Working abroad: Seven snapshots of Hong Kong

Although a very small part of the Chinese geography, Hong Kong holds a major position in the country’s financial infrastructure, bringing in billions of foreign dollars annually.

What’s hot:

As might be expected in an international trading zone, financial services and banking are the two largest industries. There are also opportunities in the telecommunications, airlines, and transportation sectors. So it’s not surprising that financial services’ business process skills, business process automation, and networking are among the skills local and multinational companies find attractive.

Another desirable basic skill to have under your belt if you want to work in Hong Kong is .Net experience.

As in most countries that are just now getting on board high tech, top-level project managers are in need. Also, the financial services industry is looking for security specialists and systems analysts.

Multinational tech companies:

Hong Kong has more than 1,000 major multinationals with regional Asia offices. All of the major banks, including JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, and the World Bank of Scotland, are in Hong Kong.

Red tape:

Getting a work permit for Hong Kong isn’t as easy as it used to be. Ex-pats will need a special skill or knowledge, even if they are being sponsored by a multinational. Of course, there is a way around this. A company might include fluency in English or another non-Chinese language in the list of special requirements.

Language:

Just about everybody speaks some level of English in this bilingual (Cantonese and English) territory. In fact, the largest contingent of foreigners living in Hong Kong, comprising about 6 percent of the total population, are Americans. But even Hong Kong’s street names are in English, due to Britain’s long ownership of the territory.

Financials:

It may cost as much to live in Hong Kong as it does for most other major world cities, says John Murdoch, COO at Abeam, a consulting firm spun out of Deloitte & Touche.

A furnished two-bedroom apartment will set you back about US$1,280 per month, a loaf of bread $1.54, a Coke $1.03, and a beer 64 cents. A mobile phone is a phenomenal $346, while a pair of shoes is only $50.

Salaries are less than in the United States, but so are taxes. The maximum income tax is 16 percent (compare that to European taxes of about 42 percent).

Family:

Hong Kong is not family-oriented. There are Australian and English schools — but the costs are astronomical, at about $20,000 per year.

Daily life and culture:

Hong Kong is a lively city with a well-dressed population that prefers slacks instead of jeans and collared shirts instead of T-shirts. The people are very polite and eager to make friends.

There are plenty of parks and sights to see in Hong Kong. Although the downtown area may feel like Manhattan, most of Hong Kong is actually undeveloped, with 40 percent of the landmass set aside for country parks and nature preserves.

Western culture is probably more prevalent in this city than Asian, with Hollywood’s latest megamovie situated beside an English-style pub or a Roman Catholic church.

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