us and 950 sq ft was OK if a little cozy. We moved abroad and now have 2000 sq ft and it seems like loads. You will need to adjust quickly to the lack of space. The only reaction we had to the kids was friendliness and laughter at all the daughters I had (and my family are from one of the less respected nationalities in HK - filipinos).

    Can you visit before making the move?


  7. #7

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    Aug 2005
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    Clear Water Bay (In Da Jungle)
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    Reading your post i would HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU NOT MOVE TO HK unless your going to get Housing and Schooling PAID for.

    Discovery Bay you are looking at around 500 sqft for your budget, have a look at this site FOR REFERENCE ONLY Discovery Bay Unit / Flat / Apartment For Rent in Hong Kong , Hong Kong

    No one would care how big your family was and you should care about what others think either, you will get stared at by the locals as they will stare at anything LOL

    Your size of 275Lb is doable but as you know already it will be a tight fit on Bus seats or MTR seats.

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  8. #8

    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Happy Valley
    Posts
    660

    with that budget for housing and your wish not to pay for international school, my gut advice - without knowing why you would have to or want to leave - is: stay away from hongkong.
    you would be living very far away from most expats and still not have a half decent place to live with that budget and your family size.
    we are four people and rent a officially 1000sqft. place. In reality its more closer to 900sqft and still not european standard.
    schools are very expensive here, and with children not looking to learn cantonese they will have a hard time in the local schools.


  9. #9

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    Oct 2006
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    Sarcasm - because beating the crap out of people is illegal
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    What do you feel you/your family will gain from coming to Hong Kong?

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  10. #10

    Join Date
    Nov 2015
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    8

    Good info so far everyone, thank you. I figured an American/expat community was a long shot at those rates. I think we're just spoiled with the housing here, and used to it being a smaller portion of our income than it'd have to be if we moved to HK. If we double housing to $40k, does that open anything up? For someone that doesn't really care about proximity to "Central", is the bump in expense worth it, or would we be left with the same options? We could do it, it'd just hurt as it's obviously a much larger percentage of our income than what we spend on housing now.

    Glad to hear that people don't seem concerned about the number of kids or my size. I agree that the number of people that can fit in a vehicle will be a problem. We have a big van out here but not planning on taking it to HK as we've read driving is very expensive there. If we have to live somewhere far out, I guess we may have to have a car anyway.

    Our kids are still young. The oldest is almost 6. With Canto, I think they're picking up the reluctance primarily from my wife. I've talked to her about it and told her to stop scaring the tykes.

    Primary motivation behind the potential move would be that it opens up a large potential revenue stream in a project I work on the side. Can't go into more detail than that, sorry.

    Last edited by wacpol; 03-11-2015 at 03:19 PM.

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